Throwback to childhood

I consider it one of the greatest blessings in life having been raised in the countryside. And at a time when internet was not yet a word in the dictionary. My childhood was that of a typical probinsyano whose days were heavily spent out in the sun.

Boredom was not a thing back then. There was always something new to do. Chasing dragonflies, crossing rivers, climbing up trees, gatecrashing houses in the neighborhood and a hell lots of games. One thing that is uniquely Filipino is that as kids, we used to invent our own games due to our very limited resources. Most of us could not afford keeping up with the trends in the toys market. And as a result, we had to rely on our own creative juices to come up with fun activities.

Agawan base, bahay-bahayan, shatom, batak-batak, buwan-buwan, lupa-langit. The list can go on and on. And did I mention our games involved a lot of singing? Our many varieties of hand-clapping games required all players to sing songs like Bahay Kubo, Leron-leron Sinta, Nanay-Tatay. Even the famous rock-paper-scissors game had been localized to have its own lyrics. Jack’ n’ Poy, hale-hale-hoy!

If you share my childhood, I’m sure you are singing along by now!

I’m afraid those days are gone. Not in the literal sense that those years are well past me but that such kind of childhood is seldom found in the streets now. Even in my own hometown. I am being sentimental on this, especially today, because it is my nephew’s birthday. He turned 7 and it was all spent within the comforts of home. The quarantine measure is of course one big reason. But even prior covid, it wasn’t any different.

I happen to be a Kids Church preacher. As such, I am very well exposed to the experiences of this new generation, toddlers & preteens alike. One thing, in common, that I have observed is that their daily lives are largely consumed by their gadgets at home. And in a way, that has immobilized them. There is a different kind of growth that only the external environment can give these kids. And sadly, they are missing out on that.

I am not a parent (yet) and I do not know what’s one best way to raise children in this era. But if it were up to me, I would prefer that it be like that of my own. That of a promdi, where playing with the dirty mud and getting wet in the rain was the norm and not the exception. Where kids played face to face and exchanged laughters next to one another.

Where we soaked up in the sun til our skin started burning.

And we didn’t care. Because it was the best time of our lives.

My 37k mistake

It’s 6:24. The darkness of the clouds outside signals a heavy downpour that is looming.

I feel inspired. And weirdly, not lazy. I tell you this is unusual as the bed weather at any given day would easily put my energy & enthusiasm to rest.

Despite the gloom, I managed to get my feet out for a quick run. The recent ECQ pretty much locked me up at home, and I took it as a “proper” excuse to let my belly build up new layers of fat. If my 9-year old self knew that I would have this shape as an adult, he would have held back his ridicules against my uncles whose tummies were always sticking out that their belts couldn’t surface up. I imagined them as balloons that were waiting to blow up. And I thought then, that was hilarious.

Fast forward to two decades later, I can only laugh at the naive, naughty version of me. Boy had no clue that the joke was on him.

You see, this is not the first time I’ve felt sorry about my state of fitness. In fact, two years ago, out of my frustration, I decided to get myself a gym subscription. After being dumped twice, the insecurities were starting to really wear my confidence out. My irrational impulses brought me to the newly-opened boxing gym in the neighborhood to inquire about their programs. And learning about their 1-year subscription being offered at a 50% discount, I thought I couldn’t let it pass, not realizing it was a hefty amount I was paying. What’s worse was the fact that I only showed up twice.

2 days in attendance out of the 365 days that I enrolled for. And just like that, my thirty-seven thousand pesos vanished into thin air. What a shame!

That’s probably the stupidest financial decision I ever made. As an accountant, that is rather inexcusable! This is one investment that didn’t quite make a return.

Holding that thought, how common is it that when we try solving problems, we usually want to go into the big leaps? What makes the future appealing is that it lets us romanticize big solutions in our head that we think will magically wash the problem away. Instant, easy fix.

Your phone doesn’t work, you immediately think that you deserve an upgrade. You find yourself bored & feeling uninspired at work, you suddenly consider changing jobs. You have petty disagreements with your partner and now you’re thinking, maybe, it’s time to call it off?

Big leaps. Instant, easy fix.

As they say, the devil is in the details. However, our brains are too lazy to confront the details of the problem that we want to jump into the solution straight away. Or perhaps, because we are too impatient?

