Takeaways: 5 things that struck me while reading Malala’s story

This year I want to be more courageous. I started off by reading about people who exhibited this trait. Malala is one of them. She stood up for education and women’s rights when it was dangerous. I never knew what it was like to live in the Middle east where women are restricted to roles set by their culture. I didn’t know that there are still women who cannot have equal rights with men especially in terms of education and profession. I commend her for speaking up even at an early age. It must have took her great courage to begin with. I also commend her dad for encouraging her to be free.

Today I’m going to share five things that struck me the most while reading her story.

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Malala came from the middle east where women were not given much importance and yet she made use of every opportunity given to her to share kindness and love to the people around her—her neighbors, the children they saw on the streets and other needy people. She lived under the reign of Talibans where people were suddenly hurt or killed and yet she had the courage to speak.

As a person living in a democratic country where people have freedom to do most of the things that we like, I realized that I am taking a lot of opportunities for granted. I am motivated to speak up now that I can.

I also realized that I should not be contented to live my life as if there are no people in need. God blessed me with abilities, resources, and time so that I can bless others. We may sometimes complain that we do not have enough as of the moment and thought we could share if we can become millionaires one day but I realized that even a small amount could do. As little as we can, we can help a lot! On her 16th birthday, Malala spoke at the United Nations where she mentioned that one book, one pen and one teacher can already make a huge difference. I realized that if we believe in some things, we must have the courage to go all in.

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Speaking up when you are oppressed is difficult when you know that your oppressor is more powerful. When Malala’s dad was starting to build his school for girls, there were a lot of problems especially in dealing with the government and the community. Corruption was rampant, and the influential people wanted to close his school. The Taliban saw it as a violation of the Quran. Parents were against him when he invited poor and needy people to sit in a class with the rich kids. His former business partner gave up also when he didn’t see immediate results.

Malala’s dad realized that through speaking up in behalf of schools, he could raise his opinions to those in position. He joined several organizations who stood up for education and girls’ rights. He raised his concern about corruption in the government when schools were having difficulty in getting permits to operate. Through the help of like minded individuals who are concerned about the children, he was able to motivate them towards his vision of giving good education. He also encouraged Malala to speak in their campaigns for girls’ rights.

I realized that we can only do as much when we’re alone. It is as if we’re trying to fight single handedly. But with the help of a community of like minded individuals, we are stronger, our voice is louder, and our hands are bigger. We need not make a difference on our own. We can look for individuals who are also wanting the same.

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When Malala’s dad started his school, there were only few students who enrolled. He also had to balance his time to focus on financial concerns, welfare of teachers, academic curriculum of students and cleanliness of the school. They had to sacrifice meals and personal space. Other people would even make fun of him. It took a while for the community to recognize his school’s reputation. After some time, there were already three buildings in the school, a bunch of students who join competitions across their place and teachers. It also took him several years to be able to build his reputation in the organizations he joined. He was even looked up to when there were instances that they must speak up on some issues even though he wasn’t involved politically.

Like the movement that Malala and her dad started in Swat Valley, it will take time to see progress. Changes do not happen in a day especially when we want to see a total turnaround. There will be a lot of challenges too. All of these will not result to nothing.

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The Taliban hit Malala by the bullet over her head. She believed that the reason the gunned men were forceful was because they were uneducated. They did not know what the words in the Quran mean. They were interpreting their religion as something that it is not. She said that it was supposed to be peaceful because Islam means peace. They wanted to use brute force to show their power. They wanted to use such force because they fear that people will not honor them. Because they do not know the truth, they did so many crazy things just to make people afraid.

Another instance mentioned in the book was when Malala’s dad and his friend was passing through a checkpoint. His friend asked if they will pretend to be somebody else because they were known and were looked after by the Talibans. Her dad never made a second thought of changing their names. He stood for what he believed was the right thing to do.

