Thursday, June 23, 2016

How to be Joyful on Demand

I am generally a happy person, but there are times when I hit rock bottom. This happens when my happiness tank rans out. I saw it coming already mainly because I was away from home (Manila) and away from family (hubby/Mom) and friends. I was having little bouts of depression and was oftentimes sick. The culmination of this was when I got sick early this month mainly due to overfatigue (traveled too much in May). My whole body hurt, I was having palpitations, spaced out and my comprehension was an all time low.

It was bad and I got scared.

I'm normally self-sufficient. My boss never needs to motivate me. I can work in whatever condition. I got scared because if I couldn't get myself to be my normal self, nobody can.  My doctor asked me to take a week off to rest. He said my heart was stable, I was just fatigued. So I just rested, prayed and spent time with my family. I only started to feel better after attending Sunday mass. I prayed that my happiness tank would be refueled so I could pick up from where I left off.

I had the opportunity to attend Chade Meng Tan's class, "Joy on Demand" yesterday. It was very timely for me since I want to learn how I could prevent myself from going too deep into my well ("cave" for men). I have been okay since I went back to work a week ago. I just woke up and things were just okay again. I noticed that I get really cranky when I'm tired, so I guess the week-long rest worked its magic that's why I just woke up and was my normal self again.

I was excited to attend the class because I missed meeting Meng when he was still at Google. Ten years ago when I was new and visiting headquarters I visited his desk to meet him and check out his photos with famous people. I got to see the photos, but Meng wasn't around. I was thrilled to finally meet him after ten years (haha). I also looked forward to learning more about his new book "Joy on Demand: How to Cultivate Joy in Our Fast Paced Lives".

Johnny and me with Chade Meng Tan.

Meng taught us some meditation exercises that would help bring joy. It was short practical exercises that helped us relax and bring joy to the surface. He said that "joy" is just always there, we just need to allow ourselves to feel it. He differentiated between sustainable joy and instant joy. Sustainable joy is where you are just simply at a blissful state all the time, instant joy is more like when you are ecstatically happy. He taught us how in three breathes you can bring up joy. The secret is to be relaxed, be grateful and to wish others to be joyful. It worked so well for me and by end of the day my cheeks hurt from smiling too much!

Me fan-girling haha. 

I have been wishing 2 people to be joyful every hour all day today. I have been so joyful I feel like bouncing around (or it may be from the Starbucks white chocolate mocha I'm having right now). I realized yesterday though what brought me back from the other side. It was my family. I remember while I was resting one afternoon that I thought about being grateful for finally having my family complete with me in Singapore. I took a nap after that and I felt much better after I woke up.

Meng's Pinoys fan club, Johnny, me and Cathy. (Photo from Johnny's camera)

Meng said that being contented doesn't mean you are settling on something, but you should look at being contented as being grateful. And wishing others to be joyful as well helps a lot because it is a sincere way of giving. Giving is always a good thing because it leads to being selfless.

My homework is to read the whole book so that my happiness tank never runs out.

*Banana - did some research and banana actually helps raise potassium which helps raise ones energy level

Monday, June 20, 2016

Firestarter Venom

There were two movies I watched when I was a child that have scarred me forever -- "Firestarter" (the one Drew Barrymore starred in) and "Venom".

Up to this day my hands shake whenever I need to light a match and I could never start the gas stove here in Singapore (I use an induction stove here and an electric stove in Manila and I starve whenever there's no electricity). It did not help that our gas stove when I was a kid used to spew out fire every so often whenever someone was cooking (I have since replaced my Mom's stove back home). I stay away from sparks and fire mainly because of the movie "Firestarter". Maybe I should watch the movie again and get a better perspective of the film since the only thing I recall about the movie now is Drew Barrymore blowing up stuff because she could start a fire just by squinting. Hmmm... or maybe I could just ask my Kuya to heal me from the trauma.

I mentioned in a previous post that I'm also scared of snakes. I know now that they will only attack you when provoked (thanks to NatGeo channel) and that expert handlers can pick up venomous snakes with ease. The movie "Venom" though featured a snake (a black mamba) that would attack anyone on its path. I watched the movie at an impressionable age (I must have been six or seven) and the image of the black mamba slithering through walls waiting to attack anyone has been stuck on my mind eversince. I'm okay with other reptiles, but snakes just simply give me the creeps mainly because of that movie. I read some comments about the film though and it mentioned that it had veered away from the book. Ahhh, maybe I should read the book to better understand the movie. Anyway, I'm sure a lot of you have not watched the film, check out this short trailer I found on YouTube.

