Category Archives: Life Lessons

Simple Lessons from this Holiday Season

“Baby! Baby!”

Earlier, a little girl’s voice, squealing with delight, caught my attention as I rushed to an appointment.

Looking up, I saw a few feet away from me two young girls, one about three years old and the other about two. Both were running excitedly towards their father. He was holding aloft a doll, while a playful smile hovered over his lips.

The doll looks dirty, as if it had been unearthed from a long-forgotten toy box. It was intact, however, with its body clothed in a light pink onesie and its head covered with a matching pink-colored bonnet. The girls couldn’t care less, judging from the gleeful expressions on their faces. Daddy has a toy, and it’s for them!

When they finally got to where he was standing, the girls tried in vain to reach up and get the doll. The playful father waved it briefly over their heads before handing it over to the younger one who had been pleading in earnest, “Baby! Baby!”

I wish I had a camera at the time to capture the expression on the young girl’s face as she tightly hugged the doll. It was pure joy. As for the older sister, she simply looked on, and not once did I hear her whine. Perhaps her innocent heart knew how important it was for her sister to get the doll . . . and to retain the peace between them.

And the father? When I had the chance to look away from the girls and glance at him, he had a look of contentment. “Mission accomplished,” his expression seemed to convey. “I made my little ones happy just in time for Christmas, and that’s more than enough for me.” After a few more minutes, he picked up his younger daughter, held the older one by the hand, and they turned to walk away.

No, I don’t think a camera would’ve helped me capture those ‘lessons’ – simple joy, peace, contentment, sharing – in such a brief moment. Some are better seen and heard and committed to memory.

“What makes a good coach?”

Today was a bittersweet day of sorts because it was the last day of my swim session. That, in itself, should not be a reason to feel bad, I know. I could always continue practicing on my own, I know.

But if I were to be honest, I think I enjoyed the “laugh trip” with our swim coach as much as I enjoyed being in the water. Let me explain.

As with many coaches/ instructors, this one hopes for nothing but the best for his students. He’s strict when he needs to be, but he also unfailingly dishes out the funniest comments (at least to me). Comments that are actually motivational tips, but are covered with layers of humor. He would also just suddenly burst into singing when something you say catches his attention.

Coach, thank you: for consistently demonstrating patience to my consistent ‘complaining’; for believing that beginner swimmers always have the potential to become better if they would put their heart into every practice. Who would’ve thought I’d see the day when I could finally cross a 25-meter lap pool without stopping? Here’s a secret: I could not wait for the class to be over when we started 19 sessions ago.

Image - 25 meter lap pool
Image and credit: 25-meter lap pool / Wikimedia

I think I have to be most grateful for that period when you must have sensed I was feeling despondent, and yet you never let on that you knew. Instead, in your own way, you managed to tease me out of the doldrums with street-smart advice wrapped in lots of wit.

Enjoy the holiday season! I’ll keep on practicing that (sigh) butterfly stroke until I think I get it right. This isn’t the end of the “laugh trip.” See you next year!

Today’s take-away from swim class: “Kick harder.”

Three sessions ago, our swim instructor introduced a new lesson: the butterfly stroke. Depending on one’s perspective, it’s a challenge you either welcome or avoid.

I’ve always had ambivalent feelings toward the butterfly stroke. On one hand, the movements demonstrate strength and grace, and though I’m left awe-inspired, it also makes me wonder, “Can I do that?” and sometimes, “Can I STILL do that?”

Our instructor often reminds me, “Don’t say you don’t like something until you’ve tried it.” and “Don’t say you can’t do it until you’ve put in enough hours to make it work.” He’s right on both counts.

I used to dislike freestyle because of a bad experience when we were first learning to swim many years ago. Now, I prefer that over backstroke, which I used to enjoy.

Similarly, I thought I’ll never get my breast stroke right. In the beginning, I was always sinking. Our instructor observed I have to put more strength in my kicks so I can glide farther and stay afloat longer. After many hours of practice in between classes, I’m finally getting the hang of it.

