Tag Archives: Passions

What are you doing with your talents and gifts?

When I think of giftedness, I think of Howard Wong.

You know, Howard.

You don’t know Howard?

Well, you should.

This is Howard. This Malaysian boy is 3 or 4 years old in this video, which I think was taken this year. (You can find the awesome excerpt below, but if you want to see the full version, you can watch it here)

My reaction: “GET OUT. No way. IS THIS REAL?”

Did you react the same way?

Well, apparently, he is the real deal. This is Howard at 3 years old:

Did he just wake up this way, you ask? Well, this is Howard at 23 months:

And before you fall completely off your chair, this is Howard at 18 months.

Howard is talented. He is gifted. But he, too, started somewhere. At 18 months, he was drumming to “Old MacDonald Had a Farm”, and 3 years (or so) later, he was drumming to Joan Jett. No matter how gifted he was at 18 months, he kept on drumming. And because he kept at it, he evolved from being gifted to being PHENOMENAL.

Every person has his or her own gifts. Can you run really fast? Speak eloquently on stage? Climb mountains without fear? Invest your finances wisely? Cook a delicious dinner? The list never ends. Some gifts may stand out more than others, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that every gift is special, and we all have at least one.

Everyone is gifted with something, but not everyone becomes phenomenal. I remember a tweet I read from leadership speaker and author Mark Sanborn: “Every day your skills are changing. They improve through use and intentional practice. They decline through lack of use and misuse.”

When you use your gifts and when you develop them through practice and with the help of a mentor, your gifts are enhanced. You create art. You make an impact. You bless others. I may not know Howard, but just watching his videos brightened up my day. His gift blessed me.

What are your gifts? Do you practice and develop them? Do you even use them? If this is the first time you’ve asked yourself these questions and you have some spare time on your hands, then you might want to try coming up with a Gift Growth Plan.

  1. Think of 3 things that you’re really good at. How would you know? Doing them comes easily to you, you enjoy doing them (they’re also called “strengths” because they make you feel strong), and people have recognized the gift and complimented you on it. Are you organized? Are you creative when it comes to crafts? Are you good at graphic design? Chances are that you have more than 3 gifts, but for the purpose of being able to focus, let’s work with 3.
  2. Plot out how you can use them or practice them more often. If it’s already part of your job, ask yourself where else you can contribute your gift. Maybe you can do some volunteer work that makes use of your specific gifts. Believe me, there are organizations out there that need what you have to offer.
  3. List down the resources that can help you use or develop your gift. Ask yourself: What do I need? Is there a class I can take? Do I have a good friend who can serve as my mentor? Do I need supplies or equipment? Write them down so you know what you need to work towards.
  4. Create action steps. Don’t stop at what you need or what you lack. Give yourself some “next steps” to act upon. Obstacles can be overcome by chipping away at them.

If you need a guide, you can download a sample Gift Growth Plan which I created for a fictional person (if you prefer mind-mapping, you can download this sample). But please don’t be boxed in by the templates and the methods–the point is just to get the wheels in your head turning again, so you can get those creative juices flowing!

You know what else struck me about Howard? The sheer joy on his face while he was drumming. In the course of using, practicing, and developing your gifts, don’t forget to have fun, too! More than anything, this is why I encourage being intentional when it comes to using your gifts: because when you use your gifts–especially when you use them to help or serve others–you feel “more alive.” And isn’t it pure joy to feel fully alive?

This Eric Liddell quote from the 1981 movie Chariots of Fire comes to mind: I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.” God smiles when we use the gifts He gave us!

Before I end this, a note for the parents: it’s never too early to help your child recognize and develop some of their gifts. Howard Wong is proof of that. Try doing this exercise with your kids too!

Do you have a gift/strength that you get to use regularly? How does it make you feel?

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If you liked this, you might be interested in these related posts:

Tell Me Thursday: A question about your mission (A guest post by Linny Lareza)

Today’s Tell Me Thursday question comes from Linny Lareza. She is one of the wisest, most gentle, and most creative people who I know. She has a way of asking just the right question at the right time, so I knew she was the perfect person to ask today’s Tell Me Thursday question…in her own unique way, of course. :) Look at it, think about it, then share what comes to mind in the comments below!

