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That Awkward Feeling Of Being A Noob


Have you ever tried using your left hand to write if you’re right-handed? Or maybe tried driving on the right side of the road? Recall the first time you’ve tried riding a bicycle or learned how to skate (I have to admit that I still don’t know how.) How did that feel? Here’s what’s worse. You’re trying a totally different approach related to your area of expertise. Like the accountant learning how to use TurboTax for the first time.  He knows the spreadsheet in-and-out but just couldn’t get the software’s user interface. This reminded me of how users reacted to Microsoft Office 2007 when it first came out. And because change is constant and inevitable, we’ll always feel like a noob. ALWAYS. And it feels awkward. ALWAYS.

But just like learning how to ride a bicycle, we get used to it. The awkward feeling starts to go away and we start feeling confident. When you’re riding your bicycle without holding the handle bars, you never think about how many times you’ve fallen off or the number of scratches you got. You probably couldn’t even remember. You went from being a noob to being an expert and riding the bicycle no longer feels awkward. You now feel great about it. But it definitely took a lot of trying it out and getting used to it. The path from being a noob to becoming an expert is never an easy one. That, in fact, was the thesis of Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers and the idea behind the 10,000 hours road to expertise. With the right investment of time and effort, anyone can move past the feeling of awkwardness fairly quickly.

But I think it’s more than the awkward feeling of being a noob. Behind all of that is the feeling of PRIDE. Admitting that you have to throw away all of your efforts and investments does feel a bit awkward. And that feeling where you suddenly have to slide down the ranks from up top all the way back to the bottom. When experts feel that they’re back to being a noob. And because they’ve gotten used to the feeling of being an expert, they no longer want to go back and re-experience how it all started – the fear, anxiety, and frustration that comes with it.

Didn’t I say that change is constant and inevitable? This means we have to get used to being a noob because we will always have to learn something new. But we need to put our pride aside or we’ll never get past this awkward feeling.

Now, go ahead and ride that bicycle.

What You See is What You Get (WYSIWYG)


In order to carry a positive action we must develop here a positive vision.
– Dalai Lama – 

My first introduction to this acronym was during my junior year in high school. My best friend got his very first personal computer loaded with Microsoft Windows 3.1. He was bragging about his expensive new toy and mentioning acronyms that I have never heard before, WYSIWYG being one of them. It didn’t take long for me to realize that he was actually talking about something on the computer screen to look like the final product. I thought it was just going to be one of those acronyms that I will have to deal with if I pursue a career in technology.

Fast forward several years later, I was with my wife and kids at the Universal Studios theme park in Orlando, FL. My kids wanted to try out the Transformers 3D ride just for fun. I knew what it was about because of my early exposure to the world of virtual reality so I wasn’t really that excited. Plus, I’m not a big fan of theme parks nor rides but since my kids insisted, I obliged. I’ve read different reviews about the ride experience so I knew what to expect. However, I was really surprised. The special effects (particularly the visual ones) are remarkable. They make you feel like you are indeed a part of the whole Autobot/Decepticon war. During that experience, I’ve learned several valuable lessons that I didn’t realize were applicable to both leadership and personal life. And I’ve never thought theme park rides can teach you a few leadership lessons.