Practicing the butterfly stroke makes me feel like I’m a banana trying to get from point A to B. Sounds funny, but it’s true. Those who use this technique or are familiar with it know that you sort of bend at the waist before you kick both feet in the water. Since I started late in life learning how to do this, I admit bending at the waist isn’t as easy as it used to be.

Our instructor, ever so patient (and diplomatic), noted today that I’ve improved, but I have to use more force. In particular, he said, “You have to kick harder because that’s what will propel you forward.”

After several more attempts by this “banana getting from point A to B,” I feel less of the fruit and more of a seal pup trying to catch up with its mom and siblings as they swim deeper into the ocean. In short, upon following his advice, I began inching forward because of the effort I put into the kicks and the arm pulls.

Going home, Paul’s “kick harder” advice kept circling my mind. I realized it’s because it’s the same principle we apply whenever we want to achieve success or a goal. Want more sales . . . need more clients . . . want to be a better chef . . .? Kick harder or simply put:

Show up, do the work, exert more effort, focus on the quality of your output, learn from others, be grateful, and stay optimistic.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Random Thoughts: On Making It Work

The next time you feel like giving up on something or someone, take a tip from the movie, “Celeste & Jesse Forever” (2012).

The two were getting a divorce when Jesse got involved with someone he really likes. In one scene, he tells Celeste, “I want to make it work.”

I’ve stopped memorizing movie lines years ago, but this one just keeps bubbling to the surface because it’s achingly simple and practical. The line, short it may be, rings with such determination that it’s almost impossible not to feel empowered by it, especially if you keep saying it over and over again.

So, a diet you’re trying out isn’t showing results. It’s so easy to give up. Don’t! Hang on and tell yourself, “I want to make it work.”

A job you got accepted for is turning out to be less than challenging. No job is perfect. Give it another chance, and in the meantime keep saying, “I will make this work.” (That’s not the original line, but the essence is the same.)

You’re in a relationship that’s giving you sleepless nights. Okay, I have to admit that sometimes, it’s better to just give up, especially if the relationship isn’t going anywhere and neither party is growing. But what if it’s the opposite? You won’t just bail out at the slightest problem, will you? That’s for quitters! You’re a winner, and winners will do whatever they can (in an ethical manner, of course) to make something work!

Personal sharing: I can’t post entries that often because I’m busy with a full-time job. It’s easy to waffle, but I won’t. I want to make this work because it is also from our virtual community that I get the strength to pick myself up when I’m feeling down.

Of Plants, Endings, and Beginnings

This is what the "Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow" looks like. It's lovely, isn't it? (Source: 3.bp.blogspot.com)

This is what the “Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow” looks like. It’s lovely, isn’t it? (Source: 3.bp.blogspot.com)

I have a potted plant that I talked about in this blog last year. Called “Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow,” I had specifically chosen it because I was told it’s a hardy shrub. It can withstand being left alone, can put up with natural elements, and it doesn’t mind having its branches trimmed every so often.

That plant and I have been ‘together’ for a little over three years now. We’ve been through sunshiny days and, worse, through rainy days, and fortunately, we’re still together.

Taking care of a “Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow” has taught me a lot of lessons, too. Last year, when it nearly died because I neglected to water it for a few days, I noticed that growing plants and nurturing a career share similarities. The right elements and conditions should be present for the plant or career to flourish properly.

This year, it happened again. One morning, I saw that though the plant’s leaves were still green, they were falling from the branches! This baffled me because I’m sure I’ve learned from experience. In fact, I water the plant every day: in the morning and at night. I do the latter because, just in case I forget my duties the following day, the plant will have enough moisture to it keep it nourished.

It turned out, the soil was too moist, said a friend who’s really into gardening. If the leaves are still green, but they’re falling off, it means you over-watered the roots.

“That explains it,” I said. “What do I do now?” “Leave it alone,” she recommended. “Don’t water the soil further until it has had the chance to dry up a bit.”

