Putting Stubbornness to Good Use

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Wide Open Pets

“I really think this is good for you!” said a friend to me over the phone. He’d been telling it to me in our conversations. All of us are stubborn in some ways, but few people can put their stubbornness to good use. So, I decided to put mine. “Have you tried it?” I asked him. “Not yet,” he answered. “Then I really think you ought to try it first,” I insisted.

“Stubborn” often connotes something negative and is a kind of firmness and insistence we all do not want to be used on us. And perhaps, we also do not want to use it on others. Most of us do not want to be PIN (pain in the neck). This reminds us of PIN sales persons and unprofessional network marketers who hound us even in our sleep, unrelenting until they have made us buy.

Nobody likes a guy who stubbornly does something that will just end up pissing off people, or worse, end up in harm. Like minding other’s business. Or gossiping. And how about folks who keep falling prey to scams or crimes but never learn their lesson? Stubbornness like that just turns me off. I was a stubborn guy like that.

Power of Stubbornness

But there are those who make something positive of their stubbornness. They just won’t give up and it delights us to see them doing it. Like the person who is too stubborn to let himself fail, so he keeps trying to hit high marks. Or the officemate who always aims for excellence in all he does and does it quietly. I had an officemate like that who won’t stop until he has accomplished everything perfectly. And he just worked quietly in his corner.

And there was this network marketer I really appreciated. Yes, he stubbornly asked people for appointments to present his product and business, but he let you decide on your own. He never did pestering followups (except for casual follow ups which looked professional) nor kept telling you about it each time you met (because anyway, he has presented everything well when he presented it to you), nor insisted that you buy. He never brought up the topic again with me but made efforts to follow up on his friendship, instead. So in the end, I bought the product and joined him. I never learn my lesson.

I once was stubborn in a nice way like that, but in a different field. I doggedly trained in martial arts until I perfected every move. I did it day and night and never stopped even if my friends all said I was in tip-top form and it was time I rested. I was stubborn. I just continued doing it and aimed higher.

The Right Stubbornness

Thus, in a sense, we should all be “stubborn.” We should all just keep doing things, over and over, even if others advice us to stop because we’ve done more than enough. But for stubbornness to be positive, here are some factors to consider:

  1. It should involve things that we alone are affected. You cannot be stubborn about things that affect other people or about what other people do. Don’t be a nuisance.
  2. You should be doing it to be a better person. Don’t do it to prove yourself better than others.
  3. You should do it quietly. Don’t do it just to attract attention. If you should get good attention, it should all be natural. If you have to insist on something, do it once or twice.
  4. Do it for a worthy personal goal. Analyze the goal and motive, if it’s really needed. The goal is often is to become a better person. And don’t make “worthy” goals for others.
  5. Don’t be a PIN. If you have to be stubborn, do it without being a pain in the neck.
  6. Keep it simple. Avoid great projects because it’s usually a sign of grandstanding and proving yourself to others.

Stubbornness Leads to Miracles

Faith can move mountains. We all have faith but few people have faith that displaces or “throws off” mountains. Often, it is faith “as small as a mustard seed” that does this. It’s just simple faith, nothing pretentious or grandstanding. People with this faith simply keep at it. They just stubbornly believe even if everything seems to be against all odds. They never give up. This is stubbornness put to good use.

Often, the key to a miracle is stubbornness. You keep stubbornly believing even if reality says otherwise. Even if the facts and evidences point to the opposite. Sometimes, stubborn faith like that comes when you learn to be quietly confident in God. You just keep still and know that HE is God.

Solving Gaps

If you are stubborn, learn how to put it to good use. And you can begin by making sure no one gets pissed off by your stubbornness. Most generation gaps have this at the core of the problem. Both parties stubbornly insist on their own values. To be sure, there are wrong and right standards, and right standards should be enforced and wrong ones corrected. But problem is, both sides are apt to insist their standards to be correct.

So most times, it is best to just stubbornly live out your standards and time and the just God will prove who’s been right and who’s been wrong all along. It’s like tea—we are all prone to insist that our cup of tea is the best, until one day, we realize there’s a better tea, and then we want it served bottomless. Because we’re all stubborn, some things are better learned by oneself. That’s among the facts of life.