  1. The unexpected can and will happen. Outside of the ride, I could hear people screaming – both as an expression of excitement and fear. It’s hard to judge based on the sound because they’re a mix of both. So, I made a conclusion based on what I heard: this might be a scary ride. As I was handed out a pair of 3D eyeglass, I expected 3D visual effects but certainly not the heat from Starscream’s engine exhaust nor the splash of water from Bumblebee’s run across a puddle. It’s the same thing in life. We can only prepare for so much but we don’t know exactly what’s going to happen. I remember a quote from the TV series Prison Break, “Preparation can only take us so far. After that, we have to take leaps of faith. We must be able to face and accept the unexpected when and as they happen.
  2. Eerie sounds are not as scary as you think they are. Didn’t I already tell you about the people screaming? They sounded scary when I heard them.  So, I reacted based on what I heard. I got scared (laugh at me all you want but I really did feel scared.) I was scared as I hopped into the ride as I could hear the screams growing louder. But I was surprised to know that they weren’t screaming because they were scared, they were screaming because they were having fun. The acoustics of the ride made it sound like they were scared when they actually weren’t. Don’t we all face the same issues when confronting our fears based on what other people say? “Oh, the stock market is volatile and the whole economy is going to crash. I feel inadequate and everyone thinks I’m a loser.” Maybe we’re not listening to the right sounds after all and we need to discipline our ears.
  3.  What you see is what you get. The 3D glasses made the experience really great. But it also amplified the emotions I felt. I saw the ride falling off a cliff as Bumblebee pulls it away from Megatron, I felt like I was falling. I saw metal chips flying towards me as Optimus Prime hits Megatron real hard, I avoided them real quick. My reactions and emotions were intense. But these are all virtual, they don’t exist. I wasn’t falling off a cliff, I was seeing the ride as if it was falling off a cliff. So, I respond,with a mix of thrill and fear. As my youngest once said after a roller coaster ride, “it felt like his heart was coming out of his chest and back.” Same thing in life. We look at the bad things that happen to or around us. How do we respond? We get scared, afraid, restless. What’ worse is we let these things settle in our mind’s eye. We think of them as we sleep, as we eat, even as we talk to others. We even verbalize them until we start to believe that they are true. That is why the Bible recommends not dwelling on the negatives but rather focusing on the positives. Because at the end of the day, we really get what we see.

As we got off the ride, I couldn’t help but ask my kids what they think about the ride. They were exhilarated and felt thrilled. I guess I needed to learn something from my kids as well. All they did was to enjoy the ride. So, I did a little experiment. I asked them if we can do it again. And, since I was wearing eyeglasses, I had a good excuse to not look at the 3D visual effects. And guess what I found out. When I looked at the 3D visual effects, I felt the same feelings I did during the first time I hopped on to the ride. But when I didn’t, I just felt the ride moving. That reduced the fear (and, unfortunately, the excitement as well.) Which really proves the point – what we see is what we get.

As we are still in the early weeks of this new year, we need to ask ourselves this question: Are we expecting a great year ahead of us or do we just want to maintain the status quo? Remember, what you see or decide to look at is eventually what you’ll get.

Your ATTITUDE Determines Your Altitude


Our thoughts lead to actions. Our actions lead to habits. Our habits lead to character. Our character develops our future.

This is the second in a series of blog posts that talk about success. I had the opportunity to ask the registered attendees for SQLSaturday Philippines to vote for a particular topic that they like best. Since I usually talk about professional development for IT Professionals at the PASS Summit, I provided a list of topics from presentation skills to landing your dream job. This was the one that got the most number of votes: What Your College Education Didn’t Teach You About Success. 

Planes have attitude indicators. Yes, I myself was surprised when I first heard about it. Also known as the gyro horizon, it’s an instrument that informs the pilot of the plane’s orientation relative to the earth’s horizon. When the plane is climbing, the nose of the plane is pointing above the horizon. When it is diving, the nose is pointed below the horizon. Most pilots will say that the performance  of the plane is dictated by its attitude. In order to change the performance of the plane, pilots need to change its attitude.

attitude

This was the second slide in my presentation about what our education doesn’t teach us about success: ATTITUDE DETERMINES ALTITUDE. Unfortunately, our education system is more concerned about test scores and IQ than emotional intelligence (EQ) or even attitude development. I bet that if you ask a lot of successful entrepreneurs, leaders and business people, they will tell you that their attitude has been a major contributor in their success. Our attitude is the only thing that we get to control 100% of the time. While we don’t have any control of our circumstances, we have full control of our attitude. It’s a matter of choosing which attitude we carry around with us that will determine how successful we will be.

