Drop the Rope

In the movie the Dark Knight Rises, Batman loses to Bane in a fight and was heavily wounded. Instead of killing him, Bane put him in the pit for Bruce to witness the fall of Gotham. While in the pit, he trained to get back in shape even with a broken spine. He was able to get his shape back but getting out of the pit was another story. Bruce had to climb the wall, some hundred feet high and then after reaching the ledge, the only way to go out is for him to make that leap of faith. After several attempts, he finally was able to go over the ledge en route to his freedom. Before leaving the scene, he dropped a rope so that others can easily climb out of the pit.

That gesture of dropping the rope is the meaning of life.

Every time you switch on the light, take medicine when you are sick, get the information by simplying clicking a button, and all other luxuries that we enjoy today, we need to remember that somebody came out of the pit and dropped the rope.

It doesn’t have to be like conquering a major feat before you drop the rope. It can be small but frequent. For three years I worked as a consultant in Makati and every time I go there I drove a van. In going home I made sure I had hitchers with me who also lived in the south. Every time I had my hitchers, I had to drop them off to a nearby mall. It was a little out of my way, ten minutes off my time, but it saved an hour and half to each of my hitchers giving them more time with their family.

Now think for a moment. What if Bruce Wayne upon reaching and coming out of the pit did not drop the rope? That would be so selfish right. I mean for us movie watchers we would probably say, how could he? For heaven’s sake he is Bruce Wayne, the richest man in Gotham. He is a super hero. How could he not think of the people down there who in a way helped him also get out of the pit?

Often times we are like that selfish version of Bruce Wayne. Every time we turn our backs to needy people, look down to the underprivileged, we assume that ungodly version of Batman.

I believe we are all super heroes, capable of helping people get out of their pit. You don’t have to be a mutant, born from a different planet or bitten by a radioactive bug. All you have to do is to reach out to your core being and start living your true purpose. We need to be better at helping people. This is the essence of living. No matter what state you are in, you are a super hero. You are a child of God. Start using your powers by bringing people up. Use encouraging words instead of harsh and demeaning statements. Smile more often instead of showing a face that summarizes how difficult life is to you. Share kindness and love instead of sharing scandalous videos that sparks hatred and resentment. Think more about the person beside you instead of what clothes you need to wear for the prom night.

Do these small acts that seemingly don’t mean a thing and you will be surprised how your life will have more meaning.

Eat My Flesh

I am a big fan of Michael Jordan. I watched hundreds of Bulls games in the 90s and even taking a leave at work just to watch the Finals. I watched all his documentary films, read books about him and copied some of his moves especially the turnaround fadeaway jump shot that I perfected. Swish! Nothing but net. So when I step into the basketball court, I think and act like Michael Jordan. My game tremendously improved when I started copying his moves. In terms of basketball, I ate Michael Jordan.

In living, you need to be careful on what you eat because you become what you eat.

Physically, if you eat junk food, processed food, and lechon regularly then you become unhealthy, overweight and susceptible to all sorts of diseases. But if you take care of your body and eat the right food, then you become healthy and strong.

Mentally, what type of thoughts do you entertain? What books do you read? What films do you watch? Who are the people whom you listen to? Take note of these things. If you watch trash news, pornographic films or tambay ka sa kalye (you watch the world go by along the side street), then you are essentially feeding your mind with trash, vices or just plain nothing if you are tambay sa kalye. Our mind is like a computer (well computers were patterned after the mind) – garbage in garbage out. Check your actions, how do you respond to this and that, and check the words that come out of your mouth. Reaction is an inside job.

Spiritually, what are your beliefs? Do you believe in God or do you see yourself as the center of the universe?

When Jesus said, “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood, abides in me and I in him”, Jesus was inviting us to follow Him and to be like Him because whoever do so will have eternal life. This is the symbolic meaning of the Eucharistic communion that we feed on Jesus allowing Him to penetrate into our lives.

Fr. Domie Guzman said it best, “The perfection of Christian life is to be another Christ.”

I have been following Jesus more intently for the past five years now and I must say that my life has become infinitely better.

