Business Life Management

The AntiFragile

One of the inspirations behind our VideoCast series #PSQ (Pivot Strategies Quarantine) is based on a book I’ve been reading called “Antifragile. Things That Gain from Disorder” by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. Taleb often refers to a “Black Swan” a word that is fondly referred to by “Never Split The Difference” author Chris Voss as a rare moment that also spells opportunity. A Black Swan is a rare occurrence with extreme consequences.

“There is opportunity in any crisis”. So a supposed cliched Chinese proverb goes. What I do find in the characters of entrepreneurs; Many of which are on the path to success is the character of being “Antifragile”.

Maripaz of Mama Paz’s Premium Baked Spaghetti has been through several businesses since I’ve known her. But it actually took a crisis like this for her business to take off! Many businesses need to be edited and distilled before the winning formula is reached. This one was made right by KISS. “Keeping it Simple”.

While I’ve known and have done business with Mike of Kickstart Coffee, one of the most memorable times I met him was in front of Cafe Breton just a few days after I got a redundancy as the Vice President and Head of Revenues of a Tech Company. I’ll talk about this in a later blog entitled “The Anatomy of Getting Fired”. Notwithstanding, one of the greatest things I admire about Mike was his courage to take a leap of faith; even when the chips are down. In his case, a Blue Chip! Who would’ve known that a company like Lehman Brothers would collapse in 2008?

The Antifragile is a different animal altogether. In the book, Taleb describes 3 types of people.

  1. The Fragile: People who will break during a crisis and disorder
  2. The Robust: People who could survive a crisis
  3. The Antifragile: People who come back swinging back even harder!

He refers to the Hydra of Greek Myth who when having its head cut off will grow back two more in return and fight even more ferociously!

Some people and their businesses will be demolished by this pandemic. Some will weather through. But very few will come back even better or use this Black Swan event as an opportunity. They will come out of this crisis not restored, but transformed into something better and stronger.

What about you?

Are you Fragile? Are you robust? Or are you Antifragile?

Share your thoughts with us.

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.

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.


Health and Fitness Leadership Life Management

Dancing with Angels


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!

Life Management Spiritual

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!

Life Management

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

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 Hello Kitty to be everyone’s lovable pet. In more recent news, Instagram’s Bot Purge had caused Justin Bieber 3.5 million followers! It seems like he had a population of followers who were not actually real people. I could not help but crack a smirk at this bit of news only to find that Kim Kardashian is faring a bit better than the Bieber. Some celebrities seem to be taking things worse than others; perhaps coming to a stark realisation that they were not the big leaders they thought themselves to be. This was a bubble well popped!

The Philippines, had taken another hit from mother nature via typhoon Ruby and came out better this time around with much less damage also owed to the lessons of the previous year.

2014 was an interesting year which was highlighted both by major and minor tragedies. All of which should be lesson for all of us. We need to take the good along with the bad, as many would say but how does this affect your life for the better? Personally, this writer has seen better years. Out of some of the debacles, come some of the best learning moments in my life. What could be a loss in the more obvious fronts such as career and money, on the flip-side could be one the greatest wins in the game of life. In a previous failure, I forced myself to recount what mattered most and came up with three things: Faith, Family and Friends. With the constant undulations that life brings it is good to look at these three things as a constant with maturity begging for more discernment as time goes by. 2014 has been an exceptional teacher in this regard.

In the backdrop of your personal life lies the usual business of the day, but this does not mean that you have to leave everything you learned at work once you have left the office. Whether we like it or not, work is a part of us and occupies most of our waking day and the same strategies and metrics that apply in the workplace can be carried over to your personal life. Life needs to be managed just as anything that occupies your time. With some of the woes that come with life, come some of the greatest gains in learning. Here are some of what take the top spots on my list.