I have to admit that choosing the right attitude is not easy. I wasn’t all that positive in the past. I complained about almost everything, saw myself as way better off than anybody else I knew and blamed others for the misfortunes that I experienced. It took me a while to realize how my attitude is affecting my career and, eventually, my future.  My drive to be excellent at everything I do compensated for my bad attitude but it wasn’t long until the bad attitude finally caught up. As I was in the middle of my failed startup, my wife gave me a wake up  call. She told me that unless I start changing my attitude, things will only be heading further south. I had to make a choice. The process was painful. It was like unlearning all of the stuff that I’ve learned throughout the years. But I was determined to go thru it. Years later, I was trying to figure out how I managed to go thru the process so that I can share it with others. It’s not that I was smart enough to learn about a process I followed that helped me overcome a bad attitude. I was clueless back then. But here are three things that I did to help me develop a positive attitude:

  1. WRITE. I wrote down the things that I don’t like about myself. Now, this is a tough exercise. You need to be very honest about yourself  – what you like and don’t like. I knew I was complaining about almost everything so I wrote that on top of my list. I was determined to revert that bad attitude into a positive one. I also knew that I was blaming others for my misfortune. I had that item next in the list. I didn’t resolve all of my attitude problems at the same time (it’s probably the reason why some of them still show up every once in a while.) I just wanted to resolve the ones that I think are that bad. As I wrote them down, I thought of an alternative attitude that would replace the bad ones. The bad ones have to be replaced by good attitudes. I wrote those down as well. You could also type it on your mobile device or tablet if you prefer that.
  2. SAY. I believe in the power of confession. There’s a reason why the Bible talks about the power of our words. Successful sales people understand this concept in that they constantly speak positive words to themselves especially when trying to close a major deal. I practiced the power of confession daily by telling myself the good attitudes that I need to replace the old ones with. It may feel uncomfortable at first but you’ll get used to it. But what’s good about it is that you are now starting to reinforce your belief with your words.
  3. ACT.  I needed to put my belief into action. I needed to practice what I wrote down and told myself. They say actions speak louder than words. I have to act according to my belief. I used to complain about almost everything. I replaced that with gratitude. I felt uncomfortable at first, like the time when I was saying positive confessions to myself. I became grateful even with the smallest things. I thanked people around me. I thanked those who contributed to my success. I still do. Every once in a while, I check my LinkedIn, Facebook (yes, I have a Facebook profile now),  Twitter accounts, email archives, etc. to find opportunities to thank others for what they have done for me. I’m not saying I no longer complain. However, gratitude is now my dominant attitude as compared to 15 years ago.

Having a great attitude is key to success. It’s so important that Dr. John C. Maxwell, America’s leadership expert, wrote an entire book about it – The Winning Attitude. But it doesn’t come easily. I still have to work hard at it every day, choosing to start my day with a right attitude. Now, I’m one of those who claim that having a great attitude has contributed a lot to where I am right now.

You might also want to read:

Question: What one attitude that you want to change today to become a better person tomorrow? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Leadership Lessons from Running a SQLSaturday Event


SQLSaturday Philippines

I’ve been involved with the SQL Server community ever since I can remember. I’ve been both a speaker and a volunteer and I know how it felt like to be on both sides of the fence. However, the one thing I haven’t been is an organizer myself. Until SQLSaturday218. This is the very first SQLSaturday event in the Philippines that was held last 9-Mar-2013.  Attendees, volunteers and speakers all claim that the event was a huge success and that they want it to be an annual event. But what they didn’t realize until the event was finally over was that SUCCESS always comes at a PRICE. The rewards of a champion only comes after the hard work and sacrifice, not before. SQLSaturday218 has reinforced a lot of leadership lessons that I have been practicing and teaching throughout the years.

