Dear Youth

My boss could not help but react how inspiring my weekend was based on how I shared my stories with excitement from YouthHack Manila, the 1st high-school hackathon in the Philippines. When I told them about the innovative ideas, the extent of the sharpness of some of the pitches, as well as the hunger and competitive spirit I saw in the attendees, they could not help but hint at supporting more initiatives like this churning out such exemplary output.

After the event, several teams approached me to get more concrete feedback. Some of them asked why they didn’t win, or what tips I could share to help them progress with their idea. Hey, the winning team even asked me why they won (Yup, they really did ask). As I tried to answer these queries one by one in my best capacity, and admittedly, at the risk of lowering my value in the dating market, with pits sweating (it was getting humid, not that it was due to anything else), I suggested that they explore more about Lean Startup philosophies, get out of the building to do more validations, or even discover invalidations, and share all these startup pegs that they could look further into from the Valley, or Tel Aviv, or here in the Philippines, that are emerging best case examples of already commercialized solutions resembling the pain points they are addressing.

But this is not a post about startup jargon. Last night, one young man asked me what other tips I could give to help him progress in general. I cannot remember what I exactly said, or if it was adequate at all. The aura tonight makes me ponder further on his question and figure out the things in my life so far that have helped me get through to living a life where I get to wake up cheerfully every morning with a happy disposition:

1. Invest in yourself. Chin up. In decisions big or small, it pays to think about the long term repercussions of your actions. Be accountable to your actions. Regardless of whether the outcome is a perceived highlight or lowlight, perceive your chosen experiences as your investments to become a better and stronger self. And man/woman up, doing them head high.

2. Always learn. Always ask. Enjoy your quest to answers. When you learn of the answers, revel in your capacity to ask more questions. Cliché as it may sound, there are a lot of wonders to be discovered along the journey. When you reach your destination, make new ones. Continue to tread on the journey through the lens of wonder.

3. Combine personal passion with social relevance. One team shared this line as part of their pitch, and I could not agree more: All technological advancements are useless if no one uses them. In grad school, one of my teachers would always remind our class that innovation is a function of both invention and commercialization. It is perplexing to even fathom the purpose of churning out a solution for its own sake, one that does not seek to solve a problem. In grade school, we are taught the scientific method, and we always are invited to define a problem as one of the preliminary steps. Often, it is easy to rest on laurels and settle on an unfair advantage with regards to relative knowledge attained. But if that is the be all and end all of things, it will only generate intellectual elitism and our brain cells will have expired for its own sake only. But wouldn’t it be more awesome if our intellect were to be used in creating solutions that transcended beyond the confines of our own time and space? Social impact does that. Stuff to consider, yeah!

4. Failures, challenges, roadblocks happen. There’s no person who ever ONLY succeeded. These bumps in the road of life exist for a reason. They validate/invalidate our purpose. They help us have thicker skin, and help us become stronger. Embrace them, learn from them. Fail fast. Fail better. Fail forward.

5. At any given point in time, being in a place where you don’t know what you want is okay. Do not beat yourself up. But ultimately, be open. Stagnant bodies of water eventually become devoid of life, but those that flow actually support and even perpetuate life. Flow. Move. Show up. Being a yes person makes all the difference. The bigger picture will unfold in its own serendipitous time.

6. Know your why’s. Look at the things that take up most of your time. What is the reason why you spend so much time doing this and that? Having deeply rooted why’s on the things that you do on most of your waking days i.e. your passions, your hard work, your advocacies, your recreational choices, your loves, even your aversions will help you solidify your path with more definition. Let us go back to your why’s.

7. We are an empowered generation. Access to information is at the tip of our fingers. Let’s maximize on this opportunity, and build on this momentous time in history. But let us not feel entitled. I could not help but overhear a conversation between two young men over the weekend as well. They were talking about coming up with their startup. The other guy goes that he likes to think of strategic stuff, but admits to not liking to do dirty work a.k.a. knitty gritty legwork. Here’s some news: if you feel you are made for greatness, yes, you don’t have to like doing dirty work but you have to do it at some point. All the greatest people in time underwent difficulty, did things they didn’t necessarily like doing in the pursuit of achieving their missions, but had a smorgasbord of grit, and all chose to focus on the silver lining. As one of my favorite lines in yoga goes: pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional. Folks, it’s all a matter of perspective.

8. No man is an island. Help. More so, don’t be too shy / egoistic to not seek for help. We are all more similar than we are different. One of the greatest personal discoveries I went through was the power and scale that lies behind the spirit of collaboration.

9. Be grateful. Appreciate your present. Recognize your past. Keep a list of the stuff you want to achieve in your future (my boss would always emphasize this in his talks to the youth). To operationalize and execute your set future milestones, translate them to key metrics – per unit time, value, a nominal number. But more importantly, it is useful to go back to your why’s. Be it through a timeline, or the number of countries travelled, or one’s financial net worth, or the number of people helped, let us always remember that we all do it to cultivate kindness to ourselves by virtue of cultivating kindness to others. And this brings me to the last tip–

10. Know yourself. It is the key to knowing what you want, what your purpose is, to respecting your own unique path to bliss. I know a lot of people who are unhappy with their paths. They complain how hard it is to climb the corporate ladder, for example. Is the corporate ladder as a metric for success forcibly shoved on all of us? Should we subscribe to mainstream notions of success just because most others view it as such? The secret is to respect your inner voice. To know there is always a choice. To blend heart and mind when taking calculated risks. So go ahead and climb the corporate ladder – if you want to. Do it with class and pizzazz. We live and breathe in a time and space where we have the gift of freedom and liberation. Let’s take advantage of it.

Young man, I thank you for your question. Your attempt to explore the methods of validating/invalidating your path is invigorating. It gives me hope knowing that the movers and shakers of tomorrow are using their minds and hearts well today.

Young man, this is just a curation of borrowed concepts and experiences. I do not claim any of these ideologies to be genuinely mine, but these are what I have genuinely adhered to since discovering them. Here’s hoping you get to learn of these few things one way or another as you continue on your journey.

Love and light. Namaste. Ü


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