Now I realize why my sister insisted on censoring what I would watch since my Mom just let me watch whatever I wanted back then haha. I still haven't watched "Basic Instinct"! Gaah!

What about you? Did you watch any films when you were young that left a big impression on you? Traumatized you? Shaped who you are now? On the fun side other unforgettable films I watched when I was a kid were "ET" "Back to the Future" "Star Wars" and "Dead Poets Society". Ahhh probably why I'm so geeky LOL.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Adventure Down Under: Of Kangaroos and Koalas

Two of the channels I always watch are NatGeo and Discovery Channel especially when I travel. I particularly like watching shows about animals, the ocean and anything related to archaeology/anthropology. I guess it's because once upon a time I had planned to take anthropology in university, so I sate my hunger for knowledge by watching these two channels.

So I absolutely had to see a koala up close. And a kangaroo. I know there are a lot of sharks, snakes, crocodiles (and other animals) in Australia, but my priority was to see these two cute animals. We didn't have time to go to the big zoo so we ended up at the small zoo in Darling Harbour.

Strangely enough I got to see a lot of venomous snakes first before I got to see the very cute sleepy koalas and kangaroos. I only got close to the snakes because they were in an enclosed glass case. Good thing though most of them were asleep since I have this vague memory that someone told me that a snake takes a snapshot of you through their eyes if you kill them and another snake would take revenge on you when they find you (I seriously do not know if this is true or not). I'm really scared of snakes because I watched the movie "Venom" when I was a kid and to this day I can't forget the image of the snake slithering through a home killing everyone on its path (watch this to get an idea). The snakes in the zoo though sported very colorful skins.

I rushed through the other animals because I wanted to get to the koala and kangaroo. We got lucky though because we chanced upon the kangaroo show. We managed to get in and get close to the kangaroo. One of them was very friendly and allowed visitors to pet it, but one was very wary of people. I just kept a safe distance since I just wanted to take a photo. Here's one of your best friends Pooh!

I was a bit sad when I finally saw some koalas. They were all asleep and lethargic (must be because it was winter), but the koala show was still open near the zoo cafe and I finally got to appreciate seeing them move. Their claws are bigger though in real life and I saw a koala claw back scratcher at the market (scary big claws!).

One thing I like about zoos is you can capture the personality of the animals when you take their photo. Here are some interesting photos I took:

Love birds in love.

What are you looking at? Hmmm?

Pretty butterfly hiding under a leaf.

Ribbit ribbit.

Yup I can turn my head this way. Can you?

Wrestling match.

Is this pose fine with you?

We're sleeping all day everyday.

Still a lot to learn about these animals, but maybe next time I'll be able to go to the bigger zoo.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Adventure Down Under: Sydney

Way back in the late 90s my Tita Chu invited me to come visit Australia. I managed to get a visa but didn't have enough funds to pay for a ticket (huhu!). It took more than 15 years for me to and mainly because I had work to do (sorry I'm such a tightwad!). I was worried about leaving my son at home alone so I immediately checked if I could get cheap tickets so I could bring him with me. We got lucky since I managed to get promo tickets for Miguel and Sweetie!

So off we went Down Under on a red-eye flight. Seven and a half hours later we arrived in Sydney and ended up eating at McDonald's at the airport. The first thing we learned? Water and taxis are very expensive in Australia. You could actually drink from the tap but unfamiliar water is one thing that makes me sick so I always drink boiled water (some bottled water makes me sick too boo). The first thing we did when we arrived at the hotel was take a shower and sleep.

In the evening we met up with Tita Chu and Uncle Robert at a nearby restaurant. We had a real treat eating seafood buffet. It was a good thing we decided to walk back to the hotel. I walk very slow so it took us about an hour to reach the hotel. It was a good long walk since we were able to familiarize ourselves with the area.

The next day we met up with Tita Chu at the pier and went on the Captain Cook's Sydney Harbour Story Cruise. It was a two hour ride across the harbour. We got to see the Sydney Opera House, the Harbour Bridge and the different nooks and crannies locals go to (there was even a nude beach!). It was an awesome experience to see the area. We were also lucky because the sun hid for awhile so it wasn't too hot to be on the open deck. It was such a beautiful day to be with family.

In the evening we had a very different experience. Tita Chu brought us to the Mercedes Benz Fashion Show. It was our first time to attend a fashion show. It was fun to see new trends in fashion. 