People are always looking for answers. Everyday, we look for answers to improve our finances, to mend a broken heart, or to fix a relationship. Kung saan saan tayo tumitingin ng sagot (We look for answers elsewhere) wherein the only answer to our problems is to follow Jesus.

Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. I must admit that I never understood this passage before. Now I know and I am a living witness to His awesome glory.

If you are not yet a follower of Christ, I invite you to be one. Following Christ takes time. Following Him doesn’t even promise that you will have lesser problems or lesser stress. But you will experience enlightenment. Your perspective will widen and you become better in handling problems and stress. In following Him, there will be times you have doubts and entertain giving up. When this happens, just be comforted by the thought that you are following the right Way.

The Significance Trap

Everyone strive for progress in every area of life. We need to strive to be financially free so that we can buy the things that we want. We need to exercise and watch our diet so that our stamina and endurance would improve so that we can still play with our kids when they reach their teenage years. We read books and attend classes so we could advance our understanding with people. We go to Mass and read the Bible so we could gain more wisdom.

However, in the process of pursuing progress, we often take away our eyes on our purpose and instead focus on significance. What do I mean by this? Many people buy cars for the reason of projecting their status in life not because they need a vehicle to bring them from point A to point B. Other people take Masters or Doctorate degrees because they want to be perceived as more significant than their peers, not for the learning and applying what they’ve learned to improve the status of other people. If you happen to read this and thinking if what you did was pursuing your purpose or for more significance, you need to ask yourself why.

This is the significance trap.

Significance is directly connected to security and freedom. Why would someone need to prove how significant they are if they are fundamentally secure who they are. If you continue to pursue significance, then you are not actually free.

Why do people pursue significance? It goes back to how we define ourselves who we are. Many people define themselves with what they do, like doctor, businessman and engineer. Others would define themselves by the position they are in, like VP of the largest oil company in the Philippines, a congressman, etc. Though it is essential for everyone to have aspirations, we have to bear in mind that our position, our wealth, our work, our aspirations are not who we are.

This topic is so close to me because much of my childhood and early adult life was about proving myself to my family and to other people. Growing up, I did not receive the ample attention from my parents and I harbored that feeling of unwanted. What drove me back then was to prove to them that I was intelligent too, that I was an achiever too, that I was worth their love.

So how should we define who we are? We are human beings. If you define yourself by what you do, that is human doings. If you define yourself by your wealth, that is human havings. If you define yourself as loving, kind, generous, respectful, helpful, happy, then you are defining yourself just as a human being.

By knowing who you are, no amount of material things would really make you more significant. Regardless of your work, or your wealth, who you are should not change.

I believe this is one of the culprits why people fall into depression, take drugs or commit suicide because they anchor their identity on possessions, fame, wealth or even human relationships that they believe give them significance.

Changing your perception takes time and I would encourage you to write down who you are and remind yourself every morning. Do this regularly and it will set you free.

The Boring Stuff

Millions of people love American Football. Two years ago I was in Moscow, Idaho to visit my sister in-law and in one of those days in that trip, the local team was in town and was playing the Washington State. Boy, you can feel the love and enthusiasm of the people for the sport because everywhere you go, the people are tuned in to their TV set or to live streaming.

Another sport that is very populat is Cricket, national sport of India. I’ve been rubbing elbows with Indians for the past three years because of my engagement in a software implementation project and everytime we find ourselves in a casual talk, they always insert in the discussion how this team won the Cricket game. They share the story as if they literally watched the game and without regard whether I am a fan of the sport or not.

You see, no matter how interesting these sports are, how many people would even die for their favorite teams, I find these sports boring. I find them boring because I don’t understand the games and how they are played. There is nothing wrong with American Football and Cricket, there is something wrong with my understanding.

For many years, I also found the Holy Mass boring. I used to question why we always pray the same prayers, why do priests (except for a very few) give boring sermons, why do we need to eat the bread, and so on.

In later years as I studied the Bible more often and understand what it really means to be Catholic, my world just suddenly opened and learned how rich the Catholic faith is. I learned that there is nothing wrong with the Holy Mass or the priests are not boring, there was something wrong with my understanding. Now, I always look forward to attending the Mass.