We love the beauty of the macro but we don’t want to deal with the micro. Any grand thing is made up of small, microscopic details. Heck, even the world-renowned works of art, like Monalisa & La Sagrada Familia. That said, the small strokes are as equally important as the big ones.

Now, preaching to myself, if I really want to get into a better shape, there’s no way I will skip the hard physical routines. The muscle pains, the running out of breath. The forbearing, the endurance.

How about you? What details are you missing on? I invite you to take a closer look into your problem and maybe then, you’ll see the devil’s hand waving at you. You need to see it first before you can arrest it. Hold it captive!

What If?

Last night, my friends and I had our weekly catch up via zoom. Given the fluidity of this COVID situation, we all agreed that the worst is yet to come. Even local experts are saying it is reasonable to expect a GDP contraction as a result of this pandemic. If not handled well, this may very well resemble the economic crisis during WW2.

Left and right, I am already hearing news of layoffs, hiring freeze, forced leaves and bankruptcies as companies grapple with tight cashflows. As a finance professional working in an MNC, I am privy to other companies’ financial data as their customer, vendor or partner. And from what I see, things are looking really bad with no guaranteed promise in sight. And yet, we are just beginning to feel the magnitude of this economic shock.

Realizing that we are not immune from future massive retrenchments, we challenged ourselves to reflect on this thought: What will you do differently now in preparation for what is to come? We got some interesting answers and let me share to you a few.

1. Let go of expensive habits beginning with ice cream purchases every grocery run.
2. Gather family members and conduct a gameplanning of sorts to prepare for future possibilities.
3. Upskilling. Focus on developing skills that will remain essential in the future
4. Invest on new leisure habits that do not cost money. Find a way to reward yourself without having to spend much.
5. Maximize use of cashflow techniques and budget apps to instill personal financial discipline.
6. Aim for simplicity and minimalism.
7. Be grateful for what you have now. Do your best at work while you have it.

Finally, we closed off with a prayer as our gesture of complete surrender to God. Everything on earth will pass away but His words will remain.

On Personal Finance

As someone who is managing the financials of a sizable company, I find it ironic that I have failed many times in managing my own personal finances. I have bought things & services out of impulse that don’t add value, took risky investments that eventually failed & spent on luxury which didn’t really make me happy because I only did it for a sense of self-worth.But I’d like to believe I have been getting better at it over time.

Once I realized that I haven’t been responsible enough, I took action by developing my own cash-flow management tool in an excel spreadsheet which I use as a guide until now in evaluating my financials on a regular basis.

The first step was to ask myself what really is my goal. Quantifying how much peso worth of investments or money in the bank I’d like to have in xx no. of years gave clarity to my goal which made it easy for me to craft & chart my financial plan.

And the more important question was “Why”. What am I saving up for? This question made me realize I have so much to prepare for such as my future wedding, family needs, emergencies, financial stability & security, ministry support. The list can go on and on. Understanding why I do what I do became my inspiring force to get down to serious business with my financials.

In the office, I often get asked by my peers why I am “kuripot”. Why I often decline invitations for a fancy lunch or dinner, why I haven’t bought a car for myself, why I haven’t enjoyed any overseas trip recently or why I almost always look for cheaper options even when my job pays me well. I grapple with these thoughts sometimes as they bring me to self-pity.

All I have to do is to go back to my goals and be in faith that as I responsibly steward my resources, God’s blessing will be with me.In His time, I’ll find pleasure on things I only dream of now.

#Pinoy Pride

I learned something today. From a man in his early 40’s.

He is a key executive in one of Australia’s biggest accounting firm networks. He was sharing to me why they are so keen about working with Filipinos.

I was quick to think about the “cheap labor cost” argument and I told him how that can be tricky in the long run as the rapid growth of the service industry in the country will intensify competition, and the employers will consequently be forced to push the salaries up, eventually leading to a point where the cost of our labor will no longer be competitive when compared to other markets.

I was surprised with his response. No, it’s really not just about the money, after all. While they can leverage on our low cost to magnify their margins, they put more premium to the Filipino character. They consider our values as their true assets. He is convinced that if ever that time will come when our cost loses its competitive advantage, he would still choose the Filipino for his hard work and passion.

This stirred something from the inside. It is wonderful to know that the world is starting to see us for who we really are. Indeed, we are slowly unbecoming the sick man of Asia.

