The Moon Is Never Noticed When The Sun Is Around

“Do not surround yourself with people who are more brilliant than you. If you want to be recognized and shine, join a group where you are actually better than the rest.

Look at the Moon! Do you think people would notice if it appears beside the Sun? That is why it usually appears with the stars at night.”

I remember those words well. It was shared to me (way back in college) by my best friend who was taking Social Science (then) at UP Los Baños. I was visiting him for the weekend, and he repeatedly mentioned these words. Honestly, I thought that his insight made sense.

Note: I always value his insights since we were young. We often fight but I always listen and consider his thoughts (most of the time).

However, this is one of those times when I did not listen to him.

I thought that his advice was quite different from what my mom taught me. My mom would always say to:

“Surround yourself with people who are far better than you. Join groups of brilliant people, who are better than you in a lot of things. And, observe how they do things.

Also, never look for professors who give out grades like he is teaching a room-full of geniuses and flooding his student records with 1.0. Look for those who people say to be terror and who bombards students with challenging requirements.

This is the only way for you to learn and grow.”

In college, I was lucky not to exert effort in looking for people who are far better than I was. All of my classmates were really brilliant. Of course, belonging to BS Business Administration and Accountancy (BAA) student population at UP Diliman gave me the opportunity of witnessing these brilliant people exchanged ideas. And sometimes they will pounce at you if they feel that you are an easy prey.

I remember that I had to make sure that in all my reports, I was always ready by familiarizing myself in all areas just to survive the grilling (a.k.a. question-and-answer) after the presentations. Also, during group discussions prior to reporting, one or two people would always volunteer as a “devil’s advocate”. They will test the group’s answers to the problem statement.

That was how students from the UP College of Business Administration usually handle projects and case studies. And if you don’t keep up with them, you’ll get crushed in the process. So I made sure that I was always on my toes — ready to pounce if the situation called for it. And, my whole college stay was made challenging and filled with learning with these people. 🙂

One thing, however, that always came up during class enlistments was about not getting teachers who are demanding with their class loads and taking electives that are easy to manage. This was understandable because most students in the BAA group were scholars. And because they would like to retain their scholarships, they usually look for teachers who gave easy loads. Some would encourage me to join them. However, my mom’s advice would always enter my mind. Thus, I ventured out of my way and look for subjects (for electives) and professors who I think would challenge me.

I went for Computer Science-related subjects for electives…

I remember bragging to a friend that I got the highest grade in those classes. Even higher than those who are majoring in that degree. But they would always tell me that the grades (2.25 to 2.5) given to me would drag my average down. I told them that was the normal grades in the UP College of Engineering. However, they would just shake their heads, as if telling me that they were just happy with whatever-will-make-me-happy decisions.

Also, during enrollments in my General Education (GE) subjects, I would usually ask around for terror teachers who were fond of “torturing” their students. And I remember lining up at 4 o’clock in the morning just to enlist those subjects (no Computer Registration System in my early years at UP). By the way, this applied to GE subjects only because for major subjects we usually had no option — all of them were “terror” (even if they won’t admit this).

Now, I think that my liking for IT-related subjects helped me became where I am now. I sort of married my knowledge in business and IT, and I would like to think that I am thriving well in this field. For my bent of going after “terror” teachers, I think it helped me became adaptable to people I work with coming from different backgrounds and having different personalities. The experience helped me get a better appreciation on how best to strike a balance, especially if there are conflicting point of views.

Friends, there are two things that I want you take from reading this:

One — In real life, if you want to pursue your dreams, you cannot really choose who your boss will be. People coming in with differing interests (or simply put, difficult people) will most likely confront you. It is best that we do not attempt to avoid them because we cannot. What is really important is you know where you are standing and you open your mind to their expectations. Let them know your concerns but always bear in mind that at the end of everything, their say matters. You can opt to get out, but please not outright without putting a good fight (or at least trying). This can and will be your best teacher. As my previous boss would say, it is part of your character-building process.

Two — Do not aim to shine. Aim to learn. Recognition will follow once you become better, if not the best, in your respective fields. Do this by surrounding yourself with people who loves to challenge themselves. They can actually motivate you and help you hasten your journey towards realizing your dreams. So do not avoid brilliant people but look for them. You can do this by joining organizations that works on improving leadership skills, say Toastmasters International or Junior Chamber International.

I do hope that this article can and will help you.


PS1: Featured image is taken from 

PS2: Try these great selection of self-help books. Unless you look for good tools to help you and just simply rely on yourself, then you might find it hard to work on your dreams.

