Home > Ideas and Philosophy > Teachable Points Of View

Teachable Points Of View

November 29, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

NOTE: I meant to post this earlier, but was busy with stuff and what not.  Here it is now. 🙂

I don’t know if it’s the overdose of caffeine flowing through my veins, or the memory of the sweet, lovely smile of Ivy – one of the newer baristas at the Starbucks branch in the Eastwood Mall – flowing through my heart that has inspired me to write, but some thoughts crossed my mind that I think were worth noting.  Some people call this one’s “Teachable Points Of View.” 

I’ve heard a few interesting ones from some of the leaders of my company over the years, and I wondered if, after having lived and worked this long so far, I have anything to share from my life experiences.  It seems I actually have some.  Isn’t that a surprise? 

My teachable points of view are not just about work. 

1. Assume command of the situation – if you are ready, and when it makes sense.

I’ve heard a couple of times the anecdotal advice that in life, you need to make your own opportunities rather than wait for them to arrive.  Sometimes, though, life actually gives you a break and sends one over to you.  In either case, when the opportunities arrive, one must be ready to step up and take advantage of the situation. 

It’s all about assuming responsibility – when you are ready, and when it makes sense to do so. 

All things being equal, when faced in a situation when nobody wants to make a decision about something, that situation presents an opportunity for one to step and take charge.  Taking point and making a decision obviously has its risks – and so it is critical that one is prepared to be in a position to actually step up in the first place.  But taking point has the benefit that, for better or worse, you are in control of the situation, or at the very least be in a position to influence the outcome.  Taking advantage of the opportunity to control or influence the direction or decision gives you the chance to stir it in the outcome one wants to achieve. 

Put another way: If you have the opportunity to decide then make the decision – if you are qualified to do so, otherwise someone else will do it for you, and you may not like what the other guy had in mind. 

2. Have executive presence.

I heard this piece of advice, on having “executive presence,” from one of my former managers.  This was at the time when I wasn’t getting the career I wanted.  (I still don’t have the ideal career I want, by the way, but I’m still very grateful for what I have now.)  When he told me this I silently muttered to myself “What the hell is he talking about???”  After that I loudly voiced out a few nasty things running though my head (i.e. thinking out loud) that tempted him to kill me – but that’s another story for another time. 

As I have come to understand it in the years since I got this advice, having “executive presence” means having a sense of professional maturity in your career.  And, you don’t have to be an executive to exude such professional maturity. 

It’s when things are bad when one’s professional maturity shines the best.  When most people complain about their high tax deductions, the professionally mature will be grateful for the salary they get, and will encourage others to also count their blessings.  When most people complain that they got bypassed for promotion, the professionally mature take that as a learning experience and an opportunity to prove to management that they can do better, and that they were wrong in not giving them what they deserved.  When most people complain about the cost cuttings that happen (i.e. no more free beer at the pantry,  etc.), the professionally mature understand the reasons for this and make do with less – and still end up productive.  The professionally mature acknowledge a bad situation as it is, but does not let it stop them from what they need to do.  They see the big picture and the light at the end of the tunnel – and stick to getting there. 

Why does professional maturity matter?  Ultimately, it just does.  Think about the leaders in your company who you admire and respect.  The admiration and respect they command – and not have to demand – is because of the professional maturity they possess.  They will march into hell, and people will follow them into the fire because they believe in them and in what they’re doing.  (Okay, so hell might be a bit of an exaggeration – but you get the point.) 

3. Some people have the “right kind of crazy” – hire them / work with or for them. 

When talking about the “right kind of crazy,” it’s also important to mention the “wrong kind of crazy,” so let me explain what the latter is a bit first to help distinguish it from the former. 

Basically, people with the “wrong kind of crazy” are either the serial killers and rapists hopefully confined in prisons, or the certified lunatics hopefully confined in mental institutions.  One does not want to work with these kinds of people – avoid them like the plague that they are. 

Basically, people with the “right kind of crazy” are those who are passionate about what they do.  You will see them performing network performance testing in different Wi-Fi hotspots in Metro Manila just for the fun of it.  You will see them testing out the latest Microsoft releases just published in MSDN to gain new knowledge to supplement whatever training they’re able to get in the office.  You will see them coding all sorts of crazy things for entire weekends, sometimes just for the fun of coding itself. 

In other words, these are the people who will do what they do even if nobody will pay them to do it (though I’m sure most will not ever admit to this), because for these people it’s not just work for them – it’s also fun. 

Getting people with a passion for what they do is a key driver for the success of any organization.  Aside from achieving the company’s goals, these people’s fervor can be infectious enough to inspire other people to be just as passionate with their work, too. 

Put another way: Because of passion in one’s work, even the most daunting of tasks can be surmounted – and it can even be fun!  It’s all in the positive attitude of the person. 

Therefore, if you see people with a passion for what they do – hire them / work with or for them. 