I realized that when we speak the truth, there’s nothing to worry about. Because we know we are in the right, there will be peace in our hearts. Whatever happens, our conscience is clear. I also realized that it is important to know the truth. And we will know it by reading or learning from other people.

I commend Malala’s dad for being courageous. Both Malala and him motivated me to die a noble death than swallow the words that I said.

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Malala was asked a couple of times by reporters whether she felt a grudge towards her perpetrator. She said that she did not even think of the gunned man who tried to kill her. There was no hurt feelings that was left on her. Instead, what remained was more passion to make her new life count to be able to help more people in need of good education and equal rights.

Her parents also supported all sorts of people in need. She told in her story that their house was always full of guests. They feed the children they support before heading school. They also help others whenever they have concerns as much as they can. Both her mom and her dad were activists in some way. They made sure that they do what they can to help.

On the other hand, when they were in need and were in critical situations, people just suddenly appeared to help. When her dad was on his way to the university, he didn’t know where to move in because he lack money and his only relative didn’t have the means to take him in. His fiancé and now wife’s uncle willingly offered his place not knowing his situation.

When Malala was brought to the Birmingham hospital, hundreds and thousands of people sent messages of encouragement to her. There were also several people who helped them finance the operations and recovery.

I realized that when we extend mercy, we receive grace. When we become generous with other people, we tend to get more than we could ever ask for.

When we sincerely want to help others, we will muster the courage we need because we know that our efforts will not be in vain. It is when we volunteer to stand up for others that we will be able to do dangerous things and compromise our security for the good of other people.

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Takeaways on Originals by Adam Grant

I never thought that a classroom setting can be so choking and inflexible. I was contended that I get honors and high grades. My sister was the one who is critical of our school systems. She dreams of establishing a school where children can freely play and learn at the same time.

Through several materials and encounters, I now agree with her that there’s something that needs to be done. Schools are usually designed for conformity rather than fostering originality. A lot of our examinations and projects are tailor fitted to make us follow rules and instructions. Something is lacking!

The same situation usually happens at home. Many parents want their children to obey ‘in spite of’ and in all circumstances. Asian parents, in particular, want their children to pursue careers that are ‘safe’ and traditional.

I personally struggle coming out of my own as an original. Until now, I can’t still figure out my skill sets and the things that I like doing. I envy Joy Mendoza’s kids because their mom knows them very well. I wish someone had studied me, my strengths, and weaknesses. But I believe it is not yet too late. Clearly, we need to take time to discover and ask help from other people.

Upon reading the Originals by Adam Grant, here are the seven things that I realized:

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A wonderful Creator designed us. God made each one of us unique. We are carefully and wonderfully made—each with strengths and weaknesses, passion, and ability to influence. God designed us in a way that would glorify Him in the end. He placed us specifically where we are right now. We are born to be an original. There is no single person here on earth with a similar set of experiences. Therefore, our influence, reach and capabilities are also different.

We are unique and original and yet we need to discover our gifts and talents. We need to discover what sets us apart. We must remember that it takes time to discover these, so we need to actively participate. And we can enhance our creativity and originality by trying out different styles and combinations, trying out different things and the like.

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Our parents’ priority is to give us our quality education. They want us to be equipped in the future. Sadly, our parents’ minds and thinking are sometimes narrow. They tend to advise us to take the safer route. Take a business course or any other course with a professional license. We end up living in a box environment because of this.

Recently, there is a good amount of acceptance to unconventional jobs like becoming a blogger, stylist, designer, and the likes. But for it to came to a well-known status, there must be many brave souls who spoke out what their passions are. That is true to the vlogger Cassey Ho when she was supposed to take up medicine because her parents said so. She courageously voiced out that she liked designing. For several years, she was not in good terms with her parents because of this. After a while, they have accepted. If not for her courage to speak up, she wouldn’t be the top fitness vlogger on youtube as of date.

Parents should encourage their children to pursue creative activities. They should also encourage them to dream big dreams.