There is a promising future for our country, folks. On Friday, I will do a presentation about the Filipino Culture for those who are interested to invest in our dear country. I pray I represent you well.

To this end, let’s keep our hard work and have fun at learning 🙂

Cheers mate!

Meeting Ana

Always a sweet experience to meet Filipinos when traveling.

This is Ana, a nurse who has lived in Australia for forty plus years. I met her at the Sydney airport while boarding our flight to Queensland. She says she’s been craving for bagoong for the longest time. I think that to be Filipino is to enjoy catching up with a person you barely know as if you’re old friends.

When we were parting ways, she quickly clipped a 50 dollar bill in my hand while shaking hands. I felt rather awkward but she insisted that I accept it as a gift and suggested that I use it for my taxi fare.

She reminds me so much of my mom. Id surely keep in touch with her on facebook.

Gestures that Matter

This is Sam Steven’s Eatery.

There are many things to love here – great food, cheap prices, and a homey feel. But the best thing about it really is their customer service- everyone just takes an extra mile, including the owners. Hence, the reason why I keep coming back here even if it’s a jeepney ride away.

Today, I went there for brunch but the lady cashier told me there were limited choices because their main cook wasn’t in. They could only offer 4 variants of Silog and Lapaz Batchoy. I decided to get one tocilog and one batchoy.

And then something special happened. After I made my order, I saw two street kids go near the cashier to place their order as well. I could see that they were barefooted, wore dirty clothes and looked hungry. Not surprisingly, they didn’t have enough money to pay. I was expecting the restaurant’s staff to shoo them away but the owner made a very gracious gesture.

She told the kids she would give them a complete meal with rice, a viand and some soup and that the kids would only have to pay for the rice which is just 10 pesos. As if that kindness wasn’t enough, she instructed the staff to provide the kids with a complete dining set like how they normally would treat every customer that visits.

I was very happy catching this sight. It is a joy to see small businesses like this having the right values at the core of what they do. I am reminded of the many multinational corporations that were once very small and had no funds to support their operations but had values that propelled them upwards.

I pray for more enterprises like Sam Steven’s Eatery in our nation. If more and more companies and start ups possess the right values to live by, this country, without a doubt, will thrive.

In the City, In the Country

Yesterday, I had to make a tough decision. It was really tough that I felt I was reborn a different man after standing up for it.

Most of the time, it’s rather easy to make a choice because you only have to pick between good and bad, black and white, a walk or a ride, mocha or cappuccino, Pacquiao or Mayweather, Justin Bieber or Ed Sheeran. It’s easy to tell the difference and without the need for a second thought, you can make a choice right away gathering from your personal preferences and values bank.

But what if you are to choose between two red apples? Both sweet with the same level of crunchiness having exactly the same nutrition content. Two seemingly identical options but you just know for sure there’s got to be a difference somewhere.

That’s the situation I found myself in yesterday. A crossroad leading to two different paths that both promise great things for my career.

A week ago, I received an offer from a prominent Fortune 10 multinational company. It was almost unbelievable for me that I got the offer as there were at least 70 other candidates vying for the position who all went through a rigorous and seriously challenging pre-employment process. Well, should I expect ease from a great company?

When I received the good news from their HR Manager, I couldn’t wait but jump into the job offer and sign it right away. I had prayed long and hard for it and I was more than ready to take on the new role. Of course, beforehand, I had made sure that everything in my current job is ready enough for my exit – my team, my tasks, etc. etc.

It was an easy decision, I thought. What got me attracted to the company more than just the competitive salary package and the brand is really the mentorship program. This company has a very well-defined succession planning that gives special training to employees with great leadership potentials. As a huge believer of mentorship, I saw it as a great opportunity to get personal coaching from the best leaders in the industry.

Art, my soon-to-be boss is a great leader. I have spoken to him on two separate occasions during the series of interviews and on our first encounter, I instantly liked him. He is the type of guy who speaks with so much authority and yet, you can easily sense his natural ability to inspire and motivate. Strong-willed and soft-hearted at the same time. Just like Jesus.

During the 45 minute interview with him (which was supposed to run for just 5 minutes), he threw very challenging questions at me. At times, I had to make him wait a few seconds before I could give him an answer. One of the interesting questions he raised went like this: “In a company where at least 65% of the population belongs to the old generation, how will you make sure that your opinions will matter?