This year’s take-away: don’t be overzealous. Or if I were to apply this insight in my personal and professional life: don’t run yourself ragged. Leave enough time to relax and have a bit of fun. If you keep going forward and neglecting your health, you just might find yourself like the leaves: supposedly healthy-looking on the outside, but too choked to do anything else inside.

There’s a bonus lesson from this ‘ordeal’ (yes, the fight to survive is not yet over). I noticed that while some leaves have already given up, a lot more, though wilted, remained stuck to the branches. When I tried shaking the plant to make them fall away, they wouldn’t. When I tried to pluck out the leaves on purpose because I couldn’t stand how sick they look, they stubbornly held on. This made me realize plants are like people too: tenacious and focused even when the going gets tough!

My formerly leafy friend is looking a little bare lately, but it seems to be saying, “Don’t give up easily in the face of challenges.” And don’t underestimate what something – or someone – looks like from the outside. My plant may look like it’s dying because the branches are currently a mix of brown and green. But look closely: there are three new leaves growing out of one of them.

Indeed, every end is a new beginning.

Random Thoughts: Of Cupcakes and Contentment

Cherries and icing on cupcakes are nice to have, but we can do without them. (Source: Inmagine.com)

Cherries and icing on cupcakes are nice to have, but we can do without them. (Source: Inmagine.com)

On my way to work today, I got to think of this:

If a cupcake doesn’t have a cherry on top, would I still eat it? The answer is “yes” because cherries are just add-ons and therefore, they won’t make much of a difference if they’re there or not. Same thing with icing: if a cupcake doesn’t have it, will I still eat the sweet treat? The answer is still “yes” as long as the cupcake is of good quality. Meaning, it’s not stale, not too sweet or bland, not too buttery, and so on.

What made me think of cupcakes so early in the morning? Good question. I was turning in my head the concept of “being content.” What does it take to feel contented nowadays, considering there are so many distractions beseeching our attention, convincing us that we must have them in order to be satisfied or complete?

Personally, I don’t think it’s a new gadget or car; those things don’t last. And even before you’ve gotten accustomed to the new playthings, a better model comes along!

Well then, is it more clothes or friends (regardless of whether they’re real or online)? Is it more money or a better job? Fashion and friends come and go; that’s reality. Adapt and move on.

As for money, well, there will “never be enough” of it since at every turn, there seems to be something we have to pay for: college tuition, mortgage, medical bills, groceries, utilities, and the list goes on. “Better jobs” are subjective and is a whole post in itself. If I were to make a comment, though, I have to admit that a job that utilizes my skills and allows me to grow is ideal.

I digress. The point of this rambling is that it helps to reflect on and repeat to ourselves every so often the true meaning of being contented: as long as we have the basics – food, water, shelter – and the support of family, friends, and community, we should be all right. If you’re happy within, given and grateful for the resources that you have, that attitude is enough to see you through life’s ups and especially downs.

It has been proven repeatedly that there’s usually no need for external factors, especially those that we have to spend big-time for, to make us feel contented. Like the cherry and icing on a cupcake, they’re nice to have – I’d be the first to agree – but we can do without them, too.

A Single Shares Her Thoughts on a Sunny Sunday

Be

Be the best version of yourself (Image source: Inmagine.com)

I’m sure there are many blogs out there regarding how to cope as a single person. Each blog – and the person behind it – has a unique story to tell. Really! After all, each individual is an exclusive edition, and so even if the experiences we’re going through seem the same, the way we look at things and the insights we derive from each experience will always be different from one another.

I’ve been single for many years now; I’m not even “coupled” in any way. (Have I ever mentioned this before?) Yes, there are “highs” and “lows” in being one, but in hindsight, I think there are more “highs”:
Just like everyone else, I look forward to weekends because I can’t wait to go through my list of “want-to-do.” (I don’t necessarily put my life on hold during weekdays. It just so happens there’s more bandwidth to do more of the things we like during weekends.)
My circle of friends and contacts consists of people with varying ages and backgrounds. I love learning from all of them!
Life has too much to offer that there are times, I can’t figure out what I want to be “when I grow up.”