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When you enter college, there are a lot of stereotypes. There are also norms around the campus that are acceptable because they became valid over time. Even in the workplace especially in the corporate world, rules have been long set. It is difficult to break from it even though it will greatly help the company and its employees.

Speaking up might cost our jobs or grades and even our lives. There were a lot of world changers like Malala who spoke up for women’s rights in Pakistan. They risked their lives because they stood for what they believed is true. They admitted they were scared but they did it anyway. It took courage to speak because if they didn’t, no one will.

This might also mean we should care less of our own welfare and care more about the company, school or community in general. It means we need to care less about promotion and care more about the company’s long term success just like Steve Jobs who was fired because he took risks for the company to grow and be innovative.

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I want to master a skill as quick as I could, but I am losing the patience and discipline to master along the way.  I feel like it is taking me too long to get a concept, or a way of doing things! Research shows that it will take us 10,000 hours to master one. This year I want to master driving but sometimes I am not confident enough. My dad always gives his lecture whenever I would do something that is not right.

Through several occasions and upon reading this book, I realized that we cannot fake greatness. Fakers cannot continue as fakers and not be found out. It takes time. It takes time to learn how to drive. It takes time to master other new skills. I am amazed of other people who learn quickly but I am more amazed of the people who have already mastered a skill or two because they patiently practiced.

I realized that confidence can be built when we know enough and have done enough. When we practice our craft, we learn through discovery and trial & error. Also, as we master skills, our reputation becomes established as we deliver.

Also, the author stressed the importance of creating despite having mastered an art. He mentioned that there are two kinds of creativity. The first one is that you tend to be creative and yet through time, you repeat your own work because you cannot think of new ideas anymore. You stopped playing even though you mastered your skill. The second is that you start slowly but your creativity produces unique and innovative ideas in different styles. We should strive to have the latter.

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I believe what the author said about this is true. When we are focused in getting achievements, we tend to pursue a single path and becomes more inflexible. Our vision becomes narrow. Instead of having the willingness to try other things if the plan becomes not feasible, we push through with eagerness. We lessen play time and experiment time. We are too rigid in getting the prize or pleasing others. We are being stubborn in a wrong way.

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When we hire people in our company or work for others, we see to it that our values are similar with the people and the organization. Because of this, we tend to have a culture of conformity. Many company cultures are drawn to this because it is ingrained in the culture. We need a culture that fosters different perspectives. If we want to become a great company, we need to allow others to be their own personality. We need to take in different perspectives. We should not shut down ideas too quickly. We need to study them. We should not settle with mediocrity and status quo. Always challenge the current practices and try to learn from them.  It will help us become an original. We should also be open with negative criticism. That’s how we’ll grow.

It was also mentioned that we should avoid the words love, hate and like. They have a psychological effect in our thinking that will make us drawn to it unconsciously. This will in turn prohibit us from venturing different ideas and styles which are helpful in becoming originals.

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One of my favorite books to read in our university library is the 100 innovative ideas book. I even know where it is placed! I loved the book because there are so many ideas to generate ideas. It is fun to read how we can be creative and how we can foster creativity amongst ourselves and other people.

In this book, I learned that the only way to generate great ideas is to generate more ideas. I realized that the reason why business people and creative people are encouraged to bring a notebook and pen always is for them to create more. That is to account for business ideas or ways on how to do business. Generating a lot of ideas allows us to choose the best and viable option given the limitations and other factors on hand.

Overall, I found the book helpful. I realized that there are still a lot to be done with my own habits as well as practices in business and at home. I should foster a habit that allows creativity and play. I also realized that disagreeing is different from disrespecting. We may disagree on some ideas but we should not disrespect. We may voice out our opinions but we should consider others’ feelings as well. After all, our gifts and creativity are meant to help other people and not tear them down.