How My Daughter Can Remember Me

Two weeks ago, I had this crazy issue about sharing my thoughts in this blog. I felt that there is no real reason why I should continue writing. The feeling stirred my emotions, and I was so demotivated to write anything. So I made that decision to take a temporary respite in writing.

Last weekend, I went to Davao to attend the 2016 Toastmasters Mid-year Convention. I extended my stay until Monday to tag along with my toastmaster friends who made plans to enjoy another day in Davao and Samal Island. It was my first, for the longest time, to actually spend a “vacation leave” on an actual vacation. I had a blast on that one extra day. It was unforgettable — the food, the beach and the time spent with friends.

In all the events that transpired during that weekend, one thing that struck me most, while basking under the sun, was the conversation with a friend. She asked me about my inspiration to come up with two to three articles every week in my blog. I took a long look at what I was doing — the motivational articles I conjure weekly. I wanted to answer in a pageant-like way, and say that “I would like to make a dent in the world with the things that I write”. But it felt unreal.

That question made me think. I recalled that for about a week, I stopped writing. That time I was so down that I couldn’t motivate myself — much more write something to motivate others. I decided to go back to the original reason why I started and sustained the blog.

Not so long ago, I once came to this realization that we can never say for how long we are staying in this world. How many years we will be around to hug and enjoy the company of the people we care most. How the years can be uncertain when I will be able to accompany my daughter when she needs it.

So I made that decision to immortalize my thoughts in the articles that I write… This was the reason why I keep on writing after my experiment in understanding a website for an audit engagement.

And that particular realization is the reason why I told myself that I need to go back to writing again, and so I did this week.

In the future, I want Yuni (my daughter) to go back to my blog entries every time she wonders how her Papa (Handy Manny to her when she was much younger) would solve a problem. I want her to go back to my written words every time she feels lost on what decisions to make. To feel my presence even if I am long-time gone. I want a part of me available and ready to give insights on things that might confront her as she leads her life.

It would be impossible for me to cover all areas in her life. And I know that there would be changes between how things are today and how things will be in the future. I know that she will meet so many people who will certainly influence the way she thinks and acts. But I also know that with the thoughts that I am immortalizing in these words, I’ll be with her in all that she will do.

Friends, a lot of you reading this blog are parents, soon-to-be-parents, or like-parents (or friends) to people you care most. This is what I want all of you to ask yourself:

“How do you want your children (or people you care) to remember you? Or, how do you want yourself to be part of their lives?”

We all have our ways of showing our love for them — raising them well, spending quality time or providing their material needs. Mine includes immortalizing my thoughts in these words.

I know that I am not a perfect father or friend (which is true for many of us).

As one recent Facebook post that appeared in my news feed emphasized — we make mistakes, we are not perfect, and we don’t always give them (the people we care) their way. However, we should always do our best to show them that we love them. Be that in a simple act of preparing their meals, writing them love notes, or supporting them in whatever they want to pursue.

We can never know what will happen to us tomorrow or in the years to come. Remember, each day is just a borrowed time. Spend it with the people you care making sure that you prepare them for whatever life will unfold.

Another thing that I want you all to take from this entry is this:

As you pursue your personal projects or life-goals, challenges would beset you. These could actually hurt you and make you hesitate. I want you to always go back to why you are doing that project in the first place. Always go back to that. I’m sure that it will help you see clearer beyond what you’re going through.

It will help keep you moving forward.


PS: Try these great selection of self-help books. Unless you look for good tools to help you and just simply rely on yourself, then you might find it hard to work on your dreams.

Always Aim For The Top

“Never settle for rank 2 or 3! Otherwise, you will find yourself in ranks 4, 5 or worse at the bottom!

Always aim for the top!”

I first heard these lines from my High School Principal — Mrs. Lourdes Bartolabac — during our first flag ceremony when I entered high school. I would never forget these words. And I thought that it made sense. So I took it by heart. And, it served as my rallying mantra through high school, and even until now.

I remember that when I was in elementary, our class adviser in Grade 5 wrote in the board our class ranking from top 1 to 50. Twenty-fourth in the class, that was my rank.  I was cool with it because my best friend ranked 30th. So I told myself that I was more brilliant than he was since I was six notches above him. (Now, he is a lawyer!)

I thought then that what I was able to achieve was all I could give. Until I heard the pep talk of our high school principal. And, it gave me a realization that I would treasure my whole life — to never settle for JUST OKAY or mediocrity.