Without a second passing by, I quickly responded, with my voice properly modulated to sound like the real deal. I thought I got him in that instant. I am guessing that was the turning point of our discussion that it suddenly started shifting from him interrogating me into him selling the company to me. I, in turn, grabbed the opportunity to ask him a truckload of questions I have previously prepared. With every question I gave away, he never failed to give me a brilliant and powerful answer.

That became my deciding moment. I was certain by then he was the type of boss I’d like to work for. Someone who could mentor and challenge me and with whom I can comfortably argue not for the sake of debate but purposely to make things better.

The following day, I spoke both to my boss and the HR Manager in my current company. My discussions with them went well. And my decision remained the same.

Later that day, I was informed that the CEO wanted to speak to me. I had surely hoped to get a chance to speak to him so that I could at least personally thank him for the opportunities given me by the company during my stay. I didn’t know exactly how our meeting would go but I was completely at peace when I came knocking at the door of his office.

As soon as I entered to take a seat fronting him, he jokingly asked “Dave, what happened?”. I could see that he was smiling but I knew he was curious about my decision. I responded calmly with an honest answer. I told him that the mentorship program of the new company I was going to work for was too valuable for me to let go of.

The next things he said truly humbled me. That he normally does not do exit interviews but when he learned that I was leaving, he decided to break his rule. Instead of hard selling the company, he instead affirmed me and made me feel important for the contributions I have made to the company during my stay. According to him, I have ‘CAR’ – capability, achievement and relationships. He went on to say that he has no doubts that I would prosper in my next job if ever I pursue it.

I paused. Those words were too good for an employee like me who certainly had a fair share of imperfections and failure in doing my job. But this guy, the top executive of the company, took the time out of his busy schedule to personally speak to me and did not hesitate to give uplifting words when he could choose not to.

He then proceeded to say that he could certainly engage me in a personal mentorship with him if I wanted to. I thought that was the only thing that could possibly hold me back. But then he offered something extremely compelling – a new project that is going to be one of the company’s biggest – a partnership with a top global accounting firm based in Australia. He said that as soon as he found out the engagement was pushing through, I was the first thing that came to his mind.

CEOs really have a way of twisting things around, haven’t they? However, I was not to give my decision yet. I assured him I would get back to him the next day.

That night, I gave everything a serious thought. Before I came to this point, I have already consulted some of my mentors and if there’s one thing in common that they gave as an advice, it is that I should carefully weigh my options out against each other until I could clearly decipher which one is better.

I prayed hard and meditated on God’s word. I pleaded with Him to speak to me, and amazingly, He did. Deuteronomy 28:6, which says, “You will be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out.“ I struggled with His message as He could just have given me a yes or a no so that things would have been easier for me. After a while, I had peace knowing that God’s blessing was upon me regardless of which path I choose. He is awesome indeed.

By God’s grace, I finally arrived at a decision which came easy after revisiting my priorities. I have always wanted two things to happen at this stage of my career – mentorship and good to exposure to the different aspects of my profession.

In the end, I chose to stay. I believe this is the choice that will help me get to where I want to be.

What I learned best from this experience? When you know your priorities, decision making is easy.

Holding on to the Promise

I need some peace and quiet.

It has just been 30 days since the year opened, but why do I feel so exhausted both physically and emotionally? My heart doesn’t feel right.

Okay, let me take a look back at what had happened in the last few weeks. Hopefully, this will sort the puzzle out.

Last week of December. Oh yes, I remember. I missed to spend Noche Buena and Media Noche with my loved ones. My first time to spend the Christmas Eve alone in my room like a solitary cave man. Not only was I not able to go home and be with my family but I also had holiday work. Unsung hero I was. But I was happy serving my clients, wasn’t I?

First week of the first month of the New Year. Fasting. I decided to go on a fast to honor God as I start my year. Though I cannot say I was completely faithful and holy in all ways the whole time, by His grace, I was able to commit myself to a one-meal-a-day rule. Not a big deal for some, but for a guy who celebrates at least three big meals a day, that was indeed a fast. Surprisingly for me, it was one of the most productive weeks I ever had in the workplace even if I was physically drained. Indeed, the faithful One remained true to His words and blessed me with strength I thought I couldn’t have.

