Blessings Abound

Yesterday, my family went off to have an overnight staycation in a hotel in Makati. My wife normally does the packing. I just brought a couple of shirts, shorts and that was it for me. It is just an overnight stay. What else would you bring? But lo and behold, when we arrived at the hotel, I unloaded four bags from the car. I asked my wife, why do we have four bags? She answered enthusiastically, “We need to bring Christian’s milk bottles, a whole can of milk, the steamer, his water, his diapers and the hotel has a pool so we need to bring his inflatable penguin, his rubber duckies, whale, shark and dolphin.” Wow! I didn’t know the ducks and the whales are part of the family.

And true enough, when we were finally settled in our room, we went up and there was the pool. So my wife got our son to wear his Batman swimsuit and brought with him his inflatable penguin, his rubber duckies, whale, shark and dolphin to the pool. He was so happy! We are happy!

As I watched my son filled with happiness and joy, I realised, God is like this to us. God prepares everything that we need long before we need them. You can feel God in the air that we breathe, the sunlight that invigorates our skin, the shoes and clothes we wear, the cars we drive, the hotel servants who arranged and made sure we will have a great time, the people around us who are always there for us and love us. Indeed, God is all around. We have an abundant God. The blessings are overflowing.

With all these blessings, God wants us to be happy. That’s His only agenda.

I think we sometimes fail to see the blessings because the blessings do not match what our puny minds defined them to be. If we just allowed our son to pack his own bag, I doubt he would go far in bringing his swimsuit, his steamer, his milk bottles and above all, his sea friends with him.

There is no shortage of blessings. There is only shortage in our readiness in accepting these blessings.

Trust that God knows your desires, your wants, your needs long before you know them.

Love and Money

There is a common practice or notion among Filipino families that they should bear more children so that in the future, their children will save them and pull them out of poverty.  So the more kids you have, the higher chances you have in gaining financial freedom.  When the kids grow up and are strong enough to earn money, their parents require them to remit money. Some parents would even stop working and tell their kids, “Kayo naman kumita ng pera at supportahan ‘tong pamilya” (It’s your turn to earn a living and support this family). Parents with this mindset equate love with money. That’s why when their kids don’t give enough, they are labelled as ‘walang utang na loob‘ (you are ungrateful).

If we want to grow as a nation, this practice has to stop in this generation.  It is a retrogression. As best-selling author Dean Pax Lapid wrote in his book Be Happy, Healthy, and Wealthy Today (co-authored by Bro. Bo Sanchez),  “Children are not investments with a rate of return; they are commitments of our parental love.”

As parents, we need to support our kids until the day we die without expecting anything in return.  We feed them, we send them to best schools possible, we equip them to be better citizens.  When they are ready, they will start their own family and love others.

It is not the obligation of our children to feed us, to shelter us and to provide us with our needs. If your children do these things to you, that is because they love you, not because it is their obligation.

For parents who require their children to remit money, I believe that deep inside, they don’t want that either. I believe nobody wants to feel helpless. They just don’t know of any other way of surviving.

I believe there are two reasons behind the existence of this practice:

1. Lack of financial knowledge.

For me, Financial Management is a life skill. It has to be taught in schools, regardless of the course. Whether you want to go into business, practice your profession or manage a household. A lot of people think that handling money is only for businessmen, accountants and financial advisers. Believe me. Everyone needs to learn this. There are lots of materials on the Internet and seminars offered everywhere.

I am an Accountant and I had this wrong thinking before that I will be able to learn Financial Management naturally. I was proud. I learned it the painful way. I made lots of business failures because I didn’t know anything about money. I am still learning up to this day. Knowledge and skills do not naturally come. You need to deliberately learn and practice them in order to embed them into your life.

If you are starting your career, don’t just learn the technicalities of your profession, learn how to handle money. Your financial wisdom should grow as well.

2. Believing that “Money is the root of all evil”

“Money is the root of all evil” is a crazy religious belief. It is the same reason why poor people hate the rich.

Money is just like any other resource. It is like gas, Internet, food, electricity, and so on. Our purpose defines the effect of these resources. Take for instance the Internet, if you connect to the Internet to research on how to reduce poverty then using the Internet is good. If you use Internet for pornography or sending the details of a drug trade, then using the Internet is bad. Another one is electricity. Electricity powers our appliances and lights up our homes but it can be used to electrocute someone also.

Same thing with money, it all depends on the purpose why you want money. Is it because you want to buy a new car to show off to your neighbor? Is it because you want to buy a condominium unit so that you can have a mistress? Is it because you want to send your kids to school? Is it bacause you want to buy books and share it to the needy? Is it because you want to put up an orphanage so abandoned kids will have a home? Your purpose is what makes money good or bad.

