Pursuing the Why in Life

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The road to happiness is like this road. You know it’s there, but it vanishes as you approach it.

Recently, I had been listening to this book called “Starting with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action.” It reveals the stories of people who have become great leaders. Their secret: they had a sense of purpose. They asked the question “Why” before anything else. Their life was driven by this question: Why.

By asking the question “Why?”, it became clear what their purpose was in life. He cites great leaders like Martin Luther King who once had a dream to change the American’s society views on race, specifically on African-Americans.

By asking why, the Wright Brothers were able to build an industry that we now call aviation.

By asking why, Steve Jobs challenged the status quo and revolutionized the PC and the mobile phone industry.

Starting with Why crossed paths with another project that I’m doing, which also traverses the questions of why are we doing the things we do. Answer: We’re all in pursuit of happiness. Happiness takes different forms in our lives. But for me, the ultimate form of happiness is being able to emancipate myself from the rat race and pursue passions that would bring joy not only to me but also my family.

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As you look out the window, you often wish you were out there chasing your dream. But reality always kicks in, and you go back to your comfortable office chair and work.

Okay, I’m not here to preach nor offer a silver-bullet to anyone who wishes to be emancipated from their current shackles of the daily grind. To my mind, life is NOT about work. And work does not define you. Money is important but it shouldn’t be the end.

Lately, I realized that the most precious human currency is not money. Guess what? It’s TIME! Time is irreplaceable. Time is not infinite. Time is a limited resource that our creator has granted us on this earth. So why waste it on a pursuit of the wrong forms of happiness.

When we were young, time wasn’t a problem. We procrastinated and we wasted time on mundane activities for quick and satisfying rewards. For us, time was the least important matter. We were out chasing money, thinking that it would buy us more time.

Twenty to forty years later, money would probably be enough to buy us some laughs and satisfaction; a nice and comfortable home; a collection of gadgets and technology; and perhaps a symbolic trophy of success in the form of a career.

However, happiness remains elusive, just like that vanishing point in the highway.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

“Time flies when you’re having fun,” an old adage kept coming back to me. Yes, it flies so fast, you suddenly find yourself in a place that is so unfamiliar, so different. We look at ourselves in the mirror. We see a different image of ourselves: older, tired, beaten-down.

It’s not too late, however, to start exercising again; looking good and slowly picking yourself up–redesigning your life in pursuit of happiness.

Start asking yourself why are you doing the stuff that you do. What is the purpose? What’s the impact. Only after that you get clarity, a meaning, a direction. It’s never too late to begin now.

Ask why now.

Changing of guards and elections in the Philippines

In a few days, millions of Filipinos will troop to their respective precincts to vote for the next President of the Republic of the Philippines.

I will join them not as a voter, but as an observer, as I have not been a registered voter since Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago ran for President against former President Fidel V. Ramos. This is a choice–and an act of protest against an election system that is broken.

I will be volunteering as an official watcher, making sure everything is in order in one of thousands of precincts that I will be assigned.

For years, I have been an observer, albeit a participant or a member of the electoral process. I volunteered several times as a third member of Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs), as they are called. These BEIs are often public school teachers mandated to assist millions voters in their precincts. BEIs are compensated for their service.

Later, as a member of a news organization, I was again an observer but more to document what was happening for a news website. I was assigned to follow politicians around the country, as they campaigned. I was among those young journalists jostling for a position to get an interview with a popular actor turned presidential candidate who later died after he lost to an alleged massive cheating in our Philippine elections in 2004.

Then, I progressed to running an election website along with a team of Internet-only journalists for an a pioneering Internet brand in the world, which won accolades within this Internet company.

In the next few days, I will be back as an observer from a precinct to ensure that the May 9, 2016 polls will be clean, fair, and peaceful. *Crossing my fingers*

Some people and friends do ask me why am I NOT using my Constitutional right to vote for the next President.

It is a choice that I have made because for years, I have seen how our Philippine elections were manipulated (i.e. 2004) by the very people who were appointed to make sure each vote is counted. I have covered news and reported some incidents of vote-buying, intimidation, and massive cheating that led to questionable results. In this country, there are NO losers. Only political candidates who always cry foul, alleging they were cheated.