So in my first year of high school, I aimed for (and worked to be) number 1. When the first quarter ranking was announced, I couldn’t believe what I saw — I ranked 5th in my class. I outranked most of my high school classmates (who mostly were my elementary classmates). I think my classmates couldn’t also believe what they saw! Some were in wide smiles and some jaws were dropping. Among the names listed in the board, mine got the loudest applause from my classmates.

When I broke the news to my mom, she just gave me that do-not-pull-that-trick-on-me look. Her reaction was of course understandable. The last time I brought home an award was when I was 5th honor in Grade 1, which was not even in the star section. So telling her that I ranked 5th in the star section in the famous high school in the entire province was probably quite shocking. So when I was finally able to convince her, she just hugged me and gave me her widest smile.

My first year high school ended with me ranking 5th in all quarters.

When I reached my second year high school, I told myself that I could probably stretch myself some more. So I once again aimed for the top honor using the rallying mantra given by our high school principal. This time, I ranked 2nd in all quarters. I finally convinced myself that there is no limit to what you could do as long as you always set a high standard. So, once again, I told myself that I will push myself. I finally ranked 1st honor in the star section for all quarters in my 3rd and 4th years. Then I went to the University of the Philippines in Diliman to pursue Accountancy.

Friends, this is what I want all of you to take from this.

You all want to reach you dreams — becoming the best athlete, champion table topic speaker or hitting big in stock market –, then you should NEVER SETTLE FOR MEDIOCRITY.

Where you are right now is the result of your dreams and actions taken in the past. You might feel that there is a huge gap between your current status and where you want to be. That is okay. Don’t let the gap scare you — however, how wide it is. Always bear in mind that you can always reduce that gap as long as you set a better standard in all that you do. And the most important thing that you should never forget is you should complement your standards with actions.

Let me end this with these words from Les Brown for all of you to ponder:

“Most people fail in life not because they aim too high and miss, but because they aim too low and hit.”

PS1: Featured photo was taken by Hannah Kirei Duran

PS2: Try these great selection of self-help books. Unless you look for good tools to help you and just simply rely on yourself, then you might find it hard to work on your dreams.

Material Things Don’t Really Matter

“In the eyes of a child, LOVE is spelled as T-I-M-E.”

This is part of my usual spiel every time I was assigned as a timer in a toastmaster’s club meeting. But in all those years where I was mentioning this, I failed to realize the true meaning behind these words. And, I learned my lesson the hard way.

As part of my daddy duties, I see to it that when my daughter wakes up, she would feel my presence before she fixes herself for school. I would prepare her breakfast, her lunch and her snacks. I would also ready her vitamins so that she won’t forget taking these.

My problem is when I have dragon boat training.

In a week, I target to attend three dragon boat and three boxing training sessions (alternately). I don’t have problems with boxing because the gym opens at 6 o’clock in the morning. My problem was dragon boat because the call time is at 4:30 am. I need to be there before then, while my daughter usually wakes up at 4:30 am!

To prepare my daughter’s meals, I would wake up at around 2 o’clock. Leave my condo at 3:45. And be at the dock site by 4:30 am. It is never in my nature to be late, so I need to be there before the call time. And that brought me back to my dilemma — I want my daughter to feel my presence when she wakes up.

Then, Sarah Geronimo’s movie came to my mind — You Changed My Life. I realized that I could use love notes. I could use this to let my daughter feel my love and presence.

So every morning, after cooking, doing the laundry and cleaning the kitchen, I would write love notes to my daughter. I would insert the note in her lunch box for her to read. Then, once I arrived at the dock site, I would call her by 4:30 am to make sure that she is awake. And I would give her instructions and pep talk to keep her day going.

I always do this on days when I need to leave the condo before she wakes up.

Also, on weekends, I make sure that I make time to bring her to her soccer training. I cheer her during tournaments. I find time every night to talk with her about her day.

And this is what I realized…

These simple routines make her happier than receiving material things from me — which she often doesn’t like wearing/using.

Friends, here is what I would like all of you to take from this.

We all have relationships — parent/child, romantic, or what-have-you. And sometimes, we would feel that time is not that important compared to providing material things. We would sometimes feel that providing merely material things is more than enough to make people we love happy. Actually, it is not. More than the money, it is the time and quality of our relationship (and many more) with the people we care that matter most.

One thing also that we need to realize is that time is valuable, NOT JUST TO YOUR KIDS. Time is also LOVE to your other relationships — friends and family. Spend quality time with them.

As one person emphasized to me — there are areas/factors that are more important than material things.

Let us take care of our relationships. Make the people we care feel important — whether in doing small things like love notes, watching Internet movies with them or taking them on a date.

