Tuesday, February 24, 2009


I've recently been reading "Now Discover Your Strengths" by Marcus Bingham and am resonating with his basic tenant that one should trust in one's strength as the surest way to achieve the best performance.

There is a test called the Clifton StrengthsFinder and it is meant to be used as a tool to help identify a person's 5 core strengths. By identifying and developing these strengths, one can use these to live a more productive life.

One of the messages that I really clicked with is the one about focusing on strengths, rather than weaknesses. In order to be more productive and to take advantage of your best talents, one must focus on one's strengths.

I think that this message empowers. Focusing on my strengths and getting to know what I am naturally good at and enjoy doing allows me to continue to improve those strengths and use them to better my life.

I am not saying to ignore weaknesses.

Information is power and knowing what it is I am weaker in is also empowering because it allows me to recognize situations where I may not be as productive or "psyched" to be in. Not only that, it allows me to perhaps morph things more to playing to my strengths.

Here are my strengths which I've abbreviated to LARRA: [These are excerpts from the analysis results of the Clifton Strengths Finder]

You love to learn. The subject matter that interests you most will be determined by your other themes and experiences, but whatever the subject, you will always be drawn to the process of learning. The process, more than the content or the result, is especially exciting for you. You are energized by the steady and deliberate journey from ignorance to competence. The thrill of the first few facts, the early efforts to recite or practice what you have learned, the growing confidence of a skill mastered—this is the process that entices you. Your excitement leads you to engage in adult learning experiences—yoga or piano lessons or graduate classes. It enables you to thrive in dynamic work environments where you are asked to take on short project assignments and are expected to learn a lot about the new subject matter in a short period of time and then move on to the next one. This Learner theme does not necessarily mean that you seek to become the subject matter expert, or that you are striving for the respect that accompanies a professional or academic credential. The outcome of the learning is less significant than the “getting there.”

Your Achiever theme helps explain your drive. Achiever describes a constant need for achievement. You feel as if every day starts at zero. By the end of the day you must achieve something tangible in order to feel good about yourself. And by “every day” you mean every single day—workdays, weekends, vacations. No matter how much you may feel you deserve a day of rest, if the day passes without some form of achievement, no matter how small, you will feel dissatisfied. You have an internal fire burning inside you. It pushes you to do more, to achieve more. After each accomplishment is reached, the fire dwindles for a moment, but very soon it rekindles itself, forcing you toward the next accomplishment. Your relentless need for achievement might not be logical. It might not even be focused. But it will always be with you. As an Achiever you must learn to live with this whisper of discontent. It does have its benefits. It brings you the energy you need to work long hours without burning out. It is the jolt you can always count on to get you started on new tasks, new challenges. It is the power supply that causes you to set the pace and define the levels of productivity for your work group. It is the theme that keeps you moving.

Describes your attitude toward your relationships. In simple terms, the Relator theme pulls you toward people you already know. You do not necessarily shy away from meeting new people—in fact, you may have other themes that cause you to enjoy the thrill of turning strangers into friends—but you do derive a great deal of pleasure and strength from being around your close friends. You are comfortable with intimacy. Once the initial connection has been made, you deliberately encourage a deepening of the relationship. You want to understand their feelings, their goals, their fears, and their dreams; and you want them to understand yours. You know that this kind of closeness implies a certain amount of risk—you might be taken advantage of—but you are willing to accept that risk. For you a relationship has value only if it is genuine. And the only way to know that is to entrust yourself to the other person. The more you share with each other, the more you risk together. The more you risk together, the more each of you proves your caring is genuine. These are your steps toward real friendship, and you take them willingly.

You love to solve problems. Whereas some are dismayed when they encounter yet another breakdown, you can be energized by it. You enjoy the challenge of analyzing the symptoms, identifying what is wrong, and finding the solution. You may prefer practical problems or conceptual ones or personal ones. You may seek out specific kinds of problems that you have met many times before and that you are confident you can fix. Or you may feel the greatest push when faced with complex and unfamiliar problems. Your exact preferences are determined by your other themes and experiences. But what is certain is that you enjoy bringing things back to life. It is a wonderful feeling to identify the undermining factor(s), eradicate them, and restore something to its true glory. Intuitively, you know that without your intervention, this thing—this machine, this technique, this person, this company—might have ceased to function. You fixed it, resuscitated it, rekindled its vitality. Phrasing it the way you might, you saved it.

