Recently I’ve been struggling in my idea of enjoying work. Work has been non-stop both for my startup and my dayjob, and burnout just seems to be around the corner. I’ve been finding it difficult to enjoy doing my work. And it bothers me, both the struggle from the high demands of my work and my lack of enjoyment in it. The latter bothers me significantly more.

I tried to break down why I’m having the struggle to find the needed enjoyment. I found three things:

  1. I found that doing work is heavy when I feel that I’m working for someone else;
  2. I found that work limits my creative goals and creative juices when work is itemized;
  3. I found that work is drudging when I am doing it only for work’s sake: To deliver.

And from identifying theses causes to my problem, I tried to find how I usually enjoy my work.  And this is what I found out: I believe that work should be enjoyable, that work should be creative, that work should fulfill my purpose. And this can be done by going back to basking in the fundamentals of my work, namely:

  1. The enjoyment of of building something;
  2. The enjoyment of learning new things;
  3. The enjoyment of solving problems;
  4. The enjoyment of making ideas into reality;
  5. The enjoyment of knowing that my work has a purpose.

From the identification of the problem, to its causes, to how my enjoyment can be attained, I can then work on the steps needed for me to arrive to my goal:

  1. Instead of focusing on the reality that I am working to make my clients happy, I can focus on how I can pour out my talents and energy to my craft.
  2. Instead of just focusing on the itemized deliverables, I can allocate some of my spare time to attend to my creative goals.
  3. Instead of of focusing on delivering, I can focus on how my work has an end-purpose, and what that end-purpose is, and then working on that end-purpose instead of just remaining on the side of delivering.

In writing this something of great importance came to mind. The words of Paul echo in my ear,
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. 25 For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality.” (Colossians 3:23-25)

 

We are serving the Lord Jesus Christ. And realizing this, not only in my mind but to my heart and my actions, is what brings purpose to my work.

 

And this is where joy is found.

 

 

The 21 Common Sense Business Development Truths are points of business truths coined from the book “Financial Times Guides: Business Development – How to Win Profitable Customers and Clients” by Ian Cooper.

These down-to-earth truths, as Ian has coined, offer much wisdom on how to develop your business, whether you’re just planning to start out or you’re already running in traction.

The 21 truths in it’s entirety are titled as follows:

  1. Focus your efforts on turning your enquiries into business and not just on generating leads.
  2. Exceed customer or client expectations.
  3. Speak to potential customers or clients … and speak to them nicely.
  4. Be open for business.
  5. Don’t let your admin get in the way.
  6. There’s no job more important than helping customers or clients part with their cash!
  7. Don’t let technology get in the way.
  8. Quality and word-of-mouth count for everything.
  9. Actively strive for consistency.
  10. Recruitment is part of business development.
  11. Keep in touch with your existing and past customer and clients.
  12. Master social online media.
  13. Test your ideas, concepts, and prices.
  14. Plan, but keep things simple.
  15. Take complaints seriously,.
  16. Make your customer or client environment appropriate.
  17. Train your people to spot opportunities.
  18. Get out of your office or premises and mix and mingle.
  19. Find a niche and specialise.
  20. Model what works best.
  21. Be squeaky clean – you need to be trusted.

 

Conclusion:

These truths pack a lot of punch. Without getting into the nitty gritty of things (I advise to read the book for details), I will summarize them into five points:

  1. Customers first. Your business exist for your customers. As much as possible, exceed their expectations. Ask their feedback. Take their complaints seriously. Talk to them and build your relationship. Make their life better and easier.
  2. Goals over processes. It is harmful to get short-sighted by focusing on the processes and procedures without thinking long-term and asking the following questions: What is our business here for? What do we value? What are our goals?
  3. Test your ideas, concepts, and prices. “Business is not, as some think, about taking wild risks. It is about making sensible and sound judgments based on information that is usually available. Test as much as you can, so you have as much information as possible. In this way any risks you take are calculated ones, which then ‘stack the odds’ in your favour.”
  4. Model what works, but find a niche and specialize! “If something has been consistently successful in the past, there is a reason for it.” At the same time, it is being different that makes businesses stand out.
  5. Build trust. I’ve built Progressia with zero financial capital, instead I built it all just on the economy of trust. Be clean. Have strong values. Be honest. Be a person of utmost integrity. In the smallest of things, realize that it’s an opportunity to practice your character. And then you will attract people who will want to help you succeed and do business with you.