  1. Focus on What Matters: While saying “money isn’t everything” could be considered a cliche, much of it rings true especially when the chips are down. As said earlier Faith, Family and Friends tend to bring back disproportionate rates of returns when considering what you get back in exchange for the time invested. Keeping an eye on the three also help us manage the paradoxes of earning and quality of life. Back in 2012, I racked-in the most billable hours in my consulting career only to fail the stress test on my annual physical exam. Top that with not being mentally and emotionally present during the most important moments in family’s life. A year lost in connecting with your love ones cannot be replaced by money, especially with those who have passed away. We spend so much money on stuff rather than spending time with people. In the end you may have fat account, fat around your waist and still be emotionally and spiritually bankrupt. When a downturn occurred during the following year I found my Faith, Family and Friends with me through my trials. They helped me get back on my feet, encouraged me and even helped me venture towards things that I love to do. I am doing them right now as I write this article.
  2. Let-go of Heavy Baggage: You will find things and even people are not necessary to take on your journey. I have found that some of the same people who have patted my back during my career highs were the same ones that were biting it when I was weak. In the end you will realise that we spend too much time with people who are only with you due to strategic interest. Some were with you because of your material generosity and your image. You will find that once they get what they want in one way or another (which sometimes does not include you), they are fast to step on you to advance themselves. They disguise their advice under a veneer of honesty and sometimes with twisted principles. In the end they are full of negativity, unmet needs which you cannot fill and jealousy. Know the signs early, accept the brutal facts, forgive them, and move on.
  3. Find What Ignites Your Passion: Another life paradox is finding what you truly love during the worst moments of your life. When things take a downturn, you will suddenly reconnect with your forgotten talents. They were hidden deep all along! Some of them could be a bit detached from what you do for money. What you realise then is that having a job could be different from making a living. Try to use this time to realign your career and priorities. Try to identify things that you would be doing anyway, with or without the money. Get in touch with your God given talents and strengths, combine them with your zealous passion and you will find that the amount of effort will yield exponential returns. Turn your talents into a competitive advantage by applying the time to develop them. Know your talents and passion and do invest the time to develop them!
  4. Multiply Yourself: Connect and Collaborate with others. Share your passions and invest in fruitful relationships that develop your interests and open new perspectives to create new possibilities. Commit to a positive change beyond yourself and beyond your shores. Be accountable to the people around you. Take the lead if you must, but lead responsibly.

Many great things could come out from the worst. It is a matter of perspective but anything you do always remember to be authentic. Always keep your Faith, Family and Friends. Keep your eyes on the horizon and your feet on the ground. Live simply but love extravagantly!

Leadership Life Management

From Checkpoints to C-Suites: 4 Things That Can Help You Connect the Dots

John Walter S. Baybay

Originally Published in the Star of Malaysia Leaderonomics Section – 06.12.14
In Steve Jobs’ commencement speech in Stanford, he made mention of connecting the dots; and that connecting the dots only makes sense looking backwards and not forward. While I do have a full appreciation for this, many of my experiences may not be as glamorous as most people would think. More accurately, it was “somewhat” glamorous towards the end, but never ever glamorous in the beginning.

Seven years ago I took a field assignment to a place that not too many people would dare to go to. The Philippines is a country largely unexplored as an archipelago of more than 7000 islands with issues so socially complex that flying for less than an hour can take you to another place that is terribly unfamiliar and not to mention scary due to its reputation. Being flown to place that has been known in the news due to armed conflicts and where towns have been razed to the ground, does not seem to strike the traveler as a dream vacation. But duty does beckon and one could only hope that expectations can be reversed once you land. The problem is that it usually doesn’t!

2107_60529108328_960_nDue to the bigger hotel being fully booked, we had to stay in a small hotel that resembled a place that was left in the 70’s. I had imaginations of a CIA agent sitting in the corner of the same coffee shop wearing a red hawaiian shirt, dark wayfarers with a Pina Colada in one hand and a newspaper in the other. To make things worse, we were advised to leave post-haste in a white van that drove for more than an hour to a safe house to change into another vehicle which turns out to be a convoy of large pick-up trucks with the backs loaded with heavily armed men in fatigues. Off we went with a huge cloud of dust behind us as we were careening at the sides of a twisted mountain trail at full speed. There was an eerie silence in the car which is not typical of Filipinos (usually full of chatter and laughter) while I was accompanied by a young British colleague who came with me on my field assessment. We passed several military checkpoints which seemed customary to most in my company, but unsettling for me and the rest of the team. I was texting my wife for updates on how I was, still alive but not knowing exactly where I was. I was scared and as I looked at the phone, the bars which signified the signal and my connection to the rest of my life was getting lower and lower as we went deeper and deeper into the woods. The signal went down to zero and I felt like my lifeline to the rest of civilization was severed. What if something happened? Anything could happen! We could have been ambushed or kidnapped but then who would know? As I was clutching on to my phone, I sighed with fervent prayer saying: let me be OK. After that, a thought: “What am I doing? How did I get here?”

