Friday, July 29, 2011

Your Passion Project and the World

First off, what is a Passion Project?

Simply put, it is an undertaking, venture or endeavor that is very personal to you in the sense that it springs from, or honors your passion. It is a personal project, meaning that you yourself jump-started it, but it could also be a task, work, or responsibility given to you or which you volunteered for or maybe just landed on your lap, but which so happens to be aligned with your passion.
A 'passion' is, of course, something that fires your belly, something that inspires you, moves you, excites you - like a cause, or a hobby, or an inclination. And you may get into it for no other reason than to 'scratch an itch', or because 'it is who you are', because 'it comes naturally' like a talent, and also maybe because, like Mt. Everest, 'it is there.'
Here are some examples of people admired for having pursued their passion projects, and for that reason, became very successful. Steve Wozniak who, along with Steve Jobs, founded Apple Computers, was a passionate engineer. He was a creator. He built the first Apple computer by himself, while it took his buddy Steve Jobs' marketing instincts to turn it into something people will want to buy. Both of them, the two Steves, combined their strengths and passions to build what Apple Computers is today. It was their Passion Project.

Read The Pixar Touch, and you'll be awed at, and have a tremendous sense of respect for the brains behind Pixar. They were Ed Catmull, John Lasseter, and yes, Steve Jobs too. But Steve Jobs came later; he was part of the Pixar triumvirate because he believed in the project enough to have funded it in the beginning. But Pixar was truly and originally the passion projects of Ed Carmull (a brilliant computer scientist) and John Lasseter (a prolific animator and master story-teller). Both had a passion for animation and a grand vision for computer generated (CG) animation. Together, they brought traditional hand-drawn animation into the 21st century by developing the hardware and software necessary to make CG animation possible. The result: Toy Story, A Bug's Life, Finding Nemo, Cars, The Incredibles, Ratatouille and boy-can't-we-wait-what-they-next-have-instore!

Clockwise (from top left): The Passion Project; Mt. Everest; Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II;
John Lasseter; Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak.

There are so many people in our history who are so closely associated with their passion projects that it defines who they are and the life they have lived. You know it is their passion project without them saying it (or knowing it) with the hours and years they have devoted to it, with the amazing success and reknown they've had with it.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta we know had devoted a good length of her life to the service of the poorest of the poor. Pope John Paul II had been a tireless and an inspiring head of the Catholic Church. We honor them with veneration, and by putting them on the road to sainthood. There are artists (Lea Salonga, Ryan Cayabyab, Michael Jackson), world leaders (Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, Aung-san Suu-kyi), thinkers (Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin) and many more - names we will always remember for what they have done for us, for the world.

Their greatest gift is showing us the way: that when you make your passions your mission in life - your 'passion project' - you may get famous, you may get rich, you may become ultra-successful. That is a great benefit to you. But what of your benefit to the world?

The world is enriched, blessed, and changed for the better.

Book Recommendations:
The Pixar Touch (Vintage)
Mother Teresa's Secret Fire: The Encounter That Changed Her Life
The Wisdom of John Paul II: The Pope on Life's Most Vital Questions
The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs: Insanely Different Principles for Breakthrough Success

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Of Love, Life and Meaning: Frankl and Vujicic

Viktor Frankl: Man’s Search for Meaning
Frankl experienced harrowing years in a Nazi Death Camp. From that experience, he developed his Theory of Logotherapy, a psychological theory that focuses on man’s search for a higher meaning in life as his primary motivational force. This is as opposed to Freud’s motivations based on pleasure, and Adler’s on power.

Stripped of everything in the Nazi camps - from clothes, to possessions, to pride and identity - Frankl noticed that man still differed in the way they responded to these harsh situations. He says that the last of freedoms to remain and that may not be stripped away was the freedom to choose one’s attitudes from any given set of circumstances. The environment was not the all-determining factor to man’s reactions – man had free use of his will to meaning, his attitude, to assign meaning and an appropriate reaction to these situations based on this meaning.

From Frankl’s experiences, it can be gleaned that there are no circumstances too terrible to say that we could not help but act the way we did, esp. negatively or harmfully. We always have a choice, he is saying. He supports this in stating that even among prisoners who had experienced similar atrocities, their reactions were different – some managed to remain benevolent, others antagonistic. And that even among the prison guards, there were good ones and bad ones.
“In the concentration camps, we watched and witnessed some of our comrades behave like swine while others behaved like saints. Man has both potentialities within himself; which one is actualized depends on decisions but not on conditions.”
(Victor Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning)
Life without Limbs: Nick Vujicic
Victor Frankl's story brings to mind Nick Vujicic - that Aussie guy who is pretty much like an ordinary guy - EXCEPT he had no arms and legs, and yet had a bright disposition and has even used his situation to help others; whereas others with similar circumstances would have chosen to give up, withdraw from life, or ask life for pity. He did not let his circumstances dictate the outcome of his life. He travels around the world as an inspirational speaker and his story truly tugs at the heart.

