Getting Over the “Yellow Fever”

As I now seeing others scraping off their yellow ribbons from their cars, I was reminded of this old article I wrote back in 2013!

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Dancing with Angels

Dad

My father came from the “old-school” having witnessed the Second World War, the Japanese occupation, the American liberation, and the rise and fall of my grandfather’s cigarette factory. I came into his office when I was around nine years old in the early 80s where the place was just buzzing with busyness as men and women were walking by. Typewriters and telex machines were tapping away in the background as he opened a listing from a book called “The Top 1000 Corporations of the Philippines”. There his company was listed somewhere in the 700s as he pointed at it with his thick stubby index finger projecting from a cuff perfectly extending from his suit sleeve. He says: “Blood, sweat and tears! You need to work like a Devil to dance like an Angel”. He’s up there right now with the angels looking down with a high-brow probably saying; “Well, my son is still working at it!”

A bible verse goes: “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” Indeed the verse should ring louder for many executives as one would usually encounter a “Faustian Bargain” of sorts especially when they move higher up the corporate ladder. “Everything has a price” as my father would say. I have witnessed, (having been one) many executives who play the risk and bargain of moving up the ladder only to forfeit their health and eventually their quality of life. The wagers are often high! We tend to overlook the quality of our relationships with our loved ones and friends and unfortunately, we also neglect ourselves.

This is not to scold anyone; because I know how it is in the C-Suite when you’re just about to pack up for work at 6:30 PM, your boss peers his head into the office to say: “We have a dinner meeting at 8:00! I’ll meet you up front at 7:30!” There is a huge gap between doing your job really well and understanding and working the business. The latter takes a higher level of commitment which sometimes supersedes many other priorities. Business usually comes first.

There is also a career paradox that creeps into a lot of our decisions. Charles Handy in his book “The Age of Paradox” says that we usually work on our careers so that we earn a better quality of life. However, what happens is usually the reverse. We work so hard that we start neglecting our health. And once we do, our effectiveness at work starts to diminish as well. We work so hard just to appreciate that it takes more resources to guard your health through corrective measures. Sadly the most you get in the end is just a bunch of “stuff”.

In 2012, I had the best year “career-wise” when I often rode a private plane to and from work. I racked up at least 26 billable days per month. We were liquid. We had a lot of cash in the bank but along with it was my obvious gain in girth. While I tried to put in the hours as a “weekend warrior” biking my lungs out whenever I had the time, still the executive life caught up to me. Not to mention the loss of sleep and missing some important dates in my family’s life. Sure, work was good! But when January 2013 came around, I failed the stress-test on my APE (Annual Physical Exam)! After spending a thousand dollars on bike parts, I found that my body was the one in need of dire repair. I was put on a stricter diet and a regimen of Statins and Anti-Hypertension medication. Climbing high could also lead to a crash.

The paradox of career success and health is inversely structured. In your progression towards the top we slowly tip the work-life balance in favour of advancement. We focus on building our careers with the justification of seeking a higher quality of life. We do get to a sweet spot that gets stretched at some point, but somehow the allure of success and a skewed sense of purpose slowly tend to reel us into the career track. Every decision (even the smallest ones) that we make between work and everything else works along a zero-sum sort-of balance sheet that crediting hours to work takes away from either yourself, family, society, and fitness. In the end some of these accounts cannot afford to give anymore. At this point you need to re-align your priorities!

We have to realise that our bodies can only take so much. And just as you would demand for your mind and body to remain productive, it is subjected to physical principles and limitations. What I did learn from working with competitive athletes, of which some are successful entrepreneurs, is that we need to adapt a “physical performance mindset.” At the end of long days of conflict where you seem to be pulled apart in different directions, you will realise that you only have one body. Take care of it! Upgrade it! Enforce a renewal!

  • Time and Motion = Time and Energy. Always set aside the time to condition your body and mind for peak performance. Invest in fitness and you will find that you can push your energies a bit further every time it’s called for. You cannot be the dynamic leader you want to be, if your body is not willing.
  • Manage your Exercise like a task! Invest at least 2 hours a week in cardiovascular exercises. Set appointments with your workout tasks on your calendar. 2 hours can be broken down into four 30-minute sessions. Keeping this into a discipline you will soon realise that you are exercising most days of the week. That in itself is an accomplishment!
  • Find some exercise hacks! Make it convenient enough so that you don’t have an excuse.
    • Buy a pair of running shoes and pack them along whenever you travel. Running is a great way to see a new place.
    • Pack a ready gym bag in the car so you’re always ready to go when your schedule opens up a window to hit the company gym.
    • Learn the “7-Minute workout” so you can work out in your hotel room.
  • Acquire a health baseline. Visit your health professional and get an accurate assessment of your health and fitness. Finding the “need” to correct matters could start you off on the right path with the right priorities.