Linny Lareza paints pictures with words and writes stories with pictures. She is an artist, a teacher, a writer, a listener, a speaker, and a friend.

What makes you come alive?

She was petite, she looked like she was in her 70’s, and she had a kind and gentle face. I noticed her as I approached the row of bathroom sinks because she was busy going through her little bag, pulling out a number of colorful sheets. It looked like she had around a hundred stamps, preserved in clear plastic sheets. She looked up to me and smiled, and asked, “Do you collect stamps?”

I smiled back and replied, “No, I don’t. But wow, those are a lot of stamps!”

“I’m giving them away,” she said, “but I’d like to give them to someone who really collects them.”

“Oh…” I said, not knowing how to respond, but trying hard to think if I knew anyone who collected stamps. Not being able to think of anyone, I just asked, “Why are you giving them away?”

She gave me a small smile and said, “Well, I’m getting old…” and she trailed off, as if she expected me to know the rest of the sentence. She shrugged her shoulders and started heading for the exit. I didn’t know what to say, so I just said the standard “Sayang naman po,” which is translated in English to mean “That’s too bad.”

As she was walking towards the door, she stopped and turned around to face me, she paused, then asked, “Would you like them?”

I looked into her eyes, and she looked like a woman who felt resigned, and had no other option. It was an incredibly generous offer, but I felt like if I would take the stamps, I would not be doing justice to what this woman has invested in over the years. She noticed my hesitation and asked if I would like her to teach me. Since this conversation was not in my plan for the day and I still had errands to run, my automatic response was, “Hindi na muna po, pero thank you! Baka po hindi ko matutukan, sayang naman po. Sana po may mahanap kayo na pwedeng pagbigyan!” (Loosely, I meant to say “Now is not a good time, thank you! I might not be able to focus on it, and it would go to waste. I hope you’ll be able to find someone to give them to!”) We smiled at each other and parted ways.

This happened last week, and I’ve been thinking about this encounter since then. I’ve been thinking about our hobbies and our passions–those stuff that bring light to our eyes and joy into our hearts. Sooner or later, we will grow old, and one day we will pass away, but we won’t be able to take these things with us. What will happen to them?

Some of us would like to think that one day, we’ll have children to pass them on to. But what happens if our children don’t like them as much as we do? Or what if we don’t have children to pass them on to?

As I write this post, I can’t help but regret my response to the kind lady. I wish I took the time to say yes, ask her name, sit down with her, and let her tell me all about this hobby that she was so passionate about. I wish I had the chance to see her eyes light up as she would tell me about what makes each stamp valuable and unique. If I could turn back time, I would have answered differently. Maybe I wouldn’t take the stamps, but I would at least let her tell me about them.

I can’t turn back time, but all I can do is write out my thoughts and appeal to you: if there’s someone in your life who wants to share a piece of themselves with you, would you let them do it? You don’t have to make any promises and rearrange your life, but you can simply say, “I want to hear about what makes you come alive.” And on the flip side, don’t let your life pass by without sharing what you’re passionate about with other people. Speak about it, write about it, take photos of it. Thanks to technology, there are many ways to do it. When you share what you’re passionate about, you come alive. As  author, educator, and civil rights leader Howard Thurman once wrote, “what the world needs is people who have come alive.” I totally agree.

And as I write this, I know I’m ‘speaking’ to myself, too. :)

The best career advice I can give

I went back to my alma mater (Saint Pedro Poveda, formerly known as Poveda Learning Centre) yesterday to give a career talk. I’ve done several of these throughout the years, but it was my first time to give this talk in the school where my first dreams were born.

It was in Poveda that I first discovered that working in the media appealed to me. We had a Media elective that was taught by Ms. Bonbon Soler (all credit goes to her for being the teacher that awakened this interest in me), and while I was taking this class, I knew I was already set on what I wanted to take up in college: Communication.