A few months back I was the Executive Director of a Trust that helped young people get into business through funding and mentoring. I worked in Enterprise Development at the International Labour Organization (ILO) as a Programme Manager from six years ago and this has been my career since 2001. With that I found myself in a pickup full of armed men six years later doing a feasibility assessment in a place where enterprise development was needed the most as part of a mining and perhaps post-conflict rehabilitation. I dialogued with some of the tribal leaders as well as the local mayor who shared a story of how his whole town was razed to the ground by rebels. People were walking with their families on the streets in an exodus out of town with only the belongings that survived with them. It was a razing of medieval proportions! With that story, he was even insinuating that I stayed longer for a better appreciation. My thought was: WHAT?

I did the assessment with a Micro Financing partner who later pulled out with the news that a micro financing worker was murdered during our stay. I left my footprints there, I sent in the report and called it a week of work.

Four years later I receive a call from the same lady that gave me the scary assignment in Mindanao. At that time I had just finished some of my best corporate consulting work after leaving the Economic Development sector. Corporate work is as glamorous as people would expect it to be. Being able to work in posh environments and brands that sparkle in your resume is always a delight. I was offered to work for another mining company for a year doing the same nature of work I did in Mindanao, but this time in a more hospitable environment. With some hesitation I took the job by instinct and I found myself flying in a private plane every week on site. Again I asked myself: “How did I get here?” The answer was actually simple, I just had to look back. There are a number of scenarios in the past that build into where I am right now.

The truth is that decades of experience has brought me to where I am. If I hadn’t worked for the ILO and the Prince’s Trust program thirteen years ago where I was screening up to 50 business plans per week, then I would not be the business planing consultant that I am now. With that experience of working with young entrepreneurs, I am now able to provide coaching and advisory services to some of the most recognizable entrepreneurs in the country. Many of those young people whom I have mentored and coached a decade ago have moved on to greater things as successful entrepreneurs. Some took the enriching experience to pursue very promising careers beyond school.

Another point is that If I had not taken that scary trip to Mindanao in the back of an armed pick-up and checkpoints, I would never have imagined taking a private plane to work and back on a weekly basis. My economic planning experience and analysis have brought me face to face with other firms such as Michael Porter’s Shared Value where I was able to showcase some of the best examples of how their own frameworks like Value Chain Analysis could be used on field. The experience has also allowed me to have a deeper look into some of the most compelling economic issues that plague our country. The first hand insight has led me to write some of my best work that is currently being referenced by many development economists online. Most importantly, it has developed a greater sense of social consciousness that has fueled many things I have written about. Without having taken the risk in the past I would not have the experience to write about this now.

(Loosely quoting Steve Jobs) Connecting the dots, looking forward is always hard. It is easier looking at the dots looking backwards. This said there are Four things that I want you to remember:

  1. Have courage: You will be faced with many unsettling circumstances in your life. Have the courage to move forward despite difficulties and remember that at the end of the day you will have 3 things: Your Faith, Your Family and Your Friends; With those things you will always have everything you need to move forward.
  2. Know Your USP: Know your Unique Selling Proposition. Know the skills and talents you have in the offering. Know your purpose and design.
  3. Create a strategy for yourself. Perhaps doing a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis on your own personal brand could be your first step?
    Opportunities for growth will always stretch you. Perhaps you might find yourself slightly inadequate or lacking experience. Take the opportunity anyway when presented. Walk through the open door and you will find that your ability to learn will always help you grow into a new role.
  4. Attraction: Who you are determines what and who you will attract. Look for patterns in opportunities that are recurrently being made available to you. If you’re always being shortlisted for certain assignments, then that gives you a clue as to what you are great at.

