After leaving the “corporate world” in January and before actually starting school in May, I found myself in a refreshing phase in my life — professionally and personally — through which I finally found and made the time to rediscover my strengths that may have been diminished by time itself, create new ones and, particularly interesting, overcome weaknesses, at least the ones I know of, by turning these into a place of strength.
I was involved in several things during this period, but one that is worth noting is how I started my CrossFit journey.
Weightlifting was not my thing, at least for a long time until I started getting trained by a pro bodybuilder in 2013 who worked through my “gym handicap” and dislike for free weights by focusing on the foundations of bodybuilding. After all, I had always dreamt (and still do) of bulking up to a point that I could very well compare myself to popular Instagram athlete profiles.
That remained a dream at least because I knew I was only starting to get into it. Then I worked through this peculiar dislike for weightlifting by taking the leap to getting trained once again, now more regularly and with the intensity that I knew I would not like. Somehow, we were able to achieve the gains I have set for myself as goals, in the short run, by working closely on big muscle groups that I want to grow massively. But the routine became just that, a routine.
Several friends have tried convincing me to look into CrossFit. Without any knowledge of what exactly it was, I always found ways to evade it. Watching videos on YouTube did not help; they were lifting heavy doing mostly Olympic weightlifting in ways I knew I would not be able to live up to. Add to that the always present “MetCon” in a workout of the day or WOD. I knew it was not for me and, besides, I barely had time to regularly workout in my gym with my trainer without making it to the gym late with anything substantial to do but rush through the workout before the lights at Fitness First Aura are turned off.
Given that earlier this year, before studying, one could argue that I then already have the time and not enough good excuses to continue evading CrossFit. After all, the box was a stone’s throw away from where my son studies. So each time I would drop him off school, on the walk back to the parking building, I would see athletes training in the box.
I checked the facilities, spoke to the staff and booked my first workout.
My first workout will always be memorable. In fact, all the sessions I attended on my first few months in the box are memorable. I remember driving to the box feeling anxious each time. I realised that much of the strength, “techniques,” or basically whatever I knew of working out and how my body works through it and responds to it did not matter a lot in the box. In fact, I learnt that, eventually because I went to the box to train everyday (5x a week), it was to my best interest to unlearn much of the bad habits from my conventional gym days in order for me to learn to the max what we were doing in the box.
One of the common questions I get asked these days starts with why.
I think why is the all-important question that need to be answered, more than what and how. Why allows us to provide a reason to everything we do, say, or even think of. Addressing the why affords us a time to contemplate in the hope of arriving at an answer that illuminates the many things that make us wonder, that bother us, or make us jump out of our seats.
Perhaps the most common why-question I get these days is: “why Economics?”, which is immediately followed by “why Ph.D.?”
I suppose that the people who ask me these questions either care about me or honestly do not know my motivations for choosing this route at a time that seems to necessitate a different choice, i.e. go back to work, earn a high salary, enjoy the (fringe) benefits of being in a corporate job that comes with a flashy title and, maybe, even a shiny new car.
I guess, before I answer the two why-questions above, it is important for me to explain its (lengthy yet essential) context first.
I left my last job in a surprising twist of events late 2017 culminating into an official “last day” in January 2018. This very well deserves a separate post, but for the sole purpose of this entry, I would say this much: the universe conspires for us — whether we like it or not — always for the better. I am a firm believer of this. Sometimes we see it coming, oftentimes not. But whatever the outcome, in the long run, and when I look back at things from a different view, I know my life had turned out quite well and constantly for the better.
This time in my life has proven to be one of the most rewarding. In fact, since leaving the agency, I had the privilege of meeting people, teams, investors, companies in fascinating ways that I would not have experienced had my circumstances not changed. I have met people who took genuine interest in the potential and real value of innovation and customer experience in their organisations.
For the past few weeks (or months), I have been preparing for my first day of Ph.D. classes. I have been accepted into a ladderised Ph.D. in Economics program where I go through the entire 63-unit coursework covering both M.Sc. and Ph.D. Economics in eight terms.
Being a non-Economics major back in my undergraduate studies (I studied Humanities and Integrated Marketing Communications at UA&P), I was, and still am, anxious about pursuing an entirely new discipline, which comes with an honest admission of weakness on my part when it comes to mathematics. I call it my known handicap in life (despite having graduated from Manila Science and its robust Math programme; also, that was 18 years ago!). A note aside, one advice I read is to take these subjects as though one were learning a new foreign language.