So I went to college in Ateneo de Manila University and I graduated with a AB Communication degree. In my case, it was a great choice, because I loved nearly all of my Comm classes (at least the ones that didn’t require much memorization!). Then what follows is a story that I’ve told many times before: I worked in Summit Media, I took a certificate course in publishing in New York, I went back to Summit Media, I transferred to MTV, then went back to Summit Media, then went back to MTV (whew!).

Sounds like fun? A lot of people say so. But the truth was, as the days went by, I just felt lost, like I wasn’t doing what I was meant to be doing. The jobs were great, the experiences were priceless, the people I worked with were wonderful, even the income was good, but I had lost passion, and I wasn’t sure what my purpose was anymore. So one day, after months of reflecting and praying, I finally woke up and decided it was time to go. I spoke to the bosses and they let me go with a blessing, and as such, I am forever grateful. And so I left it all behind in the hopes of becoming what I really wanted to be: a teacher. Yes, this is usually the part of the talk where I get gasps and looks of horror. :)

The truth is that you and I were designed for a purpose. Sometimes you don’t figure out what it is from the start, but you actually discover it along the way. As you discover more about yourself–what skills you have, what makes you come alive, the people or causes you’d like to serve, etc.–your priorities will change, and you’ll find yourself having to make some adjustments that will push you out of your comfort zone. And you have to be willing to make them, or else you’ll stay stuck in your comfort zone forever, and more often than not, you’ll end up increasingly miserable as the days go by.

In my case, I realized that my favorite parts of my jobs were the times when I was training and equipping people who worked under me, or the times that I would do career talks or conduct tours around the office for visiting students (they made me the unofficial tour guide!). And then I remembered how teaching really was my first love…I just didn’t realize it earlier.

You see, my first dreams really WERE born in Poveda. If I remember correctly, I was in the 4th grade when I went home and told my dad: “When I grow up, I want to be a teacher.” And when my dad asked why, I answered, “Because I want to write on the blackboard ALL THE TIME!” (Crazy, I know!) To which, my dad (the successful businessman) replied, “Wouldn’t you rather own a company that makes blackboards and you can have all the blackboards you want?” I just gave him a blank and confused stare…and I think my dream slowly faded from there.

But teaching (in one form or another) was in my heart all along. Back then, my reasons were shady (writing on blackboards all the time?!), but as I grew older and as I prayed to let go of my selfish ambitions, I discovered the desires that were deeply embedded in my heart. I realized that I am passionate about helping people understand things better. I like simplifying ideas and concepts, and I love interacting with young people. I like encouraging them to do what they think they’re unable to do, and today, I am so blessed to have the opportunities to tell young people that they have more potential in them than they can imagine. There are so many things that I wish I had learned earlier in life. There were many times that I hoped that someone older than me would guide me and encourage me towards a direction where I could find passion and purpose. To be given a chance to do all these for someone else is a great blessing for me, one that I’m happily holding on to without regrets. As much as I enjoyed the experiences, loved my co-workers, and learned a lot at my previous jobs, time was up in that season of my life. I’m thankful that every experience I’ve had and every skill I’ve learned has helped me at the work I do now. Today, I get to work with passion and purpose, and I know I’d no longer have it any other way.

So how do you know which direction to go? It can get pretty confusing sometimes, but I’ve learned to always go to the greatest career counselor ever: GOD. :) He created us, and His plans are good, pleasing and perfect (Romans 12:2!). To be completely honest, even I can’t say for sure where I’m going from here. At the moment, I don’t even know if I’ll still be doing the same things I’ve been doing in the next couple of months. But Romans 8:28 comes to mind: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

So that’s the best advice I can give: consult the Great Career Counselor every step of the way, because when you follow Him, you won’t miss any good thing. :)

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So you want to be a volunteer! (Part 2)

As I promised in yesterday’s post, I’d get into more tips on volunteering! :)

1) Do some research.