If you find somebody or something boring like the Holy Mass, maybe you just need to take time and understand it well, or if it is a person, take the time to know the person more. In the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey, Habit number 5 states that we shall seek first to understand, then to be understood. There is a reason why we have two ears and one mouth.

Life is so (raised to the nth power) abundant and rich just like the Catholic faith. There is so much you can do. Take a pause from the daily grind, open your eyes to the richness of life and you will find out that there is no way life can be boring.

Do It Afraid

I started reading voraciously when I was in college, some 30 years ago. A little bit late based on the standards of many. I read books on biographies, psychology, history, self-help, finance, marketing, business and other non-fiction books. I have four courses under me – Accounting, Advertising Arts, IT and Supply Chain. All these wealth of knowledge and information for years, I just kept it to enrich my life. But at the back of my mind, I’ve always wanted to share what I know. What prevented me from doing it were the fear of rejection and the fear of making mistakes.

Before, I used to think that you have to be an ‘expert’ in a field before you start sharing. To be an ‘expert’ in a field means you need to have Masteral and Doctorate degrees, amassed riches, or authored books and spoken to thousands of people.

I’ve always wanted to be a writer like my father and my brother Rommel. I admire authors and their works. I like the idea of how they are able to communicate and inspire a lot of people. To be a writer, I figured then that you have to be effective with the use of your language of choice and your grammar must be impeccable. I looked for clues if writing was for me. Back then, I didn’t have any references that could push me to pursue writing. In school, I didn’t do well in Grammar and English, I wasn’t part of the Newsletter Club and nobody really encouraged me.

I had all these requirements in mind.

Then I heard the story of Bro. Bo Sanchez and how he started as a preacher. He started preaching when he was 12 years old. He also shared that during time, he wasn’t a good preacher. He started with only 20 people in the audience, most of them were his relatives. But as he honed his talent and skill, he got better and better and better. Now, Bro. Bo preaches to thousands every week and millions are following him to hear him speak.

When the disciples of Jesus travelled by twos and started preaching the Word of God, they were still afraid. But they did it anyway.

It is good that you need to prepare before you take the plunge. You have to do your homework. But don’t overdo it. I have learned through the years that nothing happens if you don’t act on it.

I started writing and sharing what I know because I feel this is what God wants me to do. Occasionally, I am still haunted by the thought that my grammar may not be impeccable, my use of language may not be effective. But now, I am comforted by the truth that perfection in form is not the point why I am writing.

I am writing to share with you how God is working in my life. I am a work in progress and will always be.

I am still afraid every time I publish my blog. But I do it anyway because I realized life is not about me. If I have inspired just one soul because of something I wrote, then I have fulfilled my “why”.

Three Essential Factors in Achieving Abundance

In John 21, Peter and John , the apostles of Jesus, with some friends went out fishing. They fished for the entire day and caught nothing. When night was about to fall, Jesus stood on the beach but they didn’t know it was Him. Then Jesus said to them, “Children do you have any fish? ” They answered “No.”. Then Jesus replied,”Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it there, and they were unable to haul it in because of the great number of fish.

In this classic biblical story, there are three essential factors in achieving abundance:

1. Do not journey alone. In the story, Peter did not go fishing alone. He brought with him John and their friends. My guess is that he brought with him his friends so that they could share the catch, perhaps grill the fish and eat together.

In business or in any endeavor, life is more meaningful if you journey with somebody. Jesus did not hop from one city to another preaching alone. He had 12 friends with Him. Every successful person has a supportive team behind him. No matter how intelligent and talented you are, you need a team to back you up. You don’t need to do everything even if you can. The genius is in sharing the load.

2. Be Humble. The men didn’t know it was Jesus standing on the beach. To them it was just another stranger yet they listened and tried what the stranger suggested. We have to remember that Peter was a seasoned fisherman. And probably his friends too. He was an expert in fishing. It was his livelihood. You could imagine how good Peter was. But even with his credentials, he still listened to a stranger.