We learn more from mistakes than our triumphs. Make your mistakes early and you might find that many of those mishaps could even lead you towards a greater understanding of your potential. If there is anything you must do, it is that you must keep moving forward. Keep connecting dots. The further you move along, a greater image of your life will be revealed to you carrying you on to your destiny.

Health and Fitness Leadership Life Management

Time and Traction

Originally Published at The Star Malaysia – Leaderonomics 03.26.14

“Traction” is a recent buzzword that I thought I left behind in my days of working with start-ups and business planning. In my case, it was often used within the context of funding where infusion is sometimes done in tranches. Where a sum of money is allotted for the capitalization of a business, a business plan would first have to prove “traction” within a critical period of time to ensure that the business was actually making any progress and therefore has some semblance of sustainability. In some cases the term is also used when a business has passed the start-up phase and has entered the growth phase, evidences of progress are referred to as traction. Metrics or indicators that prove business progress such as revenue growth, market share, brand awareness and efficiencies could all be considered summarily as traction. There is no prescribed way of defining it. Traction could be used under broad contexts under different applications.

The easiest way to define traction is to bring the term back into its simplest forms. When you ride a bicycle just as I do, “traction” is the measurable force that directs power to the ground and in turn propels me towards a forward momentum within a given direction. Without traction or grip, the bike cannot go in a direction, will lose its momentum and will fail to reach its destination. The same could be said in the business of life. Output will always be the ultimate measure of effectiveness, and effectiveness is defined by your capacity to reach your goals. Simply put, going back to the analogy of the bike, “traction” indicates whether or not you are actually getting anywhere in life and business.

To understand the importance of traction, it is best to retrace the steps using the framework that is broadly described within the orders of: Input – Process – Output. At the end of this equation is a singular “Output or Outcome” which is a summary of a desired result. Taking it another step back within the realm of “Process” are subsets of objectives that are results of activities that need to be accomplished. Within this area of process and objectives are measurements of progress that are referred to as “traction”. Taking a further back in step is the realm of “Inputs” where resources are used to start the process. Here is a real life example to make things easier.

I am currently coaching a business led by a driven CEO named David who had his goal set on finishing an Iron Man (Triathlon Event) in Melbourne last March 23, 2014. While a goal of finishing a strong Ironman event may sound overly simplistic, seeing through a framework of Input-Process-Output puts the matter under a deeper perspective. The key here is having an end in mind but also the knowledge of breaking down your goal into smaller objectives, activities, smaller tasks, and material inputs. I usually teach a framework that a mentor also taught me when I was working for the International Labour Organization. It is called G.O.A.T., which stands for Goal, Objectives, Activities and Tasks. It helps you break down a goal into smaller manageable chunks. In this case the Goal is to finish a full Iron Man under 17 hours. The Goal broken down into a set of 3 sub-objectives would be to finish the 3.86 km swim within 2 hours and 20minutes, a 180.25 km bike ride within 8 hours and 10 minutes and a 42.2 kilometer run within 6 hours and 30 minutes.

Goals and Objectives are considered outputs and tracing things back, objectives are driven by processes and activities that are measureable. While David was racing in Melbourne, his friends were giving a minute-by-minute report online. David finished the first event, the swim leg within 1:13:09 and the bike leg within 5:18:09. With two legs out of three out of the way with measurable speeds way below the cut-offs we are almost sure of a very strong finish. This is what we refer to as “traction”

Traction is a measurement of progress and a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) that signifies that you will accomplish your goal or mission. In the end David finished the race strong with a few seconds above 11 hours. That is 6 hours below the cut-off.

You cannot get these types of outputs and traction overnight. The hours saved per leg are a composite of how much time was invested in training. The effects are in direct proportion to the amount of hours spent in the pool, on the bike, and inside your running shoes. The point is that time and traction are directly correlated. The amount of measureable performance that indicates traction is directly proportionate to the amount of time invested in training. This is the very reason why I love working with athletes. They know that strategic goals and objectives cannot be achieved without an investment of time and resource. According to, training for an Ironman event requires a cumulative of 20 weeks of training of up to 18 hours per week. That is approximately 360 hours of training for a 17-hour event.

