4 Ways To Face Your Fears


A couple of weeks ago, our family went to Niagara Falls for a long weekend getaway. One of the highlights of the trip was a visit to Marineland, a themed amusement and animal exhibition park. As my kids were looking at the list of things to see inside the park, one thing caught their attention – the Dragon Mountain. This was a steel roller coaster located at the north east side of the park. What we didn’t know was this used to be the world’s tallest roller coaster. But my kids insisted that we try it out and so we did. Those who know me well enough know that I don’t really like theme park rides. It’s a subtle way of saying that I’m afraid of riding roller coasters and tall ferris wheels. Now, don’t get me wrong. I dig rock climbing and scaling tall buildings. I was the first in my batch to do the lizard rappel as part of my army reservist training back in college. I still would jump at the opportunity to skydive. I just don’t like theme park rides. But I didn’t tell my kids. So, when I was making every excuse I could think of to not get on the roller coaster, my wife took the hint.  But since both of my kids needed adult supervision, I have no choice but to ride with my youngest. As the over-the-shoulder harness was being locked in, I could feel tension in my legs and the pressure pressing against my shoulders. There was no turning back.

We all have fears. There’s no sense denying it. However, when fear causes us to avoid challenges that will help us fulfill our dreams, we need to take action. Bill Cosby once said that, “In order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure.”  So, if you need to face your fears, keep these 4 things in mind:

  1. Admit your fears. There’s no sense in denying you’re afraid. Admit what your afraid of, accept the fact and move on. Didn’t I mention that I was afraid of riding roller coasters? I didn’t pretend that I wasn’t as the train started its ascent towards the first loop. I could feel my heart pounding as I hear the wheels of the train rolling across the tracks. But I’m already in the train and there’s no turning back so I just have to take it all in.
  2. Set expectations and get your facts straight. Before we hopped on to the roller coaster, I watched how the train went around the tracks. There were two vertical loops and two tunnels to pass through. In my mind, I already knew how the ride would feel like even before the train started moving. Now, I don’t know how fast the train would go so I guessed based on my observations. These information helped me set my expectations right. I realized that there really was nothing to be afraid of.
  3. Envision success. Our success depends a lot on what we see – and what we don’t. If we see a lot of failures, we become afraid to accept and take challenges. That’s why the Holy Book encourages us to think about (or envision) good things. I knew there would be tunnels in the track and that tunnels would be really dark. What I did was to close my eyes as we approached the tunnels and thought about how it feels like as we approach another loop. No scary thoughts. By this time, we’re almost at the end of the ride. And, just when I was enjoying the ride…
  4. Share your experiences. We like to tell our success stories. But not our failures. When you’ve been thru an experience where you needed to face your fears, tell your story. We want to hear from someone who knows what it felt like to be afraid but persisted anyway. As we headed towards the park’s exit, I told my kids that I initially was afraid of the roller coaster. I didn’t pretend like I was ready for the adventure. I was honest about my fear and told them as it was. They were surprised with what I told them because it was nothing like what they saw. Didn’t I mention that I enjoyed the ride as it was about to end? That’s what they saw in me, not my fear. And, they realized that it was OK to be afraid.

I recently had to put this into practice. I realized that most fears are simply frightening stories that we tell ourselves that we keep rehearsing until we believe them to be true. Try changing the stories you tell yourself and start seeing your fears slowly diminish.

How do you face your fears? You can share your experience by clicking here. Remember, it’s OK to share your experiences 🙂


Continuous GROWTH is Required

“Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death”
– Albert Einstein –

This is the third 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. 

You may have figured it out if you’ve been reading my blog posts: I’m a strong believer in continuous personal growth. I believe that healthy organisms grow. We humans were created to grow. That’s why my personal mission statement is anchored on that premise: to help people and organizations grow and develop their full potential. If we are not growing, we are not healthy.


This was the third slide in my presentation about what our education doesn’t teach us about success: CONTINUOUS GROWTH IS REQUIRED.  Schools teach students how to answer questions, take tests and finish a degree. Statistics even confirm that almost half of college graduates (I don’t know if the numbers are true or not but the economic side effects do say so)  never read another book. If you ask students what they do after taking an exam or completing a semester, they’ll probably say “have fun” or “party out.” Now, there is nothing wrong with having fun or partying out after having a stressful semester. It’s just that we almost stay in these states more frequent than we should.

