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Modern day slavery

The world of money is like a modern day slavery.

Did slavery end after the Exodus from Egypt? Or did it end when Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation declaring “all persons held as slaves…shall be free”?

How is it that Filipinos are still having a hard time working their assess off but barely make a living. 

Are we really free? Or are we just catering to the system that has enslaved many people for many generations. All your life, you’ve been sucked into a system where your sweat, blood and tears are paying for everything.

Investing in a house, for example, will tie you up for the next 25 to 30 years.

If you are already in your forties, by the time your loan ends, you’ll be in your 70’s.  Who wants to be paying for a loan in their 70’s? Shouldn’t you be just enjoying life since you are already retired by then?

Don’t get me wrong. I am not advocating not working or getting something for nothing. It just feels like that there’s something seriously wrong on how the world is set up.

The more I experience the world of money, the more I realize a lot of things — that a man is buried into worrying about money all his life. You worry about how to earn more. Then once you are able to earn money, you next worry about how to keep what you earned. After that, you worry about how to make it grow. Once the money grows, you worry about passing it to your children, and how to train them to grow it even more. The worrying never stops. Most people do not even get to that. They get stuck worrying how to pay off their debts. Some even can only go so far as worry for their next meal. 

How is it that well-meaning people, who just wants to live simply cannot even get beyond worrying about money? Is it really a case of not working hard enough? Or is the system simply skewed towards making life harder for the “modern day slaves.”

It made me realize that some business models are aimed to leverage (or exploit) the severe inequality of this world. The competitive advantage of the outsourcing industry, for example, is based on the difference in exchange rate in between countries from developed nations vs those in the developing nations. One of the reasons we are able to price our offerings competitively is because our currency in the Philippines is 50x lower than those in the western world. When this balance tips over to other side, the business model will not make sense anymore. 

Why should our money be only 50x of other countries? Who made the rules? 

When I went to the U.S. for a 6-month stint, I saw that we were no different from the people I was working with. They are no better than us. I feel like we are even better in some sense, since we are more willing to work hard. But looking at the lifestyle that they lead, you start to wonder how is it that you are living completely different lives when you are doing the same work? You wish you had similar or at least a comparable lifestyle commensurate to the work you are putting in. But that’s not the reality we are living in.

Is it unfair? Yes. Am I saying we should not be doing outsourcing anymore? Of course not. I am not naive. I think we should take advantage of the opportunity to the best that we can. Learn from them. Learn the technologies. Learn the discipline. Learn everything we can. 

While doing that we should also be working on creating more value. Create more Filipino brands who server the whole world. Our country needs to transform from a consumer-centric nation to a world-class producer of great value. We have already proven that we can compete with the best. We have great singers, boxers, nurses, OFWs and so much more. We should dream to get to that point until the world can no longer ignore us. Until the balance of power tips over and we no longer have to rely on the currency exchange to save us. 

We should learn to stand on our own two feet. Imagine a world where we are one of the superpowers, bringing so much value to the world, in different industries, across the globe, even when our Philippine peso already is at par with the other powerful nations. I dream for that to happen in my lifetime, when the currency exchange reaches that of 1PHP = 1USD or whoever is the most powerful currency in the future. Imagine a day when Filipinos no longer have to go abroad and be discriminated against. Imagine us having the freedom to travel and go to places, not forced to do something and sacrifice being away from our families only because that’s the only option we have due to the inequality being brought by the unfairness of currency exchange. 

When that happens, I wish for the world to also experience what is it like to be a Filipino — to be a little bit kinder, a little bit more accommodating, a little bit more human. A world where all the good things that make the Filipino race something we can be proud of is in full display: friendly and welcoming, smiling in spite of disasters, enduring in all of life’s calamities, thriving and making the world a better place, a place not ruled by worrying about money but the spirit of abundance that lives in us all. A world where we can say we’re finally free. Imagine a day that becomes true.

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I went back to Corporate after 10 years and here’s what I discovered

After more than a decade outside the corporate world, I went back. As for the reason why I went back, I’ll share it with you next time, but for now I’d like to share with you why I resigned again…2 years since going back. There are 3 reasons: Health, Family and Freedom.

Health

Now that I am in my 40’s, I feel that my health is not where it was before. It takes me longer to recover from a strenuous activity, like playing in a competitive sports like basketball and badminton. When I was younger, there was no such thing as recovery time. After a bit of rest, I’m ready to go. Now, it takes me days to recover at least before I can compete again. I can’t keep up with younger players anymore.

I have already resigned from the fact that I no longer compete for the prizes, but only to enjoy the time to play and get myself play something that I love. I am happy that I can play these sports that I love.

Not sure if the pandemic had anything to do with it, but being inside the room for a long period of time has encouraged me to take more activities than I can probably handle now that I am a little bit older. 

It’s like revenge travel, but instead it’s revenge playing outside the house.

There were also instances where it took a little bit longer for me to recover from my coughs and colds. Maybe I am just getting a little bit older.

When I went back to work 2 years ago, the first thing I noticed was the adjustment I had to make in terms of the physical demands of work. Even though I was working at home, I now had to wake up a little bit earlier than I used to. I had to adjust my waking hours. It took a few weeks but eventually I settled into a routine that helped me.