One good place to start would be Hands On Manila (http://www.handsonmanila.org.ph), a non-profit organization “dedicated to providing members with diverse, flexible volunteer opportunities that address the needs of the community.” This is one of the first sites I visited, and I learned about a lot of worthy and wonderful causes here.

Pay attention to the articles you see in the newspapers or the features you see in magazines and blogs. A lot of great non-profit organizations are highlighted in the media, and you just might hear about a cause that will tug at your heart.

On the right side of my blog page, you’ll see some links under the heading “Pieces of Me”…those are some of the groups that I support because they have causes that are personally close to my heart. ♥

2) Tell your friends about your ‘hunt’.

Maybe some of your friends already do volunteer work but don’t announce it to the public. Or maybe they know of an organization that could really use the time/talent/treasure that you have to offer. At least two of the organizations that I volunteer for at the moment came to my attention through friends, and I’m really thankful they were able to make a match (whether they meant to or not!).

Volunteer Weekend 2009: KC teachers w/the Victory Fort Superheroes!

I love Kids Church! These are my co-teachers with the "Victory Fort Superheroes" during Volunteer Weekend 2009!

3) Sometimes you don’t have to look very far.

Surely, your school, office, village, or church could use your help! One of the groups I love volunteering for is the Kids’ Church (KC) at Victory. Once a month, I get to be a teacher for the Primary class (7 to 9 year olds). It’s really such a privilege to be able to help build and prepare the next generation, not to mention the fact that I just love being with kids! The KC team is amazing, and I’m grateful to be able to serve with them!

4) If you have an idea and no one else is doing it, take a cue from Nike and JUST DO IT.

Don’t let the lack of options stop you. Maybe you’re really meant to start something new! I wrote about my friends Gang Badoy and Carisse Escueta a while back. Read the blog post here, and be amazed at how each woman turned her vision into a reality.

5) Don’t compare yourself to others.

Let’s say that one day you went on an outreach trip and it didn’t turn out to be a very pleasant or fulfilling experience for you. Don’t close your doors forever, and don’t feel bad if you didn’t turn out to be the next Mother Teresa. God created each person to be unique, and maybe your heart just has a burden for another group of people, another place, or another cause. What moves you to tears may not be the same for some of your friends, and vice versa. In this case, it’s better to focus on what you can do, not what you can’t do. Better to move forward than to run away and turn a blind eye forever.

6) Every little step counts.

Many times, it’ll be tempting to just be a spectator. Don’t let procrastination, laziness, busyness, or fear stop you from making a difference. A small step today, a short message of encouragement, a free meal, a couple of hours…every little thing you do can make a difference. Sometimes you may not see it, but you’ll be surprised how one little step of faith you take can change someone’s life.

With that, I’ll leave you with this quote by John Mason from one of my favorite books, The Enemy Called Average:

“Gifts and talents are given to us not only so that we can fulfill to the fullest the call in our own lives, but also so that we can reach the souls attached to those gifts. There are people whose lives are waiting to be affected by what God has placed within you.”

Happy volunteering! :)

Artwork courtesy of http://www.volunteerbc.bc.ca and Victory Fort superheroes photo by Anson Yu

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So you want to be a volunteer! (Part 1)

Early this year, I had this thought: “I want to be of more service.” I was doing the occasional outreach, but I felt I needed to be more consistent. I wanted to be face to face with the people I wanted to serve, not just reading about them or blogging about them–I wanted to interact with them! But who were these mystery people that I wanted to serve, and what could I do for them? I didn’t have the answers just yet, but all I knew was that I wanted to do more.

I guess God heard my prayers at that time, because He brought me face to face to a bunch of teenagers that I would be able to help, and eventually grow to love, and it just worked out that what I had to offer–life skills and personality development training–was exactly what they needed.

So if you find yourself in the same place where I was, start by asking yourself these questions:

1) Is there a person or a group of people (or a species!) that you’d like to serve?


Do you have heart for children?

Try to be specific. Do you have a heart for orphans? Abused teenagers? Children from marginalized areas? Malnourished families? Drug addicts? People with disabilities? Couples with marital problems? Street children? Animals? Trees? Whales? The options are endless.