I like both reading and teaching. Both activities force me to grow beyond what I know and to go outside of my comfort zone. I remember reading all of the required books for my class even before school starts. I also remember reading the Reader’s Digest in grocery aisles while my mom waits in line to pay for the groceries. And, yes, I remember skipping college classes (I hope my mom doesn’t read my blog posts) to be in the library and looking for required reading materials that our course mandates. When all of my classmates are out looking for the required reading materials, guess who they ask first? My home office is filled with books. My tablet and phone both have the Amazon Kindle app with dozens of books that I read while waiting for my next flight or even waiting for food in a restaurant. I have committed to continuous personal growth that allowed me to excel in the things that I love to do.

In order to be successful in life, we have to embrace the fact that growth is required. And it’s not just one time growth. It’s continuous growth. Learning is never ending process.  If there is one thing to take away from this blog post, it is to make a commitment to continuous personal growth. Here are several ways you can get started on the road to continuous personal growth.

  1. Envision where you would want to be in 5/10/15/20 years from now. Begin with the end in mind, as the late Dr. Stephen Covey wrote in the all-time best seller The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. If you know where you are going, it’s easier to work towards it. I remember telling myself when I was 8 years old that I wanted to be a consultant (even when I didn’t even know what that word meant at that time) and help people solve their problems. And, that’s exactly what I am doing now.
  2. Have a personal growth plan. I blogged about my high-level personal growth plan last year. When I made a commitment to pursue continuous personal growth, I knew I needed a plan. Reading books and learning new stuff is not enough. I need to create a structure to follow so that I can have and maintain focus.
  3. Put it in your calendar. If it’s not in your calendar, it is unlikely to happen. I “try” to put the activities in my personal growth plan in my calendar. If I need to learn something new, I schedule the time to study. I still struggle with this because I don’t like the idea of having a full calendar. But while it is hard for me to do, I see results come out of it. My first attempt to be religious about putting my growth activities in calendar was when I was preparing for the Microsoft Certified Master certification. After that experience, I try to keep my personal growth activities in my calendar.
  4. Enjoy the experience. One reason why college graduates stopped reading books after school is because they find school to be boring. I hated history when I was in school. I didn’t understand why we need to learn history and how relevant it can be in my field of work. But when I started to realize how history affects businesses and technology, something that I’m interested in, I began to appreciate it. In fact, I started to use a bit of history in my technical presentations. When we enjoy the process of learning and growing, it becomes easier to stick to our plan.

Question: Have you committed to continuous personal growth? What are your strategies to fulfil that commitment? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Leadership Lessons from Driving in the UK

Right-hand drive

Right-hand drive by EdwinMSarmiento

I have been privileged to be invited as a speaker in the last SQLBits conference held in Nottingham, UK earlier this month. I have to admit that I was pretty excited since this will be my first time to be in the UK. I prepared all the necessary travel documents for the trip – visa, plane tickets, accommodation, etc. One idea that I have been considering was renting a car and driving. Whenever I travel to places in the US where public transport was a challenge, I try to rent a car. Now, understand this: I don’t like driving. One of the reasons I try to work from home most of the time is to avoid driving to and from work. I don’t want to worry about parking and other rowdy drivers that I have to deal with on the road. I prefer taking the public transport instead. The idea of driving in the UK should come as a surprise from somebody who doesn’t even like driving. But why did I even think about it in the first place?