For me, there is only one reason why we need to be wealthy and that is to bless other people. We came into this world naked and we will leave naked as well. We don’t own anything. We are practically borrowing them. All of us are passersby in this world. If you are blessed with resources, ask yourself, are you a good steward?

You become who you worship.

Tough Love

Do you know how eagles teach their young how to fly?

First, Papa Eagle builds a nest made of strong twigs and sharp thorns and covers them with soft grass to make it comfortable.  Not contented, Mama Eagle would pluck her own feathers to add more comfort. Several times, food are just brought to the kids without them lifting a feather.  Whenever there is a storm, Mama Eagle would just spread her enormous wings to cover her young.  What a beautiful life for the eaglets.

But then, when it’s time for the eaglets to learn to fly, life is about to drastically change.  First, Mama Eagle stops bringing food.  The eaglets would cry for hunger, ‘Mommy, Mommy’ and nothing seems to be heard.  Next, Mama Eagle would then remove the soft grass and every comfort in the nest allowing the thorns to be exposed, pricking the sensitive skin of the eaglets. ‘Ouch!’ The young eaglets cry. Then nightmare starts.  Mama Eagle throws the eaglets out of the nest.  The little ones would insist on coming back to the nest but they will be pushed again until they fall off the cliff, ten thousand feet above the ground. Down, down they go.  Before they hit the ground, Papa Eagle swoops down and catches them and brings them back to the nest.  Before the eaglets catch their breath and figure out what had just happened, Mama Eagle would kick them out again until they figure out the message and start flapping their wings.  Soon, the eaglets are confident and soaring along with their proud parents.

Parents who shield their kids too much from the realities of the world are preventing their kids to grow their wings and be able to fly on their own.  As parents, we need to understand that tough love doesn’t mean loving less.  If Mama Eagle listened to the cries of her young when they were struggling to learn how to fly and instead stopped the training and cuddled them, the eaglets will grow up to be like chickens.  If you prevent them from experiencing pain, you are depriving your child’s necessary steps to grow and eventually become dependent all his life.

If you want to eat an egg, regardless if you want it hard-boiled, sunny side up, or omelet, what do you do first?  First, you break the egg.  Why? Because you don’t want to eat the shell.  Nobody eats the egg shell.  Seriously, why? Because the best part is what is inside the shell.

If you want to eat an orange, what do you do?  First, you chop it.  Then you squeeze it in order it’s juice to come out.

Plants need pruning.  Fire shapes metal.  Sculptors chisel and hammer the stone to create their masterpiece.

The pattern of going through pain first in order to grow and be blessed is incredibly embedded in the fabric of life.

I know of some people who came from close-knit families, went to good schools, resources are within reach yet they are failing in life.  Common reason why they are failing, is because they have very protective parents.  They are just so afraid to try.  They don’t want to come out of their shell.  In spite of the blessings they have, all you hear from them are rants why life is so hard.

I am a parent to a two year kid.  I know the instinct to protect and to pamper.  Between my wife and I, I am the more protective one.  Every time our son throws a tantrum and would lie on the floor and cry, I have the tendency to pick him up and cradle.  But knowing that it would not help him in the long run, I would inhibit myself, leave the scene and let my wife handle him.

If you are a parent, allow your kids to fail.  Allow your kids to commit mistakes, to be hurt, to lose.  It is in these moments that their character is tested and shaped.  Just be there with them.  Your presence is all they need.

If you have been too much protected as a child, life is not yet over.  Have the courage to try things out and reach for your dreams.  Fear is an illusion.  Failure is but a step to success.

If you are going through some pain now, if you think you are being squeezed to the point of suffocation, have faith, be patient, be still, because the best part is what is inside the shell.

Platform

When you watch pop stars perform on stage, you become slave to the music. You’re captivated by the moment that would last a lifetime. The last time I watched a concert was when the Corrs performed here in Manila. (I am hopeful for a reunion soon.). That was maybe 15 years ago. I don’t really remember the date but I can vividly recall the experience.

I truly believe all of us were born to be a star. All of us are meant to shine. If this is so, why is it that some people, in spite of working so hard never really found their light to shine. I think one of the problems is in choosing the right platform or stage.

Choosing the right platform is choosing the environment that you think will help you shine. Environment includes the people around you, the nature of business you are in, and the systems that allow you to interact with other people.

