Resources to Help You Review and Evaluate Your Year

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Yes, I know, it is the first week of 2017 and already, you’ve seen a lot of #NewYearsResolutions in your social media feed. Your friends are planning for the year ahead. They’re promising that 2017 is going to be their #bestyearever!

For us to move on to the next year, however, it’s also important to review the past year. If you haven’t done this yet, I encourage you to do it. And please put a note on your calendar for the last 2 weeks December 2017 for you to review 2017.

Why you need to review the past year

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The Over-Committed Person’s Guide to Streamlining Commitments & Simplifying Life

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Bambang LRT Station, circa September 2012

She turned from me and wiped her eyes as the train sped away from the platform of Bambang LRT Station. Tears fell from her eyes, I’m sure of it. And my chest constricted. I looked up the ceiling of the station, trying hard to prevent tears from falling.

It must have been my wife’s monthly appointment with her OB-GYN. It’s the fourth month of the baby in her tummy.

And I could not be with her…

I had a meeting that day. I could not remember now who I was meeting with or what it was about. It could have been related to my ministry as the staff person of an international agency of our church; or with the Ilokano literary organization I belonged to; maybe it was related to a new, exciting ministry project I was pursuing with several friends; I might have been going to a recording session for my podcast or the radio program I was producing for DZMR, a station of FEBC Philippines in Isabela; or I might have been going to UN Avenue for a meeting related to the upcoming once-in-every-four-years national conference of our church.

I don’t remember the exact meeting that conflicted with my wife’s appointment with the OB-GYN. But one thing is clear, I remember the pain of realization that I was not available for my wife when she needed me. This incident at Bambang LRT Station wasn’t the first time either.

The Desire to Make a Difference

As a man of faith, I have dedicated my life to working in ministry. Nope, I am not a Pastor. I am a lay person who has chosen to spend time, energy, and sometimes money to ministry, particularly with young people. Back in 2006, I resigned from a well-paying job from an outsourcing company so I could devote my time to being the President of our church’s national youth organization. Take note, this position did not pay anything except reimbursement for representation and events.

But it was alright. I knew that I was serving God, and by extension, I was working to help make a difference for the society.

Because of that initial commitment, I learned how to work freelance (mainly online work) so I could pay my bills and be able to buy food. That commitment ended officially in 2008, but I took on a new role in our church as the Philippine Staff of the international agency of our church that works with young people. I was under contract with this international agency, which meant that I did have some level of freedom to pursue several personal projects on the side.

I probably responded a little too well to the narrative in blogs and pop culture that said “you can be anything you want to be!” I probably even went overboard and spread myself too thinly. In a scene from the Fellowship of the Ring, Bilbo complained to Gandalf about his uncommonly long life: “I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.”

That was exactly how I felt towards the end of 2012. It would have been alright if I were a single man. But I had a wife, and a baby on the way.

Forcing Function

I got married in January 2011 to a beautiful bride who shared my faith. She understood me and what I wanted to do with my life. With all my imperfections, she chose to spend her life with me.

On the first year of our marriage, I went on with my levels of commitment prior to getting married. I had a lot of trips for work. I had a trip almost every single month of the year. On top of that, I had meetings 3-5 times a week. It wasn’t uncommon for me to go home at 10pm, sometimes even later. To think that I had my office at home and my wife is the one who needed to go to the office daily.

After the Bambang LRT station incident, my wife and I had a serious conversation about my commitments. That wasn’t the first time we had such a conversation. But it was probably the one that I really listened to. After all, I am a family man and she expressed concerns about their role in my life given my many, many commitments. That stung. I wanted so badly to justify myself and tell her that this is who I am, that I was changing the world.

But she was right. As a husband, as a father, they needed to be high up in my list of priorities. But the way my life was going, I was over-committed and spread too thinly.

Being married and having a baby is a forcing function. It forces you to take a long, hard look at your priorities and commitments. Business as usual won’t work anymore, especially if you want to be a good husband and a good father.

This realization could be tough to accept for some idealists. But it imposes limitations that forces you to make better choices.

And that is what I did at the start of 2013, right before my son was born. I took a long, hard look at my pursuits and my priorities. I made the decision to streamline my commitments, simplify my life, and drop the ‘good commitments’ that prevent me from pursuing truly great ones.

I thought it would take me a few weeks to do it. But I was wrong. It took me more than 2 years to really do it. From time to time, I also had an over-commitment relapse. But thankfully, I have a wife who reminds me of what truly matters in my life.

How to Streamline Commitments and Simplify Life

image credit: David Poe via Flickr

If you’re reading this, this may have resonated with you. It doesn’t matter if you’re married or if you’re a single person. It is so easy to fall into the over-commitment trap. For overachievers, idealists, and all around idealists, we all need the reminder that life is more than just changing the world; that the people we love need to feel our love and presence. And that in the long run, we will also need their love and support to help us keep going even when the going is tough.

I read somewhere that busyness is often a sign of laziness, and that too much activity can blind us from what truly matters.

So, I am outlining the process that helped me streamline my commitments and simplified my life.

Identify All Existing Commitments

I spent some time identifying all of the commitments I had. My criteria was simple. If it requires me to do some tasks for more than 2 weeks, then it gets included.

I included my current full-time work, as well any project I was involved in. I reflected on the amount of time I was devoting to each item on a weekly basis. To make my life easier, I put them on a spreadsheet. I have lost the original spreadsheet that I did in 2013. I have since used this as a tool for my annual personal evaluation.