 

 

Reference: http://wpc.475d.edgecastcdn.net/00475D/uk/Email/FT_Guide_to_buisiness_Viking.pdf

Pain has a weird way of knocking at my door and trying to change me. Her cold, colorless heavy air and her overwhelming, sheer weight would almost always slow down my pace, make me sit on my chair, and force to me my unwanted introspective questions.

My frustrated poetic expressions aside, I would like to think and write about the encounter I had with this one question:

“Is what I’m doing (i.e. starting, building, and running a startup) at this young age worth it?”

I’ve read hundreds of books and videos and I believe there would be people standing on two sides of differing stances:

At one side, there would be people who would discourage what I’m doing with a burning passion. They’d say I’ll miss a part of my life, I can’t enjoy my 20s, I’ll miss knocking opportunities, I’ll be different, probably even hated, I’ll “eat glass”, I won’t be able to enjoy a girlfriend, and so on and so forth.
On the other side would be the people that would say that I’m extremely lucky.

But to answer the question, I think we have to dig deeper than that. It was then I came upon three things that helped me answer this question.

 

Here are three things that I believe sheds light to this question:

Thinking in a wider and higher scope of existence.
Everything happened, happens, and will happen for a reason, or so that’s what my very finite understanding of the sovereignty of God stands to believe. Knowing that I’m only a speck of dust in the Universe brings me considerable comfort. And it brings me great hope of the things that happened, are happening, and will happen.

My dream is no longer my own.
It would be selfish to consider my dream as my dream only and no-one else’s; a dream that I can just throw away when I want to. That would probably be okay if I was still a child, but that is no longer the case. People have joined me in my quest. People who are significantly better than me, who are far more experienced, skillful, and talented. People have already spent their precious irredeemable  time, money, and opportunities because of me. I am no longer alone in this. Of course the weight of this responsibility is not light, but this is also something that I find I could always take great strength from.

Being mindful of the future.
I may not have the ability to peek into the future, but I believe that we have the responsibility to create a better future not for ourselves but for those who will come after us, our children, our grandchildren, our grand-grandchildren.

 

 

So is starting a company while in your 20s worth it?

To those who want to stand up and make a dent in the world: Yes.
To the dreamers and idealists who believe we should dream for everyone’s sake: Yes.
To the futurists who want to pave a better future for our children and grandchildren: Yes.
To those who would sacrifice present happiness for a long-term vision: Yes.
To those who are different: Yes.

To the crazy ones: Yes.

 


 

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Learning To Read

The first time that I read a book from cover to cover was when I was in highschool. Our English teacher assigned us a project of reading a book and then making a review out of it. Being a highschool kid who never had any interest in books, I got myself a random fiction book called “The Twelfth Angel” by Og Mandino. It was a book that told the story of a little American kid who’s into competitive baseball.

And the book taught me the value of “never, never, never, never, never giving up.

A Whole New World

Reading the book was fun and exciting. It was like I was dragged into a whole new world with interesting characters, and where I can think and feel what the characters think and feel at the moment. After two months, I finally finished the book. Man, does it feel good to finish a book from cover to cover! Then my sister showed up. She asked me if she can borrow the book. I agreed. She took the book from me, she read it on her spare time, and then after one week, she was finished.

She finished the book in just a week, while I struggled to complete it in two months.

That was the time when I said to myself, “I have no talent in reading. I hate reading books.

Three Reasons To Read

Everything changed when I got into the later years of my college days. I now consider myself an evangelist of reading. In fact, just last year, I finished reading 41 books within a single year. I’m still a naturally slow reader, but I try to atleast put a portion of my time towards reading.

And here’s why I think you should too. I can probably list tens, or maybe a hundred, but I’m going to give you just three reasons why you should read books:

First, because the world-class guys do it! Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Benjamin Franklin. If I am to name one thing that these guys have in common, it is that they realize the importance of reading. These guys have been reported to be voracious readers and that their reading eventually contributed to their success. If these guys who are already at the top did it, and are still doing it, why aren’t we?

Second, because it’s fun. Books can take you not only to different places, but to different eras and even different worlds as well. Imagine, time travel at the palm of your hands! Who would have thought that I could get to experience being in the Romantic Period of Europe? Or who would have thought that I could learn the childhood years, the aspirations, and the habits of one of the Founding Fathers of America? Books open to you how big the world is.

Third, because it makes you smarter. Studies have shown that reading books improves the following: Concentration skills, creativity, self-awareness, knowledge, empathy, and that’s just to name a few.