The first weeks were brutal. It’s been a while to be in the corporate so the adjustment was expected but one of the things that really got to me was time spent doing nothing. As you know when you’re new to a company there’s normally a period where you are on bench while they are preparing to onboard you to your next project. But I wasn’t used to doing nothing the whole day. I spent the whole time going through training that I wouldn’t even know if I am ever going to use, or if they will be relevant. 

I took trainings and got my certifications. It’s like going back to school again. Fortunately, I managed to pass all of them and got exposed to new technologies. For that I am grateful. 

But mentally, the moments where you are staring at the clock and just waiting for the end of your shift to end is soul sucking. It’s like you’re wasting away your life to an unknown force. Every minute feels like a month that’s taken from your life…bringing you closer to your death.

My mental health was really challenged. I feel like, I can give more. I don’t want to be wasting the years I have left. You never know until when you are here on this earth. I don’t want to be wasting it just staring at a clock every day.

Family

One of the things that I value most is my time with my family, especially my wife and 2 boys. I had to adjust to the idea that my time with them will have to be shared with my work. Since I am in a company that is rendering 45-hour workweek. That’s 9 hours per day + 1 hour lunch, total of 10 hours per day. There was also a time when I had to endure an hour traffic going to the office and another hour back home. So that’s already 12 hours total. This does not include overtime hours whether paid or unpaid. I realized I am already spending more than half of my day working, without building anything that can have a residual income or a capital gain in the future. Perhaps the only thing that I am building is a reputation that I can deliver, which only my manager and perhaps his/her boss knows. I don’t feel like I am building anything in terms of developing a reputation across the industry I am working on.

One of the things that made me really re-think whether this kind of setup is the one for me is when my son attended a recognition program, for which he received an award. I was able to go there, but had to miss the medal ceremony because I had to attend a meeting at work. It pained me to see that because of work, I had to miss one of the important events in my son’s young life. I was there, but I could not even watch him receive the award. My son is very understanding when I explained it to him. But then again, that was a big deal for me personally.

The reason that’s a big deal for me was because my father missed a lot of important milestones in my life because of work. Money was always hard to come by. I remember that my dad was always doing so many stuffs just to earn money. I felt like it’s important for me to not let earning money be the reason why I can’t attend an important event in my son’s life. 

This year, our company started mandating return to office, and that started a huge adjustment in my part. The little flexibility that was available before, is no longer at my disposal. The last 3 months before I resigned, I was working 5-days a week return to office. In short, I was already working 10-hour days every day. I had to endure the commute to work and back home. I had to pay for things that I didn’t have to before, like parking, lunch, dinner. When I did my analysis, I was losing money compared to when I was working at home. The thing was, there are 3 resources that are important to me that is suffering: Money, Time and Energy. Obviously, with the additional expenses, I am losing money. With the drive to work and back home, I am spending a lot of time in traffic. Doing this every day took a toll on my energy and health. I had less time to recover. In the weekends, I can’t simply sleep at home because my family would want to go somewhere, because they too would want to get refreshed. That means additional expenses, the 2 days a week would become even shorter compared to the 5-day workweek. More importantly, my health was suffering because I had very little time to recover from the gruelling week. 

The type of work nowadays requires a lot of mental effort, not a no-brainer task like those in a factory setup. A lot of the things that consume my energy is in solving complicated problems and understanding different systems. More often than not, you have to learn a new system quickly and be ready to get up to speed immediately. Some are technical in nature and time is not always on your side.  Often times, you don’t even have an idea whether something will work or not. You just keep the faith and do the best you can. But everything has a price. And most of the time, the price to pay is in degradation in health physically, mentally, psychologically. The more complex the project you are working on, the more stakeholders you have to work with. The technical problems are the easy part. The hard part is in dealing and communicating with people. Different personalities. Different priorities. Different ways of looking at the problem and how to approach it. Again, these kinds of problems take a toll on your health.

That’s why recovering my health was important for me. Physical health, mental health, psychological health. There were moments where I was feeling really sad and it made me decide to take a break from all these things.

My health is important to me and at this time of my life I am choosing myself.

Freedom

Perhaps I am not really cut out to be an employee. My spirit is too stubborn, and I feel my whole being is screaming for freedom.

Growing up, I have always been someone who does not enjoy getting orders from someone else. Something deep inside of me makes my blood boil. Perhaps it’s ego. Perhaps it’s something else. Perhaps I’m just stubborn. I don’t know.

Don’t get me wrong. I am willing to work. I also deliver results. I am recognized consistently in all my works and they compensate me both in awards and bonuses. More importantly, I can work with anyone. I am mature enough to know when something is important. It means I have to swallow my pride and not sweat over small stuffs. Most of the time, just letting it go to save your peace of mind is the better path. Life is short to be getting worked up about things at work that you wish to be better.

If there’s a lesson I learned during the Covid years, it is the realization that there are only few things in this life that is worth your trouble. I also learned that you can live life without a lot of the other stuffs. Life doesn’t have to be complicated.

The pursuit of material things? Recognition? Pleasing other people? Never ending hustle for money? I have since learned to let them go and seek freedom instead of carrying unnecessary burdens all your life.

Perhaps, this is just part of getting older. After all, we were born into this world with nothing. It is but fitting that when we finally go back to the one who created us, we will also take back nothing. To live with freedom, one must be willing to let go and learn to live lighter.