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Parable of the Hen and the Early Worm

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Each day before I start blogging, I first look out the door of our small porch to survey my neighborhood and often see my neighbor’s hen. It’s a funny looking, slender young hen with kind-of long legs. tiny body.  comic head and wide, wondering eyes. It roams around the street all day, always making a funny-sounding, desperate chirp while searching for food. Sometimes there are two of them.

Sometimes, too, I do my organic gardening and see earthworms crawl out from underneath earthen pots and squirm their way to some dark corners for safety. I discovered how earthworms often do their thing even early in the morning. They’re hard working like ants, though less visible.

So, there was this worm who often woke up late, usually at 8 am which was 4 hours later than he should. He slept late the night before, hanging out in taverns till the late hours, and slept at dawn. No way he could make it at 4 am because he was just beginning sleep at 2 am. So, the early worm often chided him. “Don’t you ever learn from the early bird?” the early worm said. “The early bird gets everything and leaves nothing for the late bird!”

Late Worm simply shook his head and started looking for nutrients and minerals in the soil to eat but found only a handful left. Early Worm got almost all of it. He was probably right. Still, Late Worm didn’t buy the idea of being early for work. He saw a drawback but couldn’t explain it. And anyway, he had nothing to prove his theory. So, no use arguing with Early Worm about it. What was important was that he was enjoying his life the way he wanted it—just enough food, plenty of sleep, and a happy nightlife.

Then one day, at about 5 am, I saw Miss Hen frantically searching for food at Mr. Bean’s front yard (one neighbor looked like Mr. Bean). She found none and hurriedly transferred to my front yard. And there she met Early Worm. “Good morning, Miss Hen!” Early Worm shouted. And that was the last we heard of him.

Thus, Late Worm finally proved his theory. “The early bird gets the early worm.” Not all early undertakings are good, he reasoned. For the bird, it was advantageous. But not for the early worm. There is a right time for everything.

LESSON: A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, [Ecclesiastes 2.24].

Just remember, everything in moderation.

I’d like to conclude with the true story of my Uncle Frank. He was always early for work. But one time, he was late. But it was a fortunate tardiness, a blessing in disguise—if he had been 10 minutes earlier for work, he would have been one of those who died in the collapse of Twin Towers, World Trace Center in New York City during the 9-11, 2001 attack.

Smile that Launches a Thousand Ships

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Comic Legion

They say to always smile. It’s supposed to make things in your life better. Well, I’ve seen more than enough of life to know that it isn’t so all the time. Still, a smile is so important, if not to people you give it to, then to yourself. Did you know your smile could launch a thousand ships?

A famous song in the 1970s tells how a face could launch a thousand ships, and I guess it’s a face with a smile. I cannot imagine how a scowling face could do that. Sink a thousand ships perhaps, but not launch. When I was a kid I could not understand how smiling could do me good so I often looked sad. I thought smiling was stupid. Then in high school, I realized how my smile lit up the faces of girls in the campus.

Campus Star!

Believe me, I was some kind of a celebrity in school those days. A lot of girls had a crush on me, though I wasn’t really good-looking. Often, I looked bad with my worn out school uniform and tattered rubber shoes. But I think it was all because my smile shew my dimples. Our first year class adviser, Mrs. Cortez, was also so fond of me while she was pregnant that she always watched me with delight. So she seated me in front and made me class president. See what difference smiling can give.

But something terrible happened in college that made my smile scary. People got scared the more I smiled, so I stopped doing it. I was back to square one, looking sad most times. But the irony was that, the sad face seemed to be masking my growing love for good jokes and funny anecdotes. I started taking so much interest in how people looked funny in their silly habits, idiosyncrasies and ideas. I mean, I’d been like that as a kid but it got worse in college. I kept it all a secret, though, except to my close friends. Outwardly, I seemed sad but my close friends knew better. They knew what went on in my mind and when I shared my secret funny thoughts, their stomachs ached as they laughed.

