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Life Management Spiritual

The Paradox of Happiness During Quarantine

The paradox in human condition is that in simplicity, there is joy and happiness. Perhaps we sometimes need a white background before we see the beauty in life’s nuances and simple details. Perhaps it is seeing the weaving fabric behind a complex tapestry. This is what I experienced during the quarantine.

Though physically confined, I was free.

I spent time and resource on things that mattered. Peaceful meditation and introspect, family and friends (albeit sometimes virtually). I had time to reach out to old friends and had time to enjoy the company of my children. Even though they were through silent moments in company. We were all there. Present.

I learned to create value through service. Having been without a maid since December, I’ve learned how to cook again. And cook I did to taste! The personal standard was high.

To love is to serve. I did the laundry for my kids sometimes. I cleaned around the house, with no reason except for love. To express love is also to be free.

As the end of the quarantine draws near, work prospects have started to emerge. Once engaged, here now comes the precarious balancing act. I will again be in contest with myself. How can I weigh simplicity against the measure of living within my fullest potential (As an athlete, an executive, and as a citizen of my community)?  The latter brings unintended complexity driven by performance, merit and competition. I am a warrior and a field commander. That is my identity. The purpose to which I was made. The programming from which I act.

Have I not spent my time in this lull honing myself into a weapon? A sharp mind and a strong body? Willingly would I give both into the throes of my next mission. The marketplace, the city and the nations.

Where is the sweet spot and oasis between purpose and vanity?

Is my Lord and Shepherd leading me again on a journey of discovery? In all the chaos of this world, in all of these things, There is God.

Where art thou, my LORD and my King?

Sometime around 1994 my mentor and friend Fr. Zogby (God bless your soul) gave me this book: “The Age of Paradox”. Written 26 years ago, its truths still rings today. COVID19 has brought the world (Its life and economy) to its knees. But where is the simple truth behind this tapestry of chaos? Perhaps behind the foreground of disaster are the simple truths on the value of life and the spirit that drives us. Love, restoration and peace.

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Business

Following the Money and How COVID 19 Reconstructs Logistics and Consumer Behavior

We all know the drill

A smoke screen goes off! Emergency Response Team members calmly escort their fellow employees out to the open area where a team from the Bureau of Fire protection gives a briefing on evacuation protocol and the use of fire suppression equipment. Similar drills are practiced when it comes to earthquakes and similar calamities. Living in a country like the Philippines, everyone ought to be ready when disaster strikes. Within a lifetime we’ve had major earthquakes, devastating typhoons that have wiped away lives within hours off the face of the planet. Within the 1st quarter of 2020, we’ve been hit by a volcano eruption and while  people have just literally started to rise from the ashes, along comes COVID-19 that had Luzon under lock-down up to now. The faces of the population remains covered by N95 masks since January. Will things ever go back to normal? Perhaps Not. But what we’ve learned will shape how we adapt to “The New Normal”. There will be winners, but even more losers.

The Connected Society

Beyond our mortal lives we have our Faith, Family and Friends. We take inventory of our basic necessities. Water, Food, Energy and Communications. What the past calamities have taught us is that there are varying degrees to its effects. In January, we spent days without energy and with such, the ability to store food was compromised thereby affecting our cycles of procurement. Having spent a few years in the logistics sector teaches you a lot of things on how to manage crises. We live in a connected world and these connections far exceed ICT. During a time of crisis, the hierarchy of needs tend to shift its focus towards the lower tiers of the pyramid. So when we are talking about “networks” we need to see this on a more physical plane. The term “Humanitarian Logistics” is fairly new. It probably wouldn’t have gained traction in relevance if it weren’t for society’s  response to Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda in the Philippines) in 2013, Hurricane Katrina in 2005 or the Banda Aceh 2004 Tsunami. Ironically, “logistics” has never been a sexy word, but logistics science and know-how is life and death.