When I did this in 2014, I realized that I did have 15 individual items on my list that demanded time from me including being an author, (I published my first book in 2013, my second in 2014, and my third in 2015.), being a member of an Ilokano literary organization, being part of a group of friends wanting to engage young Christians in social media, helping our church address communication needs at the national level, I was also an active blogger and podcaster, radio host, and several others!

It was nice to know that I was involved on so many things. But the truth is, I could not give my best to ALL of them, because each commitment was demanding more and more of my time.

Yes, things are not always busy. Theoretically, I could devote time for each commitment based on time needed. For example, much of youth work is seasonal. I am terribly busy during the summer season, semestral breaks and Christmas season because most youth events are scheduled on these times. In the off season, I can dedicate some time to writing and other personal projects. But commitments also have a way of sneaking up on you. Before you know it, tasks pile up and you are left scurrying, hurrying to deal with many urgent things that, for some reasons, decided to all blow up at almost the same time. When it rains, it pours, indeed!

Evaluate each commitment.

Once I identified all my commitments, I had to look at them individually based on a criteria that helped me decide which ones to retain and which ones to let go. At this stage, it is important to ask some difficult questions. You need to be very honest with yourself even though you terribly want everything to work in your favor. Call this inertia, or the temptation to just let things run as they are. Status quo.

But if you do not make intentional decisions, the world will make the decision for you. When you get too busy, you start dropping some commitments and your reputation may suffer as a result of that.

Here is a simple question that I used in evaluating each commitment: “Which among these pursuits are impactful, sustainable and scalable?”

Impactful.

If I do this pursuit, will it help me reach a good number of the people that I want to reach? Will it make a difference in my life and in the lives of the people I will serve? Or is this just a “nice to do on the side” kind of project? This criterion helped me think about my personal goals and the goals of the project/commitment I am evaluating. I also thought about my values and my potential contribution to the world. If a commitment/project only serves to make me feel good about myself, or it does not have the impact I hope it will have, then it gets scrapped.

Sustainable.

Is this project sustainable? Can I do it without going bankrupt? Will it also yield some form of financial return? Idealism isn’t only about giving yourself until you are depleted, it is also about being strategic and planning for the long-term. Please take note that the plan to be sustainable is not the same as the plan to become “rich” or even to become greedy. Being sustainable means that your needs, as well as that of your family and/or dependents are taken care of.

Scalable.

Can this project outgrow me? Can it grow bigger and can it be replicated elsewhere? What will happen to it if I end up pursuing a different path? Under this criterion, it is also worth looking at your personal role. Is your role in the project something that could be given to someone else?

When you let go of a project or a commitment, it’s sometimes amazing to see how it grows without you. We tend to overestimate our contribution and role in a particular organization or commitment. We sometimes think that without us, the project will stop, or that it will not rise be great!

And so, on top of the three questions already mentioned above, the following question is also worth asking:

Am I the right person to pursue this? Coming up with an idea doesn’t mean I’m supposed to pursue and execute it.

As I went through every single commitment item, I thought about my role in it. I am an idea person, and I get excited with the potential results of a good idea in my head. But as I have realized and learned in the past decade or so. I may come up with a good idea, but it doesn’t mean that I am the one best suited to pursue and execute it.

The Art of Dropping Commitments

Take a look at your notes for each commitment. Are there tasks, projects, and commitments that could be bundled together?
When I did this exercise, my goal was simple: streamline commitments and simplify my life. That meant letting go of all commitments except the ones that truly matter.

This requires a good understanding of what you want to do in life. It also depends on the stage of your life. Remember that I did this as a married man with a soon-to-be-born son. This may not apply to you if you are in your early twenties and still in the process of building your career. (Read the recommended blog posts I listed at the end of this post for more insight.)

image credit: chriscom via Flickr

Letting go of commitments: it’s very difficult!!

Let me warn you now, letting go of commitments is tough! It is difficult to disengage mentally and emotionally, especially if you are already invested in it. It’s like a child letting go of his favorite toy. But it is important to let go of these commitments intentionally.

By doing this, you are actually choosing to say goodbye properly, allowing for smoother transition and preserving the relationships you’ve built with the people you work with.

If you do not do this intentionally, circumstances may decide for you–you may have already promised, or you may promise things that you cannot fulfill. And if that happens, you will cause more harm to yourself, to the project, and to the people you’re working with. That will be a cause for bitter partings and burned bridges.

You run the risk of burnout and your loved ones may also suffer as a result.

As much as possible, don’t go cold turkey, talk to the friends and people you’re working with. Don’t just disappear from their lives. Explain your side and just let them know you are cutting back on your commitments to simplify your life. Most friends will understand. If they don’t, then that’s just the price you need to pay for simplifying your life.

If you have a full time job, stick to it and devote the time it deserves without sacrificing your relationships with loved ones.

It took me two years!

Yup, that’s how long it took me to really disengage from side projects and side commitments. I have relapse every now and then, just because I care for our church and I ended up committing to some event, some special project here and there.

I started this process in late 2012, and I felt like I finally got a handle on it by the end of 2014. And then, something else came along, I applied for a new position and got accepted by February 2015. My family and I then moved to the United States in August 2015.