Takeaways: Option B

We humans often strive to live the American dream but not everyone is living in the ideals—a happy and complete family, a comfortable home and the resources to pursue dreams. Our world isn’t perfect, but we can find joy and gain resilience in the midst of it.

In the book Option B written by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant, this fact is expounded. After the loss of her husband, Sheryl was able to express well how it is to grieve and cope through adversity. The words are well put so much so that I as able to feel what it’s like when hurtful things happen.

Death is often dreaded by a lot of people. I could not imagine also my loved ones passing before me. I am ready to die but I’m not ready for them to leave me. I guess this interdependence between us makes it difficult to let go. We are also often caught unprepared for this despite the fact that we know all of us will die at some point.

Life is never perfect. We live in some form of Option B…we all deal with loss: jobs lost, loves lost, lives lost. The question is not whether these things will happen. They will, and we will have to face them.

Here are my takeaways from the book:

Accept. The first and hardest thing. It is difficult to accept that the people you spend most of the time with will be gone. It is difficult to move on in life when you got used to being with them around you. But according to Adam Grant, the pain that we experience because of unexpected circumstances will decrease over time. There is a time to heal but the first thing that we should do is accept—accept that what happened is God’s will and that it is for your good.

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Open up and ask for help. It is when we open up that we are healed. We should let other people know how we feel so that they know how to interact with us. Sheryl shared that she had a difficult time expressing her feelings in the workplace because she was scared that it is inappropriate. But then she realized that the more she hid her feelings, the more the pain stayed. I realized that we should let our feelings flow even in the workplace. I believe that our workmates will be glad to help us cope in the bad situations we are in. When we are only faking that everything is all right, the matters will get worse. We need to discuss it openly to people around us.

Sheryl narrated that during her meetings with Mark Zuckerberg and other Facebook executives, she would go to the comfort room to cry. She also encouraged her kids to do the same.

Journal. Writing is one way of opening up. During the first few weeks after Dave’s death, Adam also asked Sheryl to write down her big wins for the day. Sheryl mentioned that even the things that she does regularly like focusing on a meeting suddenly became difficult. These baby steps enable her to move forward. She said even simple things such as eating meals and doing some chores were included in the list.

“Turning feelings into words can help us process and overcome adversity.”

Choose joy and hope. We cannot choose the situations we are in but we can choose to have hope and persevere. We must choose to have a grateful attitude. In the book, after a few months writing her big wins, Adam suggested Sheryl to write down three things that she is grateful for at the end of the day. During their family dinner, Sheryl also added this to their family conversation.

 “Choose meaning over emptiness.”

For us as Christians, we have a greater Hope and that is the Lord Jesus Christ because we know that He has overcome the world. He is alive and He is coming soon to rule the earth. He is our only hope. I disagree that spirituality is only one way of having hope. I believe that it is the only way to having hope. Jesus alone can give us healing from the pain we have experienced.

Persevere now that we know we have hope. Life is repetitive. Sometimes we get tired of doing the same thing over again. Habits enable us to keep persevering.

After reading the book, I realized that family rules help.  In their family, Dave and Sheryl had written rules for their kids to abide. When Dave died, Sheryl, together with her kids, made a list of new rules. What is interesting is that in all areas, they wrote that they should not be afraid to ask for help. We need other people’s help especially when we are at the lowest point of our lives.

“We all need other people—and I do more than ever.”

Move forward. The feelings of guilt might hinder us from living a meaningful life. I learned that it is difficult to cope with it. As a psychologist, Adam shared that after such loss, we should avoid saying “I’m sorry” or similar statements. Death and other losses may or may not be our fault but God allowed it to happen. God is still sovereign so we should entrust to him these matters beyond our control.

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After a couple of months, Sheryl had a conversation with her mother in law. During the conversation, her mother in law told her that she believed that she will cope with the loss and get married again. Adam also shared to her that she will not only cope but will grow resilient because of it.