Reading As An Investment

The simple act of reading might be one of the best investments that we can make. It improves many aspects of our life, and it improves us as a person and as a society overall.

If you can remember what I just shared earlier, I have no talent in reading. I was born a slow reader. And I just got into reading late into my college years. But I now realize the importance of reading.

And a thing that I also believe is this quote that I found to be true. It’s goes like this:

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.”

People have been asking me how I’m doing so much with my finite time: having a full-time day job, a startup at the sidelines, music and songwriting, a fitness goal, a language goal, reading goals, and this blog to run.

To answer this, I have to be blunt upfront. I’m not the best at time management. On the contrary, I always feel that my time management skills suck big time. I often slack and procrastinate. I become too comfortable and overconfident. But looking at my plate right now, I now think, “Maybe my friends are right. Maybe I am juggling too much things compared to the regular dude next door.”

Firstly, we have to be on the same page. I think we have to consider time to be the most valuable resource, much more valuable than money. Once you spend time on something, you can’t get it back. And another thing is, almost every one of us are given the same exact amount of hours every day, which is amazing. Another thing that I also know is this: That my time is not permanent; I am not permanent. I could die the next day, or probably the next hour. But as Paul wrote to the church of Ephesus, I realize that a better way to see this is this: To make the best use of time, because the days are evil.

So now that we’re on the same page, hopefully, I’ll attempt to deconstruct the principles that I believe I have been following.

Here are the four keys to a better time management.

1. Value-based thinking

At this age, we are constantly barraged by an endless storm of information. But we should ask ourselves a question: Are these information presented to us really valuable, or are these just distractions designed to capture our constantly wandering bored mind? Do you remember that hilarious Facebook cat video that you just discovered? How about that wildly upsetting (fake) news you’ve just read? Or that series that has been eating away your days? Or that gossip about the guy next door that you barely even know?

As Stephen Covey suggested in his classic book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, it helps to begin with the end in mind. Ask yourself this question: “What future do I want?” And if you have already have that end in mind, then ask yourself this second question, “Is this information/activity that I’m going to partake valuable? Is this going to contribute to the future that I want?”

It also helps to learn how to identify value when you see it since different things and activities have different values.

Spend time on the valuable things, and ignore the rest.

2. Invest in yourself

I’ve once read in a book (I forgot which book it was) that described the importance of investing in your self.

Let me illustrate by putting yourself in a different shoe:

Imagine that you are in a competition to take down the most number of trees in a single day. Each competitor is given an axe, and this axe could take down a tree with twelve swings. How would you approach the competition if you want to win at the top? Would you rush hacking down trees with a dozen of swings hoping that you’ll be the fastest? Or would you spend considerable time to sharpen the blade of your axe, just so to make it that trees would fall down the moment you bring down a single swing?

Now, know that you are the axe. You can try to go at life with your current sharpness (skill set, knowledge, experience, etc), or you can spend considerable amount of time to learn, study, and develop your self, considerably delaying gratification for the purpose of future greater rewards.

Investing in yourself does not need to be expensive. You can invest in yourself physically (exercising, having a healthy diet, etc), mentally (reading books, studying, meditating), building skills (hobbies, passions), and spiritually (connecting to The God in the Bible).

3. Distinguish the important and the urgent

One tool that I learned to be really helpful is the Eisenhower Decision Matrix.

Basically it’s a tool (or technique, or system, or whatever you want to call it) designed to filter tasks based on their urgency and their importance. It groups tasks to four quadrants: The Do (important and urgent), The Plan (important but not urgent), The Delegate (not important but urgent), and The Limit (not important and not urgent).

EisenhowerDecisionMatrix11

I will not go in-depth here because explaining this concept has been already been done before thanks to The Art of Manliness.

As what has been quoted, “What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.

4. Aim High

I guess one reason why I’m juggling multiple things is because of the brutal standards that I set to my self. How can I stay comfortable when in my mind I’m competing against multi-talented world-class entrepreneurs? How can I not take risks when the bar has been set by history-renowned polymath individuals? And how can my heart remain peaceful when it has been called for perfection?

 

I hope we realize that time is a gift. And also, that our time is not permanent.

Our time will eventually come to an end.

So let’s use it well.

 


 

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It has been just one month since I had the guts to initiate a startup while still having my day job. One month isn’t much, but it has been a great and exciting ride, especially for a lone wolf who previously preferred to work by himself. With only a month, I already learned a lot of things that I didn’t gain before.