Little did I know that the process of letting go of my side commitments was a prelude to some transition. To this day, I am still learning the lessons from this exercise. But I am doing much better. I am glad, too, that I have more time for my wife and my son now.

Recommended Reading: Books

If you also want to move away from being over-committed to a simpler life, I heartily recommend the following books.
The One Thing by Gary Keller & Jay Papasan.
Essentialism by Greg McKeown

The One Thing and Essentialism both encouraged me to think about what is truly important in my life. They contained some motivational pieces, but also some practical suggestions on how to focus on the things that truly matter and avoid distractions.

The Four Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss
Tim Ferriss talks about the concept of “Lifestyle Design” and how he simplified his life using outsourcing and setting up systems for one’s life and business.

How Will You Measure Your Life by Clayton Christensen

Another book that helped me think about the long-term impact of my life.

Recommended Reading: Blog Articles

https://sivers.org/hellyeah
This is a short post from Derek Sivers that encourages people to commit only to the things that they are really passionate about.

http://fourhourworkweek.com/2015/10/29/startup-vacation-2/

This is a thoughtful post from Tim Ferriss about saying no and maximizing impact. Here are the questions he explores. These questions are worth asking ourselves:

  • ARE YOU DOING WHAT YOU’RE UNIQUELY CAPABLE OF, WHAT YOU FEEL PLACED HERE ON EARTH TO DO? CAN YOU BE REPLACED?
  • HOW MUCH OF YOUR LIFE IS MAKING VERSUS MANAGING? HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE SPLIT?
  • WHAT BLESSINGS IN EXCESS HAVE BECOME A CURSE? WHERE DO YOU HAVE TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING?
  • ARE YOU FOOLING YOURSELF WITH A PLAN FOR MODERATION?
  • ARE YOU OVER-CORRELATED?

Commitment and Creativity

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“Commit to make something you love and you will find that the needed supplies come to hand…. Those who create for love–like the devotees who practice their spiritual tradition with ardor–give off a certain undefinable something that is attractive, and it attracts them their good.

“Faith moves mountains, and when we see art as an act of faith, then we begin to see that when we commit to our art, mountains may indeed be moved as a path becomes clear…. Art is a matter of commitment.”

– Julia Cameron, Walking in this World

 

Creative Energy

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Creative energy is energy. When we are writing about creating instead if actually creating, we are wasting our creative energy. When we are vacillating, we are letting air out of our tires. Our pickup is not speeding down the road and may never even get out of the driveway. Or project goes flat.

– Julia Cameron, Walking in this World

 

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How I Got Started in Writing

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Like most diligent High School students, I was part of our school paper. I was even the Editor-in-Chief right before I graduated. I even dabbled in some, rather cheesy, poetry… you know, the kind that you write for a girl you like. Thankfully, there’s evidence that such cheesy poems existed ever.

Those were my early start, but writing in high school probably doesn’t count for much. But even at a young age, I’ve been a reader. I didn’t know about literary awards back then. We live in the province of Isabela, which is two mountain ranges and about 10 hours away from Manila; so I didn’t have access to people who could recommend good novels or literary outputs to me. But I still learned how to read long-form books while in High School: some novels, graphic novels, and nonfiction books among others. This was before the widespread popularity of the Web and the Internet.

A photo by Aidan Meyer. unsplash.com/photos/Q9GlzfhYgGk

Dr. Sicat and my Hate-Love Relationship with Journal Writing

I went to College and took BA Political Science at UP Diliman. My first English teacher, Dr. Sicat, required us to write five pages of journal writing everyday! Imagine that?! Five pages of letter-size paper every single day!

She didn’t really read every single page or thought we put on our journals. I sometimes cheated and wrote lyrics of songs I liked. Most of the time, though, I tried hard to write in English and express myself. Oh, but I hated that subject all semester long.

The next semester, though, I had a change of heart. I finally understood what Dr. Sicat was trying to teach me–expressing myself and my thoughts in this language. By writing everyday, even though I felt stilted and “trying hard,” I developed confidence in my ability to think and write in English. So, I took my old notebooks from that first semester, got the unused parts and recycled them as a place to let my thoughts run free.

Literary Things

It’s a long story how I got to be friends with Butch. But he has been a great part of my life–as a mentor, brother, and friend (oh yeah, best man at my wedding, too!). He introduced me to all sorts of literary things. He’s the reason I read C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, and Silmarillion.

By the end of my second year in College, Butch and I, together with other friends, had talked about literary things, theories, and I finally knew where to look for good stuff to read. I’ve also started reading some poetry, short stories, and even got introduced to some Filipino writers. I even took additional English subjects–poetry and Business English as electives.

I would have transferred from Political Science to Creative Writing or Comparative Literature had it not been for my agreement with my parents–I was only allowed 4 years in College.

The pen or the guitar?

I learned to play the guitar when I was in second year High School, but I only got serious with it upon entering college. I practiced my chords, scales, and was even part of a fledgling band. I was so into the guitar that I was practicing 3-4 hours at least three times a week.

Within a year, I felt my guitar skills growing. But if I were to be really good at it, I still had a lot to go.

And I also wanted to be a writer. Badly.

So I had to make a choice: the pen or the guitar?

And I chose the pen (or the computer keyboard maybe).

I still play the guitar occasionally. But I have taken writing as the bigger part of my life. In fact, I consider it as an important part of my calling.

