30-day Challenge

Day 29 of 30 – My Go-To Music for Focus

When I really need laser focus at work, I put on my headphones or earphones, launch Spotify and listen to The Glitch Mob. I never thought I’d be into EDM but ever since I discovered The Glitch Mob on the soundtrack of one of my favorite TV shows Person of Interest, I’ve been hooked. In an episode of the show, they used Fortune Days in a scene showing the main characters going through the same scenario over and over again as the Machine simulating the right moves for them to make for the best possible outcome.

I checked the show playlist on Spotify right after and found the song and since then, have been listening to the band for those times I need to hunker down and get something done. Of course, from time to time, I put on other playlists and artists depending on the mood but The Glitch Mob never fails to get my energy up and my creative juices flowing, that’s why it’s my go-to music for focus.

You can check them out for yourself in Spotify, I particularly like Fortune Days, Warrior Concerto, and We Can Make The World Stop.


30-day Challenge

Day 28 of 30 – Why Antidote Stopped Working with Clients

When I started Antidote back in 2008, the business model I developed was to work with clients on a monthly retainer basis to provide brand consultancy, strategy, and design. Now, I mentioned previously that one of the things I no longer wanted to do was to do client servicing, mainly because I felt that there was little control on my part in terms of how the ideas I come up with and deliver to them are actually executed. So it wasn’t the ideal setup but I also felt at that point that I was not ready with the skills needed to create my own brands.

With the goal of creating as many brands as possible, I thought creating brands for clients was an acceptable compromise. I’d be able to create several brands, while also learning the other aspects of building a business around the brand. It’s almost like getting paid to take an MBA because I did learn a lot from pretty much all the clients I worked with for about 4 years. The diversity of the businesses  I worked with in both product categories and business models really broadened my perspective and helped prepare me for what was to come.

Now, there were certainly several challenges in doing the work. Several of my clients are not so familiar with marketing, let alone branding so the process of educating them while on a tight deadline to develop concepts or plans for them was very difficult. Also, since most of my clients are SME’s run by families, I’ve often had to play the role of mediator between family members (both of which are my clients technically), both regarding the work and even regarding personal matters. There are days full of frustration, but as long as I was learning something, I was ok with “eating shit” as Garyvee would say.

However, what drove me to make a crucial change in Antidote is realising that for whatever reason, unfortunately, my clients are not aligned to the mission of Antidote to create brands that can reach other countries from the Philippines. It’s not for lack of trying that’s for sure. I kept preaching the importance of branding for the country, and that they’ll also make money doing this even if it takes a bit longer to get establish things. Most of them though paid lip service to that, worked on the new brand (but not at the full expression of the concept due to other considerations. And I can’t really blame them for their mindset of maximising their opportunities selling to the masses here. At the end of the day, it’s their business and their right to do as they please.

On the same token, Antidote’s mission is my mission. All the work I was doing was going to be for naught if none of those brands are inching their way to accomplishing the WHY of the company. Antidote was growing too in terms of monthly clients and billings at that time so the decision to pivot away from working with clients was not done lightly. But for me, maybe it was naive or idealistic, but I can’t give my best while also sacrificing my own goals. It just didn’t make sense anymore.

By 2012, I started informing our clients about this shift and that we won’t be renewing or extending our contracts with them past the end of the year or when their contracts expired whichever comes first. We’ve also launched Lagu at the start of the year in order to start transitioning us to creating and building our own brands. Some of our clients understood it, while some didn’t agree it was the right idea. It was also hard having to turn down several inquiries from potential new clients especially since we were getting inquiries primarily due to the work we’ve done already and referrals from our past clients.

But, aside from that, the decision actually energised myself and the team. In the years that followed, we’ve created more brands like Early Bird Breakfast Club in 2013, Spud Buds in 2014, and A-Game in 2016, and several more in the pipeline. Don’t get me wrong, things are still hard and managing our own brands comes with its own set of challenges. We’ve made mistakes along the way and stumbled from time to time. At the end of the day, what matters is that everything is on our hands whether we succeed or failed, achieving Antidote’ mission is completely up to us.

30-day Challenge

Day 27 of 30 – Happy Halloween 2017

This is the 3rd time we’ve celebrated Halloween since we moved to the new office. The team did a good job decorating the office and preparing for a belated Mooncake dice game for the kids. we started by having the kids do trick or treating in the condo then later on at the office where they approached each person in Antidote (Antidoter? Antidotean? Lol) and got a pack of treats.

Then finally we had them play the dice game where more treats awaited those who are lucky enough to get the right roll of the set of dice. It was the first time we did this in the office so I had to guide every turn and check on each result to announce if someone won a prize. It was quite fun for the kids and perhaps we can do it for the team next year too. Elian was more focused on eating the very first snack he won as well as sampling the snacks that the other kids won. Sometimes I wonder where he got his voracious appetite lol.