Second week. I am finding it hard to remember anything about this week. Perhaps, nothing so worthy of my memory happened. So I’ll skip into the next one.

Third Week of January. I decided to have a catch up with my team for my biggest client yet. The previous weeks were heavily spent on making up for the back log transactions during the long holiday break, hence, we didn’t get to talk so much. Now was the perfect time and I was excited to hear them. Last year, I learned that one of them was going to resign. It was heartbreaking for me but who am I to keep people from pursuing their dreams and passions? Enough of that now, I don’t want to get myself into so much thinking again. Let’s go to the good news. Aha, aside from getting a replacement for the staff that was going to leave, we were going to welcome a new junior to the team! I was happy seeing the team grow in number but I also felt the weight of the responsibility that is in my hands. Am I worthy enough to mentor and lead them? I pray that I am.

I hope our conversations ended there. But no, it didn’t want to end without a big revelation. Not one but two were leaving the team for good. Really? The news left me paralyzed. For a moment, I couldn’t fake a smile and was at loss for words to utter. What went wrong?

Painful as it is, there’s no giving up for a leader. The team will rise above the situation, I am sure. And who knows, maybe she will not push through with it. I sincerely hope she won’t.

Fourth Week of 2015. This week saw the activities I proposed to our cluster come into realization. Last year, I proposed that we conduct a series of talks and trainings within our group with the senior associates as the speakers. As we had juniors fresh from the universities, I thought we could actually help them in building the basic and fundamental skills needed for the job such as using Microsoft excel, Flow charting, Emailing the clients, Speaking to Clients, etc. etc. Happy that the first event was a huge success. More to come. Later that week, I also had a speaking engagement as I facilitated a two-day company wide training. As always, I love speaking endeavors. I may not be the best in the field but it just gives me so much joy to use my voice and not-so-gracious bodily gestures in sharing my thoughts to others. And yay, the feedback from the attendees was great.

Sounds like a cool week, right? But no, not as cool as what you think. Obviously, I was so busy the whole time preparing my slides for the training and making sure that the activities I initiated were taking the right course. In the process, I inevitably and unintentionally compromised some of my tasks including my accountabilities to my clients. As far as they are concerned, it ain’t a cool week at all.

So there. That was how the last five weeks looked like to me. The year started really well with a meaningful fast and I was very expectant of breakthroughs to come. Did I tell you I received a promise from the Lord? Just before the week of fasting, I prayed that God would speak and make a revelation of His plans for me this year. And so He did. Joshua 12. What’s in it? I too didn’t know at that time. I never have read the book before and I was greatly puzzled. I immediately grabbed my bible and jumped into the chapter. There, the thirty one kings defeated by Joshua and the Israelites are listed. Thirty one mighty kings defeated by an untrained little army under the leadership of an eighty year old man of great faith.

What was God trying to reveal to me through these verses? Does it mean I’m going to slay thirty one kings this year? Who or what could they be? Is He leading me to the promised land? Which land could it be?

Thirty days since the year opened. And I am not feeling right. Perhaps, I have to search much deeper down my being in order for me to know what is wrong. Maybe, just maybe, I’m on my way to defeating the first giant.

As of now, I will hold on to these words from the Lord:

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9

Nostalgia

A still afternoon. The feeling of loneliness starts to engulf me as I find myself alone in my room. All of my housemates have already gone home to their distant provinces to be with their family during the holidays. For some reason, I decided to stay. Now, as I sit, I start to regret my decision. I look outside through the window, and realize it’s just hours before Christmas Eve.

It’s not my first time to be away from my family on Christmas. But this time feels very different.

I am missing my family more than I ever did before.

My mom and each of the tracing lines and wrinkles in her face that become more visible when she laughs carefree. The warmth of her hug that gives me immeasurable comfort and assurance, I so much long for it. Her sweet kisses that make me feel awkward now that I am older and her inspiring words of wisdom that speak life to me.

I miss my sister – the gleefully round dimples that add so much beauty to her pretty face, her hilarious jokes that make my eyes tear when I burst out in laughter, her probing questions about my private life and endless attempts to make me reveal who’s the lucky one. Ah, that joyful spirit that lifts me up!