I learned how to drive when I was 15 and I owe that to my brother. When you’re at that age, everyone thinks driving a car is cool. I’ve driven a manual transmission car ever since and only started driving automatic in 2009 after moving to Canada. The Philippines and Canada have a lot in common when it comes to driving cars: we drive on the right side of the road, we use kilometers instead of miles and traffic lights are the same (except when the lights are broken.) Contrast that with the UK where they drive on the left side of the road, use miles instead of kilometers and a lot of roundabouts. And that’s the main reason I’ve decided to drive. You see, I like getting out of my comfort zone. I like pushing myself to know what I’m capable of. The idea of driving in the UK is my way of pushing myself to get out of my comfort zone. I have to temporarily forget some of the things that have become second nature for me when driving and “quickly learn on-the-job.” As a result, I’ve learned quite a few things about leadership, especially when embarking on challenging tasks.
  1. Expect stress, so prepare for it. Doing something new always introduces stress, whether it’s as simple as cooking (especially if you don’t know how to cook, like me) or as complicated as performing your new role as CEO. It’s OK to feel stressed about it and that’s normal. However, if you let stress take over, you won’t be able to function well. That’s why preparation is key. Having spent more than 3 years in Singapore, I knew what it felt like riding (but not driving) on the left side of the road. I started imagining myself driving behind the wheel, being on the  left side of the road and feeling the shifting gear. The mental preparation paid off when I hopped in to the car and turned on the ignition. What I didn’t do was prepare physically. I should have slept well on my flight to the UK to get my body clock in-sync with the local time and not feel sleepy. Unfortunately, I’m still trying to figure that out even though I’m a frequent traveller.
  2. It’s OK to start slow and make mistakes. Highly driven individuals always feel like they’re on an adrenalin rush. They want things done quickly, efficiently and correctly. So, don’t be surprised when your colleagues or boss can’t deal with inefficiency. They’ve become so used to doing their task efficiently that they expect you to do the same. But taking on new challenges requires a different mindset. You need to be patient with yourself because you’re in learning-mode. You will make mistakes and you will get frustrated. But the last thing you need to do is be hard on yourself. Rarely do we make it right the  first time. Remember the time you were learning how to write your name? How many sheets of paper did you end up tearing? In my case, I felt like a new driver again. I stopped in the middle of the road a couple of times because I accidentally switched to the wrong gear while I make a turn. While I’m good with the clutch, my instinct just kicks in and try to reach for the switching gear with my right hand instead of the left and everything goes haywire. After getting back to my normal driving mode, I laugh at myself thinking like I was a kid riding a bike on training wheels.
  3. Build on the things you already know. I actually used this point in my presentation about Windows Failover Clustering. One reason why most people don’t take on new challenges is because they feel overwhelmed with things that they know nothing about. I hear this a lot from people who get promoted on to a new management role – the technical support guy who is now appointed as the new team lead, the sales guy who just became the director of sales. What they don’t realize is they actually know a few things. They just need to build on them. The sales guy can sell the company vision and the tech support guy can use his analytical skills to fix a teamwork issue. Knowing that you know a few things builds confidence when tackling on a new challenge.
  4. Observe, pay attention, learn and adjust accordingly. It’s easy to switch back to what we have gotten used to. But to be successful in facing a new challenge, flexibility is a must. Observe what others are doing. Pay attention to even the smallest details. You’ll be surprised at what you’ll learn. When I reached the freeway/highway/motorway, I wondered whether the speed was in kilometers or miles per hour. The on-dash GPS was telling me the distance in miles but the speedometer didn’t give me any hint. I kept glancing at the GPS because I knew how to correlate the speed and the distance traveled (yes, I was doing what I call the driver’s math of figuring out the speed just by using known values when the speedometer doesn’t give you any clue.) When I figured out that the speed was in miles, I realized that I wasn’t shifting gears properly. I knew how to shift gears in kilometers per hour but not miles per hour. Fortunately, the car I rented displayed a number that told me which gear I’m supposed to be on at a particular speed. But that number was very difficult to figure out because it was very small. I had to figure it out while driving by observing it while I change gears. That small detail helped improve my driving.
  5. Understand what is at stake. It’s easy to give up when the challenge is overwhelming. I bet we can think of a thousand different (even valid) reasons for throwing in the towel.  But when we understand what is at stake, we instantly find reasons not to give up.  Is the future of your company dependent on you completing the task? Is your job on the line? I felt like giving up after several miles on the road because of the mistakes I made while driving.  I thought about finding the nearest branch of the rental car company and just return the car. But I realized that if I don’t focus on driving, I might end up in an accident. And I certainly wouldn’t like that to happen.
  6. Seek out the right people. I thought I was the only one who tried to drive around in the UK with a different driving background. I talked to some of my friends who were there and realized that there were four of us. Suddenly, I no longer felt alone. We shared stories about how we felt and the different bloopers that we got ourselves into. And, we laughed. Facing new challenges isn’t such a bad idea after all if you know that others are in the same boat. Never face new challenges on your own and be sure that you are hanging out with the right people.
  7. Celebrate small successes. After a few days, I’ve already gotten the hang of being on the right side of the car and on the left side of the road. I went from feeling like a student driver to a professional one. I knew how to switch lanes properly when approaching the roundabouts. With that in mind, I was now able to stop along the way, taking pictures and enjoyed the scene.  What started as a stressful attempt to drive in the UK has now turned into a pleasant experience. Every new challenge that we face will have its small victories. Know when to stop to celebrate them. Pat yourself on the back for taking the risk and facing the challenge. The small victories you celebrate today will be your stepping stones for your success tomorrow.
  8. Are you facing a new challenge? Realize that it can either break you or it can make you a better leader.