There are prerequisite inputs and “Tasks” such as taking the proper nutrition, managing your schedules, getting equipment and mental preparation. You also need to have the base fitness before getting into a rigorous training program.

The same could be said with any goal. You must understand the commitment, time and resource involved before reaching them and yes, all of these processes will take time. It takes about 2 hours for me to write an article such as this even before it gets to the editing phase for later publishing. Perhaps you’re looking at “running a marathon” to knock it off your bucket list, if you haven’t done a “half-mary” or worse, haven’t started running yet, and then perhaps you should start walking today? Perhaps you need to get a pair of running shoes first? Develop the Input-Process-Output mindset and after you’ve made up your mind, you can follow it through with the GOAT framework for planning.

While this may seem all personal and not much to do about business, then take another look. David runs a company that distributes some of the best brands known to endurance athletes such as Pinarello, Cervelo, and Felt Bicycles. He also distributes soft goods such as 2XU, Zoot, and Aquasphere goggles along with race nutrition and other performance gear. Being a competitive Ironman is actually very strategic for him. It gives him the personal brand profile advantage that he could use for his suppliers and customers. It pays dividends both in his personal brand equity and the company he runs. The passion and personal commitment that he attaches to his sport and his business gives him enormous credibility with the people he works with, as well as the brands that endorses. In my experience in working with him, I could truly say that he’s getting a lot of strategic traction but also because he puts in the time.

To learn more about these frameworks please feel free to follow and tweet me a message @JohnSBaybay or go to my website:

Leadership Life Management

Courage is Never Having to Ask “What If?”

John Walter Baybay

“Courage” seems to be a big word that many seem to misunderstand as something that applies to everyone. The mere mention of the word “courage” sends us conjuring images of action movies such as Brave-heart, 300 or perhaps The Lords of the Ring. It escapes many people to believe that great examples of courage do not require a film viewing or distant look into history. Most of what we know about courage is based on fantastic tales of adventure, battles and conquest. Unfortunately not much applies to how we live our lives everyday and perhaps the missing sense of adventure is what keeps our lives interesting enough for us to enjoy. The truth of the matter is that great examples of “courage” can be found simply by listening to the stories of our forebears.

In the early 60’s my mother left the Philippines on a plane bound for New Jersey (USA) to seek a better life as Registered Nurse. It was her first time to fly an airplane. She was 18 years old and alone. The experience must have been terrifying to think that those metal objects could actually fly. Terrifying to “not know” the life that awaits her when she lands. She got over it. She worked as a nurse for a few years, met someone and got engaged. She took another flight back to the Philippines to tell her parents about their plans. On a stopover from Narita-Japan to Manila, her story took a twist when she met a dashing gentleman who insisted on sitting next to her on the plane. Persistent as he was in getting her address, she resisted. When they landed she found her luggage missing, only to have the dashing debonair rush to her aid to assure her that she will get her luggage. He offered to take care of everything. He’ll use all of his contacts (being a hotshot executive) and get to the bottom of things and soon enough her luggage will be delivered to her house personally!

The luggage was found after a few days and the dashing debonair gentleman is at the front door of her house in a Buick Riviera to deliver it. They fell in love in a whirlwind romance. She broke off her previous engagement and never went back to the US until they got married in 1968. My father was the dashing debonair gentleman who later revealed to me that he had bribed the luggage handlers to keep my mother’s luggage so that he could get her address. The “other” man who my mother was supposed to marry was heard to have never married and went into depression and died lonely in Canada. Now I am writing this article and sharing it with thousands to honor her because:

Someone took the courage as a woman to think across borders and go beyond the norms. To get an education and to work abroad at the age of 18.
Someone took the courage to get on a plane, not knowing what kind of life awaits her when she lands.
Someone took the courage to fall in love. To follow her heart and build a life over again and so here I am…
Courage does not always have to look like blazing guns and flashing swords. Apparently “courage” seems more like a tipping point towards a difficult decision. It is easy to recognize courage with its brilliant displays, but it is more difficult to recognize in the moments where courage seems missing.

