The Human Sigma and The Science of Emotional Engagement

In a recent interview with South Snippets, we talked about humanizing the engagement process. Social Media has made it easier for brands to engage with their audience but what is more important is that unlike mainstream media, SocMed is based around communities that share experiences. Algorithms are designed around behavior and much of what is being measured is an individual’s reaction or engagement with the content.

In Fleming Ph.D and Asplund’s book “The Human Sigma” there was a compelling statement where they dedicated an entire chapter on: “Feelings are Facts.” As a matter of fact (pun intended) Donna and I spoke about the emotional nature of social media management. It is a subject that every good brand should get right. On another scale shown by a former colleague, we could see how we should move up and down, or move across the scale in turning non-customers into fans. The secret is in managing the human encounter and their “feelings/emotions”.

Take a look at the image above this page, and have a look at the scale below:

Where can you find your business relationships along this scale?

The ability to turn True-blue non-customers and suspects into raving fans depends on the degree of emotional engagement the business or individual has with his customers. In review of Fleming and Asplund’s framework, we need to start at confidence at the very base and gradually moving up from confidence to integrity, integrity to pride, and finally from pride to passion.

Where is your business or brand along these scales? Do you have customers or do you have fans? Do your customers trust your reputation and thereby confident in you? Do you always speak the truth (as I drilled on with South Snippets)? Do you always deliver on your commitments? This builds into your “Integrity”. Does your track-record build “Trust”? Will they always listen and act upon your advice? Will they listen to “just you” outside of all the noise? Can they live in a world without you? If it’s a Yes to the last question, then you’ve reached “Passion”.

The more customers are emotionally engaged or attached, the harder it is for anybody else to steal that “relationship”.

Invest in meaningful relationships. Don’t be afraid of feelings. They are real. Acknowledge them. Manage the emotional encounter and its subsequent exchange. Make it authentic.

If you have any questions, or wish to talk about these frameworks, please leave a note below. I’ll be happy to entertain your questions.


How Simplicity Builds Scale

In our series on Mama Paz Premium baked spaghetti, we were joined by Billy Crawford and JB Magsaysay as we discussed the challenges of working in a family business. Some of the lessons learned were: Getting over insecurities and self-doubt, taking a leap of faith and being generous. One of the most overlooked “Key Success Factor” however was about “Simplicity”.

Businesses and consumers have a penchant for the sophisticated but simplicity trumps sophistication and complexity any given day. We’ve seen much of this in the evolution of products, services and processes. We’ve seen it along assembly lines where a person is tasked to do just one job over and over again. It builds muscle memory and speed. Here’s a Youtube video of food preparation done in what they would describe as “superhuman” speed!

We’ve also seen an evolutionary process with devices from the Nokia Communicator to the Earliest iPhone. From many buttons to one, and then to none. Evolution tends to prove more deleterious than the opposite. You do have remnants of a tail bone but no tail! Well, we all hope you don’t!

In the Netflix Film “The Founder” a struggling Ray Kroc was simply amazed by the speed in which the Mc Donalds brothers were serving up their burgers and fries. It wasn’t about the burgers itself that amazed him but the speed resulting from a very defined preparation, cooking, assembly and serving process. Just burgers, fries and Milkshake in a bag in as short as 30 seconds!

The simplicity in processes and systems is what made McDonalds a great idea. It was replicable. It was scalable. While the sad ending resulted in the victimization of the McDonalds brothers, Ray Kroc won because he profited from the idea of taking simplicity to scale.

In a world of ever growing complexity. Go for simplicity. Simplicity enables scalability.

Till the next time, Keep moving forward in the right steps.


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.”



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



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:


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.


• 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.


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!


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.


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.


Nintendo President Satoru Iwata Dies at 55

Wow! I better get myself checked too!


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


Religion and Research