Boss’ Favorite

After college, I had various jobs, all of which were managerial in nature, although I never finished college. How it all happened? Well, my best explanation is that it was all God’s miracle. Anyway, I discovered that I became naturally likable to most people when I smiled. I don’t know what happened but my smile transformed so that it again launched a thousand ships. One slight smile and people liked me a lot.

There was this guy who was the topnotch in PR in the entire Philippines at the time. He was known to be strict and had high standards. After a few days of training, he chose me over a younger and a really handsome guy who was a graduate of a prestigious university and had remarkable work experience. Later, the boss told me why he picked me. “Everybody in the office likes you because you seem to be a nice guy. You’d be a rich guy someday in PR.”

It must have been my smile, because the younger and really handsome guy was also nice. In fact, I thought he smiled better.

What was so special about my smile?

What’s in a Smile?

It was not an artificial or made-over smile. It was a natural smile. I smiled with a good feeling and that was it. I didn’t try to make it better than it was. And it launched a thousand ships, whatever company I worked for. Well, others said it was my kind, humble and gentle personality, and probably all these worked out a natural ship-launching smile on my face. But what I know is that it started when I started smiling because I liked people.

But it all changed again when I entered the threshold of mid-life. I became wiser and more experienced in the streets. I learned the different types of smiles and when to use them. My smile is not scary but it somewhat evokes respect. I suspect that it’s a mix of things—the look of hard and deep experiences wrought in my eyes plus my expertise in what smiles are appropriate for the moment. Then combine that with my military-cut white hair. See what I mean? Does that still launch a thousand ships? Oh yes, it does. Name what ship—cruise, military, cargo, oil tanker or expedition—my smile can launch it.

Just Smile

Whatever the effect on people, a smile is important. Smiling is worth it—never mind how it looks. Just make sure it’s simple and all-natural like an all-natural tea prepared simply and served bottomless. But there are different types of tea for specific uses. Understand that the same is true with smiles.

Oh, you’ll learn about it as you mature.

 

How to Demolish Frustration

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Frustration is painful, especially if you expected the best results from a reliable person or thing. The pain is worse when it comes to ambitions gone awry. It’s okay to be frustrated with how your cooking turned out, looking and tasting strange and far different from how it was pictured in the recipe book, and things like that. But frustrated with your career or love life?

First, Frustration Demolishes You

Often, recovering from frustration like that can be hard work, if not frustrating in itself. I remember the time when I couldn’t finish college due to a silly ailment. There was nothing I could do about it because my hormones dictated what I could and couldn’t do. All my future seemed to hang on the thin thread of my college diploma—and it snapped. At a young age, I was so worried about what job I could land on without credentials. And how about my future? My income source? In fact, my entire life.

That’s not to mention about my love life. With no college degree, no job and money, who would fall for me? Would I ever have a family of my own? How about my dream house and car? My dream gym and backyard vegetable garden? With a frustrated college stint, how would my dreams materialize if I’d just be stuck with blue-collar jobs all my life? My best shot was to at least land on pink-collar jobs.

You can just imagine how devastated I was when I became a college dropout against my will. Everyday was gloomy and uncertain. Everyone looked down on me while my contemporaries were graduating from college, passing board exams, landing on top job positions and becoming respected professionals. They looked at me as if saying, “What happened to you?”

At least my love-life had a bit of some color to it. Funny as it sounds, some girls still fell for me—pretty, decent girls at that. And I couldn’t understand why. For sure, they were not suffering delusions due to hunger, for they came from well-to-do families. And it wasn’t as if they were running out of admirers, because they had a lot. They also had high IQs. So what was wrong with them? Or was it something wrong in me?

So I had my share of frustrations. Sometimes I think I got more than my share of them. If shares of frustrations could be traded on the stock market, I’d be a billionaire by now.

Then You Demolish It

But one day I learned a great lesson in life. Frustrations are really weak structures that look big and strong, deceiving you so they can always stand in the way of your success. You know how sometimes, due to unconstrained anger, you throw a fragile plate on a solid wall and break it to pieces? I did something like that on the wall of my frustrations. But guess what. The plate didn’t break, but the wall did—in small pieces.