Let me end this with these words from Mary Kay Ash:

“No matter how busy you are, you must take time to make the other person feel important.”

How To Make Customers Happy?

Excellence in Everything We Do…

Quality Uncontained…

Customer First…

These are the typical taglines of many companies. And if we take a sincere look behind these words, these simply imply making customers happy. A lot of our business pundits believe that making customers happy will help the companies rake in profits. Which, of course, makes sense.

About two weeks ago, I had a chat with a friend. There was a new management in her workplace. The whole company was re-structured. Some heads rolled — from top to bottom. Some of the affected were more than 20 years already with the company. Some of them who were let go felt they were not reasonably compensated with their severance pay. Benefits for those who remained were reduced but none would dare approach the labor department for fear of permanently losing their jobs.

I’ve been an auditor for more than twelve years now. And, one of the thing that I usually look into is what we call as “corporate governance”. This is a wide area that covers all corners of a corporate-dom that sets the tone at the top. One glaring condition that I noticed, in many companies that I’ve touched as an auditor when looking at governance, is that most of them fail to see what really is the main enabler that will help materialize their taglines.

That… is the employees.

Before they can make their customers happy, they need to make sure that the front-liners or the one interacting with the customers are also happy. They are the face of the company. If these employees cuss, frown or intentionally delays a service to a customer, that will reflect to the company as a whole. Therefore, the front-line employees need to be happy so that they can make the customers happy.

I guess, however, a lot know about this already. That is why marketing people have usually better compensation and benefits than the rest in the company.

What I really think most companies neglect are the personnel behind these front-liners.

A lot fail to see that the employees affecting these front-liners should also be happy. Because if the support staff are not happy, then they would support poorly the front-liners.

Like an IT support staff who services the desktops or administer the system…

The Human Resource Analyst who processes the salary of the front-liners…

Or, the Procurement Officer who acquire their office supplies…

Any delay or poor quality of service from their end will negatively affect the front-liners — emotionally or not. Conversely, that effect could trickle down to the customers. Which could stretch negatively to the company’s financial bottom-line. Therefore, again, the support staff should be happy as well.

In short, companies should aspire to make ALL EMPLOYEES HAPPY.

That, nonetheless, is never the case.

That is what many companies fail to do when…

…they don’t assure their employees tenure of service

…they fail to recognize and reward good employee performance

…they rule with fear and threaten employees with pink slips

And so many other acts that degrade the financial, emotional and physical well-being of their employees.

Now, I am talking here to our employers… to the top honchos… to those who rant about their company’s battle cries…

You have to prioritize the welfare of ALL your employees. Strive to make them happy by giving them fair share of the company income, recognizing their performance, and acknowledging their contribution to the company — to name some. Simply put, take care of your employees.

Let me end this by these words:

“Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.”

-Richard Branson

(English businessman who founded the Virgin Group which is composed of more than 400 companies)

You Are Your Only Limit

I have a dream of someday getting myself published.

As a book-person, getting published is one of my life-milestones that I am hoping to reach. I want to see my name displayed in bookstores together with, at least, other local authors. Meeting people in my own book-signing events. I want my words and stories reaching a lot of people and inspiring them.

I am looking forward for this to happen. And, I am claiming it.

Several years ago, I got an invitation to write books — all instructional. The problem, however, was my insecurities when it comes to English. In my blog entry “Action – the distance between your Plans and your Reality“, I shared that English was my Waterloo. And still is. For the longest time, this insecurity hounded me, and was stopping me to start anything to realize that dream of getting published.

In one conversation several months back, a friend suggested that I reduce my insights into written articles. She said that I was good with giving insightful advice because of the richness of my experience. She suggested that I could actually reduce these into articles. I was, however, afraid to start so I dismissed her suggestion.

The dream was shelved again…

Around July this year, I was notified that I need to audit the Marketing section of our company. In that department, what they do was maintain the company website and drive traffic to the site. I thought that auditing that area without getting a good picture of how they do things would not do justice to my project. So I decided to create my own site. I had no idea what to place in the site, so I just typed whatever thoughts I had in my head. In a span of an hour, I was able to come up with my first three articles.

Suddenly my issue with English came to mind. For a moment, I wanted to shelve the idea. Then, it dawned on me that I can reach to others to help me with my concerns. So I tapped the most helpful colleague who gamely agreed to check my articles.

She told me that the three articles are good, and she suggested that I proceed in creating the site. Of course, I had no following. So I requested two of my office mates to access this for me to understand the events happening behind the site. After two days, I realized that I had only two visitors. I felt that it was not enough for me to understand what our Marketing does. I told myself that for me to really understand what I need to look into, I need to get a bigger traffic. So I took risk and shared my third article thru Social Media.