Too anxious that I started reading a bunch of advanced undergraduate and entry graduate-level books on Mathematical Economics knowing that it is already lucky for me to enter the programme at Term 3 which will wet my feet in graduate Labour Economics and the Economics of Regional Integration, rather than diving right into a six-unit course in Mathematical Economics in a couplet with a three-unit course on Economic Statistics. In my head, I have about 16 weeks to prepare for that; it would be a serious matter of commitment, however, to prepare properly for these Term 1 courses.
me ampersand &; is my personal blog, an exposition of a life in conjunction. This blog has gone through several changes by way of look and feel, change in name, layout and, substantially to a certain extent, content. I believe this reflects that several major episodes in my life that have vastly influenced the way I see myself in the context of the world around me.
This refreshed version reflects what might be a penultimate (not knowing when the ultimate is) approach to this blog. I hope to journal my thoughts and commentaries, all personal, about my life in conjunction with the different facets of my life. me ampersand &; is a platform for me to expose my thoughts on, for example, me and the married life, me and fatherhood, me and my journey towards a Ph.D. degree, me and being a son, me and culture, me & CrossFit and the endless journey (and struggle) towards fitness achievement… the permutations are almost endless, which make it all too very exciting. I only hope I can live up to the calling of writing again.
Back in the early days of the internet which I was glad to have enjoyed in high school then later on as an expat living and working in Vietnam, I used to write regularly albeit on what we might consider being trivial today. I would probably still find myself writing about trivial matters of life as is afforded by an all-encompassing theme of a life in conjunction, but only in better form and with a stronger command of the language. (I hope.)
What a year.
There are so many things to be so proud of from this year. But life offers many surprises in so many dimensions. Life is a complex situation unraveling, at one point, piece by piece then all at once.
Life requires a good understanding of its complex nature. Life requires a profound appreciation of the complicated emotions it plays with.
But if there is one thing I have proven that I am capable of is kindness and maturity. It could be my age (I am turning 35 after all). But kindness is such a powerful theme. It describes my year — sometimes the lack of it, but never totally lacking.
I learnt that kindness saves everyone of the pain and gives us so much perspective. And perspective allows us to see meaning when there seems none. Perspective allows us to feel when there seems a drought of it. Perspective allows us to see more when it seems there is none.
Perspective allows us to cherish what matters most especially this time of year.
Family. Friends. Love. Laughter. Lightness. Spontaneity. Joy.
Perhaps those are all that matter in life. And this season alongside its complexities beautifully handhold us to embracing it fully.
That, whilst there is so much turmoil, there is love.
That, whilst there is much reason to be angry, there is forgiveness.
That, whilst there is much discontent, there is happiness.
Maybe, just maybe, that’s all that matters. Especially this season.
Goodbye 2017. I shall be writing more about you, but in memoriam.
So this is Christmas… and it is good.
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– Digital Account Director: we're looking for someone who has a proven track record in fostering great teamwork to produce outstanding work for clients. This talent may have earned citations, awards or led projects that have exceeded client and agency expectations. This talent has also excelled in bringing to life projects amidst challenges in the day to day work. We're looking for someone who has an excellent work ethic that inspires everyone he or she works with to deliver only the best all the time. 5-7+ years work experience is desirable.
– Social Media Manager: we are looking for someone who has a fine blend of expertise in channels, platforms, emerging technologies, content and most importantly conversations managing communities that humanise brand propositions building stronger engagement and brand love. This talent is both the voice of the brand and the customer and is able to bridge strategy and creative in community and content engagement across a variety of platforms. 5+ years working experience is desirable.
Please contact me directly if any of these roles excite you! Send me a direct message or email me a link to your profile and portfolio. Email is pao dot pena at dentsujs (dot) com.
Is it because any departure from this island is an act of ‘returning to reality?’ It certainly has that appeal because even a short 4d 3n stay gives one a legitimate reason to escape from reality and, even by choice, disconnect from the real world which then makes the flight out – and boarding the plane alone – a reminder of the truth that the best things indeed don’t last because if they did, they wouldn’t be the best anymore (inspired by Barbra Streisand, somehow).
Is it because you get used to the kind of service that is unparalleled fromp pre-arrival arrangements to the arrival formalities and rituals including people who seem to know you just enough to call you properly by name, welcoming you back to the island and being warm like meeting an old friend, to the day-to-day upkeep of your casita that is impeccably brought to order, spotless and even personalised according to how, as it seems, the staff understands you and your needs, to the checkout and departure formalities that include seeing your guest assistant, management team and all those who truly wanted to send you off (some really make it a point to go out of their way to say goodbye and see you soon, some even hug and kiss, again like old friends leaving each other for now) wave their goodbye as your plane takes an inch off the ground en route to Manila?
Is it because of the seemingly effortless beauty of the place and the warmth of the people making it even more special? There is a cast of thousands that make this place beautiful – edit – even more beautiful (because the no-exaggeration powder white beach and clear, pristine waters are already beautiful as-is, one could argue), yet you don’t see them run the show as though they were stressed to bits. In the rare occasion that you would see them working, you would appreciate how effortless everything seems to be, which is strange because the place tries very hard to please yet doesn’t impose itself upon you as trying too hard. That’s partly where the magic is.