I was assigned to an institution for years that we call the Commission on Elections. I followed this institutions’ officials, including one chairman who was forced to resign after he was implicated in a government deal that involved a foreign company hoping to land a major technology project worth billions of pesos. I reported on a poll official who disappeared after he was linked to a shocking zero-vote in a province that was venue of a massacre involving journalists who was part of a convoy following a supposed political rival of a powerful incumbent.

Prior to the invention of social media, I reported on a video showing gun-totting  men caught who succeeded in scaring off voters from entering polling precincts in one southern town in the Philippines.

I may be called jaded by saying that I’m not a registered voter. But I am not alone. There are a couple of friends who are also not registered–and if they are, they’re not sure whom to vote.

Again, this is a choice not to vote. But I’m devoting my time on election day to ensure we have an honest, clean, and yes, peaceful elections on May 9.

Here’s to an honest & clean elections on May 9.

On selling out (or life in a corporate world)

This article is inspired by this nice musing by a former colleague Rica Facundo.

Several days ago, I was out with friends and ex-colleagues. Most of them are working as freelancers, which means they don’t need to clock-in every day to an office; they don’t have to “dress the part;” and they don’t have a boss.

What struck me was their idea of fulfilment. To them, it was using your God-given talent for something more meaningful and NOT wasting it away in some 9-to-5 job.

This got me thinking, “Does my job suck?”

A wiseman once said the best job that you have right now is the job that you HAVE RIGHT NOW. For me, when people tell you your life sucks because they feel you’re comfortable and you get to go home early and spend the evening with your kids and wife, I would politely tell them to f&&*^ o*(.

Life sucks when you don’t have a job. Life sucks when you’re always chasing the next meal. Life sucks when your kids, partner or even family are wondering why you’re always working late, but everything around you remains the same.

I am resilient. But I’m also NOT refusing every opportunity that is thrown at me. At my age, I take stock at things. I weigh them and think of my family over my own. I muse a lot these days. I think of the days when I was younger, when life was simple.

Does a corporate job suck at this time? No.

As Rica wrote in her blog, it’s all about mindset and culture. Of course, the people are quite important. People leave their jobs because of people (i.e. they hate their boss). People stay because of people.

Perhaps the next time my friends ask me if I should consider life outside of this corporate life, I would tell them it doesn’t matter what job you are doing right now, as long as you’re happy, and your NOT neglecting any people who matter to you in life.

Life is what you make it, as they say. It’s a bunch of decisions with consequences. There will be trade-offs. You choose which ones you’re willing to give up. This time, I’m happy where I am NOT because I’m working for a corporation. I am here because I’m learning from the best people who know great things that I don’t know.

Sounds cheesy, but that’s the truth. It’s just a job. It’s up to you to make it FUN and fulfilling.

Tell great stories

As a journalist, I was often told to be quick to report the news. Get the facts straight. Ask the right questions. Get them out quickly. That was how I was trained in the university and later in newsrooms by my tough editors.

However, as I got used to doing reports and news, I felt I was missing the point of doing journalism. While I was still out to expose the truth and to inform the public, I wanted to tell great stories. Thus, I remember one colleague telling me about what’s missing in the 5Ws and 1H. It was the SW–So What?

Today, I was reading this little yellow book called “Show Your Work” by Austin Kleon who also wrote an earlier bestseller titled, “Steal Like an Artist.” I’m not big in self-help books nor do I endorse them, but sometimes I feel that we all need to be reminded about some universal truths about the universe.

Kleon–I believe–reads a lot of books, and one of the books that he came across was Significant Objects by Joshua Glenn and Rob Walker. He quoted from the book this line: “Stories are such a powerful driver of emotional value that their effect on any given object’s subjective value can actually be measured objectively.”

Kleon went on to narrate an experiment done by the duo where they picked insignificant objects from a thrift shop and got good writers to tell a story about them. They sold these objects on eBay along with invented stories about them. It turned out, people connected to stories behind these objects. Both sold about $100-worth of trinkets for $3K!

