I remember first hearing the term “saling pusa”. I hated it. I was with older kids and I wanted to play tag with them, and they said, “Sure. You can be saling pusa.” I asked them what it meant, and they said, “It means you can run around with us but you can never be it.”
At first I thought that was a great idea. I could run with the big boys, tease like the big boys, laugh with the big boys, without the risk of getting caught because I was too slow, or ran into a dead end, or got tired. I could simply do whatever I wanted. Until I realized that being saling pusa meant no one took me seriously; not the IT, not the other boys, no one. The IT didn’t bother chasing me because he gained nothing from catching me. So he didn’t bother with me at all. The other boys didn’t plan with me because I made no difference to the game. I was allowed to play with them but I was nobody to them. Being saling pusa meant I didn’t have any risk or challenges, but it also meant I had no impact. After that, even as a kid, I hated the idea of being saling pusa. I hated the idea of running around with people yet not being a force to reckon with. I hated the idea of being a groupie, a fan, a bystander. I hated being allowed to participate in something as a favor, not because someone trusted in me. I hated the idea that people involved me out of pity not out of respect. I hated the lowering of a standard for me because I knew that what it meant is that I’m no good for the actual standard.
In case you didn’t realize it, it’s an insult when someone tells you it’s ok for you to operate at a lower standard. When your opponent doesn’t guard you, that’s an insult. When they lower the height of the rim for you, that’s an insult. When they curve your test scores so you can pass, that’s an insult. When they ignore you, that’s an insult. Sometimes we’re so sensitive to the words people say or to when someone gets mad at us, but fail to realize that someone telling you to improve means they see you as part of the game, and that’s much better than being insignificant.
Let me give you some examples of these standard lowering things I’ve heard through the years:
“It’s ok that you lost. What’s important is that you did your best.” – My reply to this is, “Why is it ok for me to be a loser and it’s not for them? Don’t you think I should be a winner too? Help me win next time. What do I need to do to win?”
“It’s ok that you didn’t make it as high. Considering where you came from, you’ve already achieved a lot.” – My reply to this is, “So you mean because I’m coming from a low base, I should be satisfied with something less than what others have been able to achieve? Should a husband from a broken home be happy that his marriage lasted a few years longer than his father’s? Does God tell us, “because you used to be a terrible sinner, now, all I need from you is to be a little more behaved”? Nope. He tells all of us, including those of us from the worst backgrounds, “Be holy as I am holy.” Don’t look at where you’re coming from. Focus on where you want to be.
“You’re not so bad. You’re better than most people.” – My reply to this is, “I don’t want to be like most people. Most people don’t care about anything more than their basic needs and desires. Most people can’t be bothered to reflect, to study, to train. Most people are victims to circumstances because they won’t take control. Most people are making excuses for why their life isn’t more. Most people are settling. I don’t compare myself to most people. I compare myself to who I was yesterday, I reflect on who I am at the present, and I grow towards who I want to be. If you’re really my friend, don’t make me settle for less than the best I can be.”
I can come up with more examples but my point is simple: don’t be an adult version of a saling pusa, someone who thinks he’s in the game, but really makes no difference. No one starts out as amazing. We all start out lacking knowledge, lacking experience, lacking skills, lacking money, lacking a lot of things. What makes winners different is that they don’t allow themselves or other people to lower the standard for them simply because they lack something. They are committed to what’s best and are resourceful enough to achieve it. They don’t accept that they’ll be late a few times a week because of traffic. They leave early, they move closer, or do other things. They simply make a way. They don’t accept that they’ll be poor because they grew up poor. The work harder, study continuously, and deliver more and more value. They don’t accept that things are “like that”. They strive to make things the way they should be.
Don’t let anyone insult you by making you a saling pusa. Become a person of value based on the highest possible standards. This is hard. I struggle with this. I fail most of the time. But I won’t lower the rim just because I haven’t figure out how to jump higher – yet.