Love, Chemicals and Choice
This also reminds me of that scientific finding about the chemical basis of love, where love is the function of certain chemicals or hormones that act on our physiology. That these hormones last for an average of 4 years. It almost renders us at the mercy of our hormones. But while the studies also show that proof of this is that most divorces happen on the 4th year (when the hormones start to wane), it also suggests that on the 4th year at least, those who remain together have used the power of their will, and no longer just the force of their hormones, to choose to stay with their partners. They have found meaning in the relationship and have chosen to preserve it.
“Man is not one thing among others; things determine each other, but man is ultimately self-determining.”
(Victor Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning)

Book Recommendations:
Life Without Limits: Inspiration for a Ridiculously Good Life
Man's Search for Meaning
The Will to Meaning: Foundations and Applications of Logotherapy (Meridian)
Recollections: An Autobiography
Viktor Frankl: A Life Worth Living

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Digital Books, Kindle and the Death of Bookstores

Do you have an eBook reader yet, like the Kindle, Nook, and other such variations? If not, then I suggest you get one soon. Most smartphones now have apps that allow you to read ebooks, those are great ebook readers too. Let me tell why you should get an ebook reader.

Ever since Jeff Bezos of launched his Kindle in 2007, ushering the era of ebooks and ebook publishing, the ebook phenomenon has skyrocketed. The Kindle has proved to be Amazon's now best-selling product, such that other companies had launched their own ebook readers - like the Nook for example by Barnes&Noble, and Kobo by Borders.

Jeff Bezos: Amazon and his Kindle
If you will recall, made its money initially and mostly from selling books online and delivering them to customers in a fast and efficient process. Amazon was one of the most successful web company that was able to get people comfortable with buying stuff online; selling books - made of good ol' fashioned paper - was its cash cow. Why would it invest in developing a pioneering product like an ebook reader - a product that would directly compete with its own book sales? Seems counter-intuitive right? In January 2011, Amazon reported that for the first time, digital books or ebooks were outselling their paper-and-print counterparts. In May 2011, they also revealed that in 2010, they sold more ebooks than print books.

“Our vision is every book, ever printed, in any language, all available in less than 60 seconds.”

THAT is Jeff Bezos' Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) for coming up with the Kindle. By any measure, it is truly a huge goal. To come up with such a goal, and esp. a product like the Kindle, one has to be a true visionary. And no doubt, Jeff Bezos is one: He saw a future where all books could be easily accessible. To get there, he needed a device like the Kindle.

Carbon Footprints and Going Green
And it all makes sense. Apart from the increasing penchant for doing everything digitally, there is also the global trend of making products that have lesser environmental impacts. Switching to paperless books is the inevitable direction to take if we are to truly adapt green practices. Trees are saved. Energy that would have been used in the printing and delivery of paper-based books are conserved. Carbon footprint - the new buzzword of the green revolution is minimized.

Self-Publishing and Indie Authors
Consequently, there has been a steady rise of ebook authors as well, or veteran authors who now launch ebook versions of their books. And it's no longer just big names who can have their book published. Self-publishing is now very possible, as ebooks can be made easily from word documents to pdf files and converted to all the other ebook formats to make it suit the different ebook readers. And even Amazon now allows anybody to have their ebooks listed via Amazon. Publishing is now democratized, the same way iTunes of Apple has allowed music publishing democratic by allowing any composer, singer or band to sell their music (in mp3 or aac formats) via iTunes. No more need for big publishing houses or record companies before you can put your material out there. And the results for self-publishers have been very encouraging (read: lucrative), to the point that a number of them are now being signed up by traditional publishers too. (Google: Amanda Hocking)

Amazon: Death of Bookstores Foretold
I would guess that when Bezos saw how well books were selling via his, he already saw the potential of web stores in competing and obliterating his brick-and-mortar counterparts. And with the Kindle, he went a step further as he also will go against book publishers in effect. The result: Bookstore sales have been on a steady decline as more and more people are not only buying their books online but also buying books in digital format. Barnes&Noble tried to fight this off, even getting into developing their own ebook reader (the Nook) to stave off falling profits from sale of regular books. Because of this, they have survived; Borders - another U.S. bookstore - was not as lucky. It filed for bankruptcy in February 2011 and is slated to close down 200 stores.

Other benefits of eBooks
Books are great friends, wonderful companions, and are very very important to our intellectual growth (or even for simple brainless entertainment). BUT - they also take up so much space, gather dust, and get quite heavy in time (that is, if you have at least 5 boxes of them).

They also represent plenty of dead trees.

Much as the smell and texture of paper has become part of our reading experience, switching to ebooks is not only a step forward, but also answers a lot of problems.