Cubao Traffic [Poetry]

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Along EDSA—
My journey’s interrupted
By every sudden brake. Stopping
On every street, every traffic light. My life
(here atop the Santolan flyover) is going down
Into the waiting mouth of Cubao. I’m so hungry.
But inside this bus, like rag on a clothes line
Along EDSA where the plants and trees have died,
It’s hot. And humid. My insides are on fire. Sweat pours out
All over my body. A part of me gets left behind with every stop…
Wave the fan! Feverish fan!  Sigh. So much for our hurried lives.
There’s too many of us chasing after; being chased by
Time.   I better buy
Candy and peanuts
While waiting
For the bus to

Move.

 

* * * * *

This is part of the #BiyahengEDSA series of reflections for the Pinoy young professional. Read other parts of this series below:

Introduction
Monumento: Out of the Way ang Idealism
Balintawak Cloverleaf: Entry Level
North EDSA: Ito Pala ang Rat Race
Timog Avenue: I Just Want to Have Some Fun!
Cubao Traffic [Poetry]
Ortigas: Relihiyon, Rebolusyon
Swerving after Crossing Ilalim on a Monday Morning [Poetry]
Boni-Guadalupe: Shifting Lanes
Ayala: Traffic sa Fast Lane.
Magallanes: Divergent Roads
EDSA Extension: Ito ba ang aking destinasyon?
Pasay Rotonda: At the Crossroads

Pasay Rotonda: At the Crossroads

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Whether you find yourself inside a mall somewhere in Monumento, malapit sa bantayog ni Andres Bonifacio, or sa dulo ng EDSA Extension, at the end of the day, you’ll need to go home. But after going to a mall to buy something o tumambay lang, did you have that feeling that you wasted a few hours of your life? And that those hours should have been spent doing something better?

At some point in your journey, mapapaisip ka if you’re in the right road, or kung tama ba yung destination na pinili mo. Being in the crossroads could catch up with you in different stages of life. Minsan tinatawag itong “quarterlife crisis” para sa mga young adults in their twenties.

Looking back, nagkaroon na pala ako ng tatlong major crossroads: the first one when I decided to go back to Manila even though I intended to work in our province for good. The second one was when I resigned from a well-paying job so I could serve as the National President of our church youth organization. Lastly, the most recent, is when my family and I decided to move to the United States para sa isang mas malaking ministry service opportunity.

Crossroads: From Bad to an Improved Situation

Making a decision in my first crossroads was easy. My mother made me realize that the place I was in—being unemployed and waiting for opportunities that might never come—was unsustainable. Since wala akong work sa province noon, the solution was easy—shift to a different path where I can get a decent job, but it required moving back to Metro Manila. If you’re in a situation like this—madali mag-decide. It’s from a bad situation to an improved one.

Crossroads: From Good to an Uncertain Situation

Mas mahirap mag-decide sa second crossroads ko. I enjoyed a well-paying job at a BPO company. Nasa track din ako for eventual promotion. Kaya lang, I became the National President of our church youth organization. At dahil gusto ko gawin ang ministry na iyon, it didn’t matter kung walang suweldo, I really felt that I could pursue it. At dahil wala naman akong major major responsibilities sa buhay, I decided to go for it, kahit na alam kong puno ito ng uncertainty.

Image credit: unlawyer via Flickr

Image credit: unlawyer via Flickr

It’s not easy to make decisions in a crossroad like this—when you’re in a comfortable position, and you’re being called to make some sacrifices sa career at sa buhay mo. Of course, kung may asawa at anak ako when this particular crossroad happened to me, it would have been a much tougher choice.

And if you are faced with this kind of crossroad, you will need a strong conviction that God is calling you to this particular path—you’ll need that conviction when the doubts come knocking. Make no mistake, those doubts will come, and unless you believe in your direction strongly enough, madali kang mawala sa path mo.

Crossroads: From Good to a Better Situation

Making decisions in my most recent crossroad isn’t as tough as the previous one. May nag-open na ministry opportunity for me sa United States, I applied for it, got accepted and the job was offered to me. Siempre, kasama sa mga decision factors ang financial considerations, ang status ng aming maliit, pero growing na pamilya, ang difficulties ng pagiging OFWs at marami pang iba. Going to the US also meant saying goodbye, albeit temporarily, sa aking fledgling na author career, sa podcast at blog na inumpisahan ko, sa hosting gig sa DZAS Family Matters, at iba pang mga pinagkakaabalahan.

May mga trade-offs ang mga crossroads. You can’t have everything. You neeed to make a choice. Aling option ang naka-align sa mga values at principles mo? What’s the use of succeedinig if you end up losing your soul?

It’s Okay to Step Back

Puwedeng super-urgent ang crossroad na hinaharap mo, but most of the time, you can take a few days or a few weeks para mag-isip-isip and make a decisions. Don’t make decisions when emotions are running high. The decisions you make are important, but HOW you make decisions is equally important.

In the same way, your goals, your destinations matter, but the journey you take is equally important. So if you change your direction or destination, it’s okay to step back, to assess yourself, to do some “soul searching”, and it’s okay to feel lost. Lahat naman tayo, nararamdaman yan at some point in our lives.

Noong first year College ako na bagong salta sa Metro Manila, binigyan ako ng travel tip ng nanay ko. Sa experience niya, kung maliligaw siya sa Manila, basta mapunta siya sa Quiapo, she’ll be fine—makikita na niya ang mga jeep at bus papunta sa iba’t ibang dako ng Manila.