Now, I couldn’t believe that there are people who would actually read what I wrote. I was amazed when I observed that from two unique visitors, it actually grew to more than 500 unique visitors and 1,000 views (in just three weeks).

(By the way, thank you for the personal messages. You all know who you are.)

Today, my experiment is now converted into a habit. I come up with two to three articles a week and share these thru Social Media. From how I see it, I know that I am still far from reaching that milestone of becoming an author. I believe, however, that by regularly writing, I am inching my way nearer that goal.

Looking at everything that happened, I would say that I took a risk when I decided to go beyond (what I thought to be) my limit — writing in English. Now it is flattering to know that there are people who are actually reading and getting inspired by what I share. Some articles are even getting more than 150 views in just a day.

Friends, this is what I want all of you to think and consider — THERE IS NO LIMIT TO WHAT YOU CAN DO.

We can all become what we want — say a successful fund manager, famous trainer or win big in stock market. You can be anything. Just claim it, be open to learning and work on it. What is important is that in your journey you don’t limit yourself (with your own self-biases).

Yes, we have our weaknesses, but don’t hesitate to reach out to others. I’m pretty sure that we can find potential mentors who can and will gamely help us take on our issues.

Just to put emphasis, there is actually no limit. It is all in your mind. You just need to start to inch your way to your goals.

Stretch Yourself…

To stretch or not to stretch…

I am a nerd. Aside from exercising my brain, I also exercise my body. I am now a firm believer of exercising after getting the results of my annual physical exam. LOL.

…I do dragon boat three times a week.

…I also box three times a week.

…I plank for four minutes and eighteen seconds straight daily.

…I also run for 20 minutes a day.

This whole routine started about a month ago (except for planking and running which I started more than three months ago). If you would want to know if it was easy, I’ll honestly answer that it was not. It was hard starting this routine. But believe me that it is all worth it, and these activities sort of complement each other.

I vividly can recall my experience with planking.

It was given to me by Wanna to push me to lose weight — the 28-day challenge she got from Social Media. I was hesitant at the outset. I, however, told myself that I had nothing to lose but the opportunity to be healthy if I wouldn’t try. So I gamely obliged.

The first day was fine — 20 seconds. The second day was good as well — another 20 seconds. The next was still okay — 40 seconds. Not until I realized that it rapidly stretched the time to 60… 90… 120… up to 240 seconds by the end of 28 days. There was a rest interval of one day every after 5 days. The pain, nonetheless, was real and agonizing every time it stretches.

I dreaded the day in the challenge where I know that the time would start to increase again. You see, the challenge will  let you start with several seconds but after a day or two, it will stretch you by increasing the time between 50% and 100%. Stretching myself was really hard. But I somehow sort of able to get the technique – I had to distract my mind.

I would think of anything that would take my mind away from the physical pain that I was experiencing. I distracted myself by thinking of happy thoughts (yes, like in Peter Pan). Sometimes I counted from 1 to 100 instead, then back again from 1. Sometimes I would think of the plans for the day — say lunch meetings. There were times where I sang a fave song in mind.

Until… the pain was gone.

Now I do this for four minutes and eighteen seconds straight. My body got so used to this that my day is not complete without doing it. And the result was amazing. Together with my other exercises, I reduced my pants’ size from size 36 to size 31.

Friends, similar in life, we have our aspirations — to become a famous trainer, successful businessman, or a well-loved homemaker. One thing that we need to realize is that for us to realize our dreams, we need to stretch ourselves. If we keep on doing the same tired, non-productive activities repeatedly, then don’t expect that your plight will improve.

You have to stretch yourself by trying things you’ve never done before. Explore doing things that would lead you closer to your aspirations. You may try a cooking class, join legitimate network marketing companies or attend a toastmasters meeting. Just make sure though that all of these are align to your life-goals.

I understand that for many it may be a bit scary and hard. This is because we are not certain with what will come our way with the things we will be doing. Also, it is hard because we will be pressed to do things we are not used to be doing. I am encouraging all of you though to not focus on the hardships and pains that come with it.

If it can help, try distracting yourself. How?

…Look at what is waiting for you at the end of the journey.

…Imagine the effect to your loved ones.

…Or, simply go back to your DEEPEST WHY.

What is important is that you stretch and do something productive (consistently) to realize your dreams.

Again, let me emphasize this… You need to stretch yourself! Test your limit!