By writing this, it is not in my intention to brag, but rather to share — to blaze a trail of knowledge for those who intend to start theirs. And here are some of what I’ve gained:

A Realization That People Want To Work For Startups

I learned that more people actually want to work for startups, more than what I’ve initially thought.

At first I was hesitant to invite people to join me with my ideas given that I’m kind of a stranger here in Luzon; I’m from a distant unknown land with a formal education that isn’t up to par with theirs. But as I connected with more people, I realized that there is a plentiful of developers who actually want to work for a startup, even if the startup isn’t making any money yet.

I noticed that there’s a great pool of talent that’s just waiting for something to disturb them — probably a plan, an idea, a vision, or a leader.

Connections

Being an introvert, small talk is a thing that I’m not a natural at. But since the dawn of my startup, I became quite proactive in making more connections and in talking to new people. Though our startup is far from being public yet, but because of it, I have this sudden drive to make connections.

Since the startup’s inception, I have gained a lot more connections.

Books Pay Off

It has been said that readers are leaders. Though I can’t quite agree with that, but it is an understatement to say that books shaped me. Years ago, I read book after book, from leadership books, to psychology books, to entrepreneurial ones. I read them in preparation for what I saw to be my possible future. And guess what? I find that I’m reaping the fruits from the books that I’ve read years ago now.

A part of my confidence, leadership skills, foresight, wisdom (or rather an awareness of my great lack of them I would say) came from books.

Hyperactive Mind

It may be just me or I may just be overthinking, but since my startup team was formally formed, I discovered that my mind was more imaginative than it was before. My mind was actively thinking of scenarios, actively preempting future events, actively looking for opportunities, actively forming mental plans, actively imagining.

It may be because of the need of having to steer the wheel of the ship. Or because I now have the burden of trust from my more experienced partners. Or probably because I just want to make the dream live to see its daylight.

One Step Closer To The Future

Another thing that I gained was a step — A step closer to a future that I can see.

Given our human condition, it’s a very depressing activity for me to think of the world’s condition. But when I have a vision for the future, a vision where I can consistently work towards to, a vision where I’m slowly and concretely moving towards to, life becomes a lot less depressing.

The days become exciting.

A Need Of Wisdom

Another thing that I gained was an awareness of my great need of wisdom.

I surely cannot lead my team by my own self. There are too many factors to consider, too many web of possibilities that might happen that I cannot possibly foresee, and the future is just too uncertain. My plans could certainly fail.  Our target may just be fool’s gold. Our efforts could just go down the drain, or could even backfire at us. I could fail miserably hard. And because of this, I realize my need of wisdom.

And where should I start to get wisdom from? Not for me to preach, but I certainly know it only grows from a certain fear.

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”

(Proverbs 9:10)

 

Dear Dreamer,

I dare you to dream.

That sounds quite weird since you’re already a dreamer. But I stand by my point: I dare you to dream.

To dream bigger. Dream higher. Dream stronger.

We live in a country where dreams naturally die. Where idealistic pursuits are deemed as unreachable childish fantasies. Where lofty goals are shot down as unrealistic wastes of time. And when someone tries to pursue these kinds of dreams, we laugh at them. When someone makes progress, we try to shoot them down. We see them as arrogant fools; kids who haven’t had a taste of reality yet. We are a people of by-standing critics.

But Dreamer, I urge you all the more. Dream bigger.

Have a dream that’s bigger than your self. A dream that’s more than about cash. More than Nike shoes. More than cars. More than political power. More than worldwide fame. A dream that’s more than a personal good life. A dream that makes a 4-hour shuteye feel nothing. A dream that makes you want to catch the next sunrise. A dream that makes risk-taking feel like water-drinking. A dream that is more than happy feelings. A dream that is bigger than you.

Dear Dreamer, I’m asking you to dream of a better world. Dream of more opportunities for the less privileged. Dream of an easily accessible high-quality education for everyone. Dream of justice and integrity. Dream of a country that is better than this divided nation that we currently have. Dream of progress amidst this hopeless human condition. Dream for the sake of your loved ones, your sons and grandsons, the poor, the sick, the unloved, the widows, your people, and for this whole broken humankind.

Dear Dreamer, I’d say that this world certainly needs bigger dreams. And these dreams could come from you.

So dream big with me.

Dear Dreamer, I dare you to dream.