For instance, I have a heart for people who are confused, lack confidence, and need direction–specifically people of all ages who don’t believe in themselves, and don’t know how to get passion and purpose back in their lives. I used to think I only had a burden for teenagers with this problem, but I also see it a lot in people my age, and I also see it developing early in young children who feel ignored or forgotten.

Be sensitive to the people around you. Don’t ignore the moments when you felt moved to tears because of something you saw, something you heard about, or someone you talked to. That could be your heart giving you a little nudge in the right direction!

2) If time, money, or resources weren’t an issue, to what cause would you devote yourself?

The options are, once again, endless: abortion, animal protection, alcoholism, child abuse, crime and corruption, disabilities, domestic violence, drug addiction, educational issues, environmental issues, family issues, health issues, homelessness, human rights, human trafficking, hunger, justice system, physical abuse, poverty, spiritual apathy, etc.

Right now, I have a deep desire to help educate the Filipino youth. Not necessarily in the typical school setting, but I have a desire to get people to love learning, and find ways to help them learn important foundations and life skills. It can be through a training program in their community or church, or through a mentoring or life coaching program. Or in the case of RepubLIKHA, it can even be done through music! ;)

Don’t think about what you need yet…just focus on discovering what’s in your heart. :)

3) What do you have to offer? Time, talent, or treasure? (If you have free time, how much time do you have? If you have certain skills or talents that you could offer, what are they? If you have cash or other resources that you can donate, take note of that, too!)

b14Some people get bogged down by thinking, “I don’t have much to offer!” But that’s so untrue! For some people, they have more time on their hands, so it would be practical for them to spend several hours weekly cheering up and taking care of patients in a cancer ward.

Some people may not have a lot of time, but they have certain talents or skills that they could ‘donate’ to other people or groups who could use their services for free or for a discounted rate. For instance, today, I’m looking for a scriptwriter who can help out a friend of mine who’s working on a benefit concert. Or maybe you don’t have to DO something, because in some cases, it would actually be better if you TEACH something. This Saturday, my friend, Camille, is going to teach scholars from the Smokey Mountain area how to bake. And the baking class isn’t just for fun; the students can learn how to bake certain pastries that they can sell in their community so that they can earn money, too.

But for some people, they know that they don’t have enough time to spare at all, but in this case, they know they have some extra resources that they can channel to others who are available to serve. Whether it’s supporting non-profit organizations or missionaries with cash donations, or simply blessing people who are in need–whatever small amount you give could make a huge difference! In many instances, you don’t even have to give cash. You can donate books, clothes, food, etc. Just last week, I have another friend, Karlo, who donated his guitar! It may be random to some people, but I know a group of teenage guys that live in a center/shelter, and all these guys happen to be musically gifted. I also happen to know that they’ve been praying for an acoustic guitar to call their own, so I know their faces will light up when we give them this guitar next week. :)

There you go! Start answering those questions, think about them, and pray about the answers! Tomorrow, I’ll talk more about concrete ideas and action steps you can take. :)

If you have some thoughts about this post–especially if you have some realizations about yourself and how (or who) you’d like to help, leave a comment! I’d love to hear about it! :)

Artwork courtesy of http://www.greenobin.com, 3rd image courtesy of Anson Yu

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I ♥ the youth! (DAY 1 of the 30-Day Blog Challenge)

As I mentioned in my last post, I decided to take on Mariel‘s 30-Day Blog Challenge. My problem is that I wanted to start blogging about A LOT of different stuff that I didn’t know where to start! So I decided to ruthlessly make some edits and save the rest for the other days.

So now I’m down to two things that I wanted to blog about, mainly because these two events made me happy this week.