The next day we had an awesome gastronomic experience at the Sydney Fish Market with Sweetie's cousin James. We had a wide array of seafood. Fresh. Juicy. Crispy. The scallops were unbelievably huge! Bondat from lunch we headed to the Market to buy some stuff. 

So that was our first three days in Sydney. 

Monday, April 11, 2016

How Do You Shape Your Career?

[Good reading for fresh grads and those who want to change their career!]

I checked my LinkedIn profile rarely. I know it's a treasure trove for networking, but I have managed to get by building communities and getting more people to use technology through offline means (since the purpose of what I do is to get more people to use technology). I also rarely read email notifications from social media sites, but one email caught my eye. It was from an educator/musician from Sydney and he was asking for advise on how to improve his career. He also mentioned that it would really be an achievement if he'd be able to join the company I'm working for.

It took me a few days to respond to him since I had to think about how I managed to land the job I have now. I never planned to work for a global company. I always thought I'd spend my whole career in the Philippines. There was one thing I did that helped me shape my career: I purposely picked up many different skills since I was a student. And here's I picked up skills along the way:

Organizing and Being Focused. I learned this from my Mom. When I was about four years old my parents and our neighbors worked on building a new and bigger Parish church. They had most of their meetings at our house and being the baby of the neighborhood I always sat with them. My Mom always thinks ahead and lists down everything that needs to be down. I learned the 5Ps from her -- proper planning prevents poor performance.

Communications and Writing. I realized when I was in high school that I was a very bad writer. I started writing when I was just 8 years old and when I read my diary I realized I was a really bad writer. I joined the writing club and eventually our university's literary publication to improve my writing skills. I wasn't as good as my friends and I still feel awkward with my compositions until today, but I improved. I could write in both English and Filipino and the skills makes it easy for me to write reports, blog posts at work. The skill has helped me put together appropriate stories for my audience (especially during reviews).

Sales and Distribution. My first corporate job was at a telco and our team was tasked to break in new products in our sales channels. I learned to pitch, close sales and maintain relationships with frontliners to purchasing to executives. I'm not very good at selling and getting a no from a client always breaks my heart, but it helped me have better interpersonal skills and presentation skills. From this job I learned also how to strategize breaking in new products.

Production and Being Entrepreneurial. When I left the telco I worked on completing my MBA. My parents then decided to start a business on manufacturing stone crafted furniture. I had to learn to do costing, purchasing, production, managing workers, banking and finance etc. It was very hard to be an entrepreneur and at that time the export market was very hard to crack. I learned a lot about production processes since we were in manufacturing. The key skills I got from this stint was costing, budgeting and creating forecasts.

Marketing. Aside from production work, I was in-charge as well of marketing our items. This was back in early 2000s so digital marketing was just starting back then. Aside from offline brochures, I learned how to create a website and I explored the many online directories. It's so effective that we still get calls until today even if we closed shop more than a decade ago already. During this time I realized that I had a huge interested in the online world and I wanted to become a product manager.

Product Management. Since my son was growing up fast and generating furniture and houseware was hard I decided to try my luck and find work. I almost worked for a high-end furniture shop, but I flunked the final interview when I was unexpectedly interviewed by the president of the company. I froze up. Because of that I prepared well for my next interview which was for a startup tech company. I was lucky because they were looking for a product manager for an online directory for exporters. The previous skills I had acquired made it easy for me to strategize how to grow the product locally. It grew so well at some point it was bigger than the local directory. Because of that I was moved to manage the main directory.

Advertising, Research. and Trainings. I was eventually moved to the main company backing up the startup. Since the setup was more corporate I had the chance to pick up more skills. I jumped on the chance to be mentored by Dr. Ned Roberto for Research and I did not shy away from other marketing work that would be assigned to me. I had the chance to work on ads (TV, radio and newspaper). Since I was managing our online and mobile product I had to conduct a lot of trainings across the country. I learned a lot during this time but I unfortunately had a tyrant boss so I decided to leave.

Community Management. My first role at the global company was to be the eyes and ears for my country. I was alone and my mandate changed every quarter. I realized though that there were so many people who wanted to learn, but I don't know everything. I discovered that there are people who are willing to help others learn too. I was never shy to ask for help and help was given by local experts to grow the dev community. Learning this skills has helped me grow many different communities from developers, to entrepreneurs, to students and now educators.

So that's what I told him (this is an expanded version though). In the 2 decades I've been working this is has been my mantra:
1. Pick up as many skills along the way.
2. Never shy away from an opportunity to learn.
3. Be open and flexible.