Personally, I think that’s the biggest advantage of being single: you have the opportunity to be whoever you want, and more importantly, whatever God (or the Universe, if you will) had planned you to be.

Being single is a privilege to grow into the best version of yourself. Who would want to say “no” to an opportunity like that?

Stay happy!

Feeling Lost (Career-wise) and Lessons Learned

In search of my true north (Source: Inmagine.com)

In search of my true north (Source: Inmagine.com)

I haven’t written in a while because during the last quarter of 2013, I transferred to a new job. Like most people finding their way through a new job, I completely immersed myself in it. The funny thing is, no matter how much I try to learn about the new role and everything that it encompasses, I keep sliding down. I’m not making any headway.

Some people will probably say, “Well, try harder.” or “Get a mentor to help you understand the job.” In my opinion, these strategies will only work if your heart is in the job you signed up for and not just, you know, for the money.

Personally, I left a company and work that I really like thinking I could make it in another industry (from communication to business development). Somewhere along the way, I realized I like communication way too much to leave it. It also dawned on me that I like interfacing with people more than I care to admit. (I always claim to be shy and reserved.)

In the process of making a career U-turn and heading back to my industry, I reached out to a friend who happens to be an HR practitioner. I requested for her to help me. Well first off, she said, “Just so you’d know, corporate communication is on the wane.” For someone who thinks she’s on top of her industry, I admit I was blindsided by her statement. How could I not have noticed that newsletters, for example, are no longer as well-received as e-newsletters?

“But all’s not lost,” she reassured me. “Take the skills from corporate communication and channel that toward digital media, which is what everyone is into right now!”

The whole point of this entry is that when you’re feeling “lost” in your career, stop trudging along and admit it. It doesn’t help to simply rationalize and say, “Oh, I’ll eventually grow into my new role.” Maybe you will, and maybe you won’t, but it’s important to admit something doesn’t feel right.

Are you one of those who trust your instinct? I am and I do. In the past, it has always been my best gauge when determining if I should place a bet on an idea or calmly walk away. Or run, if needed.

Second, I trust my friends, and I bask in their comforting presence. But when I need more than hugs, cheerful quotes, and pats on the back, I seek career advice from professionals or someone who has ‘been there.’ They can – and should – tell you things as they are, and because they know how to navigate the world of work, take notes and do as they say. If you’re still doubtful, just ask yourself, “How badly do I need to get out of this (rut, mess, hole I’m in)?”

Third, adapt. Be open to changes. When you’ve been in one field for quite a while (as I have), it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture.

Many years ago, just a year after graduating from college, I learned this quote, “Retreating (turning back) doesn’t always mean that you’re a coward. It simply means you have to re-think your strategy so you’ll have a better grasp of handling what’s ahead.”

I agree. How about you?

Quote for the Day (20 February 2014)

The quote was lifted from an online article by Lee Colan, leadership advisor. I believe in it so I made an image to constantly remind me of the power of making a difference through a single act.

Of New Years and Resolutions

It's a new year! Do you make New Year's resolutions?

It’s a new year! Do you make New Year’s resolutions?

It’s a new year! Do you make New Year’s resolutions? I do.

Early this year, I read somewhere that instead of making a list of things that one wants to accomplish, he/ she should focus on a theme instead. That way, the items on one’s list don’t simply appear as random things-to-do. That makes sense.

For a while, I tried my best to follow-through after creating a list around the theme “nourish”: relationships, creativity, health, and so on. Eventually, I admit to giving up. Not on my resolutions, but on following the theme I’ve set for myself. I find myself asking, “what kind of nourishing will this activity fall into” whenever I want to do something. That’s tiring, and I feel constricted having to box my every move into a word (theme).

I’m sure whoever came up with that suggestion meant well. At the same time, just do whatever works for you. Personally, I go for creating a list with three major items on it and ranked according to importance. The mind works in threes (e.g. A, B, C; do, re, mi; 1, 2, 3). More importantly, fewer resolutions are easier to remember and, thus, more likely to happen.

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