Our resilience is enhanced or cultivated when we choose to move forward and not be bitter with what life threw at us. We need to help ourselves. We need to move on and move forward. In the midst of loss, we can remind ourselves that adversity develops our character. Our experience of loss and adversity will not be put to waste. We can help others by telling our stories. We are used to bless others and to make our lives count.

Sheryl also mentioned that her family and friends reminded her that when she’s happy, Dave is happy and is rejoicing with her.

“Joe learned that post-traumatic growth could take five different forms: finding personal strength, gaining appreciation, forming deeper relationships, discovering more meaning in life, and seeing new possibilities.”

Moving forward means paying forward. What can we do for other people?

Be there. Giving sympathy means being there for them. We cannot offer help if we are not there with them.  Say ‘we are going to get through this together’, so that even when you don’t know what to do, the other person that you’re trying to comfort will feel relieved. Don’t forget to mean what you say.

I was amazed how Sheryl’s mom, siblings and other relatives grieved with her. They did not leave her behind. They were with her in every step of the way. Her mom and siblings took care of the funeral stuff. Her in-laws regularly talked with her over the phone. Her friends dropped by her house to check how she’s doing.

Be sincere. When we ask ‘How are you?’, we should mean it. During the time that she opened up, Sheryl was able to express how some people hurt her because she feels that their greetings weren’t sincere. She also shared that some people are openers. People who are openers enable us to express what we feel by asking questions showing that they care. Sheryl discussed that people who naturally experienced the loss are good openers but we can be trained to be one. They can help us accept the situation by being sympathetic. We feel sympathized when others ask us sincerely. When you talk to them, you share what you feel because they honestly want to hear from you. Hurting people long to speak what they feel. Be there to listen.

Be intentional. We know that our days are only limited. We do not know how much time left we have on earth to spend with our loved ones and live a meaningful life. We ought to create memories, lasting and significant ones. It is difficult because we are all busy bodies. We have a lot of things to do. We like to make excuses. What we need is to set aside time intentionally for other people. It might be eating dinner with the family, being there for a friend or volunteering for an outreach program. It also means we set aside time with the Lord. Overall, we need to be intentional with our time.

I realized also after reading Option B that we need to give attention to our family members and to other people. I learned that we have circles of influence. We should not be afraid to seek encouragement from them. We also ought to give encouragement to them.

“We find our humanity—our will to live and our ability to love—in our connections to one another.”

And lastly…

Don’t waste your life. You’re probably tired of hearing this but I want to stress this statement again. I also need to remind myself of this often. Live out your life as if it will be your last. Sheryl wrote that people have many regrets and a greater percentage of this is attributed to the regrets for the things that are not done like not able to spend more time with loved ones, did not accept forgiveness and not able to help in times of need. These regrets are also often relational.

Sheryl narrated that if only she knew that she would only spend eleven years with Dave, she would have not fought with him too often about petty issues and that she would have celebrated his birthday every year instead of every five years.

One way also of living out our lives is by helping others to cope with loss. I commend Mark Zuckerberg for being a good boss. He was understanding when Sheryl wasn’t able to perform well while she was grieving. He and his wife also accompanied her and the kids to a beach to have fun and help them cope.

“Wherever you are in the circle, offer comfort in and seek comfort out.”

I was struck when Sheryl narrated that she didn’t know how to open up in the workplace. We spend most of our time with our workmates and yet we pretend everything’s fine. We seldom ask how they are and what they are going through.

“He said if I wanted others to be more open with me, I needed to be more open with them.”

When she finally posted on facebook timeline how she felt, many of her workmates reached out to her.

We can do more than we can imagine we could do. God has made us unique and special. The pain and adversity that we experience can be turned into something good. We just need to have a vision. Aspire. Dream big—not for us to prosper materially but for us to develop a character that is continually molded into what God wants us to be.  Dream that the people around us will feel unique and special as well.