Investing in yourself yields enormous returns on actual work output and effectiveness. You will find that with exercise, you will have more energy for increasing demands across all areas of life. Being in touch with your body also means you have the ability to listen to what it is saying, whether or not it could push itself or ask you to slow down and recover. Time may be inflexible but with exercise, you can feel that energy could be elastic.

Looking fit and healthy can also give you a boost in your career. A leader who knows how to manage himself and his energy across a wide range of demands is “Fit to Lead”. If your outward appearance seems like it could take an extra assignment, so shall these opportunities open up to you. You will always be that person who looks fit for the job. In a study published by Frontiers in Neuroscience “New evidence suggests that healthy-looking individuals are perceived as better leaders, even over intelligent-looking people.” So if you are looking to increase your executive / leadership clout, you might as well start with yourself! “Be Fit to Lead!”

The familiar paradigms of the old-school need to be redefined in the modern age though they both point to the same thing: “Commitment”. As my dad would say, “You need to have your hands bleed practicing, in order for you to be exceptional”. But I would like to redefine blood sweat and tears along the following directions:

  • Blood: Commitment, Trust, Loyalty with the ones you lead and those who matter. Be willing to give yourself to them.
  • Sweat: Giving yourself 100% to every task, in everything that your do. Strive for excellence and exceptional results.
  • Tears: Connect with those that matter. Engage them even at an emotional level. Everything is personal. “Business is personal”.

My dad is up there saying: “See I told you so!” But dad! It’s more than just you saying it, experience and science say so as well!

Why you should make your executives sweat

I agree completely!

Fortune

FORTUNE — At a Wharton leadership conference last month, Deloitte’s managing principal of talent development, Bill Pelster, was showing off his company’s new leadership school in Westlake, Texas, called Deloitte University. A key piece of real estate on the $300 million facility, he said, is DU’s 12,000 square-foot fitness room, called “DFit” for short.

DFit is not just an amenity. It plays a key role in Deloitte’s training programs, Pelster says. Some of the university’s programs for top executives require participants to wake up at 6:00 in the morning and hit the gym before starting the leadership training part of the itinerary. “The intent is to get them into a good sweat,” Pelster says, and also expose them to techniques for working out when they travel. At first, the leaders might complain about the early wake-up call, but most of them say, in their feedback after the program, that the…

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Releasing the Kraken of Cracklings and Why Bai’s Boneless Lechon Belly is Worth Writing Home About

Craving for Bai’s Lechon Belly. Well maybe this weekend?

John Walter Bay

IMG_4290Reeling in from the holidays where the obvious gain in girth remain as evidence, one has to say that some calories were worth more time than others. Christmas is the longest holiday in the Philippines starting off in September and ending with the celebration of 3-Kings in January. There’s just too much indulgence with comfort food that we could actually remain comfortable with.

In extreme cases over the holidays, I shared the table with an old friend who I noted was staying away from the usual indulgence of food and alcohol only to reveal that he had a mild stroke a few weeks prior. Our appetite for food which is amplified along the spirit of festivities could definitely lead us to our end. However this plethora of rich food also brings with it a certain amount of distaste for it. Filipino food during the holidays seem to be biased towards…

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Photojournalism Daily: Jan. 8, 2015

TIME

Today’s daily Photojournalism Links collection highlights Charles Mostoller‘s series on teen horseback riders in urban Philadelphia. The photographer documented young men, working at the stables southwest, who take care of the horses, clean the facilities and earn a little bit of pocket money by offering cheap pony rides. Their main reward, though, is the right to take the horses out themselves. Mostoller’s pictures offer a fascinating glimpse into these young cowboys, riding in one of the most unexpected settings: the concrete jungle.

Charles Mostoller: The Concrete Cowboys of Philadelphia (The Wall Street Journal)

Anonymous and Meridith Kohut: Cuba’s Economic Fortunes May be Slow to Turn (The New York Times) These photographs capture Cuba’s capital, desperately awaiting change.

Celebrating 80 Years of Associated Press’ Wirephoto (TIME LightBox) A look back at the history of Associated Press’ Wirephoto.