I was shocked. The big, ominous wall broke just like that with a small, thin piece of  dinner plate. And all along I thought I was stuck with that wall of frustrations for life. All those wasted times that I let it intimidate me. Again, frustrations. But not this time—I immediately hit it with my plate and it smashed into pieces. So that’s how feeble frustrations are. They easily break. Why let them break me?

Plates are God’s Gifts

What are plates? They hold your food for you, right? Often, your favorite food. So plates, figuratively here, are anything that contain or hold what you need and what you love. You gain access to all these through dreaming. To me it’s dreaming. At least it’s what demolishes my walls of frustration. I dream of the things I want and aspire for and see them rise up before me and uproot the bogus wall of frustration that has been blocking my sight.

There are lots of things you cannot have instantly in life but which you can immediately call into existence in your dreams. Once you build your aspirations in your dreams, they grow fast and push out your wall of frustration. Having a powerful imagination helps a lot. The thing is to build your desires exactly where your wall of frustration is, grow it bigger until it knocks off and replaces the wall. That’s how I demolish frustration.

That’s why I like dreaming. I’ve been doing it since grade school but had never mastered it until recently when I demolished my wall of frustration with a plate. I’m still not that successful but at least my walls of frustration have been demolished.

And I don’t mean you just keep dreaming your frustrations away. You’ve got to back up your dreams with real hard work and strategic planning. My point is, if frustrations still happen despite your efforts, don’t let it put you down, which is what often happens if you don’t understand God’s gift of dreaming. Everything God put in your life has a use. And dreaming is a good backup plan to fight frustration amusingly while you are still trying to come up with your Plan B.

Remember my frustrations above? Well, I landed on managerial positions, and even once worked as marketing director, even if I didn’t graduate from college and had no credentials to show for my qualifications. And my love-life? I have a smart, beautiful, kind and loving wife who supports me in all my dreams, plus two sons and a grandson who are promising material for dream building.

Believe me. Dreaming demolishes frustrations.

Stopping Awhile to Watch the Rain. Have You?

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Ateneo de Manila

Rains were often a hassle to me especially when rain got my shoes and socks all wet and even smelly after I wade through a street flood. That’s why I love summer. But that was before I stumbled on a revelation. One day I got caught trapped on a sidewalk due to heavy rains while I was waiting for a ride home. Then I saw it.

Have you stopped awhile to watch the rain, I mean really watch it? Watch it falling in big drops en masse and washing everything afresh? It makes people separated by distance (and probably by preferences and prejudices) cringe close together, perfectly united to protect themselves from getting wet. And I love the sight where people share umbrellas together for the same purpose. Sometimes they huddle and huggle in narrow bus stops and waiting sheds to save each other from the rain.

Rain does that. And if rain does so much wonders like that to people, I don’t mind getting my shoes and socks all wet. The sight of torrential rain hitting windshields and street pavements hard and getting everything wet becomes magic moments. You watch and take in all this, finally realizing why God created rain and rainy days. It still is a hassle, especially this side of the world where laundry clothes are sometimes still made to dry out in the sun (especially if you can’t afford machine laundry), but the way it promotes care and unity far outweighs its inconveniences.

Rain stirs up my fondest memories, too. I remember times when I was in grade school, high school and college and my friends and I walked in the rain and allowed ourselves to get wet because we all shared my umbrella. There was a time when my high school classmate and I decided to walk the length of Rizal Avenue one rainy afternoon from A. Bonifacio to Blumentritt to Carriedo. In the rain, you freely talk about a lot of things and not realize how far you’ve gone.

I love rain when in Baguio City where thick mists cover everything, leaving only the tops of pine trees visible or when I’m in a car watching how the world outside gets bathed in rain. Most of all, I love rain when I’m with my wife alone in our small bedroom and classes on all levels are suspended and we’re huddled together sharing silly stories. It’s also a good time to watch a good, inspiring movie on TV while you lie down together in bed. One time we did this watching, “Daig Ka ng Lola Ko.”