  1. Find a higher purpose. I’ve blogged about this before and I’ve taught others about finding a higher purpose for things that we do.  SQLSaturday218 for me is more than just a SQL Server community event. It’s an attempt to express my patriotism in ways that I can do best. While most SQLSaturday organizers talk about technical education, I talk about loving my country. With the upcoming national elections in the Philippines, political candidates talk about bringing about change. I just made change happen thru SQLSaturday218. This wasn’t my original idea. Marlon Ribunal (blog | Twitter) and Justin Dearing (blog | Twitter) came up with the idea of running a SQLSaturday event in the Philippines. They included me in the conversation because they knew I was a die-hard FILIPINO. And the rest was history. My higher purpose helped me pursue even when the times are tough.
  2. Find allies, ignore detractors.  Every noble goal will have both. I always say that only fruitful trees get picked on. Nobody picks fruits on trees that don’t bear any. And, so be ready to have both allies and detractors. I heard a lot of folks tell me this is an insane idea. Nobody has ever organized a SQLSaturday event without physically being there. I was in Canada planning and organizing an event that was thousands of miles away from where I am, not to mention with a 12-hour time zone difference. I only knew (and have met) a handful of the volunteers. Regular SQLSaturday sponsors won’t fly to the Philippines just for this event. The odds are stacked up against me. I expected to have detractors. I was willing to take the stones that will get thrown at me. But I also did find allies. Niko Neugebauer  (blog | Twitter,) a fellow SQL Server MVP and PASS Community Evangelist was my greatest ally. He was the one who told me that it is possible and that I can make it happen because he was able to do it before. Allies will help you raise your shield when the detractors start throwing stones at you.
  3. Build a GREAT, UNITED team. People are what make things happen. That’s why you need to build a GREAT team. I’ve enlisted the help of people I knew who had the same passion for the community as I have. Culture is very important to me. That’s why I made sure that members of my team share the same values. They all went the extra mile to do things that I can’t because I wasn’t physically available. Some of my allies ended up being a part of the team.  And that’s why I brag about the people in my team who made SQLSaturday218 a huge success. But a great team will only go so far. A GREAT, UNITED team is unstoppable. In order to build a united team, they need to feel that they are a part of it in the first place. And building relationships is what makes that possible. Talk to team members. Understand what matters to them. Make them feel that they are special. Be willing to go the extra mile for them. If we are willing to do this for them now, imagine what they will be willing to do for you in the future.
  4. Over communicate.  It’s the leader’s job to keep the team informed. But sometimes, the same message has to be communicated several times in order for every one to get it. Over communication breeds clarity. It also addresses misunderstandings among those who receive the message. SQLSaturday has a website that organizers can use to do whatever they need to organize and run the event. While I maximized the use of the feature to send email communications to speakers, volunteers and registered attendees, I went the extra mile of sending personal emails. Every week for the past 6 weeks, I sent event updates to the registered attendees and those on the wait list. I also sent emails to the volunteers, giving them a picture of what to expect and what is expected of them. I also sent emails to my team about things that matter to us in order to make this event a success. I responded to emails, answered questions on instant messenger, did Skype calls, etc. in order to properly deliver the message.
  5. Ask for help but operate with a bootstrap mindset. My idea was to run SQLSaturday218 with very minimal to no sponsorship. That’s is because I wanted to create a mindset of creativity and resourcefulness. Plus, I also understand the challenges that most of the SQLSaturday sponsors have. It’s hard to spend money on sponsorships without the possibility of having immediate returns on their investments. I call myself the “self-proclaimed marketing guy” and I try to practice what I preach. I didn’t just go around asking for sponsorships. I only asked those who I believe will benefit from doing so. I even turned down several potential sponsors and explained why this would not benefit them. However, I didn’t just turn them down without offering them a long-term perspective of their marketing initiatives. And because we kept the bootstrap mindset, we operated as if we didn’t have resources. It’s amazing to see how people come up with creative ideas just because we don’t have the resources. So, when the resources became available, they were used to reward those who came up with creative ideas that got implemented.
  6. Have a detailed plan but be flexible enough when things don’t go as planned. I had a detailed project plan in place from start to finish. I shared it with my team and allowed them to make suggestions and modify it as necessary. But everyone knows that nobody can prepare and implement a perfect plan. Being flexible when things don’t go as planned is necessary for success.  We had delays with some of our deliverables. There were changes in the room assignments that affected the schedule and the signs that we printed out. But because everyone on the team understood what was expected, they all made things possible outside of the plan.
  7. Step back when necessary. Leaders have the tendency to do everything because they believe that success (and failure) lie in them. What they don’t realize is that not stepping back prevents potential rockstars to shine. At the day of the event, I knew exactly what I needed to do. Same thing with the volunteers. What’s really surprising is that I didn’t even have the chance to do a briefing session before we start doing the real work. All I did was shake their hands and introduced myself to them. Now, understand that these are people whom I haven’t personally met. But it’s as if they knew me very well and knew exactly what I expected of them. The volunteers were running on auto-pilot. That kept me focused on what I can do best. Had I not stepped back, I could have ruined the creative ideas that they were able to pull off and possibly discouraged them from trying again.
  8. Give as much A.I.R. as you possibly can. I blogged about giving appreciation, inspiration and recognition. As attendees were commenting on how great the event turned out to be, I took that opportunity to thank the sponsors, volunteers and speakers for making the event a huge success. At the volunteers’ and speakers’ dinner, I commented on the fact that I felt like having a great team from heaven. I sent emails to my contacts about how the event turned out to be, again, mentioning the fact that I had the best volunteers and speakers ever. I sent emails to the local sponsors, highlighting some of their staff who did a great job of volunteering at the event. I kept telling others, even sending personal emails and instant messages to the volunteers and speakers after the dinner, and constantly appreciating and recognizing their contributions. All of them wanted to be a part of next year’s SQLSaturday Philippines.