Para sa marami sa atin, ang point of reference ay Pasay Rotonda. Malapit doon ang airport, maraming bus terminals papuntang Northern at Southern Philippines, maraming jeep terminals, mga city buses, at nandoon din ang MRT-3 at LRT-1 stations.

Hindi lang monetary success, materialism, at commercialism ang purpose ng buhay natin. At kahit na malaking-malaking globo ng mundo ang nakikita natin sa dulo ng EDSA, hindi talaga ito ang ating destinasyon. Sometimes, we need to step back para bumalik sa crossroads: sa Pasay Rotonda ng ating buhay.

Maraming puwedeng destinasyon. Kagaya ng alin mang paglalakbay, laging may pamasaheng kailangang bayaran—there’s always a price to be paid. Ano man ang status mo ngayon sa work, sa buhay, may you find the path that’s right for you.

Sabi sa Jeremiah 6:16 (ESV) “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.” Bilang isang kabataan na kasapi ng workforce, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. May mga travelers na nauna nang naglakbay, and if you seek out the ancient paths, you will find the good way.

So if you are still in that soul-searching mode, heed the call of Jeremiah. Similarly, Jesus admonished his followers: “Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:29, NLT)

Nakakapagod ang always-on pressure ng materialism at consumerism sa ating panahon: It is a never-ending pressure to conform, to upgrade our lifestyle, to buy the gadgets and things that are in season. I hope it won’t come to the point where you become like the speaker in Ecclesiastes, who boldly declares that “everything is meaningless.”

Kaya ngayon pa lang, follow the path that will not lead to losing your soul. Follow the path that will give rest for your soul. Along EDSA, marami kang biyaheng puwedeng gawin. May your destination and journey be full of adventure, grace, and peace.

* * * * *

This is part of the #BiyahengEDSA series of reflections for the Pinoy young professional. Read other parts of this series below:

Introduction
Monumento: Out of the Way ang Idealism
Balintawak Cloverleaf: Entry Level
North EDSA: Ito Pala ang Rat Race
Timog Avenue: I Just Want to Have Some Fun!
Cubao Traffic [Poetry]
Ortigas: Relihiyon, Rebolusyon
Swerving after Crossing Ilalim on a Monday Morning [Poetry]
Boni-Guadalupe: Shifting Lanes
Ayala: Traffic sa Fast Lane.
Magallanes: Divergent Roads
EDSA Extension: Ito ba ang aking destinasyon?
Pasay Rotonda: At the Crossroads

EDSA Extension: Ito ba ang aking destinasyon?

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Kung monumento ni Andres Bonifacio ang nasa Northern end ng EDSA, isa ring monumento ang makikita natin sa Southern end nito. Pagtawid mo ng Roxas Blvd, dadaan ka sa EDSA Extension patungo sa napakalaking monumento ng kapitalismo at konsumerismo: ang Mall of Asia. Tatambad sa iyo ang isang malaking globo na tuwing gabi ay umiilaw at nagpapakita ng mapa ng mundo, at paminsan-minsan, umiikot ang iba’t ibang uri ng advertisement.

Pilipinas na yata ang may pinakamaraming shopping malls kung icoconsider natin ang ating land area. Every 10 kilometers yata ay may malaking mall. Imagine, may mahigit 50 malls ang SM all over the country at marami diyan ang nasa Manila. Kung isasama natin ang Robinsons, Ayala Malls, at pati na rin yung mga mas maliit na players kagaya ng Puregold at Waltermart, sobrang dami niyan! Kung titingnan mo ang dami ng mga taong nagpupunta sa malls, iisipin mong hindi naghihirap ang mga Pinoy.

Mall of Asia ang isa sa mga biggest mall sa ating bansa. Imagine, tinambakan lang naman ng lupa ang kinatatayuan ng MoA, dati dagat talaga yan. Pero ngayon, sobrang daming tao ang bumibisita araw-araw. Kung kailangan mo ng mga damit, gadgets at iba pang gamit, dalaw ka lang. Bili dito, bili doon. Hindi lang iyan, uso na rin ang pagbili ng “experience” at memories ngayon—manood ng sine, mag-ice skating, mag-bungee jumping, sakay sa MoA Eye at tingnan ang cityscape ng Manila. O di kaya, mag-celebrate–kain, inom, coffee, at kung anu-ano pang foods.

Pero ito ang siste, welcome ka dito kung may pera ka. Kung wala, hanggang amoy ka na lang, hanggang window shopping, at least puwedeng magpalamig, o di kaya’y tumambay sa may park area para makita ang polluted na Manila Bay. Naalala ko tuloy yung kanta ng Yano na “Esem”: “Patingin-tingin, di naman makabili. Pasulyap-sulyap di makapanood ng sine. Walang ibang pera kundi pamasahe. Nakayanan ko lang pambili ng dalawang yosi…” Tapos sa korus nito, isinisigaw ng bokalista: “Nakakainis ang ganitong buhay…”

Ito nga ba ang klase ng buhay na gusto natin? Bakit nga ba ang lakas ng hatak ng konsepto ng ‘success’ sa atin? In the first place, ano nga ba ang success?