Kudos to the members of the team who dressed up in costumes as well. We promised them a prize for best costume but forgot to award anyone haha. We’ll do it next week for sure.

Given that my birthday is practically on Halloween, I think we’ll make it a point to really go all out in celebrating it better. Ellen did a great job dressing up Elian as Jon Snow though with his hair and how cheerful he is, he looks more like Sam Tarly. Next year we both have to be in costume too. And I’ll be challenging the team to really transform the office into a haunted house which should be nice given we have two floors to work with.

All in all it was a great way to end the work week and give the kids a fun afternoon and a load of treats!

30-day Challenge

Day 25 of 30 – Aerosmith, My Favorite Band of All Time

Back in the early 90s when I was in grade school, I got introduced to rock and heavy metal music by some of my close friends. I was instantly hooked as I listened to cassette tapes (remember those?) of some of the best rock bands from Guns N Roses, Metallica, AC/DC, KISS, and so many others, including of course Aerosmith.

I loved everything about the band and found myself collecting their albums, singing their songs, and learning all I can about them especially Steven Tyler and Joe Perry. Their music videos were legendary too. One of my best friends, William, had a VHS (remember those too?) of the making of the videos from their album Big Ones. The video for Crazy was one of the most memorable with my then celebrity crushes Alicia Silverstone and Liv Tyler both featured in the video. Alicia was also in Amazing (still my favorite song ever) and Cryin’ with that iconic bridge jumping scene that ends with Alicia flipping the bird.

There are so many great songs (that I still listen to on repeat on Spotify regularly) but here are my top 10 of all time:

  1. Amazing
  2. Livin’ On The Edge
  3. Crazy
  4. Dream On
  5. Cryin’
  6. Blind Man
  7. I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing
  8. Angel
  9. Walk This Way
  10. Dude (Looks Like a Lady)


30-day Challenge

Day 24 of 30 – Lessons I Learned From My Favorite High School Teachers

Not a lot of people know this but technically I went to two high schools. The first was Uno High School where I started kindergarten all the way to first year high school. The second was Philippine Academy of Sakya where my mom transferred me (and my brother) after I flunked my Chinese classes during first year. Yes, I flunked. Badly.

It wasn’t even because it was hard. More than anything I think I just got bored and just stopped putting in any effort. To give some context, Uno is known as a really strict school with a high standard of education. The strictness is borderline like a military school in that everyone is expected to follow the rules to the T. There was a lack of extracurricular activities as the focus was purely on academics.

My mom felt perhaps the setup wasn’t ideal anymore for me given that I was an honor student in kinder and grade school and my performance in school slipped as got to Grade 6 and 1st year. She decided to transfer me to her alma mater, Sakya. I wasn’t happy about this because coming from Uno, the perception was that Sakya was a lesser school (or pretty much all other schools for that matter given how much school pride was drilled into us ever since in Uno). I was embarrassed but deep down I knew it was my fault for failing. I remember arguing with my mom about not wanting to take the entrance exam in Sakya even right before I was about to take the exam. I actually thought about punting the exam but I think that would have been more embarrassing to say I also failed a basic entrance exam.

Long story short, I did end up going to Sakya, and despite my initial trepidation, I’m very grateful that my mom made that move for me (and my brother too who was more excited to join me in moving schools). The biggest adjustment was how the school wasn’t as strict as what I was used to in Uno. Talking to your classmates was allowed when there was no teacher yet in the classroom, which I never once experienced in Uno because there were cameras watching the classes with no teachers. Like I said, military-level strictness lol. And in my first week there alone, I witnessed more fights than in all my years in Uno. It was definitely a culture shock for me.

But what I immediately liked about Sakya was how more well-rounded the school was in terms of activities whether it was in sports or the arts. I thoroughly enjoyed being exposed to different sports outside of basketball like chess and volleyball, to excelling in spelling bees, to performing on stage whether in plays, interpretative dances, and even discovering that I can sing (a bit). It was really through my 3 years in Sakya that I learned more about myself. Also, given how bad I felt about flunking in Uno and how it went against what I thought of myself as a good student, I rediscovered the drive to excel in academics and graduated with honors.

In my 3 years there, I had two favorite teachers – my English teacher Mrs. Gusi and our THE/Drafting teacher Mr. Simpao.

From Mr. Simpao, I learned the value of taking pride in my work and the discipline to do things the right way. He had a couple of sayings he never got tired of drilling into us. “Love your work” and “Do it right the first time”. These words are forever etched into my brain even the way he said them in that laconic almost melodic tone that was his signature. His subject was probably the hardest because he was such a stickler for details and craftsmanship even for the most basic plates (as the drafting sheets were referred to). Each line is scrutinised even how clean (or dirty) the plate you submit was. He was not above tearing your submissions or dumping them in the trash (never mind how much you slaved over them) if he felt it was beneath his standards. He berated and forced all of us to level up our work to a standard that for sure felt like it was an impossible one to meet.