There is a divine reason why we have two ears and only have one mouth. One of the greatest authors of all time, Stephen Covey wrote in his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, that habit number 5 is to seek first to understand, then to be understood. What I have learned recently from a client of mine is that it is best to check if you understood things correctly before giving your opinion. And that’s all what we need. It doesn’t really matter whether you are right or wrong. All we need is to be validated.

3. Interrupt your Pattern. How does your weekly pattern look like? Does it give you the results that you want? Maybe you have been working all week long yet you still fall short with your budget. If this is the case, you may want to interrupt your spending pattern or maybe you need to interrupt how you do business. Or maybe you have a work that is financially rewarding yet it consumes all of your time that you have no time to be with your family. You have to be willing to try a different way of living. You may want to cast your net on the other side of the boat.

You need to make time to evaluate your current situation. Ask yourself, if you continue to do what you are doing now, what results do you think will you get? If the answer is satisfactory to you, then you continue what you are doing. If not, then you know you need to change something.

Do not journey alone, be humble and interrupt your pattern are three essential factors you need to achieve an abundant life.

Pain and Pleasure

Best-selling author Tony Robbins once wrote that the force that continuously compel us to do what we do is either out of the need to avoid PAIN or our desire to gain PLEASURE. With this, each one of us is capable of making change instantly.

Maybe you are already suffering from diabetes, obesity or any medical condition yet you still eat rice, lechon or any food that is detrimental to you. Maybe you have experienced financial loss yet you seem to be doing the same things that made you a loser. Maybe you have a kid and you know that demand for money will increase as he will be going to school soon, but still you can’t seem to force yourself in looking for ways to augment your income.

Why and what is the solution for this?

Why.The reason why these things happen because you allow Pain and Pleasure to use you rather than you using Pain and Pleasure to control your life. If you want to take control of your life, you have to understand this. If not, you will be in reactionary mode for the rest of your life. What are the signs? If procrastination is your favorite pastime. Procrastination is you know what you are going to do yet you don’t do it. Why not? Because doing it now is more painful than putting it off.

Take smoking for example. If you are a smoker, you know that smoking is bad for your health. Isn’t the graphic on the pack enough to tell you that it is BAAADD for your health? Isn’t it enough to tell what smoking can lead you to? Instead, they rationalize their habit: it makes them more creative, it calms them, it makes them cool,.. maybe these are true. But the real, undeniable truth is you will suffer from lung cancer or any pulmonary disease. Smokers know this already. The reason they still don’t stop because they haven’t experienced it yet. They wait for it until they feel putting it off becomes more painful.

What. You use pain and pleasure to shape your destiny. You need to link images or thoughts to pain and pleasure to fuel change. What do I mean?

I am overweight by about 30 pounds. My problem is I love to eat. I have not just sweet tooth but sweet teeth. I love cakes, muffins. My favorite is Krispy Kreme and Max’s fried chicken with rice. Mentioning them already makes my stomach hungry. Just yesterday I ate two original glazed doughnuts. Can’t resist. Ok so how will I lose the excess weight?

This is my plan. Everytime I see rice, cakes, fried food, I will link images of pain such as the pain of not fitting into that slim fit jeans I have been wanting to wear, the pain of not able to run around and play with my boy in the park, the pain of not living long enough to see my boy grow up and become the successful person we have always wanted him to be. I will zero in on these images in my mind instead of focusing on the short term pleasure I will get from eating.

In my plan, I will be using pain as my friend versus the pleasure I get from eating. Because the force is stronger when the food is already in front of you, it would greatly help to ask for support from the people around you. In our household, I already asked our cook not to cook rice and prepare as much as possible vegetables and soup. Get an Accountability Partner. It’s hard to go to the gym alone. The Accountability Partner is your gym buddy. You go to the gym together. With your partner, going to the gym is not hard anymore.

We all have dreams in our hearts. Take time to know what they are and have the courage to pursue them. Take control of your life. Reorganize your life if you need to. Ask God for help and He will be sending a throng of angels to you.

God never fails.

Discovering and Recovering your Creative Self

There is an artist in all of us. I met a lot of people in the corporate world who wished they could pursue their artistic inclination like painting, acting, making music and dancing, but don’t know where to start because they are stuck in a vicious cycle. These people are rich and empty as well.