And then, there’s Zaki, my sister’s first born. I’ve seen him only a few times but I know deep in my heart that I dearly love him. The last time I was home, I enjoyed his company as my buddy. He was starting to learn how to walk by then and we were amazed with how fast his progress was. Must be the genes from his dad. I have to admit, I am no athlete. I wish I can cuddle him now and hear him giggle loudly again.

Perhaps, it’s the season itself that makes the sad atmosphere for some. They say suicide rates increase during Christmas as it gives people unreasonable pressure to be happy. It’s the season to be jolly as the song goes. And when people find themselves alone while everyone else is happily celebrating the occasion, they become even more depressed.

I am blessed that I am not one of them. I may be sad, yes, but I don’t forget that there’s so much more reason to celebrate. After all, this season is about remembering the birth of my Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. And in that, I greatly rejoice.

I say a simple prayer of thanksgiving in silence. Grateful for all His grace and mercy and love. I open my eyes and everything around me has suddenly lightened up. I realize I am not alone, never.

Coffeeshop Madness

Finding myself in a coffee shop could be the warmest and the most welcoming experience in life.  The tempting smell of the coffee, the distinct sound of frothing the milk, the beautiful melody of the acoustic playing all bring me to a different level of relief and relaxation.

I look around and then, I hear the happy conversations of people busy catching up in one table. As I place my order, the barista gives me a very warm smile and cheerfully greets as she takes every effort to make a friendly service. I go to my seat afterwards and enjoy the adventure of sitting next to a glass window.

From there, I get to see a glimpse of everybody’s lives.

A mom chasing up her son who is running towards the water fountain in the park. In a split of seconds, some horror becomes visible in the mother’s face as she worries about what could happen to the little boy who, without a care in the world, now plays with the water coming out of the holes in the cemented ground. He so much enjoys the fun of getting wet, she grows mad out of fear.

Just outside, folks from different walks of life pass by, some in a rush, some joyfully walk with others.  A group of friends stops, one of them brings out a monopod and gets his camera ready, everybody smiles and voila, a ‘groupfie’ is taken. They burst out in laughter when they check the photo afterwards. I am not sure of the reason. Maybe, someone made a wacky face or perhaps, somebody got cut off and was missing in the photo? I suddenly miss my friends as I am looking at them.

A girl opens the door to the coffee shop. God, her smile is heavenly. As she speaks to the barista for her order, I can’t believe how lovely her voice can be. She could be an angel. After a while, a guy walks up to her. She smiles again, this time, at him. He takes out his wallet to get his card and asks, “What did you order, honey”? Ah, this guy is very blessed to have her.

I suddenly remember that I came to finish reading a book. I search my bag and bring out “What Good is God” by Philip Yancey. I love reading books like this. Books that help me in my search of a faith that matters. I realize I’m more than halfway through it already. Must not be long before I’m done.

Thank God for coffee shops. Always, it’s a wonderful human experience and connection. I am grateful that the joys of life are free.

Fears and Leaders

Last week, I was invited to contribute an article for our company’s monthly publication. The first thing that came to mind was leadership – I’ve had many thoughts about it recently.

With this write up, I am hoping to give our company’s front runners some words of encouragement.

Here it goes.

PERFECT LEADERS ARE NOT PERFECT

Let me confess something.

All my life, I have been struggling with leadership phobia. I dread at the thought of it.

This is ironic for me as I have handled quite a few leadership roles from grade school up to college and even in the corporate world, where I am now. For some reasons, anxiety would fill me every time a leadership opportunity lands on my lap.

About a year ago, together with three of my friends, I decided to venture into the food business. Pulling our resources and skills together, we put up a food stall in a location fronting a call center company’s building that would serve meals from breakfast until dinner. We were optimistic that the business would go far as the demand for our product was really high in that area.

It went smooth for a few months. We were able to pay all the bills and wages and although it was not hitting our target profits, it was enough for us that the business was operational and surviving. We all believed there’s a good future for it and that we just needed to buy time.

Then came our biggest breakthrough. We were invited to join a bidding process to become a food concessionaire in a multinational company with more than 500 employees. If we won, we were assured of good profits as the market would be an easy capture.

Up against bigger and more established businesses, we did not hesitate to push through. It was a rare opportunity for a small start-up like ours, thus, letting go was definitely not an option. We were happy to be given two weeks for a trial run.