 

Logistics is Life and Death

A “network interruption” within the context of transport and logistics would mean people cannot report to work. Supply chains will be interrupted. Food and other basic necessities cannot get through. It’s not a matter of inconvenience; This is the very substance of many Business Continuity Plans (BCP) and it comes down to the survival of our society. A network interruption of large scales where transportation, airstrips, waterways and highways are impeded can kill a nation. As we’ve been started to be aware, the control of waterways such as the South China Sea where an estimated $3.2 Trillion in trade is valued, is a legitimate International Security Issue. The issue of logistics strategy needs to be seen both from the largest scales to the micro. Just as it takes logistics for a woman to give birth in hospital, it also takes logistics to take a dead body into the ground from the deathbed. Logistics is cradle to grave.

 

Granularity and the Last Mile

The painful lesson from Haiyan is that tons of relief goods rotted away in warehouses near Tacloban. From a logistics perspective we can see that it wasn’t a supply and storage issue but a problem with distribution at the “last-mile”. You obviously cannot park a C130 aircraft in front of someone’s house, but you can use a motorcycle or a small van. We need to break down logistics to smaller granules in terms of weight breaks and use a multi-modal strategy.

As an adaptive response to the Enhanced Community Quarantine, communities have organized direct purchases from producers and suppliers, delivering directly to homes or organizing scheduled pick-ups from village common-areas. The “hub and spoke” network has been operationalized only with staging points (receiving and dispatching) being democratized by communities all over the country. The logistics framework applies, and it works! Even to the last mile and to a granularity of not more than a 5 km. radius. We’ve seen unprecedented reconstruction of supply networks direct to consumers from as far as Benguet to Batangas (a distance in excess of 433 kms.) within 2-3 working days sometimes using refrigerated vans.

Orders are usually consolidated using Viber or a Shared Spreadsheet. Could this be the new normal? Maybe? But the possibilities are out there and the models have been proven. It begs all of us to reconsider buying locally and “eliminating the middle man”. Logistics make it possible. And while fuel prices are at an all-time low and shipping fees remain unchanged, the industry could enjoy an arbitrage where their unprofitable runs or backhauls all of a sudden make money during this period. Logistics can still win in certain segments.

 

Where the traffic is, there the money is

As we venture outside our homes physical traffic has dramatically decreased. The malls have zero foot traffic therefore: “where is the money”? The grocery lines have gotten longer due to decreased frequency of trips and social distancing, but the cart checkout transaction sizes could be increasing as well. Online traffic could be a clue pointing to the money. eCommerce checkout carts give a clear indication of pent-up demand and transaction sizes (delivered or undelivered). What are people looking to buy? Online grocery sites have reported upsurges of up to 84% since brick and mortar stores have started to close. The traffic however is directed towards “essential items” to fill in the gaps left by physical stores. According to the New York Times Netflix traffic has seen a 16% increase in traffic, Zoom has had a drastic surge of conference sessions and CSGO has breached more than 1 million players overtaking DOTA for the first time. Clearly business is good for some. A quick snapshot of the internet’s gainers and losers are in this link. Where the traffic is, there the money is too.

 

Moving forward to the New Normal

Retail, Entertainment and Travel has been greatly affected by this pandemic and a crisis of fear prevails around the globe. But we all have to eat. We all have a need to be entertained and remain on contact, but how we do these things will change. One of the greatest challenge many marketeers have is “inducing a trial” but once we are past that hurdle, we build new reinforcing habits for consumption. Try shopping online! It’s good for business.

Many of us have learned to cook and bake. I’ve only started to buy all-purpose flour since I started preparing pizza from scratch. I’ve been taking classes from YouTube.  This has implications on our next shopping carts. From the gym to buying exercise equipment. I’ve even learned how to cut my own hair again!

What’s next? Follow the traffic. Follow the money! Take things to the last-mile! There might not be any traffic on the road but there probably is more of it online.

 

 

 

 

Categories
Life Management

10 Inspirational Movies to Watch during Covid 19 Quarantine

It’s one thing to be occupied and entertained during the quarantine and it’s another thing to come out uplifted, motivated and somewhat better than before. As Her Majesty said in her message “Better Times ahead”. We can also say things are just about to get worse before it gets better. This is a statistical reality. Another one is that some of us will come ahead before others. Better Times ahead for those who instead of getting defeated, will use this as a staging point to reinforce their will. We have to look at this situation as a transition of something else. A next phase and hopefully a better one! Things will not return to pre-Covid normal as we know it but feeding our hearts hope and inspiration instead of gloom will fuel our desire to get ahead for the changes ahead. So, here is my top 10.