I am in a process of recovering my creative self and I would like to share with you how it is working for me so far.

Twenty five years ago, I was searching for my identity. I was already a CPA back then, and working in one of the prestigious Auditing firms in the country. But something was missing. I was not creating. I remember during my childhood days, I love drawing and doing artworks. I used to win poster making contests in the schools I attended. It was not big a deal but I remember every time I draw or paint, I felt so aligned with the cosmos.

So I took up Advertising Arts at UST to pursue my dream as an artist. Aside from dreaming to be a painter and a designer, I also wanted to be a writer. One of the first books I bought, which was recommended by my brother Rommel was the Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. It’s a book about discovering and recovering your creative self. It is also a 12 week program that gives you specific activities every week. It has helped thousands of people who became novelists, painters, scriptwriters and more. I can’t remember anymore if I finished the program but I remember that I started writing my Morning Pages. Morning Pages is a 3 page of non stop, no editing writing. Whatever comes to your mind you write it. For a time I religiously did my Morning Pages, filling out notebook after notebook after notebook. Then I stopped. Got busy with work and with a lot of things. The dream of becoming an artist and a writer got lost in the daily grind.

Two weeks ago, I attended a Writing Workshop organized by the people of Kerygma Books. It was their first time to organize such an event. Thank God for that. One of the speakers, Karren Renz Seña, author of the Lost Chronicles of Eden: Champions, recommended that we should do the Morning Pages.

So here I am, after 25 years, bought the book again and restarted my Morning Pages. And what a joy it has been to write and allow those thoughts to flow freely into my notebook.

This week is about recovering a sense of safety. One of the activities I need to do is to list down old enemies of my creative self-worth, people who served as building blocks, people who gave negative beliefs that I am not a good artist. You know what, I can’t think of any. Thank God no one really told me I was a bad artist or a bad writer. A lot of people told me I’m a bad photographer but that’s another story. But for visual arts and writing, nobody. If you happen to have people who bombard you with negative beliefs, just remember those are just their beliefs, not facts. In your pursuit of discovering or recovering your creative self, you should PURSUE PROGRESS NOT PERFECTION. Julia Cameron suggests that we should be willing to be bad artists, and with constant progress, someday we will become great.

In my case, I was blessed not to have old enemies. So what was my building block. My building block was myself. I did not believe in myself enough. I needed affirmations.

Another activity that I need to do is to look and write AFFIRMATIONS. I have a little reminder in my desk that I read everyday. One of the statements I wrote is that I always believe I am a great artist. Lately, I took out the first plate I did during my Advertising days and it wasn’t bad for a beginner. By the way, I got a grade of 1.0 for this plate. I suggest you write down your affirmations and post it somewhere that you can read everyday.

If you have a dilemma like mine, surround yourself with affirmations. This plate of mine is placed on top of my home desk to remind me that I am capable of doing creative work. If I did it before, I can certainly do it again.

The last thing I want to share with you today and the most important is MAKE TIME. If you don’t make time, nothing happens. Your life will be full of what-ifs and could have beens. Stop making excuses. J.K. Rowling wrote the Harry Potter series when she was rearing a child single-handedly, living on food stamps and with no support at all. I now allot three hours of my time, every morning in doing the things I need to do to become a good artist.

Now is the time to discover the artist in you. If you have dabbled into arts before like me and somehow lost it, no matter what age or state you are in, it is not too late to recover it.

Paradigm Shift

The great thinker Stephen Covey once said, “If you want to make minor, incremental changes and improvements, work on practices, behavior or attitude. But if you want to make significant, quantum improvement, work on paradigms.”

A paradigm means perception, theory, or a lens how you view the world.

You are in your world because that is how you view the world.

If you believe life can be richer, abundant, and amazingly incredible, you will experience life exactly what you believe. If you believe life cannot anymore be better, you will live in mediocrity for the rest of your life.

As much as possible I veer away from talking politics here in OBT because that is not my realm.  I always look at the positive side of things and try to capture the purpose why words were said.  We all know that President Duterte has been in the news because of his remarks about ‘a stupid god’.  Why did he say that?  What was his purpose?