Why it pays to work the fringes (Columbia Journalism Review) Insightful look…

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Should I Eat Whole-Wheat Pasta?

TIME

Welcome to Should I Eat This?—our weekly poll of five experts who answer nutrition questions that gnaw at you.

whole wheat pastaIllustration by Lon Tweeten for TIME

5/5 experts say yes.

When we pit brown foods against white foods, the earthier colors always get the health halo. But they’re not always deserved: take brown eggs, which may have a farm-to-table je ne sais quoi but are no more nutritious than eggs that come in a white shell—they just cost more. Pasta, on the other hand, is a different story. The whole-wheat version of everyone’s favorite cheese vehicle is way healthier, say five people who know about such things.

Pasta made from 100% whole-wheat flour maintains the three essential parts of the whole grain kernel: the bran, germ and the endosperm, says Alicia Romano, registered dietitian at Frances Stern Nutrition Center at Tufts Medical Center. These real-deal whole-grains make the pasta…

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4 – Reasons to Fast. Just Add Water!

Following my recent post on Bai’s Lechon, I somehow find it awkward to be talking about fasting the following day. The question on whether or not it should be awkward is given to the audience to whom these articles are directed to. The fact of the matter is that the best time to be talking about the pleasures of food are in those moments when you are devoid of it. Here then are my Insights from the Empty Stomach.

The practice of “Spiritual Fasting” has been an annual event for the past fourteen years of being a member of Victory Christian Fellowship where the Church calls for a Corporate Fast usually during the beginning of each year. While members are called or encouraged to fast, it has never been mandated to membership but in my experience the personal benefits have far exceeded the practice.

In the beginning of the year it has been our own practice in the family to plan for the year ahead. This is nothing short of a Visioning session which includes all of our aspirations in different key areas of our life. Our central strategic theme this year is that of a bow and arrow. For the last two years we felt that we were being pulled back and stressed but also done so that we may be launched to our targets upon release. There are different areas for impact which also act as pillars for our personal KRA’s (Key Result Areas) mine being Career / Business, Relationships, Personal Growth and Learning, and Finance. If these sound like the pillars of Balanced Score Card (BSC) well, they are! I only adapted the concept for personal strategic planning. Just as any plan would have there are Key Performance Indicators to monitor the plan’s traction. But here are my 4 – Reasons to Fast.

1. Everybody Needs a Hard Reset
The time of fasting is likened to a device going on a “hard reset”. Incidentally, I had once condemned and declared my aging iPhone 4S as dead when one day it just wouldn’t start. I searched the net for a possible solution to find that your iPhone sometimes needs to do a “Hard Reset” and so I did by pressing the sleep and home button simultaneously for 5 seconds. Then I saw the Apple sign with its wheel indicating that it was slowly coming back to life again! Hallelujah! We have a resurrection. Incidentally, Pastor Joey who also wrote about The Mystery of The Empty Stomach had also suffered a false demise on his iPhone.

Fasting to me is a form of a reset at three levels namely the Body, Soul and Spirit. With a proper fasting approach, the body goes on a slow switch from consuming calories from ingestion to burning your stores of fat through a process called ketosis. While this sounds like a great way to lose fat, well it is! But wait, theres more! It is also important to note that the body needs to be well hydrated (Just add water and lots of it) and note that if you are an athlete without much stores of fat to burn, you might need to supplement your calorie intake before it starts metabolizing protein from your muscles.

What also happens when ketosis has started to take place is that you will feel less hungry. Your body is literally living off of itself and its reserves so it’s all you! You can’t say it was the wine or what you’ve been eating, you are at your purest sense at this state.

When ketosis is in effect, you will think less about food and start to focus on things that matter, which could be the very reason why you are fasting in the first place. This post is dedicated to those who are fasting for Spiritual reasons. The purpose for a shutdown and reset is to align your body, soul, and spirit where you boot up from the spirit, soul, and body in that order. The spirit aligns us with God and his purpose.

2. Fasting brings our souls into submission to the Spirit that honors God
It is often said that whatever delights us, controls us. The reality is that we often behave according to our heart’s desire. Desires drive us! Some of these desires are not beneficial to us. But desires are not entirely evil and sometimes could be used as a positive motivation for action. The question is whether or not our desires are aligned towards God. During a time of fasting we acknowledge and honor the truth that everything comes from him and is his. As long as we are aligned according to his plans as his children, we also have a promise in him:

1 John 5:14-15 (NIV)

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.