  1. “Company Men”- A must watch for those facing retrenchment or redundancy. This happens to the best of us, including myself. A shipping executive finds himself laid-off. Their family had to make some brutal adjustments. He had to swallow his pride but learns to make himself useful despite the new realities facing him. This is how it feels, and this is how we must press on. Life is a series of transitions. There is a purpose to our suffering, and we must help each other through similar journeys. The sooner we humble ourselves, the better we are in moving forward.
  2. “The Pursuit of Happiness”- A heartwarming story of a struggling salesman and his son trying to get back on their feet after an eviction. The story makes our momentary sufferings seem trivial and delivers a lesson on how perseverance through trials eventually lead to breakthroughs. If you can’t find work, Learn! An internship eventually led to a job where he exceled. Success is never overnight. We are sometimes brought low; we have to keep our heads up. Show up for work, no matter what!
  3. “Up in the Air” – A thought provoking satire that points to the ironies that we often accept as truth. Is the executive lifestyle all that it is cracked up to be? Are we truly free when we are alone? You reach some of your aspirations in life and then what? A sardonic and humorous tale of life’s paradoxes. The characters will keep you entertained towards a thought-provoking ending.
  4. “The Social Network” – The engaging backstory of Facebook. See how it started with this movie. Entertaining and inspiring.
  5. “Wallstreet” (1987) – “Greed is Good” was one of the most memorable lines from the film. I first saw this in high school and I wanted to be a stockbroker afterwards. If you grew up in the 80’s the soundtrack is sure to bring back memories. It may not seem like it, but this is actually a good guy vs. bad guy movie but we are often fooled to be the latter with our desires. The later version was good, but you’d have to see the original first.
  6. “Forrest Gump”- A classic American tale that takes you through its most interesting times through the eyes of a lovable idiot. It’s heartwarming and emotional in the right places. Keep Running! We’ll be OK.
  7. “Big Fish” – A Story Teller’s Movie. Absolutely fantastic and enchanting. Larger-than-life depiction as it should be told. One of the greatest stories ever told in film of a life well lived. Good story telling always straddles the fine line between fact and fiction. Colorful exaggeration being its secret sauce.
  8. “A Walk Among the Clouds” – This story starts out with a tragedy upon tragedy ending with a tragedy which later twists into a hopeful ending. What could be the end is only the chapter in a new beginning. This romantic story takes you through condemnation and redemption. It ends with our values intact. Set in the California wine country, its treatment of love against the backdrop is reminiscent of “Como Agua por Chocolate”.
  9. “La Vida es Bella” – A father struggles to shelter his son from the brutalities of being in a concentration camp. Through humor, an Italian Jew keeps his son’s eyes towards a beautiful ending. Life is Beautiful, depending on how you look at it! Hopes do turn out to be true if we survive long enough. This movie is paralleled by The Pursuit of Happiness with good Italian humor and animated exchanges.
  10. “Slumdog Millionaire” – An Indian Muslim gets a break from being a contestant in “Who wants to be a millionaire?”, but right before he answers the grand-prize question he is abducted by the police and is riddled with other riveting challenges. He punches through with a loving devotion to his childhood sweetheart.

These are not all my favorites but some of the more “inspiring” ones from the top of my head. I also have a list of Netflix favorites which I will be posting next, along with some of the most disturbing and thought-provoking things I’ve ever watched. Do leave a comment and tell me what you think.

 

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Uncategorized

10 Things You Can Do During the COVID19 Quarantine: An Inside-Out Approach

It has been more than three weeks since the Presidential announcement of Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ). At the onset of the announcement the restriction of movement hasn’t really dawned upon most people until the few days after. It was then that people started scrambling for adaptive measures forced upon by the quarantine. It almost seemed like implementing rules were being created as days went by. Work from home took on a new meaning. Zoom meetings were intense and drawn out during the first few days, as this was when managers have started strategizing based on the situation, but after the 2nd week we have found ourselves somewhat “Time-Rich”. The usual two to four hours a day spent in Metro Manila commute has suddenly been left to be allocated for some things that most people wouldn’t know where to apply. Add on top of that at least 6 hours spent outside on leisure and sports which versus the clear message imposed upon is to “#StayHome!” The question is, what can I do now? We’ve unlocked at least 18 hours a week of our time and productivity. Here are 10 things that have helped me in the past three weeks.