4. To be an authentic leader, bring your personality to work. 

I got this idea from one of my company’s senior executives; in fact these are his exact words. 

One cannot hide who one really is.  If you want the people you work with to trust you and cooperate in your plans, then they need to know and understand the real you.  At the very least, being yourself is also a form of courtesy: You’re being real to everybody around you.  It’s hard to trust anyone we don’t know, or who is pretending to be something he’s not. 

People learn to trust their leaders if they know them well.  You don’t necessarily have to make your life an open book to everybody.  It’s just a matter of giving them some space in your life, just as they will also give some space in their lives to you. 

5. Don’t just blindly think out of the box. 

Thinking out of the box is about innovation and creativity.  It is about not letting the imposed limits of what-have-you stop one from doing something new and daring.  It’s actually good advice, I just think that it should be taken in the right context. 

There’s a reason why the “box” exists – and sometimes, the reason can actually be good. 

Sometimes the limits imposed are actually the distilled wisdom of countless experiences of others who have shown that there is a sensible need for such limits, like a best practice of sorts.  (I honestly can’t think of one example of this, though, but I think that’s beside the point.)  Thinking outside the box can be a bad thing if it leads to things being worse off than before. 

The key idea here is to think critically.  Don’t just break standards and limits for the sake of breaking it.  Do it because you have something better.  Innovate if it will move things forward in a better way.  Otherwise, if you don’t think you’ll be successful in producing something more efficient, then stick to the box until such time that you are ready to do so.  The last thing anyone needs is one more new mess to clean up. 

6. Have a healthy disrespect for authority. 

I talked about this at length before.  It’s basically about two things: (1) Fighting for what you know is right, and (2) Resisting stupidity. 

Make a stand and do the needful: Resist what you see is monumentally wrong and stupid.  Oftentimes this is the only way for the truth of the matter to come to the surface and get wider visibility.  Challenge authority when you know there is something wrong.

7. Cynics are hopeless, so don’t waste your time with them. 

You cannot please everybody, and in particular for cynics, no matter what you do, everything is still wrong for them. 

It’s the cynic’s choice if they want to go to hell while in this world, but you don’t have to join them in their misery – and please don’t. 

8. Remember that you are also an employee just like everybody else.

Dr. Robert I. Sutton is a professor of psychology at Harvard University, and in his book entitled “The No A$$hole Rule” (censorship mine), he mentioned a term he calls the “Power Performance Paradox.”  What this means is that having a corporate hierarchy is important, but in the day to day work and interactions executives have with their subordinates, they should not carry the weight of their rank and make the people under them feel it.[1]  They should be approachable and be able to relate to their people. 

In other words, you may be the boss, but at the end of the day, you’re just another employee like everyone else who draws a salary, has needs, concerns and aspirations in life, and is subject to the same company rules as everyone else.  Don’t let your title get to your head. 

If you cannot relate to your people in a way that makes them cooperate with the goals you have in mind, then you have failed as a boss.

I think this insight still applies if you actually own the company.  You would not be successful without the people you’ve hired to do the job for you – so be good to them.  If for some reason you can’t actually help them in what they need to do, then at least get out of their way so that they can effectively do what you’re paying them to do. 

Because you are also an employee just like everybody else, you are not God, and the world does not revolve around you.  Nobody likes people too full of themselves.  One’s pride will be one’s downfall in the long run, and when the proud fall, they fall a long and painful way. 

9.  Don’t be a boss – be a leader!

There are a couple of versions of the “Boss vs. Leader” text; I’ve put what I could find together in one that best sums up this idea. 

Boss vs. Leader[2]

The boss drives his men; the leader coaches them.
The boss depends upon authority; the leader depends upon good will.
The boss inspires fear; the leader inspires enthusiasm.
The boss says “I”; the leader says “We.”
The boss assigns tasks; the leader sets the pace.
The boss says “Get here on time!”; the leader gets there ahead of time.
The boss fixes blame for the breakdown; the leader fixes the breakdown.
The boss knows how it’s done; the leader shows how.
The boss makes work a drudgery; the leader makes it a game.
The boss says “Go!”; the leader says “Let’s go!”
The boss demands respect; the leader commands respect.
Don’t be a boss – be a leader!

 10.  There are hidden blessings in the world, sometimes even in the worst of situations. 

This insight has a prerequisite: It requires a leap of faith in God and trust in Him that, because He is God and because He is good, He actually knows what He’s doing in our lives such that no matter how bad the situation is, or if things don’t turn out the way we wanted, ultimately things will end up in our best interest. 

My father wanted me to study at his alma mater, but I eventually ended up in that “other school.”  Suffice it to say, he was disappointed that happened.  However it’s because I went to the other school that I graduated with the highest honors – twice (Elementary and High School).  It’s also because of my academic achievements that I went to college, still in that other school but on scholarship, and with literally the grace of God graduated with an engineering degree, with honors. 