One partner emerged as the leader in the process of prepping for the longest two weeks of our lives. We did not make any formal agreement that he was going to lead, he just rose up naturally. And we all respected him. Perhaps, because he was the most skilled, most confident and the most determined in the team.

We began by hiring and training more employees. On the get go, we realized that it was more difficult and sophisticated than we thought. Marketing for the ingredients every day, making sure that food was delivered on time and overseeing the performance of our staff were too much for us to handle given that all of us had a full time job as the priority. We were so overwhelmed by the daily challenges that we had arguments and tensions at times.

One week through the operations and we were really stressed out. To make things worse, our team lead had to go out of the country as required by his job and hence, could no longer join us during the second half of the run.

Consequently, someone had to take his place. He rooted for me. But I was not willing.

I was terrified at the thought of leading the business at the time the risks were too much to bear. One simple mistake such as late food delivery or unfriendly customer service and our bid would be doomed to a losing end.

More fears crept in. I asked myself questions like “Am I ready to lead people who are way older than me? How could I possibly earn their respect? What about criticisms and huge responsibilities?”

Negative thoughts were unstoppable.

Willy-nilly, I accepted the challenge as the circumstances would give me no other options. I became a leader but without a wanting heart. As a result, I wasn’t able to give my all.

Whenever I would check the staff every morning, I felt as if there was a wall between me and them. I would try my best to present myself like any good leader would – open, confident, and firm, but inside, I wasn’t convinced at all that I deserved to lead them and surely, that didn’t go unnoticed. I felt paralyzed as a leader. I wanted to excel but my fears would hold me back.

In the much bigger business world, even the top executives in huge companies fall prey to this distress. Some may not acknowledge this but it’s there nonetheless. Where does it really come from?

I see one reason for this – the horror of failure. The risk of not surpassing the expectations.

When you become a leader, you become the face of the organization you represent. When you think of Apple today, you think of Tim Cook, when you think of the US, you think of Barrack Obama, when you think of Facebook, you think of Mark Zuckerberg.

A leader’s name is forever attached to his organization. That’s too much of a pressure to handle, don’t you think? If your business fails, your name forever brings the brand “failure”.

And then, there’s the tendency of criticisms. “Does the newly-appointed Rajeev Suri have the CEO skill set needed to bring Nokia back to world-class standing?” “If only so and so got elected. “

But why grapple with the negatives when we can choose to dwell on the other side?

While it is true that your leadership has a chance of destroying the organization, it is equally true that your leadership can take it to heights.

I like what Forrest Church said in his book “Freedom from Fear”:

“Being human, we err. Some call this original sin; it certainly suggests original guilt and demands the rites of self-acceptance and forgiveness. A moral perfectionist lives in constant fear because moral perfection lies beyond our grasp. Perfectionism is a form of self-abuse. ”

All of us have this sense of perfectionism within us. We don’t mind our strengths and capabilities and all good things about us being exposed. What we don’t want people to find out is our weaknesses and insecurities. We simply can’t afford to expose our inadequacies in fear of rejection.

The truth is nobody has it all together. As James 3:2 puts it For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body.”

As leaders, we don’t need to wear the mask of perfection. Instead, we can choose to become better at every opportunity but in order to become better, we first need to embrace the fact that we can never be perfect. Recognizing failure, however, does not mean settling for mediocrity. Rather, it means owning them and learning from them as we move forward, making a commitment to right the ship. Perfectionism, in contrast, will lead us to denying the wrongs and not minding them, pretending they did not happen.

The fear of failure was just in my mind but I allowed it to grow bigger than the actual failure itself. Many call this ‘analysis paralysis’ which is the state of overanalyzing a situation. Let us not allow ourselves to succumb to this as the danger is great. What happens when a leader does not step up? The organization could cripple down and its effects can be unimaginable. History has shown us many examples of this.

Looking back, I realized I could have done so much better in that short stint of leadership I was granted. If only I stepped up instead of becoming a coward, it could have made a difference somehow. But what is done is done. That could be one of my shortfalls as a leader but what matters more is the wisdom I have gained from it. I won’t choose to dwell in what has been as there’s still so much promise that lies ahead.

As I go forth and experience more and more failures, I can only become wiser and wiser. Just as fear of failures cannot be wished away, it need not incapacitate leaders like you and me. Let’s choose to overcome it.

2 Timothy 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.”

But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.