Success: The Usual Suspects

Kung tatanungin ang marami sa atin kung sino-sino ang mga successful na tao sa ating mundo, madalas isinasagot ang mga sikat at kilala; ang mga negosyante na may malalaking business, o di kaya ang mga nakarating sa mataas na puwesto sa gobyerno o sa mga private companies na kinabibilang nila, iyong mga nagkamit ng maraming awards, o di kaya ay iyong mga yumaman. In short, ito ang mga usual suspects pagdating sa usapan tungkol sa success: money, fame, and power.

Money.

Sabi ng kantang “Mukha ng Pera” by The Youth (sikat sila noong late 1990s): “Bakit ang pera may mukha, bakit ang mukha walang pera?” Sa ating panahon, sobrang hirap mamuhay nang walang pera—wala kang pambili ng pagkain, walang pang-allowance pagpasok sa school, at para bang pyramid scam ang pagdami ng worries natin. Kaya nga raw minsan, napaghahalata yung walang pera kasi nagiging bugnutin.

Money represents potential.Mga taong may pera, may kakayanan silang bumili ng maraming bagay na puwedeng magbigay ng happiness. Kapag may pera ka, marami kang puwedeng bilhin: mga damit, sasakyan, bahay, mga gadgets. Puwede ka ring manood ng sine kasama ng iyong mga minamahal. Kung gusto mong magbakasyon sa Boracay, o kaya sa Europe, basta may pera ka, pwede! At para sa mga pamilyang may pera, hindi problema kung saan gustong mag-aral ng mga anak—kahit sa private school or magpunta sa kahit anong city para sa college, okay lang.

Sabi ng kanta ng Beatles: “Money can’t buy me love.” At marami ring nagsasabi na money can’t buy happiness. Iko-quote naman ng mga pilosopo si Clare Boothe Luce: “Money can’t buy happiness but it can make you awfully comfortable while you’re being miserable.”

Tandaan natin, money itself isn’t the problem; but it’s the love of money: “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.” Hindi masama ang yumaman at magkaroon ng marmaing pera. Ang problema, kung kinain ka na ng greed and you pursuit money, pwede mong malimutan ang mga moral principles mo.

At sa isang banda, money or the lack of it can serve as a distraction for understanding your purpose in life. Sabi nga ni Tim Ferriss: “Adding more [money] just isn’t the answer as often as we’d like to think. In part, it’s laziness. “If only I had more money is the easiest way to postpone the intense self-examination and decision-making necessary to create a life of enjoyment—now and not later…. Busy yourself with the routine of the money wheel, pretend it’s the fix-all and you artfully create a constant distraction that prevents you from seeing just how pointless it is. Deep down, you know it’s all an illusion, but with everyone participating in the same game of make-believe, it’s easy to forget.”

If you decide to chase after money, you may become like a hamster on the wheel just working and working, without pausing and thinking about why you are doing all of these things.

Fame.

In addition to money, fame is another metric by which we try to measure success. Iniisip natin na kapag sikat ang isang tao, successful na siya. Kaya nga kung tatanungin mo ang maraming bata o maraming kabataan ngayon kung anong gusto nilang maging paglaki, marami ang sasagot ng “artista.”

Ano nga ba ang fame? At bakit gustong gusto natin itong makuha?

If you have fame, ibig sabihin maraming nakakakilala sa iyo. Sikat ka. Celebrity. May mga nakakakita ng mukha o pangalan mo sa TV, sa printed materials, may mga nakakarinig ng boses mo sa radio, o di kaya ay naging viral ka for a time. In a positive sense, fame means that a lot of people know and recognize you because of your talent, something you did, or dahil sobrang dalas ka nilang makita.

May mga sumikat nang dahil sa talent nila—writers, painters, dancers, at iba pang uri ng artists. Puwedeng na-recognize sila dahil sa mga awards gaya ng Nobel Prize, Palanca, Ms. Universe Pageant, Ramon Magsaysay Awards, at iba pa. Mayroon din namang mga sumikat nang dahil sa mga literary outputs nila. Wala mang natanggap na award si Bob Ong, pero dahil sa mga sinulat niyang libro, naging sikat siya.

Still, mayroon ding mga sumikat na talented nang dahil sa YouTube—sina Charice Pempengco, Arnel Pineda, at iba. Yung iba naman, kahit wala masyado (o wala talaga) silang talent, dahil sa exposure sa TV, radio, at internet, sumikat na rin.

Pero may mga sumikat din nang hindi nila sinasadya. Naalala mo yung Amalayer fiasco some time back? Sa Social Media ngayon, kung may nagawa o nasabi kang hindi masyadong kaaya-aya at may nag-record ng video, lagot!

You see, you can have fame as a result of a combination of talent or skills, exposure, and some luck. Iyong mga sikat na writers, artists, or personalities did not become famous overnight. Most of the time, they pursued their craft long before they became recognized. They practiced. They improved their craft. They kept doing things, and at the right time, the world recognized them.

Ang siste, tila may expiry date ang fame. It’s not very easy to hold on to it. The most enduring artists of our time had to reinvent themselves over and over. Just look at successful writers like Stephen King, or to successful actors and actresses hindi lang sa Pilipinas kundi abroad, they are only as good as their last performance. Kaya nga, fame, in itself, is not what we should aim for, but whether we get it or not, we should focus on being excellent in the field we have chosen.

Power.

