20 Jul


My wife suddenly pointed at somebody passing by, “Look, it’s her”. I turned and saw my college nemesis. Aha! It’s really her. It’s time to win.

Without a second’s thought, I got up from my seat and walked over towards her. Dr. Mabini was my college dean.

I had lots of memories of her. She made my college life very challenging and frustrating.

  • I was editor-in-chief of our college paper. And after printing out about 4,000 copies, she called me up her office and told me that one of the articles was written incorrectly by one of my staff. She commanded me to print the correct article and paste it manually, one-by-one – on each of the 4,000 copies. My staff and I spent over two weeks printing, cutting, pasting the correction before we were allowed to release the college paper. I thought I will die from paper cuts.
  • She was a grammar-tyrant. All requests for student activities had to go to her on a formal letter. The letter should have perfect grammar, perfect layout, and must be concise enough to fit in one paper. Back then, a computer and a printer were hard to find. My fellow student leaders and I had to keep redoing letters with simple typo errors.
  • A week before graduation, she called me into her office and threatened that I will not be allowed to graduate – unless I put a stop in creating our own batch’s yearbook. She said only the University can create a yearbook. Crowdsourcing wasn’t the norm then. I would have called her on her bluff, but I was afraid that my fellow student leaders would not be allowed to graduate too. I relented and had to apologize to so many of my batchmates who looked forward to our own yearbook. What an embarrassing way to end my college life.

Score: Dr. Mabini – 3, Ivan – 0.

As I walked over to her, I thought of so many ways I can handle this situation. Should I boast and show her how awesome my life is now? Should I attack her for being so callous then? Should I make her regret the things she did to me then?

So I walked over, and I immediately knew what I had to say. “Dr. Mabini? Hello, I am Ivan Lanuza, you probably don’t remember me because I graduated 16 years ago. I just wanted to say, thank you for what you’ve done. You helped me understand the need to be excellent in all things – big or small”.

“Yes, Ivan, I remember you. From the Journal. You look different now. You’re…bigger.”

Dr. Mabini – 4, Ivan – 0.

The thing is, I was sincere in thanking her. I realized how she taught me things.

  • Spending two weeks with my staff to manually correct the wrong article taught me that when somebody from your team makes a mistake, the best thing to do is to help them out, not shout at them. Nothing quite bands a team together than shared adversity. And nothing quite elevates a leader than the willingness to get his hands dirty. Leadership rule: If you are unwilling to do something yourself, don’t ask anyone from your team to do it for you.
  • I have good grammar, and so, most of the other student leaders had their request letters proofread, checked, and approved by me before they asked our Dean’s approval. This gave me some level of influence on (or at least allowed me to ask for favors from) other student leaders. I learned how knowledge can be a strong tool for influence.
  • In my failed yearbook attempt, I learned that there are no shortcuts – even for innovation. That anything innovative still needs to be implemented in a way that it can be accepted. Ideas should be as creative as possible, but implementation should be as practical as possible.

I believe teaching is the most important profession in this world. The world’s progress is dependent on passing information, knowledge, and wisdom from one person to another.

When I walked over to Dr. Mabini, I thought I will score a win.

I was wrong, teachers always win. Because they make people around them better – and that, is the ultimate win.

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