Psalm 37:4

Delight yourself in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart
3. Fasting helps us prioritize our focus on God so that we may hear from Him

Proverbs 16:3

Commit your work to the Lord,
    and your plans will be established.

In my perspective, fasting is a way for me to submit my plans to him and wait for His instructions. It’s just like elevating matters to the Chairman for decision and approval. I arrest my tasks and wait expectantly on him. Fasting helps me declutter, set aside my personal and physical needs, focus and submit matters to his Lordship knowing that he puts things in proper alignment. Fasting is a matter of relationship between me and my God whom I know hears me. When I fast it demonstrates that I am willing to prioritize on prayer and communicating with God over my basic needs.

Therefore, with the exercise of fasting, we are also given the right perspective of order where the Spirit of God takes precedent over the wills of our soul and our body.

4. Fasting Yields Superior Insights to your Destiny
Fasting brings us in state where we can receive insights in their absolute purity. The process of fasting purges us to our barest existence before God. It focuses us under a heightened sensitivity to his purpose for our life. During these moments, he is our sustenance and his word becomes food for our souls.

Fasting provides insights from a higher vantage that is stripped of our carnal needs and desires. It brings us within communion to higher source of being which is His Spirit. Fasting helps us tap into the source and beginnings of all wisdom which can then be transcended into our daily lives.

Proverbs 9:10 (NIV)

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

Psalm 110:10
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
all who follow his precepts have good understanding.
To him belongs eternal praise

Psalm 110:1-3

Praise the Lord.

Blessed are those who fear the Lord,
who find great delight in his commands.

Their children will be mighty in the land;
the generation of the upright will be blessed.

Wealth and riches are in their houses,
and their righteousness endures forever.

Could the Lord withhold any good thing from his children? I would not think that to be so. But just as any plan needs insight, fasting certainly aligns me towards the Ultimate plan for myself and creation. It aligns my proximate objectives to the ultimate goal. It isn’t a way for me to twist God’s arm in persuasion but rather a demonstration of his Lordship over my life by forcing my soul and body in submission to his Spirit.

These are my 4-Reasons to Fast. They are mine and very personal. It has been a practice that I’ve established in making my plans succeed. The elements are quite simple, Just Add Water!

Releasing the Kraken of Cracklings and Why Bai’s Boneless Lechon Belly is Worth Writing Home About

IMG_4290Reeling in from the holidays where the obvious gain in girth remain as evidence, one has to say that some calories were worth more time than others. Christmas is the longest holiday in the Philippines starting off in September and ending with the celebration of 3-Kings in January. There’s just too much indulgence with comfort food that we could actually remain comfortable with.

In extreme cases over the holidays, I shared the table with an old friend who I noted was staying away from the usual indulgence of food and alcohol only to reveal that he had a mild stroke a few weeks prior. Our appetite for food which is amplified along the spirit of festivities could definitely lead us to our end. However this plethora of rich food also brings with it a certain amount of distaste for it. Filipino food during the holidays seem to be biased towards the occasion that brings it to the table rather than the culinary ensemble itself when broken up into pieces. Christmas brings a stark contrast to most Filipino dining tables in a land of feast or famine where the former overwhelms us to forget most of the lean times that passed.

The christmas holidays brings out the pigs from all us in both a literal and figurative sense. During these times we find ourselves eating for the sake of eating. Feasting seems to be a social norm that is hard to pass. Of course when someone brings lechon, both the pig and its bringer seem to be the star! But what is the roasted pig fuss all about? As a matter of fact after one too many parties, I find myself absolutely sick of lechon; especially when we’ve had to contend with its left overs, two ways and two days after the party. Once after, the lean parts are slathered and fried in butter and the rest of it being served as pinaksiw – in which the uninitiated could find himself in absolute horror as he discovers the pig’s jaw complete with its teeth while the others in the same table are fighting over its brain!

Photo courtesy of Interaksyon
Photo courtesy of Interaksyon

I cannot say however that lechon, cannot be good. As a matter of fact, I’ve had some which are as good as good gets. Elar’s lechon seems to be as “good” as we could expect while an “authentic” Cebu Lechon could certainly spin an alternate angle from the roasters down south. Indeed the Cebuanos take lechon very seriously that they would make it a point to turn it into a regional source of pride and international acclaim as Anthony Bourdain experienced and approved. The Cebu lechon pride seemed so contagious that my sister in law’s husband who was assigned in Cebu for a time would go through the trouble of having the lechon flown into Manila via Philippine Airlines; Just so we could be educated!

