Lessons from University Long After Graduation

Amidst the everyday traffic chaos, the pushing and squeezing in the rail transit stations, the general feeling of frustration brought about poor national governance and corruption and other worries and disappointments came messages of hope from the university I graduated from – messages that I used to hear on a daily basis before that gave me so much optimism, but are rarely heard now, save for the occasional homily given by a Jesuit priest. These are the messages that I’ve longed to hear.

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These messages of hope from this evening’s of testimonials entitled “Women Leaders: In the Footsteps of St. Ignatius” which is part of “40 Years Half the Sky: Celebrating Co-Education in Ateneo de Manila”, a campaign celebrating the presence and contribution of women in the university. Ateneo first opened its doors to women in 1973 and now women slightly outnumber the men. The women spoke about how Ignatian values and spirituality are making an impact on their lives.

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Ateneo President Father Jett Villarin gives the Opening Remarks

The women leaders who spoke were CHED Chairperson Dr. Patricia Licuanan, Filinvest Development Corporation President and CEO Josephine Gotianun-Yap ad Rags II Riches Founder and Director Reese Fernandez – Ruiz.

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Dr. Patricia Licuanan, Chair of the Philippine Commission on Higher Education (CHED)

Dr. Licuanan shared lessons on balancing one’s career with a rich and relaxed personal life, balancing leadership, the zest for change and courage with management, systems and prudence and being a voice of hope by finding comfort in advocacies and reforms and even afflicting people’s comfort zones.

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Josephine Gotianun-Yap, Filinvest Development Corporation and Filinvest Land Inc. President and CEO

Josephine Gotianun – Yap shared that in business, having a sense of responsibility and vision trumps power. In business you have to set a moral tone which will guide the mission, vision and general operational direction of the company.

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Reese Fernandez Ruiz, President and Co-Founder, Rags2Riches (with Monch, and Dan and Bem in the photo)

Finally, Reese Fernandez – Ruiz shared that being more reflective or in her words – “disturbed” – has helped in her growth as an individual and how it has helped grow her social enterprise, Rags2Riches. Her testimonial actually hit home because I actually went through what she went through. Like her, I prepared a plan on how to be rich and successful and life, and found myself deviating from the plan after encountering prisoners from Bilibid, having an internship in UNICEF, volunteering for a non-government organization, working for another non-government organization and having the heart for development and business. Her questions struck me and her answers pretty much validated the path I’m taking now. Her parting words to the audience were, “Never stop asking ‘Why?'”.

I’ve actually stopped asking myself that after graduation. From my short healthcare stint post-graduation and in my business and development sector career now, I’ve never really asked. I just kept going, and feeling and knowing it’s the right way to go.

On my way home, I found myself asking myself “Why am I doing what I am doing?”.

And after 7 years of exploring the world through healthcare, education, development and marketing, I now have answer.

Risks, Success and Happiness

I’ve never thought of myself as a risk-taker because I don’t gamble nor engage in extreme sports like bungee-jumping or scuba-diving. It was only until a few days ago, when a personal experience lead me to examine myself further. I have realized that I am somewhat adventurous when it comes to making career-building decisions, and this characteristic of mine lead me to many opportunities, of which I am happy to have. I’m also adventurous when it comes to food choices and exploring different places.

Now this lead me to ask myself: “Are risk-taking, success and happiness correlated?” Yes, according to WebMD and Psychology Today. In the Psychology Today article entitled “Happiness is a Risky Business”, writer Angie Levan advocates healthy risk-taking. She says, “risk-taking is essential to learning what your limits are, to growing as an individual and to cultivating a thriving life. Risk is something to be fully embraced and celebrated! Without taking risks, it’s impossible to learn the skills that enable you to thrive in life, like learning to manage emotions in uncertain circumstances – which life is full of.”

For every risk, there is an inevitable loss, and that’s what scares people away. On the other hand, for every risk, there is something good to gain, which makes risk-taking very important for business,  as risk-taking is organic for any good entrepreneur out there. A study by Mckinsey shows how businesses that are more inclined to reallocating their resources and changing their strategies every three years are more successful than those that retain the same business strategy for a longer time. Based on the Mckinsey report, it seems like these organizations’ leaders are more adventurous than others. And personally, I think good leaders – whether they be in the private industry, the nonprofit industry or public governance – are smart risk-takers.

Earlier on, I mentioned that I’m somewhat of a risk-taker when it comes to work and career opportunities. How about you? Are you a risk-taker? What kind of a risk-taker are you?

Hope you can share with me your thoughts. Thanks for reading my blog!

Teachable Moments

For the past few days, I’ve read the term “teachable moment” several times on various articles online. It’s a fairly old concept in education theory but a very new one for me even if I’ve worked for education advocacy projects before. I’m not sure if it’s wholly the same with “learning moment”, but I prefer the term “teachable moment” because it sounds so much wiser and full of hope, at least for me.

“Teachable moment” is a concept that was popularized by Robert Havighurst, a professor, educator and physicist. It refers to those opportunities wherein  learning about something becomes easy.

We have so many “teachable moments” in life, and we should take advantage of those opportunities so we can reflect and learn about life, or help others in doing so.  Some of the best teachable moments I’ve had occurred outside the formal school setting.

This is important for managers and anyone whose means of living involves leading people. A few years back, my bosses  and older workmates took opportunities like meetings and long drives home as teachable moments. As we were about to take our seats for a meeting in a restaurant, one boss taught me the prescribed seating arrangement when going on dates. Another boss told me the importance of having savings early as we discussed my future goals. An older workmate told me that when I marry, my husband and I should consider buying a home first before buying a vehicle, when I hitched with him for a ride home. It has been years since I’ve heard all those, and the lessons stayed with me. I thank all of them for the lessons they taught me.

As leaders, you can take meetings and activities like conventions, symposia and project activations as opportunities to share lessons to your team. You can also take certain moments like the ones I shared above to share other non-work yet useful lessons in life.

Couples should also view certain experiences like big arguments or external challenges (such as a family or work-related problem, or even something as trivial as getting lost in the parking lot) as teachable moments to make themselves wiser and their relationships stronger.

This is most important for parents and elder siblings out there, who double as mentors to their kin. Kids are inquisitive, so parents and elder siblings can take the moment and enlighten them even on  issues like sex and sexuality, war and conflicts, crimes and safety using age-appropriate language.

Thanks for sharing your time with me by reading my post! How about you? Is there any particular teachable moment you can remember that you would want to share?

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