Leadership expert Dr. John C. Maxwell once said that “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” It’s one of the reasons why I’ve been a student of leadership for the past decade.  The lessons I’ve learned help make me become a much better leader and also inspires others to do the same. With the outcome of SQLSaturday218, I think this will become an annual event with the help of the local SQL Server user group.

University of the Philippines and the Mindset of Entitlement


University of the Philippines Oblation

University of the Philippines Oblation by randyg

“With rights come responsibilities. If we aren’t willing to take responsibilities, how dare we claim the rights.” 

I’m rarely vocal about my political views for “fear” of being branded as a leftist (I used the word fear because leaders are not immune to the feeling: they just know how to deal with it.) When I was in the university, I was almost always associated with the leftist primarily because of what I wear and who I hang out with. Most people know me as somebody who’s passionate about my country – the Philippines – even when I was still a kid. And I consider myself as an “unofficial Philippine ambassador.”

Last Friday, I noticed several media personnel in the University of the Philippines (UP) (Manila campus.) I wasn’t aware of any issues surrounding the premiere state university in the country because I try to avoid reading the news. I was intrigued. When I got back home, the first thing that I did was check the news. It turns out that there was a freshman university student who committed suicide because she was forced to take a leave of absence for failure to pay tuition fees. This became instant news, especially with the upcoming senatorial elections in May of this year. A friend of mine posted a very intriguing question on Facebook regarding the incident: is the University of the Philippines for (a) Poor Pinoy students, (b) Academically Excellent Pinoy students or (c) Academically Excellent Poor Pinoy students? I responded. Not because I wanted to defend my alma mater. I wanted others to understand that there was a much deeper issue that had to be dealt with. It was an issue of the heart. An issue of entitlement. It’s sad to hear about the loss of a loved one. More sad to realize that people are blaming the system without first looking for answers from within. Some say the student was killed by the system. Others say she was a victim of  a repressive policy that wasn’t in favor of education as a right. A characteristic of true leadership is taking responsibilities for any actions done. Below was my response to the question. 