  1. PRAY! This might sound insensitive to other people’s beliefs but this is mine and it works for me with very practical benefits. Praying feeds my mind and my spirit. It encourages me and fuels my Will to slay the challenges of the day. It provides hope in a desperate situation. Much of The Bible was written under extreme circumstances and tribulation. It is a written history of mankind’s experience with God, in many times similar situations to what we have. We are in a plague but praying with the following verses has helped me through tough situations.
    1. Psalms 91:7 “A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.”
    2. Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

I believe in a Force and Being that is greater than my fears. I believe that someone hears my prayers. Praying and meditating allows me to be honest and truthful to myself; my fears, insecurities, my concerns and my hopes. It allows me to be authentic and in touch with my value and purpose despite this crisis. Praying allows me to be vulnerable in communicating with my God and aligns my personal will with something greater than myself. Prayer readies me to fight and serve. Start with a pure heart.

  1. Always have a goal of coming out of this crisis stronger spiritually, mentally and physically. Use this time to train all three things. I planned for times similar to these and have a stationary bike, a kettlebell, a bench-press, a few dumbbells, resistance bands and a yoga mat. Not having these things is not an excuse. Use bodyweight exercises! My wife joins a Zumba and Yoga session with her friends via video conference! No excuses! Train! If you’re in between jobs this is the perfect time to get yourself “Fit-to-Work”!
  2. During the same period last year, I’ve read “Pivot”, “Tuesdays with Morrie” and “Animal Farm”. Thanks to the gift of technology I’ve finished four books via Audible. These were: “Unfuck Yourself”, “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck”(Yes, I was grabbed by the F word), “Atomic Habits” and “Outliers”. I hyperlinked Atomic Habits by James Clear as I found it exceptionally helpful and implementable. Same with “Pivot”. I am currently reading “Cant Hurt Me” by David Goggins. Feeding your mind allows you to share what you learned and build more meaningful conversations, positive connections and prepares you for what is beyond this crisis.
  3. Connect and Serve. Put down the phone and stop entertaining the trolls! You’re making them rich! Have a conversation with your loved ones. Give the best of yourself by serving them. Cook! Do their laundry! Bathe the dog! Learn a new recipe. Use that excuse to go on YouTube. Give to a cause.
  4. Take Inventory. This goes with both physical inventory, skill inventory and network inventory. Balance your accounts by doing personal accounting and financial planning, take an inventory of your assets (including supplies you have in the house). There might be unused things you might need to dispose or give to charity. You might need to realign your budget. Being in quarantine opens our eyes to people and things that matter most. Reflect upon your knowledge, experience and skills. Assess the value of your connections. Are these positive connections? When you scroll through your Facebook feeds, do a clean-up or hit the snooze button! If they’re just fueling your ire or jealousy, unfollow them or take a break. Know what you have! Evaluate. Leverage your value later on with people who matter.
  5. Plan your Next Move. (Post Crisis, and In-Crisis). Build a Task or Goal statements for outcomes you’d like to achieve Post Crisis. It could sound something like this: “At the End of This Quarantine, I will be ready to embark on a New Career in a Publicly Listed Company”. This may be wordy, but specific and descriptive. It has to be “outcome or output based”. Many of the moves that you make should support that statement even while preparing during the crisis.
  6. Keep a calendar and log your activities. Note your challenges, achievements and learning.
  7. Polish your resume. Align the contents with your goals. You might have a few target industries so you might need a few versions. If you’re an entrepreneur, focus on your achievements. Make yourself bankable and investment worthy.
  8. Suit Up! It’s important to dress the part. If you see yourself going for another round of interviews after the quarantine, get your closet ready. Shine your shoes (this is somewhat overlooked) make sure your clothes are neat and ready for the role you want to fill. I often get asked how to dress for an interview, and while each industry could be different, the easy answer is to dress for your best day at work! Look the part that you want to fill!
  9. Connect! By radiating from within connect with those who matter. Family, friends and contacts. Be authentic. Add and create value in other people’s lives. Solve problems and be a solution. Give.