Telling good stories have always been my oft-repeated point when I talk about publishing in my class. What makes a news story better than the other? It’s great story telling–and with today’s technology, the means of telling that great story can help reach more people (think social media). But it’s the essence of a great narrative that takes people through a journey. Stories about paintings bring or even add more value to a piece of art. People value stories behind objects. As Kleon pointed out in his little yellow book: Work doesn’t speak for itself.

We need words! We want to know the story behind everything and anything. That’s human nature. We’re just too curious to know.

Teens are NOT abandoning Facebook, Twitter — at least that’s what my students say

After reading this story on Quartz, I figured I needed to verify this ongoing debate about teens abandoning Facebook and Twitter for more “private” and “intimate” alternatives like Snapchat or Facebook Messenger.

So I posted this story to both my classes in digital publishing. And here’s what they said. (But before I go listing down their reasons, they all agreed, they’re NOT migrating away from Facebook or Twitter anytime soon).

Disclaimer: This is NOT based on any scientific method such as random surveys of a certain demographic of Filipino teenagers. What you are about to read are personal observations & notes from two groups of students in my PUBLISH class.

  1. They are using various social media as channels for specific communication purposes. Facebook is seen as a public square where they are less keen on sharing private and intimate matters. They move from one social media network to another based on the perceived level of privacy. (Facebook has some privacy settings, guys).
  2. Facebook is where old people congregate–some teens admit to blocking their parents–an idea that baffled me, considering I have daughters on Facebook!
  3. They talk a lot through messaging services like Facebook Messenger, Viber, WeChat, etc. That’s their version of a water-cooler effect–a phenomenon where people gather in a certain area to chat.
  4. Twitter is where they post random thoughts, rants, and opinions about things that matter to them. They go to Twitter to argue a point. They also see Twitter as source of news about politics, the society and celebrities.
  5. Snapchat, to them, is a “private social network,” but it is NOT for everyone. They believe that Snapchat is designed for more “narcissistic” fellows— or those who want to share moments in their lives to smaller group of trusted friends.
  6. Snapchat is where you post crazy stuff, one of my students said. I asked if they are willing to add me as a friend on Snapchat. I got jeers and grunts. Not a good idea.
  7. Not all students in my class are on Snapchat. But they are all on Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Twitter & Instagram. Some say all social media platforms are important, but to a certain degree. They have preferences. But they admit that they love to TALK all the time, thus social media networks are perfect channels for this compulsion. (Fellow teachers, your students are talkative, albeit virtually, during classes).
  8. Facebook, to some students, is useful for school matters. Ha! I do require them to be in a Facebook group. But there are alternatives like — er, Slack, anyone?
  9. Again, they all insist that THERE IS NO MASS MIGRATION from Facebook/Twitter to Snapchat and messaging services.
  10. Teens feel lost in more “adult-driven” conversations that fill-up their feeds. They feel that Facebook is clogged with topics that they don’t care about. Thus, they gravitate towards simpler and accessible services like Snapchat.
  11. Meanwhile, one student went on to say that she’s getting annoyed by her 12-year-old sister’s random postings coupled with emoticons.

This debate about teens and millennials moving away from Facebook and Twitter will become less of an issue, as the younger generation discover niche communities where their voices are heard. Facebook and Twitter are both becoming global platforms where conversations are varied. There’s too much noise in these platforms. It’s a natural progression for human beings to socialize with people who share their same interests–and of course, who are of the same age and demographic.

It’s hard to imagine young people abandoning Facebook and Twitter because there are alternatives. There’s this FEAR OF MISSING OUT #FOMO, which still pervades their thinking.

On the other hand, Facebook and Twitter represent permanence on the Internet. The Snapchats of this world represent platforms that offer respite from regret of posting a mistake or a bad joke, which we sometimes, we do commit.

But isn’t it that the Internet has a long-term memory of the world. It’s our modern record of human history, sliced thinly into bits and bytes.