Watching J.K. Simmons’ character in the movie Whiplash actually reminded me of Mr. Simpao. And like Fletcher the movie character, I can see that Mr. Simpao simply wanted his students to hold themselves to a higher standard, to push us to do our best work because sometimes we also don’t know what we’re capable of. I was never the top student in that class as a handful in our batch were really amazing artists but I certainly put in the effort to excel as much as I can. My proudest moment was that in my senior year, one of my projects scored a 99 which he said was the highest grade he ever gave (impossibly high standards like I said). It was for a project where we needed to use vines in a creative way and I used it to make a “belen” with lights for Christmas. I still remember submitting it and how he even got teary-eyed for a bit while scrutinising it. My mom still uses it under the Christmas tree every year until now.

With Mrs. Gusi, she treated me almost like a son given that she was also the teacher of my uncles and aunts when they were in Sakya. It helped too that English was my strongest subject and that I had quickly dominated (pardon the blatant bragging lol) in spelling bees , writing contests and the like upon my transfer. Reading all those books when I was younger definitely came in handy for my vocabulary. During 3rd year, the school decided to send a representative to a Metro Manila wide speech contest and I was tapped to represent the school after winning the school speech contest.

But, during the preparation for this contest, I think Mrs. Gusi kinda saw I was mailing it in and not really taking the practice seriously. To be honest, I wasn’t too confident that I can compete and have a chance to win. I had built up the competition so much in my mind I was sort of sabotaging my preparation thinking there’s no chance anyway. In the last practice before the contest, Mrs. Gusi sent me home early but not before leaving a note in my speech sheets. She said that she has full confidence in me, that even if I pretend not to care or believe that I can do it, she knows that deep down I have the ability to do well if I only believe in myself. She ended the note by saying she knows I’ll do my best and that will be enough come the contest. It may sound weird but really up until that point in my life, no one has really said encouraging words like that to me, not even my parents. It certainly had the right effect on me as that night I took those words to heart and practiced my speech a couple more times with much more effort.

During the competition, the field was incredibly talented and well-prepared. With Mrs. Gusi’s words of inspiration, I took the stage and delivered the speech better than I imagined or practiced. I felt good about my chances but in the end I had to settle for 1st runner-up as the winner actually combined singing with his speech which was pretty good I must say. But, I still did it, I brought home a trophy to the school in a competition of almost 30 schools, I performed well enough to beat everyone except for one. It’s a lot more than I expected going in and it wouldn’t have been possible without Mrs. Gusi’s confidence in me.

Until now, I still value the impact they had in that critical juncture of my life, as I was going through adolescence and learning more about myself. In fact, at the tail end of senior year, when all the department heads (of which both of them were for their respective subjects) were deliberating on the honors, I was told by another teacher that no one argued more on my behalf than Mrs. Gusi and Mr. Simpao. Honestly, even if they didn’t do that and I didn’t make the cut to graduate with honors, the lessons they imparted have benefitted me more than an award ever could. And for that, I’m forever grateful to have been their student.

30-day Challenge

Day 23 of 30 – Quotes from Walt Disney

Walt Disney, a legendary name that will echo forever in the hearts and minds of kids, young and old, everywhere in the world. The founder and creator of countless beloved characters, stories, and movies, Disney lived a life that fully expressed his imagination and creativity. Despite the challenges he faced in pursuing his dreams (including bankruptcy at one point), he never wavered in making what was in his mind a reality. Because of this, generations of children have him to thank for the legacy he left behind.

Like Disney, I hang my hat on using creativity and imagination though I express it in creating brands and products rather than characters, movies and experiences like he did. I’ll always relate to the stories and struggles of creators as I go on my own journey and struggles. Below are some of his quotes that I’ve bookmarked through the years.

  1. If you can dream it, you can do it.
  2. All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.
  3. We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.
  4. The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.
  5. Somehow, I can’t believe that there are any heights that can’t be scaled by a man who knows the secret of making dreams come true. When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way, implicitly and unquestionably.
  6. All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me… You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.
  7. A man should never neglect his family for business.
  8. I would rather entertain and hope that people learned something than educate people and hope they were entertained.
  9. I do not like to repeat successes, I like to go on to other things.
  10. All you’ve got to do is own up to your ignorance honestly, and you’ll find people who are eager to fill your head with information.
  11. Do a good job. You don’t have to worry about the money; it will take care of itself. Just do your best work then try to trump it.
  12. A person should set his goals as early as he can and devote all his energy and talent to getting there. With enough effort, he may achieve it. Or he may find something that is even more rewarding. But in the end, no matter what the outcome, he will know he has been alive.