There’s a cliché that goes: “You can’t give what you don’t have” and it is true. By employing an Inside-Out approach as described above, you can ensure the value that you deliver into the world around you. You can live a life of purpose when you’ve invested in your personal R&D. Use this quarantine to invest in your wellbeing.

Proverbs 21:31

“The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the LORD.”

 

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I am not Cursed, I am Afflicted

I am almost broke, but not broken. I’m in between jobs but I am not unemployed. If anything, I am on a “Hard Reset”. I am the Lord’s provision for my family. I am resetting my priorities in this order:

  1. God
  2. Marriage
  3. Family
  4. Work and Ministry

I’ve been here before. Almost on a yearly basis! But He has never let me down! As I was driving my daughter from school, we had a familiar conversation that ended with her saying “Something will work out! Something always works out! You’ll be fine!” I guess she’s been through the drill a number of times. Indeed as I look back, God has been faithful. I left a job in 2018 and later got hired into a better job a few months later, one that paid two and half times more. I later got retrenched in 2019 (I now know how that feels) but got hired a few months down the road for a major project preparing 18 strategic plans for the 3rd largest logistics group in the Philippines. Each time I was on a mission; Each time I recovered. Each time I grew. I learned. Everything was added on.

The transitions suck! The “in-betweens”. Friends, even other believers tend to think “How can someone of such talent, skill and experience never hold down a job?” Believe me, if I knew the reasons for this problem, I would’ve solved it! But there are things that are just out of my control. Some people might think I’m cursed! And at some point I even believed that I am!

I just finished reading a devotional on Job and I have to confess that I often skipped through the bad parts. It was unbearable! Most especially if I could relate to the suffering. But I just realized that God was teaching me a lesson about Job’s friends! They believed he was cursed! But Job wasn’t cursed. He was afflicted…

An affliction as defined by the dictionary as condition or state that causes suffering and agony. The state could be constant and nagging, but in most cases these are allowed to be placed upon our lives to demonstrate the Resurrective Power of Christ. Because he frees us from our afflictions.

It is done so that His power may be revealed and so glorifies God! Remember Lazarus? He was already dead for four days! For many, It was over! Even for Job, his friends even said to curse God so he can die. Call me cursed but there is no curse greater than God’s plan for my life.

Jesus, upon hearing the death of Lazarus wept! But Jesus delayed!

‘So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. ‘ John 11:6

But why did he? Because while everyone thought it was over it was:“so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

Same with Job. And did not God allow these things to happen to him so that he can be restored.

The Lord Restores Job’s Fortunes

10And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends. And the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.

I am afflicted, but I am not cursed. I am covered by the blood of Christ, the Lamb of God. Yes the transition sucks and people will have their judgements, but transitions are used to reset, to train and to receive a greater mission ahead.

“Blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle;” Psalm 144:1

 

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3 – Steps to Land Your Perfect Job; An Employer’s Perspective

One of the more basic questions I always get asked is “whether or not qualifications is the most important aspect of hiring or finding a “job-fit””. For the most part, senior managers would tell you that “attitude is more important than qualifications”; this however is a rather shortsighted answer as we all know that only qualified applicants make it the top of the heap especially when it comes to mission-critical posts. The quick answer is to say that you need both the qualifications and the right attitude to get the job. Qualifications are almost always one of the barest requirements. However, with that said, you cannot get hired on the basis of your CV alone, nor can you get hired where all you can bring is your positive attitude. You obviously need both, and it gets a bit more complex than that. Nonetheless, you must have a strategy to punch your way to the top.

At the higher levels where the supposed crème de la crème gets vetted for positions, the supply side (applicants) would have already been strategically positioned for the post and there are strategies on how to get there. Here are a few factors that I’ve seen come into play when shopping for the best talents:

CONNECT

Being connected with the right people and networks is the best way to get a leg-up on a career.