When I was in College in the US, I took a bus from the Eastside to the Upper Westside. Living on 1st Avenue, we were the 1st stop on the bus’ route. There was a girl I had a crush on and she got on at the 2nd stop every weekday and got off near Julliard near the Lincoln Center. I took the bus through an extra stop later than I had to just to see her get off the bus. That being my stop comes before hers. It was like that every day. I sat in the same spot just so I could sit across from her. I would have lingering thoughts of her even hours after she got off the bus. I would memorize how her hair looked and what she wore. As much as I wanted to engage her, I always thought to myself: perhaps tomorrow. School broke for the summer and I never saw her again. I said to myself, “someday”.

A few friends came over to the apartment on a Friday and told me to pack my stuff for a weekend in Fire Island. I went and as we were hanging out by the beach, the girl was there a few meters in front of me with her friends sun-bathing! I said to myself, that “someday” has arrived but I relented. I even gathered her name “Danielle” as her friends was talking to her. I told myself, I’d wait till her friends leave. The window opened! But alas! “Courage” was not there. Instead I found courage’s bedfellow: “fear”. The moment never happened again. Never again! And I found myself struggling with the question “what if?” Having “Courage” is never having to ask “What If”.

In 1996 I found myself in a situation that could only be described in today’s language as: “It’s Complicated”. I met a girl and fell in love, but she didn’t know it yet. This time I was not going to let the moment pass. I’ll make a move. Though I didn’t know what to say, I said I’ll write a letter to her instead. Write I did with a poem by Archibald McLeish “Not Marble Nor the Gilded Moments”. She didn’t get all the similes but I did get a date. We fell in love and got married. We have three kids and a home. This is what I learned from the second experience.

Courage is not the absence of fear but the ability to work through the fears and the accompanying anxieties that come with the situation of an unknown result. Courage is never having to ask “what if” and punching through the membrane to know the end results. Fear is present but with passion, desire, belief and experience, we can muster the courage to push our fears aside and penetrate the barriers that separate us from our desired future or result.

In 2001 I left the comforts of my father’s business to work with a UN Agency called the International Labour Organization. I worked under a Specialist on Enterprise Development helping young people get started in business through entrepreneurial training and financial support. It took a lot of courage for me to leave the family business into something unknown. But if I had not, I would not have the opportunity to travel to different continents to share my expertise. I would have never gotten the opportunity to look through hundreds of business plans per month and now teaching and coaching companies about planning. What was the feared unknown has turned into my career for thirteen years. I branched out from business planning, strategic planning, project management and economic planning.

There were times I had been taken to highly militarized zones and escorted by pick-up loads of armed men. Sometimes I flew in private planes! I have walked through the dark streets of the urban slums and the fecal matter riddled dirt streets of rural India where water was difficult to obtain. I have walked, advised and lectured in the highest boardrooms and I have walked 15 kilometers off-road across mountains for fieldwork. Sometimes having to go to the bathroom where there isn’t any. Each time, there was risk and fear. And each time it takes a little bit more “courage”.

With that I was invited to speak in front of a high-school class about courage, and for the first time in years I was afraid. It was a very unfamiliar audience and so I shared the very same stories I’m telling you today. A constant bedfellow fear is to courage, but here I am today telling you about it. Never have to ask “What If?” I owe it to my parents and my family who supported me through our life’s adventure and misadventure. Still a life worth lived with not too many moment of saying “what if”. Take courage along with the things you already have with you: talent, skill, encouragement, purpose, passion, and belief and you can live a life without regrets. Take inventory of what you have right now and some of those things that I said and build a plan based on it. You will find that courage is that final tipping point in making your most important decisions. Look back at where you came from, look at the things you have on hand, and then take courage to look forward into a life of adventure.