Is it because, on third visit, the place has known enough about you and has been witness to your growing family that it has surprising touches like the main waiter confirming, even after five months since the last visit, if you would like to have a large bottle of sparkling water; your guest assistant who has exhibited authentic fondness of your son that when you see them together it is like watching your son meet an old time playmate; is it because the place knows your style already that the housekeeping staff would tuck a large towel on top of the baby’s bedding because they know already that you would use it to cover the sides of the crib so that the baby is not disturbed by lights at night?
Is it because our trips to this place have always been accompanied by reasons to celebrate which are then followed by only beautiful memories befitting the place? And to leave it is to somehow put an end the pleasures of celebrating?
There are indeed many things that could make you teary-eyed when leaving Amanpulo and all the reasons above are true to how I – or we, including perhaps Pablo – felt as the plane was taxiing around and we were looking back at the Amanpulo staff waving even way after the plane’s wheels have gotten off the tarmac.
It was a truly memorable visit – much like the first and the second time we did – but quite more special being with Pablo who now runs around and enjoys playing at the beach, and having celebrated Rhex’s birthday this long Easter weekend on the island. We sure look forward to visiting again, hopefully some time soon!
It is saddening to hear of a promising talent succumbing to martyrdom in the eternal pursuit of maintaining business and keeping clients happy. I agree to the many posts I have read on this same incident and the collective plea of an industry to reassess its work culture. It is indeed sad that it takes deaths like this for many to realise it is time to pause, stop and make a change.
I believe the real solution to this problem is to work towards greater transparency between clients and agencies on the work and how to work together the right way. Oftentimes the real culprit is the lack of work processes with reasonable and standard turnaround times across the stages of the work coming to life. And because of that, expectations are not managed upfront and the first to take a hit on this is the agency being treated like a factory without some clients realising that this sort of way of working together, in fact, is to their disadvantage: poor quality of thinking, poor execution, and poor results. It is a vicious, ugly cycle. And what for? For accounts that are constantly hanging by a thin line on threat of putting the business on poorly organised and unfair pitches?
And then there are bad clients. These are clients who treat the agency as a sweatshop. All in the name of submission regardless of who and how the work was done. Unfortunately most schools only teach how to be a great ad person, but rarely how to be a good client.
The relationship between clients and agencies is critical to solving this issue. It is what spells the difference between simply having a client-supplier relationship and a true partnership between client and agency. A true partnership is one that takes care of the people on both sides of the table, and not just numbers nor egos gracing the meetings. I am still hopeful as there are still relationships out there that run on the principle of true partnership.
As a client in my past lives, I admit I have been demanding of the agencies I worked with but I also know my limit and up to what human levels I could push the work to. If in the end it is not possible anymore nor healthy for anyone, together with the agency, we stop and pause and accept the reality that it is indeed not possible. Great work after all is a two-way road. The same is true for rubbish work.
Now being back on the agency side, I have better appreciation of our role as agency leaders. I think it is imperative that we find and make time to nurture and not torture our people – our talents, our main assets driving this business of ideas forward. Putting the business first, on the agency side, I believe, equally means putting our people first.
Arrival (movie) was a surprise.
Not knowing exactly what it would be about – no prior research whatsoever before settling into the lazy boy – the movie is not just any other alien plot, but a story that beautifully conveys the message of the need for a common language that unites more than it now divides us.
It also talks about the concept of God not having a sense of past, present and future and how gaining that ‘tool’ or ‘weapon’ unlocks a transcendental perspective which in this lifetime we may never truly achieve but nevertheless strive to learn. PERSPECTIVE is so powerful that it answers our profound human need to find meaning, to find purpose, to discover answers to questions we may never at all be strong enough to handle or comprehend.
Arrival is also proof that you can always take a concept so commonly abused – like alien invasion stories – to a much higher plane. It also proves that Hollywood can and should serve a role so critical to the formation of the world’s collective intelligence by constantly challenging the audience to think and not to wait for laughter, tears, or ideas to be served on a silver, lazy ass platter.
It is worth watching and absolutely deserving of a reflection or two soon after one steps back into the real world.
Been a long time since I last wrote on my blog. Much has happened since my last post.
I have yet to write again; the problem with writing is the discipline one needs to have in order for time to make space for it.
I have quite a backlog of things to write about.
- Pablo becoming part of our lives
- Pablo’s first trip to the beach, our review of our return to Amanpulo
- My return to advertising after a stint in Philip Morris, some new views and reviews
- And more
The list goes on and on. But it starts here. Needless to say, it’s time to get some WordPress premium ROI!