• Network: It is often said that a “break” is attributed to being at “The Right Place at the Right Time”. But there’s more to it than just “luck”. What is more important is being with the right people under the right circumstances and it sometimes takes a strategy to get there. Find a mentor that could show you the ropes and perhaps even offer some introductions and recommendations.
• Birds of the Same Feather: Surround yourself with performance driven people and not the opposite. We are often also known according to our associations. If you want to make a career in a specific domain, then you also have to be within those circles that matter.
• Flirting with the Secretary: I am not saying this literally at all, but you also need to be street smart when your CV is just one among the huge pile of resumes. Come in early to get acquainted with your surroundings. Get some background information about the company and your possible boss before the interview and make sure the interviewer knows that you have arrived. Yes, be friendly but also be authentic.

YOUR REPUTATION PRECEDES YOU. BUILD YOUR BRAND!

• Put your name on it: More than where you’ve worked and where you went to school, employers are much more interested in what you’ve actually accomplished. Publications and awards help.
• Enlarge your digital footprint: Use internet to your advantage. Associate yourself based on things that could improve your reputation and career. Let people know what you believe in, and what your values stand for. It’s common knowledge that employers will search for you on the internet to get some background, so you might as well use it to your advantage. I once got a shock when someone practically revealed that he stalked my accounts when I gave a talk on Strategic Planning. He started a conversation by talking about my hobbies only to reveal that he saw one of my online posts on cycling. Creepy, but I guess people do it all the time (including employers).

CLOSING THE DEAL (Negotiating)

• Find a subtle leverage: Give your prospective employer an idea that they are one of your options. Give them a clue as to who you have been speaking to, ideally an important account where you have connections or perhaps even competition. Give them an impression that you want to be significant in your industry. Be ethical! Leverage your value by knowing the talent market but never divulge confidential information!
• Solve a Problem: Be familiar with the industry and where their company is positioned and trade your possible contribution to the enterprise.

THE GLASS SHOE!

As I said, the question is more often more complex than just a matter of qualifications versus attitudes. You simply need to have both when you’re trying to move up in the game. What matters most is not just having the skill and the attitude for the job but rather the right mindset and acumen to fit into an organisation.

But even with the right skills, attitude and strategies to get into the organisation, if you are not a fit into their culture and strategy, then you shouldn’t really force it. Doing so might make yourself less marketable. Do your research and ask around! It is never all about you to begin with.

These factors come fresh in my mind as I have just finished doing an interview with someone who according to the resume could be the perfect fit. Only to find out after numerous exchanges over email that his communication skills need work and his attitude needs a bit of adjustment. Between him and a more personable and respectful candidate with similar qualifications, it’s easy to think that I’d go for the latter. Come to think of it, there are others like him in the pile and employers shouldn’t make decisions in a rush to fill out a post. The commitment entails both a legal and social contract.

It may seem too basic at this point but finding the “right-fit” given all the prerequisites just boils down to the question of whether or not I could work with this person or with my team? How well could this candidate relate with the rest of our stakeholders? Every employer has a mental model of that perfect someone who can fit into the glass shoe. Could you actually be that cinderella remains to be seen. In the meantime it pays to do some research, get grounded and play your cards well. Perhaps you’ll find yourself in that moment of truth in which case, if the shoe fits, then wear it! Congratulations!

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Life’s Litmus Test is Your Health! Lessons From Failing the Executive Check-up

Social Media must be one of the greatest market places for jealousy! People are posting up pictures of their latest acquisitions from clothes to cars while “checking-in” in the fanciest restaurants and coffee shops. People seem so busy while having the time of their lives! Those we compare with ourselves with could always afford to travel, go on fantastic vacations and splurge. The old mantra of “work hard / play hard” still applies and the more successful ones it seems are those that take them to the very limits. But, who’s really to say? Who holds the scorecards in these games?

I work in an industry where working through the weekends, spending long nights at the office and being a slave to work and clients is considered a badge of honour! At one point I worked 28 days a month: all of which were billable. My wife took me to the hangar on a Monday, I flew off on a private plane to work and came back on a chartered flight at the end of the week just to repeat the process the week after. Surely, I took photos of myself and my ride. But I also missed out on important dates. The time I had to give my teenage son “the talk” was already too late!