A long time ago I was connected to a company that was into rentals. We had several houses and apartments that were for rent. I worked as an Accountant and every month we went out to collect rent. It was paying me handsomely for such an easy job. After a few months, I left the company. It took a hit on my finances. During that time, I was about to get married and hardly had enough savings to pay for the reception so I sold my car and paid the wedding bills just in time.

Looking back, that was the best decision I’ve ever made.

Though the work was paying me good money, the environment did not give me any space for creativity and explore new things.

Five years later, I worked with the largest shipping company in the Philippines at that time. Initially, I worked as an Auditor. I did not shine as an Auditor but the environment gave me the opportunity to explore new things. After two years, they transferred me to IT then as Innovation Manager. The thing was, there was no existing Innovation Manager position. They just created it for me. I was on a roll but unfortunately, the owners had to sell the company after 100 years for a good reason. So I left too.

You can be in the same situation that I was in before. You can be in a job that is not harnessing your true potential. I suggest that you evaluate your environment, know the values of the owners and know the mission of the company by heart. If these things do not agree with your internal compass, it is time to move on. Do not hang on to your monthly income. Money will follow if you are doing what you do best.

My Dad is a retired ship captain. For years, he commanded very large container ships, carriers and others. He is very well respected by his peers. He became an examiner in a professional regulating body in the Philippines. He became a superintendent of a Maritime Academy. He is a best selling author also. In the picture are the books he wrote. The books have been distributed worldwide and have been read by thousands of sailors around the world.

At a very young age, my Dad already knew what he wanted to do. He was fascinated with ships as a youngster and adored the sailors every time a ship docks on the port in his hometown in Iloilo. My Dad knew what his platform was, stuck with it and became a star.

Ask yourself this question. Are you on the right platform?

Why Change

Change is a constant thing. Our environment is changing. The people around us are changing. If you have kids, they grow, they develop new habits and learn new things. In other words, change is inevitable. Change is something we all need to deal with.

We all know this. But why is it that coping with change is difficult? The normal reaction is to resist, not to embrace. People would rather stay in their comfort zone.

I believe that to resist change is a rebellion against the forces of nature. Let me explain.

Everything around us are systems. The earth we live in is full of systems. The atmospheric circulation process, photosynthesis, and so on. Our human body is composed of several systems. We have the digestive system, respiratory system, nervous system, and others. Throughout history, man also made a lot of systems to put order to the way we live. You and me, we all have our own personal systems. In my household, we don’t wake up simultaneously. I have my own daily routine, my wife has her own daily routine. Etan has his own. It is when these systems interact that we experience – Change.

We need to look at change on a different perspective. Here are a few:

Change is about respect. In our household, i believe the reason why we live in harmony is because we respect each others’ routine. I’m an early riser. How I wish my wife is too, but she’s not. My wife works all day and she deserves all the sleep that she can get. Instead of insisting for her to wake up early, I make these early morning hours as my me-time. When she wakes up, I draw my me-time to a close and open our-time.

Sometimes I am not done with my me-time but I am happy to close it because it validates my belief that US is more important than I.

Change is about thinking of other people. I am the leader in our household. As the head of my family, I need to lead them to a better future. If I go with my instincts I would probably go to the mall, watch movies and eat popcorn the whole day because it’s fun. But I cannot do that. I need to forget my instincts and focus on something more productive because I need to change for the better for my family and for the people around me. The key is to forget what you need to undergo or what you need to give up but to focus on what other people can become because of what you will do.

Change is about anticipating the future. My two year old son loves buses. He has a collection of buses. But everytime we buy him a new one, he would be amazed as if it is his first time to see a bus. Then he would play with it the whole day, pouring out all his emotions. He surely enjoys what is happening in the present.

This scene is so precious to us because we are reminded to just cherish the joy and pleasure of the present. We seldom allow these precious moments to drift by and rather than focus on the regrets of the past and worry about the future. Life is about tiny successes. When we appreciate the joy and happiness happening in the present, it gives us hope and anticipate a better future.

If you think back a few days ago and all your interactions with your family, your friends, your colleagues at the office, the waiter in the restaurant that served your food, the security guard that opened the door for you, if you believe that even a tiny interaction could have changed a person’s life, what could you have done differently?

Be a Role Model

My son, Etan, is a hyperactive and intelligent young boy.  He never seizes to amaze us.  He has a new antic everyday. One day, he said he is a tiger.  So everytime he comes up to me and he makes this roaring sound, I react as if I was afraid.  The next day, he said he is the Dragon Warrior so he would climb up the bed and beat me up.