Question: What new challenge are you facing today? How are you handling it? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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.


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.

Failure Is Mandatory

April 13, 2013 5 comments

“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of  failure.”
– Paul Coelho, The Alchemist –

This is the first 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. 

If you look at any dictionary, you will find the word FAILURE before the word SUCCESS. I think it was meant for a reason. Real success comes from accepting the fact that one has to experience failure first. I have yet to meet somebody who’s very successful who have not had any failures.


This was the very first slide in my presentation about what our education doesn’t teach us about success: FAILURE IS MANDATORY. The audience was shocked. Indeed, nobody told them that failure is mandatory for success. We all grew up thinking that failure should be avoided like the plague. Our parents have the noblest intention when they told us not to pursue anything too risky. Our teachers penalized incorrect test answers. Our managers confronted us for our mistakes. We’ve been raised, taught, and trained to avoid failure at all cost. Everybody thinks that failure is just that: FAILURE.  And that’s where the biggest challenge is. It requires unlearning all those years of getting used to avoiding failure at all cost. It requires a total change of mindset.

During the presentation, I shared a story about me winning the SQLSentry contest last year. The contest was about convincing SQLSentry why I am worth sending to the SQLSkills Immersion Training. Most contestants will think of the different ways that they can showcase their capabilities, their successes, etc.  After all, nobody ever won a contest because they were failures. For my entry, I decided to do something different. I listed out some of my failures

  • I failed 17 courses while pursuing my undergraduate degree
  • My first startup failed
  • I crashed production servers at work

People who know me understand that I’m not comfortable with failure. I’m very competitive and I push myself to the limit. Yet, at a young age, I realized that I need to embrace failure as a means to succeed. That was a lesson that I learned the hard way. And it sure wasn’t something taught to me inside the classroom (although it was a side effect of being inside the classroom.)  I failed my very first match course in the university. This was despite the fact that I joined math contests during my high school days. I was devastated. I tried to hide all evidences that I failed. It sure wasn’t a good story to tell my former high school classmates who thought that I was pretty cool with math. But then it hit me. The failure experience need to be transformed into lessons learned.

  1. Failures taught me to refocus on what’s important. Failing doesn’t mean one is a failure. We need to separate the activity from the individual. I failed my math course. That doesn’t mean I was a failure. I am more important than what I can accomplish. Far too often that we associate ourselves with what we have accomplished than who we really are. It should be the other way around. We should be able to tell ourselves this: “I’m not a failure. I failed at doing something.” There’s a very big difference between the two.
  2. Failure taught me to redefine what success means to me. We often fall under the trap of someone else’s definition of success. We think that having a big house, a nice car, a progressive career and a stable job meant success. We’ve been taught and conditioned to think that way. Haven’t we all heard the saying, “Go to school, get good grades, find a stable job and retire” from those who are a generation ahead of ours? That’s because it has worked for them. But what worked for them might not work for us. I realized that I need a new definition of success, one that is aligned with my very purpose. It took me a while to redefine what success means to me because I had to understand what my life’s purpose is. But when I did, it was easier to accept failure. I knew that my purpose was to help people grow and develop their fullest potential. I now see failure as a step towards achieving my purpose. As long as I’m fulfilling my purpose, I’m in good terms with failure.
  3. Failure taught me that it’s not what happens during that matters. There’s nothing wrong with feeling sorry for yourself after failing. That’s just human nature. However, what you do after the failure determines whether or not you end up being successful. Most of us feel a sense of fear after experiencing failure that we dare not try again. I’ve had my fair share of fears. I almost quit pursuing an engineering degree after failing my first math course in the university. After all, engineering is all about math and science. At the end of the semester, I was more determined to pursue an engineering degree. It took me another semester to pass that math course. But it did give me some sense of fulfillment knowing that I conquered my fear. I still failed other courses in my undergraduate program as proven by my transcript. But that didn’t stop me from continuing with my degree. It’s not what happens during your failure that matters. What does is how you deal with it afterwards.

Learn to be comfortable with failure. It’s a prerequisite for success. So important that Dr. John C. Maxwell, America’s leadership expert, wrote an entire book about it – Failing Forward. It’s a guidebook for turning mistakes into stepping stones for success.

In case you’re interested, here’s my entry to the SQLSentry contest. You be the judge.

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.