I used to complain a lot about rain, especially thunderstorms. I still hate thunderstorms, especially the way it affects our internet connection. But then I realize how it’s an opportunity to rest my eyes and turn it from staring at the PC screen all day to looking out the window, afar, watching the rain and lightning and listening to the thunder and the rain pattering on everything, I immediately see why God allows thunderstorms, besides purifying and ionizing the air around with them.

The next time you have an appointment and it suddenly rains hard—and you can cancel the appointment—cancel it and stay home, and watch the rain…and be healed.

Saturday Mornings Alone

Saturday morning, about 5.30 am. Just looking out the jalousie window upon waking and looking afar. All peace and quiet. Nothing could be better—your soul still quiet and hopeful with the few gleeful bird chirps you hear around. Sometimes they peek at you. You peek back through the windows and see a small patch of the clear sky and know at once it’s a good day out there. You want to go out and run.

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But some days you just want to stay in your room and watch everything from the window, alone—quietly staring at life and nature—birds perched on the telephone wire, early commuters and joggers, and the taho vendor breaking the silence with shouts of his trade.  You just take all that in quietly.

You don’t have any plans, though you know things are going to be hectic as the day progresses.  Things are bound to come and present themselves uninvited. But for the moment, you don’t bother with any of that. You just look out the window and enjoy the scenes, taking in all the fresh air available. And then you glance at your spouse now and then, a creature dearest to you, still hugging her pillow and intent on enjoying an extended bedtime. No need to hurry. It’s Saturday. And she needs the rest.

Oh yes, I’m happily “alone” like this with God and my wife.

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Just like iced tea. I often picture in mind iced tea in a tall glass when I need to relax or when I’m in a relaxing moment. Actually, I’m quite choosy when it comes to my iced tea. I don’t drink powdered or artificial iced tea (I love tap or cool water better anytime), but I love the way it looks—natural or artificial—especially its light yellow-green color and the sweaty droplets on the pitcher or glass when the abundance of ice releases its full effect. Well, sometimes I take a sip or two—maybe 3 or 5—but never gulp down the whole thing. I don’t like the excess caffeine.

A crazy and tiresome week makes you look forward to Saturday mornings and iced teas. I and my wife do (minus the iced tea), and especially because we get more quiet moments with God on a Saturday morning. It should be a Saturday morning, not any other day or time of day. Friday afternoons are hopeless with traffic and exhaustion and Sunday mornings are often devoted only to religion that you lose time alone with God. So I often get things figured out on a Saturday morning. Next time you need to decide on an urgent matter, wait till it’s Saturday morning. Your decisions get better results.

Hence, I hate the idea of going out on a Saturday morning to do some other thing, like work or business or even pleasure. I hated it when I was required to be at the office on a Saturday. Thank God I’m not an employee anymore. Saturdays and Sundays should be kept free for God and family and that would prove to be even more productive for businesses in the end. It’s like iced tea—the more you offer bottomless iced tea almost for free, the more customers like it and order more food. It’s a catch.

Talking of iced tea, there are two kinds that give you different health effects. Natural iced tea, like the one made from real mangosteen, for instance (green tea is a good substitute). But artificial ones, like powdered instant iced tea, are bad for your health. Exactly like relaxation or times of refreshing. Refreshments can either be bad or good, and we’d be dealing with both here on the blog, Bottomless Tea. For instance, it’s a bad time to relax when it’s time to get stressed. You know what I mean? But you should be able to relax during stressful times, but not in a bad way.

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And almost each Saturday—well, sometimes any day of the week as long as I’m online—I’ll try my best to mix you nice iced tea that fits your day, and serve it bottomless. Unlimited. Not even the sky is the limit. And you know what? Here’s a tip—bottomless tea is best sipped while staring out your jalousie windows, and there’s peace and quiet all around.

Your nerves are calm and you enjoy a clear mind to figure out things—sometimes, you also need a clear mind to allow your thoughts to wonder freely, like how the wind blows. And then you get to “go places” while in the comforts of your small bedroom. When you easily get into this experience, you are enjoying my bottomless tea.