I cannot begin to imagine how different my life would have turned out if I succeeded to enter my father’s school in the beginning.  It could have been better… or not.  In any case, I’m extremely grateful to God that things turned out the way they did.  If I were to live my life again, I would still want to go to that other school because I know this ended up to be in my best interest. 

In more recent events in my life, I wasted 12 years of it waiting for someone who did not even consider me as an option in her life.  This was obviously a very painful lesson to learn – but the experience was not wasted because I know better now.  I don’t know how things will eventually end up as far as this matter is concerned, but I continue to trust in Him that someday I will see how her departure from my life was ultimately in my best interest as well.  Hey, it could mean there’s someone better, right?  It’s not yet too late for me, anyway…  There is still time. 

11.  Lower your expectations, and then ask: “What have you got to lose?”

Lowering one’s expectations, or even having none at all, are sometimes helpful because it protects one from experiencing great disappointment if something doesn’t happen the way one hoped for to happen.  Note that it doesn’t mean one isn’t disappointed anymore; it’s more like mitigating the situation such that it would not be worse. 

Not expecting anything means that if you do get something, one will see it for the blessing that it is, whatever it may be.  And since one is not expecting anything anyway, one literally has nothing to lose.  This is especially true in taking risks in life. 

[And since I’m on the subject…  Hi Starbucks Ivy!  How are you doing?  Not sure if you’re reading this now.  Anyway…  I no longer see you as often as I used to.  Funny that we we don’t interact so much.  I like you…  Want to go out with me on a date sometime? 🙂  Sigh.  I hate being so torpe.]

12.  Don’t force love.

It’s just how life works.  Don’t force love.  If she doesn’t feel the same way, then accept the reality and move on.  It doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you (though I can’t shake the feeling that I’m an exception somehow), it’s just that being just friends is all that you can ever be for each other. 

You know you’ve found “The One” when you’re comfortable being who you are around her, and she would feel the same way.  There doesn’t have to be sparks flying; in most cases, and in the course of the relationship as the euphoria of first love quietly fades away, there won’t be any.  But if you are comfortable with each other, then you know that you’ve found your partner in life.  You can be talking the whole day, or not even have anything to say at all, but in either case you both would feel that you’ve had the best conversation you’ve ever had.  The mere presence of each other would be enough. 

Learn to be happy even in solitude.  Happiness should not be dependent on another person.  If you’re not happy just as you are, then having another person sharing in your life won’t change that, and likely you will make her unhappy as well.

Continue to be who you are.  At the end of the day we can only be comfortable being ourselves, and if someone is going to like you, then it has to be because of who you really are, just as it is expected that you will like her for who she really is, too. 

Someday, you might actually find someone who wants to be more than friends with you, and if you feel the same way for her, then that will be the start of something truly beautiful. 

Who knows?  It could also happen that someday she realizes placing you in the “friends only” category was mistake.  I’ve heard a few stories of this actually happening to some people.  It would then be a matter of you still being interested in her or not. 

Last but not the least, inasmuch as you should not force love on others, you should also not force love on yourself.  Being single is not a disease that needs to be cured.  If it turns out that you are actually more comfortable in solitude, then that is your calling and your source of happiness in life. 

At the end of the day we all deserve to be happy, and there is not only one path to happiness. 

13.  Be conscious of what will ultimately what matter the most in the end. 

The message I got in a quick forwarded e-mail four years ago says it best. 

What Will Matter
by Michael Josephson

Ready or not, some day it will all come to an end. There will be no more sunrises, no minutes, hours or days. All the things you collected, whether treasured or forgotten will pass to someone else. Your wealth, fame and temporal power will shrivel to irrelevance. It will not matter what you owned or what you were owed. Your grudges, resentments, frustrations and jealousies will finally disappear. So too, your hopes, ambitions, plans and to-do lists will expire. The wins and losses that once seemed so important will fade away. It won’t matter where you came from or what side of the tracks you lived on at the end. It won’t matter whether you were beautiful or brilliant. Even your gender and skin color will be irrelevant.

So what will matter? How will the value of your days be measured?

What will matter is not what you bought but what you built, not what you got but what you gave.
What will matter is not your success but your significance.
What will matter is not what you learned but what you taught.
What will matter is every act of integrity, compassion, courage, or sacrifice that enriched, empowered or encouraged others to emulate your example.
What will matter is not your competence but your character.
What will matter is not how many people you knew, but how many will feel a lasting loss when you’re gone.
What will matter is not your memories but the memories that live in those who loved you.
What will matter is how long you will be remembered, by whom and for what.
Living a life that matters doesn’t happen by accident. It’s not a matter of circumstance but of CHOICE. Choose to live a life that matters.

14.  Last but not the least: Be guided by 1 Corinthians 13 in all your relationships. 

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.


Jesus, I trust in You!


[1] Sutton, Robert I., The No Asshole Rule, Business Plus, New York 2007, p. 78. 

Categories: Ideas and Philosophy

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