As such, it is the way to go.

Book Recommendations:
The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon
One Click: Jeff Bezos and the Rise of
Invent and Wander: The Collected Writings of Jeff Bezos

Saturday, July 2, 2011

My so-called Blogger's Life (So far)

Many have asked: Is it really just ten minutes? 
My initiation into professional blogging officially began when I joined the iBlog7: A Blogging Summit, organized by DigitalFilipino founder Janet Toral with the UP College of Law Internet and Society Org. I say 'officially' because that is my first time to attend an event by bloggers for bloggers.

The Birth of "Ten Minutes, Tops!"
Before this I had only been an occasional blogger - I blog in starts and stops. However, my very first blog was born in 2003. After that, I have had a couple more, though most of which I had kept mostly for myself and my family. 2003 is a long time ago, so you could say I am not exactly a newbie. But to write for a bigger audience (and deliberately), that is what's new, and that's something I only began to do last February 2011, with the launch of my public personal blog called "Ten Minutes, Tops!". If you'd like to know why I named it such, I blogged about it here.

Many have asked me if I have really kept my writing to just ten minutes; the answer is, not always. Nowadays, I write to make sure you'll only have to read it for ten minutes, tops. I could have written or re-written it for more than ten minutes, add to that the effort to select and photoshop photos appropriate for the post. It's all to make the ten minutes you take to read my blog posts really worth your while.

I took blogging seriously not for any other reason than just to get myself to write - until having an audience became a very strong driving factor too. I discovered I had readers, and that sort of became reinforcing, so that from a weekly post, to a twice-a-week post, I came to the point of making blog posts daily. But that was exhausting (not to mention obssessive, hehe), so now I am down to a healthy 1-2 posts per week (although I would really like to write more often if inspiration were more abundant and there were more time). Honestly, when friends ask me they have been waiting or looking for my latest posts, I feel guilty for sort of letting them down. I know, that's absurb, but that's how I feel to a certain degree. That is how addicting blogging can be.

The Joys of Blogging
What I love about blogging is that I feel that I am better able to articulate much of my thoughts down. I admit more of my posts are probably on stuff I am the only one who give a hoot about - but that's okay. That anyone is reading is a bonus, although I find great joy in knowing that people actually do take time to read them. Based on analytics, I have learned that what people most like to read are posts on travel, and on controversial issues (or current events), and also, surprisingly (and pleasantly), on Jose Rizal. While it is nice to cater to what people will tend to read, I try not to make that my motivation, because I really want to write on what I feel like writing, on what I feel I really have thoughts to share on. The better motivation would be finding people who care enough about the same topics to make time to read them.

The process of coming up with topics to write (I have a lot on my list), composing my posts, revising, finding the right photos, lay-outing and publishing have all been very engrossing for me. It seems like a simple process (it is; most blogging platforms are easy to use), but it's also a lot of work. I love to write, but that is not to say writing always comes easy. It can be tiring too, and like with most writers, I have a whole ritual before I could get myself to write (procrastination is a ritual, hehe).

One of the other joys of blogging is that there is a whole community of bloggers out there. I have met many them on the iBlog7 summit, and then again on a movie screening exclusively for bloggers (Fast Five sponsored by Pilipinas Teleserv), and then again on a press launch for where I invited some of them, and then again for a preview of the Mind Museum where I gave away slots to fellow bloggers. Last June 23, I got a chance to meet more of them, as I had invited over 35 of them to a food event called Bloggers Buffet at Carol's Texan 5 - an event that I organized. It is gratifying to meet a lot of bloggers as they are a bunch of friendly and fun people - and they come from all walks of life.

A Whole Lot of Blogging
An offshoot of my blogging and all the things I have learned in the process is that Bloggers Buffet event. I now maintain another site which shall be a food event and food review blog - a service I now offer to restaurants and food places who want to promote their business. The website is still a work in progress, but do check it out for more updates. I also maintain which is a travel club blog for ClubTravelNOW! which I founded with a friend last September 2011. Aside from that, I have, a blog I've had since 2005 but which I revamped this year to get more people to climb Mt. Pulag with us at ClubTravelNOW!.

I have more sites under development - internet brands that I'd like to develop, all to give an avenue for my varied interests. I have also other sites that I am building for other people - clients, business partners, family and friends - to help them with their business and other causes. That too, is a result of my blogging. 

Come to think of it, I have only been a professional blogger for less than 5 months, but I have already learned so much and I am excited about all the things I know can still accomplish. Like me, the blogging profession in the Philippines is still in its maturing stages, so there is still much fun to be had in all this process of discovery.

That, my folks, is my so-called Bloggers Life, so far. :)

Book Recommendations:
Social Media Marketing For Dummies
The Facebook Marketing Book