I try to avoid telling others that I went to University of the Philippines (Diliman campus) primarily because (a) I failed “17 courses” in my undergraduate program and (b) nobody wanted to hire me because of the former  Now, when the UP system was founded back in 1908, the ultimate goal was to provide a high quality of education to the Filipino people. Nowhere in the original goal did it mention that it was for “anybody poor.” The system has evolved into what it is today primarily because it was partly subsidized by the government. With the economic journey of the Philippines after World War II, where it used to be a first-world country in Southeast Asia, most people in the government took advantage of the UP system as a means to advance their political career. Because there was an increase in the population of those living below the poverty line, the UP STFAP was born. The UP STFAP program was conceived in the late 80s, following the People Power revolution. This was the time where there was an increasing gap between the rich and the poor. This created an ever increasing “entitlement mindset” among those who are poor-yet-deserving students to go to the UP system. The very reason why tuition in the UP system is way higher than the other state universities is because they subsidize other state universities. So, to answer your question, the UP system is for the academically excellent Filipino students, regardless of economic status. For those who feel that they deserve to go to UP, go ahead and prove that they indeed deserve to go there. I couldn’t afford a UP education because it was relatively expensive for me. I had a choice between not pursuing a university degree (cheaper,) going to other state universities (a little more costly,) going to other private institutions (most expensive) or going to UP (bordering between cheap and expensive.) I chose to go to UP. I fought to stay in UP. I sacrificed a lot to go to UP. Now, do I deserve to go to UP because I was poor? Absolutely not! But I made a choice to go there, stay there and earn my university degree for there no matter what. I knew how it felt like to go from UP STFAP’s bracket E1 to bracket A (during my time, the UP STFAP used a numeric system for the brackets.) I knew how it felt like to scour for funds to finish my degree regardless of what my STFAP’s status was. Education, I believe, should be a right. But with rights come responsibility. If we are not willing to take the responsibility, we do not deserve to enjoy the right.

When You’re Right In the Middle Of Failure


I was about to deliver my presentation on preparing and delivering presentations when my MacBook just couldn’t get the projector to work with it. One guy from the audience started making comments about using a Windows laptop instead of a MacBook so we switched to one but still without any luck (that proved that it wasn’t a MacBook problem but that of the projector) After almost 3 minutes of trying, I told everyone that I would just skip the slides and proceed with the presentation.

People who have seen me deliver presentations know how engaging my slide decks are because of the amount of effort I put in to preparing a presentation. Everything I do is intentional: from the story line that ties up everything included in my presentation to the font type and color pallet I choose for the slides. The worst part of this is that I am delivering a presentation about presentations and I’m stuck with literally nothing. Prior to going on stage, I was rehearsing my presentation with the slide deck that I will be using. With very limited time, I even rehearsed the stories that I wanted to tell and removed those that weren’t relevant. But when I felt the audience started to feel a bit uneasy waiting for my presentation, I just went ahead without the materials that I was supposed to use.

Most presenters have been in this kind of situation. But, as I commonly say, failure is a state of mind. Whether you’re in the middle of a presentation that’s about to go south or in a middle of a crisis, what you do determines whether or not the outcome will still be a failure. Here are several things to keep in mind when you’re i the middle of a failure situation.

  1. Recognize that it is happening. Reality bites but we need to face it whether we like it or not. We need to recognize failure as it is happening so we can assess the situation and think of what possible ways can we drive it around to a full turn. When both my MacBook and the Windows laptop didn’t work with the projector, I knew I had to ditch all of the hard work and effort that I have put in to prepare my presentation.
  2. Quickly think of an alternative. It’s hard to think of an alternative without recognizing that failure is happening. Once we’ve recognize it, immediately switch to problem solving mode. My alternative was one that does not need anything other than me. So, I told the audience that I will be proceeding with my presentation without slides.
  3. Include others in the process. I’ve seen the other presenters before me so I immediately used them in my opening lines. Since the audience has already seen them before me, they will be able to relate to what I am about to say. I used the two previous presenters as examples to drive a point and that made a whole lot of sense to the audience.
  4. Tap into your soul. Your experience, your character and your values provide more meaning to who you are. That’s what others see in you. Use it to your advantage as you navigate away from the failure that is currently happening. I’ve almost memorized my presentation because I’ve delivered it a few times now. But that’s not important to me at that point. What’s important is that the audience will still be inspired to become great presenters after seeing me struggle with the projector issue. I told them a story about my presentation at a SQLSaturday event in New York City about failover clustering but wrapping the presentation around the story of 9-11. Everyone remembers 9-11 so the audience understood how powerful the presentation was even without being there. My experience about delivering a previous presentation was what I used to drive another main point in my presentation.
  5. Realize that you just turned a failure into a success. Failures only stay that way if we don’t learn from them. The biggest impact that a failure can have on anybody is when the very object of failure is what moved them to become successful. After navigating thru the depths of failure towards success, you can pat yourself on the back for doing a great job. That’s another item on the failure list that you can use as an example for success.