I complained about qualifying for the top tax bracket (32% in the Philippines) only on my first quarter’s billing but really just to brag about it too! In the end, what did I really have? Maybe I had a nice 42mm watch but not enough time to measure it with! Irony!

Our idea of success is flawed! We are much more concerned about how we arrive at the reunions rather than connecting with the people around us. We spend a lot of time on social media putting our best foot forward without having time to invest in real relationships. The ironies of our lives are apparent in how we spend it. We spend a lot of time at work at high costs under a justification of improving our quality of life when life quality only diminishes with more time we spend at work. On my drive to work this morning, my wife and I were discussing the purchase of a full-sized SUV so that we could use it for road-trips only to realise that most of the driving that we actually do is to work and back. The last time we went on a road trip was last December. We didn’t even have to use our own cars. Much of our decisions if we aren’t careful are based on what we “want” to do, rather than what we actually do.

The 10th commandment reads:

“You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife; and you shall not desire your neighbour’s house, his field, his male servant, his female servant, his ox, his donkey, or anything that is your neighbour’s.”

Behavioural Economist Dan Ariely in his book “Predictably Irrational” cited the principle of “relativity”. In most things people are less aware of the absolute value of things rather than its relative value. It is easy for us to approximate the value of things when they are compared with something else as a reference. I live in a “relatively” upper-middle-class gated community where people have an average of 2.5 cars and 2 maids. Everyone sends their kids to private schools and eats out at least once a week. “Relatively” speaking, I guess we are “Just OK”! In absolute terms however, the Philippines’ National Statistical Coordination Board would classify us to be within the top 9% within a country of 100 million people. Qualitatively speaking from the first person, we cannot fathom to say that we are rich. It all depends on who you’re looking at, and apparently we are comparing ourselves with our neighbour!
If we moved up the hill from where we are, I’d probably say that the Volvo is not even close to good as my neighbour’s Cayenne! Perhaps he’s more successful than I, and I’ve been doing it all wrong all of these years. It’s as ridiculous as competing about who has the biggest heap of trash or perhaps who has more skeletons in the closet. Relativity and comparison get us locked into stupid competitions. The social-media is of no help to balance either.

One tragedy that turned out to be a blessing was when I failed the stress test in the beginning of 2013. Your health is apparently the best litmus test to life. We spend so much time making money at work only to realise later on that we’ll be spending more on corrective healthcare. The more time I spent at work, the less energy and fitness I had. Your body starts going on a spiral of diminishing returns or outputs. Somewhere down the line the irony of working too much will actually diminish your ability to make more money. That’s if your career does not kill you first (literally)! Many executives have fallen on that path, sometimes literally on a treadmill.

As I’ve written before in an article called “Fit for Work”

“Time is inelastic, while energy is!”

So if you wanted to find a Litmus Test to life, look no further than the executive check-up. Just as a literal Litmus Test would indicate acidity, so does a blood exam tell you your level of toxicity. What is material success if you are running out of time to enjoy it? What is a Patek on your wrist if you haven’t the time to be on time?

Spock was wise in saying: “Live Long and Prosper!” It should be kept in that order. We tend to focus too much on prospering before living without thinking that the former is more important than the latter. It is certainly easier said than done, but we all have to walk that tight rope sometimes with a dozen things in hand. What’s important is keeping along the direction of the True North, a direction towards a fuller life without having to take too many confusing detours. Live for the weekend! Savour the moment and let that adjust your targets.

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Chipping Away at Success

Does it ever feel like your life is going nowhere? Do you ever feel like you’re just going around in circles without making any progress in your life?

Perhaps the problem is that we tend to see ourselves in extreme generalities living with a clouded illusion that we’ll reach that “One Day” where we’ll wake up sailing away into the mediterranean sunset with a cold drink in one hand, and the love of our life enclasped in another. If this sounds like a dream, then perhaps it is and nothing more than that unless we “work at it”.