“When can we start?” This is a recurring question in your life. You are impatient for action. You may concede that analysis has its uses or that debate and discussion can occasionally yield some valuable insights, but deep down you know that only action is real. Only action can make things happen. Only action leads to performance. Once a decision is made, you cannot not act. Others may worry that “there are still some things we don’t know,” but this doesn’t seem to slow you. If the decision has been made to go across town, you know that the fastest way to get there is to go stoplight to stoplight. You are not going to sit around waiting until all the lights have turned green. Besides, in your view, action and thinking are not opposites. In fact, guided by your Activator theme, you believe that action is the best device for learning. You make a decision, you take action, you look at the result, and you learn. This learning informs your next action and your next. How can you grow if you have nothing to react to? Well, you believe you can’t. You must put yourself out there. You must take the next step. It is the only way to keep your thinking fresh and informed. The bottom line is this: You know you will be judged not by what you say, not by what you think, but by what you get done. This does not frighten you. It pleases you.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Passion and Desire: What do you want?

PASSION applies to an emotion that is deeply stirring or ungovernable.

DESIRE stresses the strength of feeling and often implies strong intention or aim.

[From Webster's online dictionary www.webster.com]

I have a tendency to over simplify.

I believe that nearly anything in life can be solved by a simple approach that I've derived from Polya. I broke this thinking down when I was teaching math in high school because I wanted to give my students a methodical approach to problem solving.

Polya's approach has 4 main principles:
1) Understand the Problem
2) Devise a Plan
3) Carry Out the Plan
4) Review / Extend

Here's my approach:
1) What's the question that needs to be answered?
2) What do you know?
3) How are you going to answer the question based on what you know?
4) Do it!
5) Did you answer the question? If not, back to the top.

So the question to answer for those of us seeking for the ideal life is "What do you want?"

What are you passions? Your desires? What drives you?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


ORIGIN applies to the things or persons from which something is ultimately derived and often to the causes operating before the thing itself comes into being.
[From Webster's online dictionary www.webster.com]

None of what I write here is "new" in the sense that it is my original thought. I'm a big believer in taking what's already out there, processing the information and incorporating what I can. Its no surprise that something "original" can be born by pulling from the existing "stuff" or by putting things together in a different way.

Where did the idea for this blog come from?

As I said, the idea for an actual blog came from my brother in law. Prior to that, I have written my thoughts and ideas down in various forms both electronically and by hand (the old fashioned way!).

As for the origins of the message that I want to share, that origin goes all the way back to the time I realized that I was doing something that, seconds before, I had believed to be an impossibility.

My divorce.

I grew up in the Philippines as Catholic, raised by Chinese parents who were immigrants. My dad was born in mainland China and my mother in Vietnam. The Philippines was a colony of Spain for centuries and Catholicism is not only a religion but embedded in day to day life. "Divorce" was something that happened "somewhere else" - it was the unthinkable. From my parents, I was taught that one works through problems within the family. You deal with the hand that you have and don't "air your dirty laundry" in public. Even though my parents are well traveled and educated, "divorce" for them was not something to acknowledge.

So, up until the moment my counselor asked me "Would you spend the rest of your life with this man?" I had not contemplated divorce. I am a bit embarrassed to admit this but I even had a hard time saying the word! I referred to is as the "D" word.

I remember the session very clearly. That week, after hearing various opinions from friends who had discovered that my then husband and I were having marital problems, I wondered, how long would this process take? He and I were both seeing a counselor independently and also as a couple. I thought to myself, this process could take a very long time. So, I decided to ask my counselor about it.

She and I had been talking for about 3 months by then and my husband and I were also seeing her as a couple for a little over a month. After the normal introductions and "how did things go?", I shared my observation that I could be working on saving my marriage for a long time, "How do I know when to stop?"

She asked me, "Do you see yourself growing old with this man?"


My answer was instant. There was no hesitation or thought. I answered instinctively to the question.

It is the only moment in my life where I experienced such clarity in answering a question that I knew would have a big impact on my life. This moment is frozen in my memory as the turning point of my life.

The ripples of that moment are still here for me, 9 year later.

I was 34 years old and my life was just starting over again.

Getting Started

Finally, after years of thinking about starting this blog. I'm starting it! I owe the impetus to my brother-in-law, CY, who basically reminded me that taking action will result in something compared to just thinking about taking the action which just stays in your head.

So, here goes!

This is a humble beginning that I'm hoping will grow into something much bigger. I believe I can offer advice, tools and anecdotes that will contribute to helping anyone find a way to that "wonderful life". So if you're new, bear with me as I refine my voice and message on this blog.