People equate success with power. This could be in politics or in the corporate ladder. The higher position you attain, the more successful you are perceived to be. In the corporate world, this means being promoted to supervisor, then to manager, then becoming an executive in your field. Sa politics naman, it may mean being elected in higher elected positions, or staying in power for a very long time—‘di ba sa politics, may mga apelyido na yun at yun pa rin ang nakikita natin sa iba’t ibang mga bayan at probinsiya kahit ilang dekada na ang lumipas?

Having power means exerting influence in an organization or in the society. Having power means making decisions that affect the lives of people around you.

Kung manager ka sa isang organization, kelangan mong i-interpret ang mga rules ng company and enforce them as needed; kailangan mo ring gawin ang lahat ng makakaya mo to achieve the goals of the organization.

Power also means having access to resources. This is where power gets intertwined with money. If used for good, you can help your organization achieve its goals. Puwede ring maging mas maayos ang buhay ng mga taong pinaglilingkuran mo kung nasa politics ka naman.

But power has its temptations. If you’re not careful, baka maging arogante ka at feeling mo isa kang hari o reyna na kailangang pagsilbihan ng mga nakapaligid sa iyo. Hindi lang iyan, dahil may access ka sa resources, you may be tempted to use your influence para payamanin ang sarili at mga kabarkada mo. Or baka naman gamitin mo rin ang power na iyan to silence other people who do not agree with you.

So when you achieve a level of success or power, be careful not to fall into these temptations. They may become the cause of your downfall.

Redefining Your Metrics of Success

It’s very easy to measure success in terms of money, power, and fame. Iyan na kasi ang madalas na sinusukat ng mundo. What if we dig deeper and go beyond these three metrics? Sa tingin ko, may mas malalim na sukatan nang success at kung mahahanap natin ito, it would help us live a fulfilling life, and not the rat-race so often experienced by those who pursue these three measures of success. It’s time to redefine how we measure success.

Image Credit: Ron Mader via Flickr

Image Credit: Ron Mader via Flickr

Please take note that redefining success is not a call to stop hard work or smart work, it’s a shifting of our mindset and priority to what is really important. The past chapters highlighted the challenges of being a young professional in the world today. We’ve also seen some of the price that you need to pay if you want to chase after success. Whatever you decide to do in life, I hope and pray that you will give it your best shot, not because it will lead to money, power, and fame, but rather, because the act of working, itself, is noble and worthy of our energies.

Sustainability.

What if instead of money, we measure sustainability and faithfulness to your calling? Money is not the goal. Money and wealth can help us sustain the path that we embarked on. Alam ko na bilang mga kabataan, we have a lot of idealism in our hearts—that we want to change the world. But there is pursuing your idealism for one month, and pursuing it over your lifetime.

Kung itotodo mo ang pag-pursue sa isang bagay without being able to sustain it, madali kang mapapagod at puwede kang ma-burnout. When that happens, you just might drop the idealism dahil kailangan mo ng pambayad sa mga bills mo.

There is always a cost, a price to pay, for your goals. At kung gusto mong magtagal sa napili mong path, treat it like a marathon, not a sprint. Pang-matagalan ito at hindi lang kung kailan mo feel gawin.

If you pursue sustainability, maiiwasan mo ang temptation ng greed, without becoming poor. Sabi nga ng isang proverb :

“give me neither poverty nor riches.
Give me just enough to satisfy my needs.
For if I grow rich, I may deny you and say, “Who is the Lord?”
And if I am too poor, I may steal and thus insult God’s holy name.”

Ano kaya ang magiging hitsura ng mundo kung ito rin ang magiging prayer natin—“give me just enough to satisfy my needs.”?

Maybe, we’d have a world without the problems brought about by the excesses of consumerism. Mas kaunti ang mga basura, less ang stress sa buhay ng mga tao, maybe climate change will not be an issue, and people will be treated more like people, instead of being treated simply as workers, slaves, and means to an end.

Service.

What if instead of power, we measure acts of service we render to others? Power can be a good thing. But it should be used to serve others and not to further personal gain.

A lot of politicians claim to be servants of the people. Pero kung titingnan mo ang lifestyle nila: malalaki ang mga bahay, magaganda ang sasakyan, at kahit anong pagca-calculate ay hindi magtutugma ang suweldo nila bilang “public servant” sa tindi ng spending levels nila.

This is not to say na lahat ng politicians ay corrupt. There are a lot of politicians who try to serve honestly and do the right things. But that is not easy.

Politicians are supposed to serve the people. Being in a position of power can help you do that, pero kahit na wala kang formal position of power, you can do acts of service to different people around you.

At the office, acts of service could mean going beyond your job description to do a really good job. It could also mean going out of your way to help your colleague in a difficult project at work. Acts of service could also be done to strangers needing help.

One time, nag-aaway yung mga disciples ni Jesus kung sino sa kanila ang magiging greatest apostles. And Jesus had something to say to them:

“You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave.”

I have read countless business and self-help books and blogs all saying a variation of this theme: if you want to be rich/famous/significant or be on top of the world, you need to serve as many people as you can. There is a truth to that, start with the acts of service, not on the power. Sometimes, those who shun power, who do not actively seek it out eventually gets it because they’ve been actively serving and serving other people even when they didn’t have power.

Relationships.

What if instead of pursuing fame, we build meaningful relationships? Kapag famous ka, maraming tao ang nakaka-recognize sa iyo—alam nila ang pangalan mo, they recognize your face, and they would recognize your face everywhere you go. Bye-bye privacy.