The lechon was “that good”. It was served neat but highly seasoned with salt, pepper and lemon grass. The best part was the belly which seems to have concentrated and infused the meat with balanced and aromatic treatments. The best test was that the lechon did not need the “febre” or salsa/sauce. The leaner parts however, almost always tasted better when dipped in salt, pepper and vinegar. The experience was always bright, crisp and aromatic.
Push that down with an ice cold refreshing bottle of San Miguel (Pale Pilsen). Please…

JB Magsaysay's Bagnet Sisig
JB Magsaysay’s Bagnet Sisig

However given the romance, I’d venture to say that lechon is lechon. The search for the perfect crackling pig continues. It could come from the distant past Iberian memories brought to us by Señor Armas’ Cochinillo (God Bless his immortal soul); or they may come from North and South in more recent memoirs. Past or present, I would think to be well qualified.

The recent weeks had me partaking Pig’s Face from Pappus a few long blocks away to Ilocos Sur’s famous Vigan Bagnet which we recycled to high heavens as Bagnet Sisig along the beaches of Teppeng Cove. We had the lechon in standard dress, as well as a Northern Iteration of Cebu Lechon belly from La Union! These were all perfect pigs to the crackling, but what really sets something apart was a standout of what an excellent (in superlatives) pig is supposed to be!

As said, lechon is lechon and more about the occasion and the company that brought in its presence rather than the dish itself.

IMG_4286When I had Bai’s Boneless Lechon Belly, the pig was the occasion and not the coincident! So good that I had asked my friend Paul who drove all the way from Marikina into Alabang just to try it. Wrote about it, he did.

So good that I insisted on a December 25 delivery from Dexter Ding (The Proprietor of Bai’s), who by the twist of the arm delivered it himself to feed my foodie family in Alabang where it was served among cooks and Chef! My Kuya Herman just happened to be Executive Chef when he retired from the PGA as well as having been a chef at the Four Seasons.

My feedback was nothing short of an argument with Dexter soon after. As I wanted to decry Bai’s boneless belly as lechon for the many reasons we associate with lechon. There could be good lechon and very good lechon but Bai’s was an excellent Roasted Pork Belly worth writing home about.

1521649_10152878148733329_4280400752152885546_nWith this writing I am defying his appeal. As tested in proper conditions, I found the flavor complexly layered with sophisticated aromas of lemongrass with a gentle sweet kiss of anise coming from a well founded herbal base. Anise being precarious to use (if it was) as it could anesthetize the taste buds. While the saltiness of typical Cebu lechon could be clocked at 6.5 to a 7, Bai’s can be clocked at a 5.5 on a scale of 10. In contrast to a stark salty season that we associate with typical Cebu Lechon, Bai’s seems to have come from a delicately balanced and fragrant marinade.

Bai’s brings you the best part of the lechon and takes it up several notches up and in different directions with its approach in flavor and sophistication. The mouth feel can be described as firm but tender enough not to lodge grain and sinew; there was none. The skin was a prefect crackling that dissolves in mastication. There was a presence of fat, but none that congealed into pasty lard. It is what lechon “could be” and they’ve done it.

1779717_847309875290255_1312557169512172377_nThis is not something you should wait on line for at a buffet! I believe it deserves a better place. Perhaps even in smaller portions to be shared on a dinner date with a bottle of wine. The preparation and care involved in bringing this pig to plate can satisfy even the most discerning epicurean. It’s gourmet lechon if there was such a thing?

Well, at least now there is!

Getting the Best out of the Worst! 4-Ways You Can Make The Best Out of the New Year!

John Walter Bay

2014 has been marked with some of the worst disasters we have seen in the region’s history. Media was abuzz and rightly so. Indeed we do not even have to look very far to appreciate the disaster of Malaysian Airlines Flights’ MH 17 and MH 370. These were disasters that are likened to a lightning striking twice in the same place within the same year. These unfortunate occurrences do prove that the worst things can happen not only once, but twice! Shortly after, just before the end of the year, the airline disaster of Air Asia QZ8501 gripped us! Lives were lost, families were affected and eventually business and everyone is affected.

On a lighter note, the year also brought about the shocking news that Hello Kitty is not actually a Cat; Despite being a Kitty! The news had taken two generations of people aghast with those who always thought…

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