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Monthly Archives: May 2020

Finding Purpose: An Elusive Endeavor

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There is no better time than now to reflect on your purpose and then act on it.

Last January, I was in my hometown in the Philippines so I could be with my father to celebrate his 70th birthday. The craziness of 2020 had already begun. I almost did not make the trip due to the eruption of the Taal volcano, 30 miles from Manila. Before coming home, I reached out to the head of my hometown alma mater to pitch an idea. I wanted to spend time giving back to my high school, St Mary’s College of Catbalogan, by speaking to upcoming high school graduates. I spoke to them for an hour about creating tomorrow and sharing steps to a purpose driven career. My favorite part of that day was when the students spontaneously sang a happy birthday song for my father when I introduced him. I am so grateful I made that trip and connected with friends and families in Manila and my hometown Catbalogan.

We have done our fair share of reflective thinking during this pandemic. We watched as individuals and communities around the world changed — oh how it has changed. I believe that today, more than ever, the sense of purpose is important. It is important in individuals, in communities and even in businesses.

My wife, Ivy always tells me, “we are where we are supposed to be”. She means that, if we chose to go it’s because we were supposed to go. For those of you who know my personal story, I was supposed to be an accountant working for San Miguel Corporation. That was my ultimate dream growing up in the Philippines. I got accepted in one of the best accountancy programs in the country and ready to march on. Until…my parents forgot my birth certificate at home in the province when they were enrolling me in 1993. I lost my accountancy slot which was a quota program and was relegated to Information Technology (IT). I got into the program thinking I will shift the following trimester, but here I am still in IT 27 years after. Ironically my brother is a Finance (Accounting) Manager in San Miguel today. He is very happy, but I can’t imagine doing what he does. I am happy where I am, where I am supposed to be.

Through these twists and turns, I am fortunate to be able to discover my personal purpose. I found what really drives me. Simon Sinek said, “Your Why is your purpose, cause or belief that inspires you to do what you do. When you think, act and communicate starting with Why, you can inspire others.” In my reflection I discovered, it does not matter what I do, what matters is my purpose. My purpose is “To teach and be known to inspire others”. This translates to professionally (a) To be a thought leader in business and technology and at home (b) To guide my children to be the best version of themselves. When I was asked during my MBA admission interview what I am going to do if I am fully covered financially, I said, “I will be in a university institution or community college, teaching”. I still believe I will be teaching when I am done with IT. That will be fantastic!

During my talk last January, I talked to the high school seniors about Ikigai, a purpose framework to guide their reflective thinking. Ikigai is a Japanese concept that means “a reason for being.” The word “ikigai” is usually used to indicate the source of value in one’s life or the things that make one’s life worthwhile. This helped me discover my purpose. If you find yourself struggling to identify what your purpose is and where you might discover personal and professional overlap, here is a simple self-inquiry by asking and pondering answers to these questions might help:

·       What do I love? What am I passionate about?

·       In my view, what does the world need?

·       What am I paid for? (Can I be paid for what I am passionate about?)

·       What am I great at?

By consulting this framework, you may discover your purpose at the intersection of your passion, mission, profession and vocation.

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There is no better time than now to reflect on this and then act on it. After all, you can’t just reflect your way into finding your life’s purpose; you then must act your way into it. Take a mental note from the Nike slogan and Just Do It. The more we act, the more we get clear on things. Reflect and act it out. Start taking steps toward your goals and start trying new things. This will help you get out of your own way. Many people struggle for years trying to find their purpose. Reflection with action will create a deeper sense of clarity. 

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