Life Management

“Fit for Work – 5 Ways Work is Killing You 4 Ways to Fight Back”

What is it about irony that makes it a more remarkable statement? Having returned after a month-long project in a land known for its greasy mamaks and 24 hour dining, I was shocked to find that I had actually lost 5 pounds where I thought I gained at least 10. The belief is that a corporate executive’s lifestyle is usually not a healthy one. These are attributed Five ways that work is killing you slowly and surely:

  • Stress and anxiety
  • Long work hours and lack of sleep
  • Physical inactivity
  • Unhealthy diet
  • Use of alcohol and tobacco

Besides the physical toll on the executive’s body, a poor work-life balance also affects relationships at work and at home. While some claim to separate work from personal issues, they’re obviously bringing the same person to the office and back home. With this vicious cycle it’s a mystery how one could stay effective at work or even at home. The most effective way of breaking a vicious cycle is to identify one or two strong leverage points that balance the system. Focus on things you can do something about immediately. In this case, focusing on changing physical activity and balancing your diet could result in surprisingly great amounts of progress over time and the other things mentioned may very well fall into place once you’ve set your priorities. Simply by watching what you eat and putting in two (2) hours of exercise a week could have positive effects in shorter amounts of time than you think.

While in abroad amidst the hustle and bustle of four meetings a day and sometimes working till 9, who has time to stay healthy? Surprisingly, I was able to do so by carrying out four simple strategies, most of which are based on tested time-management principles.
In my busiest of weeks, I was surprised to be able to burn off 2 hours during the weekday and another hour on Saturdays through a quick run through the park. This was accomplished simply by filling gaps in my schedules. The plethora of food choices in KL also allowed me to go on a primarily vegetarian diet (c/o the local Indian restaurant).

Here are four strategies that could help you get on track:

  1. Plot your fixed points: Plot all your meetings in your calendar including the tasks that you need to discharge during the week. Treat tasks as appointments. For example, if you believe preparing a report would take 2 hours, you should also plot it on your calendar to make sure you allocate enough time for getting important things done.
  2. Establish baselines: Know how much time and calories a type of exercise would take up. For example: running on a treadmill could consume 250 to 350 calories per 30 minutes. Other cardio exercises like spinning could do the same. Focus on cardio-vascular exercises if you are trying to lose or maintain weight.
  3. Divide up tasks when necessary (work-breakdown): Divide your body into 3 major sections sections: Legs and Glutes, Trunk (abs, obliques and lower-back), Chest and Upper back (lats) and Shoulders and Arms. Working out section, I found only takes about 15 minutes for a basic strength-building regimen.
  4. Fill in the gaps: Once you’ve plotted all of you’re appointment and tasks into you calendar, you will realize that you would have gaps between schedules such as a 30 to a 2 hour window between work commitments. Use this time wisely to try and burn off excess calories. I was able to burn off an average of 3 hours a week with this simple strategy.

Having a company gym is great benefit to employees as it allows them to stay healthy. But sometimes it only takes a pair of running shoes, some motivation and some body-weight exercises such as the one in this popular New York Times blog to keep fit. While it may seem that companies are on the giving side when they provide the means to exercise, recent studies have revealed that worker productivity goes up. According to a study, workers who have a regular exercise regimen have less sick-days and fewer charges to medical benefits. In a Focus Group Discussion of employees covered by the study, employees who regularly exercise say that their time-management and mental abilities have improved. They also reported a work performance boost of about 15%. Their abilities to cope with stress have also improved. Exercise generally makes for healthier, happier and productive employees.

There is also a strong link between fitness and career performance. Being physiologically fit enables an executive to stay focused, driven, committed and resilient. By subjecting your body to progressive physical overload, our bodies are more ready to adapt to stress and respond with more energy. Bringing this type of positive and confident dynamism into the workplace makes an executive a more effective leader who could lead by example. In a 2007 University of Georgia study of 1,300 executives earning more than $100,000.00, 75% of the executives interviewed said that good physical fitness is “critical for career success at the executive level” and that being overweight is a “serious career impediment”.

Perhaps you’re still on you way up to the corporate ladder but perhaps now would be the best time to start faking it until you finally make it. If you want to be an effective executive, you might as well start practicing. I’d rather say that everyone is “Fit for work”, but obviously I have to run!