Not saying that all dreams are impossible. I’m just saying that we usually don’t wake up to find that we are successful. It takes a lot of perseverance and the general condition of success is actually composed of numerous goals achieved.

A month ago I found myself in my client’s car where he wanted to make a huge withdrawal that almost closed the bank! He was going away for a tour to Europe while I was left in charge of the project while he was away. We were accompanied by his brother who proceeded to talk about wanting to buy a Ferrari just to start a conversation. He turned to me and asked: “John, don’t you have a dream?” I simply said: “Of course I do! I mean, of course having a Ferrari would be nice but don’t you also think that having a tree is better than having its fruit? I’m working on planting that tree right now!”

Many people tend to have a flawed perception of success or work for that matter. The TGIF culture espouses the belief we need to get away from work to enjoy ourselves. I personally think that this should not be the case. Work is a blessing and an opportunity to live out our life’s purpose; which should be at most times greater than ourselves. Even on a busy Monday, people want to find an escape sometimes resorting to social media for some virtual interaction.

Work is not a prison! However, even if breaking out of work is your idea of success, then you should look no further than Prison Break movies one of them being “The Great Escape”. Sometimes based on real stories, you’d be amazed to find that most of these great escapes are done by digging tunnels underground; sometimes with nothing more than improvised spoons! The point I’m making is that even if your goal was simply to break out of prison, you would realise that getting success obviously takes a lot of work.

Last Monday, my wife and I were blessed to have been given free tickets to a John Maxwell leadership seminar. In his lecture he explained one of the laws of leadership called the “Law of Consistency”. He gave an illustration of how this law works by giving an analogy. He says that success is like taking an ax, swinging the same ax 5 times at the same point, stopping and repeating the same process every day. You will not chop down that tree in one day; but if we kept taking 5 swings at it everyday without quitting, then the tree will eventually fall.

John Maxwell caps the Law of Consistency by explaining:

“Small disciplines repeated with consistency every day lead to great achievements gained slowly over time.”

President Obama in one of his speeches in revival of the American dream said something like: It doesn’t matter if you’re Black or White, Asian or Hispanic , etc., as long as you’re willing to work hard, you can make it. So apparently success (ironically for some) takes a lot of “work”.

Another question about life and success is whether it’s a sprint or a marathon. While I tend to work in series of sprints, you’d one day realise that putting all these sprints together could make up for a full marathon. Incidentally a full work week is equated to 40 hours and that a full marathon is roughly 42 kilometres. It is impossible for us to work for 42 hours straight effectively without sleep but it’s certainly more tractable to put in our 8 hours over five days. The same goes in preparing for a marathon. We usually need to put in a series of sprint distances of 10 kms to prepare us for a “Full Mary”. Running sprint distances in the world of endurance sports is fondly referred to as “The Possible Dream”, but once we’ve had a taste of this accomplishment we tend to get hooked towards achieving the bigger goal. The important thing about running in sprints is that it needs to be connected towards a bigger goal rather than the sprint itself. Can’t we say the same about work? Have patience.

One thing I need to emphasise is there is no quick formula to success. Meaning, you can’t sprint your way to your goal. I remember getting stuck in filling out a 250 word essay about success in the 9th grade. There I said that school was a step towards success and that my whole time of being in school as much as I hated it was about taking these small but important steps. Mrs. Mercado who was my English teacher seemed so proud about that essay that she told my dad about it in a dinner party. Looking back, it took me an hour to write 250 words! That seems pretty pathetic by today’s standards where I write about 1000 in an hour and a half! That was almost 30 years ago and I’ve kept on writing since then. I once wrote a short story in 48 hours which got me an A+ in college and here I am still typing away on a Sunday. If my goal was to write a book someday, at least I had a head-start 30 years ago! Thank you Mrs. Mercado.

Filipina Iron-woman and coach Ani De Leon – Brown says that winning a triathlon isn’t about who can go the fastest but rather who slows down the least! Again it’s all about consistency! It’s about perseverance! It’s about having a goal and racing towards it even if you had to do it one day at a time.

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Nintendo President Satoru Iwata Dies at 55

Wow! I better get myself checked too!

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The Philippines now has 100 million people—and just about as many problems and possibilities