Allow me to give my honest opinion.

We all know President Duterte is not good in words.  He can say bad words in front of the public and doesn’t really mind.  Don’t listen to the words but try to understand in between words.  His image is a tough guy, not a good guy.  He is capable of making drastic changes.  But I do believe he will do everything to make the lives of the Filipinos better.

Having said that, so what was the reason behind his remarks?

I believe the reason behind his remarks was he wanted to change most of the Filipinos paradigm.  Many Filipinos live in poverty because they believe God wants them to suffer.  Many Filipinos misinterpret the image of Jesus Christ on the cross as a message that to follow Christ we too should suffer and live in poverty.

You can’t really do much on a person who has locked his paradigm on poverty.  Even if you give him all the opportunities and resources, he will still go back and continue to live in poverty.

I know this because that was how I used to believe.  I used to believe that I don’t deserve the good life because of my sins.  I used to believe that God is angry at me because at times I was lazy, I didn’t do well in school, etc.  I used to beat myself for the sins I committed.  Because of my twisted belief, my life back then was gloomy, dark and poor.

I totally misunderstood the Catholic faith.  Thank God I kept on searching for the truth.

When I started to understand that our God is a loving God and whatever I do He still loves me, that changed my life.  Now I work hard because I want to love more and serve more.  I always pray that He will use me to the hilt in spreading His love.

For those of us who are enjoying the abundance and richness of life, we need to go out of our comfort zone and be a light to those who are still in the dark.

Be Jesus to somebody today.

Simplicity and Happiness

My son likes animals and insects. Among his favorites are horses, elephants, spiders and lizards. Such a wide selection. Whenever we are in a mall, he never misses riding the merry-go-round. He would hug the horse like a long lost friend. Every time we get home from work, the first thing my wife and I do is to play with him. My wife is great at telling stories. Me, I just wrestle the young boy.

Watching my son play reminds me how simple life should be. Advertising everywhere, they all bombard us of things that make our minds think we need those things. It is great to dream big. It is not a sin to buy expensive toys. I have big dreams. I do sometimes buy expensive things. But I believe what we need to ask is, does it contribute to our joy or remove us from what we value most?

After I got married to the woman of my dreams, I knew I have to spend more time with her. I’ve identified my treasure and there is no way I am going to let it go. As a CPA and an IT Professional, I knew I could get a high paying job abroad. But that never became an option for me because that would mean spending less time with my treasure.

After identifying my treasure, I have to be with my treasure because I know that is where happiness is. To be happy – isn’t it that is what we all strive for?

I believe there are two trails – the money trail and the relationship trail. As the head of the family, I know that providing for your family is important. That’s why a lot of parents follow immediately the money trail. They follow it religiously, then they follow and follow until they find themselves too deep into the trail that they cannot turn back and repair a broken relationship trail. To prove a point, how many OFWs have said that they would choose to be with their family than to work abroad?

“Money is important, but it is not everything.” – from the book Raising Heirs by Eleanore Lee Teo

Many people don’t do Cost Benefit Analysis in choosing a career. We normally just see the dollar that we are going to earn, not the time that will be taken away from own family. If it is just a few months, probably that’s ok. But if it means missing a good number of years away from your family, you may want to think about it.

What good does it do if you have all the money you want but have a broken relationship with the ones you love?

I’m an analytical person. I did not follow the money trail. I followed the relationship trail. I just have faith that anywhere I go I can make a living, but there is only one place to have a life and that is with my loving wife.

So the solution is this – I believe it should be you follow the money trail with respect to your relationship trail. What do I mean? You find a way to make money around your treasure. In my case, we started a business, a business that is closest to my wife’s heart – a center for children now known as Trails. In a business, you need to have structure and content to make it viable. At Trails, I take care of the structure, she takes care of the content. In anatomy, I am the bones, she is the flesh. We are yin and yang.

It is not a perfect ride. We have some disagreements. But that is what makes life interesting. Whether we disagree or agree, we are doing it together.

We are at a point we believe we can accomplish anything as long as we are together. With that I’m pretty sure more wealth will follow.

Matthew 6:33 says, seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.

Seek love first and everything will follow.