But these people know about you, but they don’t know you. Hindi nila alam ang favorite color mo, the things that make you worry, your deepest joys, at kahit na iyong mga kababawan mo sa buhay. The reverse is also true. If you’re famous, there’s just no chance for you to be intimately acquainted with lots and lots of people.

Sa isang banda, gusto nating mas maraming tao ang makaalam sa mga ideas natin, maging bahagi ng movement na itinatayo natin, or at the very least, dumami ang awareness sa mga projects at advocacy na ginagawa natin. But making a project or advocacy popular is not the same as making yourself popular. The former is about a cause, the latter is about you.

Kung titingnan din natin ang mga importanteng movements throughout history, they did not start out by targeting the masses. Most of these movements started small: si Jesus at ang labindalawang barkada niya; ang magkapatid na John & Charles Wesley at ang mga katropa nilang Methodists; si Jose Rizal at ang pangkat ng mga kabataan at rebolusyonaryong Pinoy. The crowds eventually followed, pero nag-umpisa sa isang maliit na grupo.

That’s why fame is never the goal.

Mas matagal ang proseso kapag nagbi-build ka ng relationships; puwedeng paisa-isa, dalawa, o maliit na grupo lang ang kasama mo lagi.

Sabi nga ng isang African proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” The more you invest in the lives of people around you, mas Malaki rin ang impact na maiiwan mo sa kanila, at mas maraming lessons ang puwede mong matutunan mula sa kanila.

A Full Life

Maraming tao ang busyng-busy sa kanilang pursuit of happiness. They chase after the usual metrics of success and then, pagdating ng dapit-hapon ng buhay nila, they wonder about where all the time went—instead of happy memories, mga panahong’ laging nagmamadali; instead of happiness, a profound sense of sadness and regrets because of missed connections and shallow relationships.

Ano ba ang opposite ng happiness? It’s not sadness, but boredom.

Sa mga ganitong usapan, lagi kong naaalala ang aklat ng Ecclesiastes, where the writer-philosopher wrote that “everything is meaningless…” Ang pagkakalap ng maraming kayamanan, ang pagkakaroon ng maraming asawa at kalaguyo, ang pagpapatayo ng mansion at kung ano pang mga senyales ng kayamanan at kapangyarihan: lahat iyan, in the end, meaningless.

Kaya mahalagang tanong ito: “And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?”

Kaya nauso ang “soul searching” kasi sa paghahangad ng marami to “gain the whole world,” they have lost their soul. Huwag hintayin na mangyari ito sa iyo.

Sometimes, to gain clarity, you need to step back. Think. Do a little bit of soul searching, and clarify priorities. Balik ka sa intersection at doon hanapin kung saan ka ba dapat magpunta.

* * * * *

This is part of the #BiyahengEDSA series of reflections for the Pinoy young professional. Read other parts of this series below:

Introduction
Monumento: Out of the Way ang Idealism
Balintawak Cloverleaf: Entry Level
North EDSA: Ito Pala ang Rat Race
Timog Avenue: I Just Want to Have Some Fun!
Cubao Traffic [Poetry]
Ortigas: Relihiyon, Rebolusyon
Swerving after Crossing Ilalim on a Monday Morning [Poetry]
Boni-Guadalupe: Shifting Lanes
Ayala: Traffic sa Fast Lane.
Magallanes: Divergent Roads
EDSA Extension: Ito ba ang aking destinasyon?
Pasay Rotonda: At the Crossroads

Highlights from Pew Research Center’s Social Media and the Workplace Report

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It’s interesting to see how Social Media and web browsing trends change over the years. The turnover is just too fast!

Pew Research Center recently release their Social Media and Workplace Report and they’ve put out several interesting data in relation to the way that most Americans use Social Media.

Please take note that these data is mainly applicable to the United States. We, in the developing world, can also learn from it, but we’ll need to take into account our own context.

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PI_2016.06.22_Social-Media-and-Work_0-02

What do you think of these results? Do they also reflect your experience?

To read the full report, please go to this link: http://www.pewinternet.org/2016/06/22/social-media-and-the-workplace/

Helpful #YouthStats from Around the World

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As I work with young people around the world, I find it helpful to monitor trends, issues, and challenges affecting them. That’s why I keep a Twitter list of people and organization working with young people. If you want to subscribe to this list, head over to: https://twitter.com/mightyrasing/lists/young-people.

If you didn’t already know, the United Nations General Secretary has an Envoy on Youth. That office has come up with #YouthStats, which is a cool resource for youth leaders and youth workers around the world.

Click on the image below to go to the #YouthStats page:

 

YouthStats

Each of the icons above correspond to the Sustainable Development Goals that the United Nations came up with after the 2015 deadline of the Millennium Development Goals.

You can even download each section into PDF, which will come in handy for youth workers with limited internet connection.

How to use this list of #YouthStats:

  • Consult the list of trends and challenges listed on each page as a benchmark for planning programs in your settings. But don’t rely blindly on these stats, since they are aggregated. Verify with some young people in your own context and adjust accordingly.
  • Follow the link on each trend/issue to download a PDF of a more in-depth analysis of each statement. This is important for leaders and youth workers who want to analyze further and look for region-specific data.
  • Remember that data are useless unless you plan to use them to help young people in your area. Don’t just display your knowledge of these issues and trends. But use them to make a difference in the lives of the young people you work with.