Obviously, my son got this from YouTube and Nickelodeon.  He absorbs everything like a sponge, even the words that we speak and our mannerisms.  Knowing this is how it works, we are very careful with our words and actions in the house.

My wife and I, whether we like it or not, are role models to our son.  Probably, more so on me because he is a boy.  Having said that, I need to be a good role model to my son.

I dream for my son to grow up and live to be a true Christian. True to his name, I wish for him to become a loving, compassionate, and caring person.  He can pursue whatever dream he wants.  I will support him. But for now, I have to exhibit these qualities because I will model them for him.

If you are a parent, a teacher, a leader in a company, or there are people reporting to you, you are always on stage. You have influence on people. By thinking that you need to be a role model is a way of accepting the responsibility of giving the right influence to these people. If you have vices like smoking or drinking, have the courage to kick those habits if you don’t want your kids to acquire those habits.

Be a good influence on people. Be a role model.

Faith System

Everything starts with faith.

Faith allows us to see the good things in life. With this, we develop a vision of a bright future which motivates us to succeed. However, faith can also be the source that prevents you from your success. If you believe that life is full of suffering and pain, you will experience suffering and pain. If you are born poor and you believe that you are destined to be poor, you will never be wealthy.

For decades, I believed that as Catholics, we are meant to suffer life in this world because that was what Christ did for us to be saved. This is entirely false and I believe this false perception of what Christianity is, limited our nation from prospering.

Now, this is what I believe. I believe Christ died on the cross because He loves us so much and He wants us to experience the fullness of life. He wants the best for us. I believe this is so because this is what I feel for my family. I die everyday for my family. I work hard everyday. I don’t buy personal stuff without ensuring my kid has milk and there is food on the table. Everyday, I think about our future and what is best for my son.

I call this the Faith System because you need a system that ensures your faith is intact all the time. There are days when nothing seem to go in your favor and you will start to doubt your faith. Everyday, temptation comes in some form that will test your faith.

These are my few suggestions to have a good Faith System:

1. Read the gospel and do it first thing in the morning.

2. Choose well what goes into your mind.

3. Be part of a spiritual community.

Read the gospel and do it first thing in the morning. I believe that if you seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, everything will be added unto you (Matthew 6:33). Ever since I started this habit four years ago, life has been great. It gave me peace because I know God will comfort me no matter what. By reading everyday, the gospel acts a strong reminder of my faith.

Choose well what goes into your mind. With the Internet, information can be retrieved by just a click of a button. In Facebook, your wall can be populated with articles that may corrupt your mind. The news is not helping either. Majority of the news you hear are just bad news. We need to choose the information that goes into our mind. Think of it as your house. If you put security measures in your home, much more you should with your mind. I choose the books that I read. I choose my friends. I choose the movies I watch. Because I believe these contribute to my growth and to achieve my purpose.

Be part of a spiritual community. I belong to a spiritual community called the Light of Jesus for four years now. I can tell you that if not for my spiritual community, I would probably be lost. Being part of a spiritual community is like getting a regular spiritual nourishment. Nourishment is not for our bodies alone. Our souls need them too. I am a neophyte when it comes to spirituality. I need guidance. I need mentors. If you don’t have a spiritual community yet, try the Light of Jesus Family.

So there you go, three simple suggestions to have a good Faith System.

Do you want to be happy? Do what you love with the ones you love.

Three Simple Steps to Success

If you think about it, achieving success is very simple. It only takes 3 simple steps.

1. Know what you want

2. Know the price to achieve it

3. Go pay the price

That’s it. If achieving success in life is this simple, how come there a lot people linger in poverty?

I believe there are a lot of people who don’t know what they want in life. I have talked to a lot of young people who just graduated from college and they don’t know what they want. Many of them can only see the short term. They know that they need to work, buy branded clothes and gadgets, eat out with friends, travel, and so on. Before the pay date, they are broke then they get paid and then they go through the same cycle again. Before they know it, they have wasted a lot of time and energy.

You need to know what you want in life. You have to think long term. If you don’t know what you want in life, disrupt your routine, take a break and go meditate. Try to figure that out. Read books. Follow my blog.

There are also people who already know what they want in life but don’t really know what price they need to pay to achieve it. My tip for those who already know what they want, get to know some people who already have what you want. Get to know their habits, their routine, their character, what makes them tick.

Lastly, a lot of people stay in poverty because they don’t want to pay the price. People only see the pain, not the prize. People only see the barrier, not the paradise. My tip, place a picture of your dream on your desk, as your screen saver, or near your bed. The key is to be reminded about the prize, and hopefully you will forget the pain.