After my presentation, one of the attendees approached and thanked me for doing a great job delivering the presentation. I was a bit reluctant to accept it because I knew at the back of my head that I could have done better. What she said to me after wards is what really struck me. Despite all of the problems with the projectors and computers, she remembered the three most important things in my presentation: the goal of delivering a presentation is to educate, entertain and to encourage.

You can find a copy of my “undelivered” presentation slide on SlideShare for your reference.

Revisiting Your Past For A Better Future


The past, present and future are all interconnected

Dr. Bill Gould

I had the opportunity to spent the last Christmas and New Year in my home country, the Philippines. And every time I do get the chance to go home, I try to create memorable events for both me and my family. I blogged about my community activity with my son before the turn of the new year and it was quite an experience. However, there was one experience that really moved me, one that I didn’t have to create.

I was on my way home after delivering a presentation on SQL Server Failover Clustering to a healthcare company in Manila. As always, I try to take the public transport as much as I can when I’m in Manila.  As I got off the light rail transit, waiting for the next jeepney ride that would take me home, something caught the corner of my eye. There it was, a signage very familiar to me and my wife almost 12 years ago. It was that of a pawnshop. Within a few seconds, it was as if I was taken back in time and my past being replayed right before me.  I couldn’t help but get teary-eyed within that short span of time. Now, you might be wondering why. You see, that pawnshop has seen us more times than we could remember. I remember having to pawn several of my and my wife’s jewelries just so we have something to eat for the next couple of days, not knowing if we will ever see them again.  I remember arguing with my wife to not take her valuable possessions to the pawnshop. She, on the other hand, would always reassure me that everything’s going to be alright and that our marriage was more important than those valuables. A few blocks away from the pawnshop was where we started our family, the place that I was talking about in a previous blog post – the place where we slept in a small-sized bed with barely enough cushion to soften our backs and the buzzing sound of mosquitoes that kept us awake when we didn’t have electricity. I remember feeling a sense of self-pity about not even having any means to support my family despite having a degree from a prestigious university.  And, as supportive as she can be, my wife would always tell me that the time will come when all of our experiences will simply be stories worth telling others. And in a span of a few minutes, I was brought back into my new reality as a jeepney stopped right before me, waiting for me to hop in.

Every time I have an opportunity to do so, I tell people about our stories and our journey as a family. It’s my way of encouraging others that no matter what situation they are in, there will always be a brighter future if we simply look forward to it. More important than telling the story, I take time to revisit my past to remind myself of where I came from. The reminder keeps me grounded that even though my wife and I can now afford to have dinner at a fancy restaurant or travel anywhere we want, we must never forget our humble beginnings. It is those tough experiences that led us to where we are right now. The Bible talks about persevering under challenging circumstances and those who do so will receive the promises of God. In our experiences, that proved to be something very real and tangible. We’ve not only received what we believed God has promised us, we’ve also had the wonderful opportunity to share out stories with others.

Having gone into the first few days of 2013, let’s take stock of our past year (or even years) and revisit our experiences. Are we using those experiences to help us shape a better future?