Friday, April 8, 2016

How I'm Going to Assess Candidates for the 2016 Philippine Elections

The election season is at fever pitch right now in the Philippines and it's just really sad how it divides the country so much. I've decided to keep mum about my thoughts about candidates since there's so much noise already. I've been keeping my usage of social media at a minimum since a lot of the discussion anyway has been based on feelings. We have not reached the point where we vote for a candidate because we assess their platform. We have been voting mainly because of character and gut feel.

There's so much politicking happening at the national and local level it's so hard to weed through the information. There's been a lot of whisperings over rampant corruption where I live. I used to live a few houses away from an elected official and it's not hard to see what's happening. I always wondered why people are so bent on getting a seat in government. Took a look at local budgets and it explains it all. It has to stop and we should stop voting for abusive politicians.

Anyway, my son is going to vote for the very first time in May. I wondered how we could confirm that his registration is valid. I don't have to wonder anymore since our too friendly Congressman has already sent postcards campaigning for himself (so much for data privacy!). So I asked my son how he was planning to select his candidate. He said he didn't know yet, so I thought of sharing how I'm going to assess candidates based on what is important to me as a citizen.

I am assessing candidates based on their job description. The 1987 Philippine Constitution provides a list of qualifications and general job description of the President and Vice President. The President basically has control over the executive branch and he needs to appoint a gazillion people into office with consent of the Commission on Appointment (he has to do a lot of interviews then!), ensure that "laws are faithfully executed", Commander-in-Chief of all armed forces. The president can suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, declare martial law and may contract or guarantee foreign loans with approval of the Monetary Board. The only qualifications provided are: (1) must be a natural born citizen, and (2) should be at least 40 years old (which technically qualifies me to run for office too).

So knowing the job at hand here's how I am going to assess who I'm going to vote for President and Vice President:

1. The candidate must have the skills and network to find the right persons to appoint into office. He should have a good understanding of what these positions need to deliver so he should appoint the right people (and not just get cronies!). I.e, he should not appoint lawyers to run the transport ministry! Good examples of well placed appointees are Secretary Mon Jimenez for Tourism, and Secretary Br. Armin Luistro FSC for Education (they've really done an awesome job!).

2. The candidate must have a good understanding of what our country needs in terms of security. That's security mainly on the national level and my main concern now is China and terrorism. I will leave my personal security to the local officials.

3. Having the right to suspend the writ of habeas corpus and martial law is BIG. I don't want to just disappear into the night (almost happened to my family back during the Marcos years)! So it must be a president who values this right and would not abuse it.

4. Utang! Back when I was small elders would usually joke that babies in the Philippines are born crying because they are already in debt. I would like to have a President who would only contract debt only if it is really needed. This also means he has to hire a really good tax chief who would get companies to pay the right taxes. And get a fierce Ombudsman and Secretary of Budget Management to ensure that all the government money is used correctly.

5. Other things that are important to me: education, science and technology/ICT, crisis management, infrastructure management, transportation, taxes, international relations, but this generally goes back to #1.

The Constitution has provided only very general guidelines. It didn't event mention the economy (unless I missed that in my reading), but one thing that really struck me was the responsibility of the President to appoint the right people to a gazillion positions. Maybe this is something that we should see as part of their plans and not just see their platform. As a program manager, targets and key results are only as good if you have a proper implementation plan. I do a lot of interviews at work, so if you are a candidate and I interview you, do you think you'd pass my standards?

For the local elections, I'll write another post about it =)

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Dealing with Stress the Aileen Way

My doctor said that stress will always be there and I think I've managed to handle it quite well. There are days though when it overshoots the limit. When that happens everything is overwhelming and I become unproductive.

This is what I do:

1. Magpahangin which means get some fresh air. But since we usually have haze in Singapore what it means to me is to run to the nearest Toastbox to get a glass of iced teh c (iced milk tea).

2. Window shopping or go to the grocery. Nothing like getting distracted by retail therapy (this is why I have a weekly allowance to buy 3-5 items at Daiso).

3. TFC/DVD! If reality is a bit of a mess, it helps to get lost in another world and watch other characters get more stressed (it's usually worse than what you are going through anyway).

4. Color your world. I got several coloring books on my last birthday. Or you can bake colorful cake! They're a good stress buster.

5. Be creative! To get my mind off things I quilt. Concentrating on not getting pricked by the needle absolutely helps.