No matter where we are in life, we need to make it count. Choose joy and persevere. Everything will be okay.

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photo from the internet

Thoughts: Exercise at the parking lot

Doing freelance and managing a business meant staying at home most of the time. I love the freedom and the silence but I hate the fact that I don’t get to move a lot! After a while, I committed to walk or stretch at 3 pm daily. I put it on my calendar so I don’t have to remind my self.

For this particular afternoon, I tried to go up the car ramp in the building where we stay. It’s like doing an indoor hike with surrounding cars.

I love how the walls are painted yellow!

The view outside. I originally planned to go outside for a walk but it was raining!

Through this particular experience I realized that:

  • We can get creative when there are roadblocks
  • The way we respond to limitations will either make or break us.
  • Choose to be grateful for the sudden turn of events.
  • Accept that God is in control even when your plans are ‘ruined’. That meant He has prepared something bigger.

Jannel

Thoughts on giving

When I was a kid, I look forward to birthdays and Christmas because of the gifts. As I grew older, my mom would assign us to buy gifts to families and friends.

I realized that thinking of the things or experiences to give to other people is not as easy as it looks like.

I learned that we have five love languages and giving according to the other people’s language can be better appreciated. It will also make them feel loved.

To start off, it is best to observe them. You can also ask them and validate it as you go along.

Some people like to give and receive personalized greeting cards. Words mean to them. Others like to show affection through hugs and kisses. Still others would better appreciate it if you are with them to enjoy a cup of tea and have some talk. Some like to give and receive favors from others like helping them out in the organization of the home. Lastly, others would like to give and receive gifts.

Through the years I learned that giving shows that we are concerned for other people. When we spend our time, energy and resources for others, we invest in their lives.

I also learned that it is best to keep it simple. It maybe just a simple note or a pat on the back but it goes along way!

Most importantly, we give because we are stewards of God’s resources. We give not just if we have an extra savings. We give because we have faith that God will supply our needs in the days to come.

Start with what you have and make others feel loved!

Jannel

Musings: dark & rainy days (Part 2) + theater visit

Hi everyone! I’m sorry to greet your December 1st with silhouette & gray photos but I hope these will inspire your winter season. I also hope you’re having a blast as the Christmas season starts. How are you going to celebrate Christ’s day?

Sun set in Ayala Center while waiting for my friend

Antique clock that my aunt bought for my parent’s engagement

Construction site on the look out.

In contrast with the silhouette photos, I want to share the set in the recent show I watched with my cousin. It was actually her requirement in school and I just tagged along.

I am amazed of the lights and how the props were creatively used.

Lights can totally add to the drama!

These people were doing a wave dance before the audience!

Liza Macuja-Elizalde shared some imagery that ballerinas use to convey meaning. I wasn’t able to get the context fully but the introduction helped.

Stay inspired,

Jannel

In the kitchen: home cooked meals (Part 3)

In this series I’m posting some dishes that I would like to bring to my parent’s table. Hopefully I can convince my aunt to cook these for me.

Shrimp sautéed with broccoli, corn bits, and mushrooms. We also added garlic and onions of course.

Coated shrimp. I love its sweet and crunchy taste!

Steamed veggies. Any will do as long as they’re not overcooked. I like my veggies half cooked. How about you?

Steamed fresh fish with tomatoes. In my parent’s home we rarely eat fresh fish. I just learned to appreciate them because of Teaz.

Fried fresh fish. I love the variety of fish! I hated eating this before because I need to debone. I guess we all need to grow up in terms of expanding our palettes.

My dad used to say, God has given has a variety of meat, fish, seafood, vegetables and fruits. God gave them all for us to enjoy! Let us appreciate the food that He has given us but let us not forget to thank Him. After all His creation points everything to Him.

Before this post ends, I challenge you to eat one type of food that you don’t normally eat this week. Let me know if you have taken part of this challenge by typing your comments below.

Stay inspired,

Jannel