The view from our classroom at the University of Makati

The view from our classroom at the University of Makati

1. I started teaching (or ‘coaching’, as we like to call it) at UMAK (that’s University of Makati) with ‘Coach’ Gabby of ENCM last Thursday. Our topic was about Relationships: identifying our key ones and recognizing the realities of relationships. I jumped into the middle of the course though–the past few weeks, they’ve been discussing Identity and Internal Government (great stuff!). I’m glad my schedule was freed up so that I could finally join them once a week. I’m looking forward to the next couple of weeks because we have more great topics to talk about…all the stuff I wish I learned about earlier! I’m also thrilled that we’re assigned to a class filled with Marketing students…I really do hope to get to know the students better. :)

2. The RepubLIKHA team went to the Gawad Kalinga-Poveda site again yesterday. It was great to be back! This time around, we taught the preschool kids about Tempo. The kids are awesome and the session was lots of fun. After 2 hours with them, we stayed to have lunch with their parents to get to know more about their community and their needs as parents, especially when it comes to educating their children.

RepubLIKHA team w/the parents from GK-Poveda

RepubLIKHA team w/the parents from GK-Poveda

Carisse, teaching the kids the Watermelon song!

Carisse, teaching the kids the Watermelon song!

Teaching the kids how to make homemade shakers

Teaching the kids how to make homemade shakers

More on our RepubLIKHA-GK day here: http://republikha.org/blog/2009/08/09/team-teaching-at-gk-poveda/

These two events got me thinking about how grateful I am to have the opportunities to be around kids and teenagers. They make me smile and laugh, and they keep me on my toes! Being around them allows me to learn and exercise patience, loving-kindness, compassion, humility and a whole lot more–like the latest trends, YouTube discoveries, and even corny funny jokes, among others! But seriously, if you take time to listen to them–whether they have problems or they just want to tell you about a new toy or gadget–you’ll surely be a blessing. Some of them just need someone in their lives who will listen.

Here’s MY challenge to you today: find someone younger than you and strike up a conversation. Be a blessing…and you’ll be surprised that you just might walk away feeling more blessed!

Superhero series: THE VISAYAN FORUM FOUNDATION, MTV EXIT, and quite possibly, YOU.

From time to time, I feature some people or groups that I think are pretty awesome. It’s called the SUPERHERO SERIES!

I finally got to watch Taken with my father. As entertaining as it was (I thought it was a great action flick–awesome plot and script), the trafficking scenes really hit me hard. They hit me hard because those scenes and situations are very real, and I can’t imagine what it’s like for women my age (or younger) to be deceived and taken away from their homes and families and drugged so bad that men can rape them multiple times every day of their lives.

Deceived. Drugged. Raped. Every day.

And we thought we had problems.

When I was still working at MTV, one of the campaigns I worked on was our global pro-social campaign called MTV EXIT (End Exploitation and Trafficking). That was my first time to really study the issue. We worked with the MTV Europe Foundation and USAID to create and publicize a localized documentary to raise awareness about human trafficking. In 2007, we launched the documentary, which was hosted by Christian Bautista, at a press launch at Hard Rock Cafe. Dicta License (they were still intact at that time) rendered a couple of songs, including Tinangay, a special song (scroll down for the music video) they wrote for the largest anti-human trafficking organization in the Philippines, the Visayan Forum Foundation. US Ambassador Kristie Kenney was there, as well as Cecil Flores-Oebanda, the Executive Director of the Visayan Forum Foundation.

Prior to that launch, I had the opportunity to sit down with Mrs. Oebanda for a meeting at our office. My first impression of her was that she was a soft-spoken and kind woman, who was incredibly passionate about the fight she was leading. That’s when I learned all about the Visayan Forum Foundation and what they’ve been doing over these past years. Hearing her tell us about the work they do, I realized how real and how pressing the trafficking problem really is. The Foundation has people who stand watch at the ports, doing their best to interfere any trafficking attempts. They have halfway homes where trafficked women can stay to be safe and get treatment, counseling, and even training to be able to stand on their own feet once again. They’re doing such good work.

I learned a lot about human trafficking at that time, but I had regrettably forgotten most of what I’ve learned. Watching this movie brought me to look into this issue again.

(Do click on the link below and read the rest, I’ve got important stuff to say in the end of this post! :))

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