Leap of faith

Getting stuck

I wrote before how life can be a cycle of ups and downs. You might find yourself soaring to heights one day, and then rapidly falling off a cliff right after. You might be on your way to achieving your goals, but then you stumble and find yourself on the ground.

You try to regain your composure, regain your bearing, but this cannot always be the case. Sometimes you get stuck and don’t know where else to go.

Sometimes you have to give up.

It’s funny how you find yourself at these crossroads at familiar times in your life. Economy’s bad. Someone dies. You lose your job. You get robbed. Your health takes a turn for the worst. Familiar scenarios. Different, yes, but they do have a common denominator.

But sometimes giving up does have its merits. Do you waste your entire life trying? Or do you acknowledge that you’re stuck?

Sometimes this is the first step to getting started in achieving something really great.

The challenge here is knowing when to stop and knowing what to do next.

Of course the even bigger challenge here is unlearning, unloading all the excess baggage and learning new things along the way.

Taking that leap of faith?

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Zen stones

Will simplicity work everywhere?

My wife is a big fan of sites like Zen Habits, the Minimalists and other similar sites where authors tackle the topic of minimalism. The zen bug has bitten me, as well. Amid the rush to earn more money, collect more possessions and make one’s life more comfortable and convenient with objects, gadgets and stuff, minimalism tries to focus on doing away with clutter. As Zen Habits’ Leo Babauta puts it, you get to appreciate things more when you learn to let go.

Going beyond letting go of objects, minimalism is also not just about the tangible things. Minimalism can also mean simplicity in our every day actions and habits. It can also mean doing things in less complicated ways, or reducing commitments so we can put quality work into the things that matter. It can be letting go of destructive (or distracting) habits. It can mean unlearning ways of life that are not exactly beneficial in our lives.

Minimalism vs. materialism

Minimalism is a great answer to the big issues that certain societies face today. Economies are not exactly doing well. Material prosperity is still part of the so-called American Dream, but we see a lot of families becoming debt-ridden because of the need to amass more, in terms of material possessions.

But what if you take it in a different context? Will simplicity still be the answer? Let’s zoom in on the lives and situations of someone in emerging economies, where getting through every single day can be a struggle? Say, focus on a lower-income family in the Philippines that makes just the $10 minimum daily wage. Or how about those living in shanty towns, scavenging the garbage dumps for a measly $2.50 per day income. Will simplicity still be key in living a good life?

Simplicity might be a great answer when you have choices. It’s easy to go simple when your choice is whether to eat steak tonight for dinner or a simple salad. But what if you have nothing but salt and a cup of rice? What if you don’t have much in terms of options?

It’s simple enough to chose a four-hour workday (or two!) if you have passive income and if your savings and investments are already working for you. But what if you get hourly compensation at the factory, and you risk losing your job if you slack off?

You have a choice

But that’s the thing. Simplicity is a choice for those of us who do have the option. Whether it’s in the bigger things or in the smaller ones, if you are blessed enough to have a say in things, then use your conscience to go for the simpler things.

It is a matter of context. You don’t necessarily have to give up everything to enjoy the simpler things in life. It’s about making conscious decisions. It’s about attitudes. It’s about habits that you are already attuned to every day of your life.

Will simplicity work everywhere? It should. It’s that simple.

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Too much tolerance can lead to moral hazard

I can’t help but be concerned with the news around the world today. Big things being discussed are the striking down of the DOMA, which makes same-sex marriages legal again in the US, atheism monuments being erected right alongside religious monuments, and lifestyles that purport to be loving, but show an tendency toward lasciviousness. And then what about news outlets and social media applauding a pro-abortion rights filibuster?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m for religious acceptance and cooperation. I don’t hate homosexual persons. It’s just the in-your-face acts I am very much concerned with. I don’t think it’s a good kind of pride that people are displaying when they promote their beliefs and ideals while mocking those of others in the community. It’s a tendency that everyone has, yes. And pride, the wrong kind — it is everyone’s downfall. Remember how pride can lead to the fall of even the greatest?

I respect people’s privacy, beliefs and preferences, and I try not to proselytize. But when you try to become too wary of discrimination, too accepting and too lax, you also tend to lose track of your values. You start alienating other members of the community. What does everyone gain, then?

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Money is going virtual. Are you?

With the rise of mobile platforms like Android and iOS, mobile payments have also become a necessity. Both Apple and Google are even expanding into the realm of mobile payments for real-world items, with Apple’s Passport and Google Wallet. Both systems support discounts and loyalty programs without the need for coupons and cards. Some cities are already supporting train and transit payments through the mobile phone itself.

But even with mobile banking on the rise, users will still need to support these with funds from an actual deposit account or a credit card, which makes it difficult for some individuals to purchase goods or pay for services without a funding source. This so-called “underbanked” sector is the target of a U.S.-based form called Green Dot, which has been offering co-branded card based products for some time now. Its latest product, GoBank, does away with a deposit account, but instead uses an account accessible through a smartphone app as your virtual source of funds.

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Kids on grass

Community Management

I have always wondered about the title “Community Manager” attached to those well-known names. These folks are often admirable in how they can rub elbows with the who’s who of certain industries and communities. I have always wondered, though, if communities needed managing at all. Are not communities supposed to be self-managing?

But then given the dynamics between and among individual community members, I have come to realize that communities need guidance in order to keep moving toward the right direction.

However, today we talk about a different kind of community than what many of us in the online realm are familiar with: an actual, physical community — one in which a person or family resides within.

My family moved to a new community last summer, and we thought this would be a good move for us. The place is near the kids’ schools, there are a lot of greens, and it is considered generally safe. All was well, until a few months into settling down. We came to discover that discord and deceit has been plaguing the community for some time now. In short: people were not in good terms with each other, for one reason or another.

For some, these have been due to deep-rooted misunderstandings and grudges that often manifest themselves in collaborative decision-making processes. For some, these are due to mishandling and mismanagement of the community’s resources. For some, these are due to personal differences — some people just don’t click.

This is a relatively young community, and we’re what one may consider newcomers — the new kids on the block. But here are a few observations, so far.

In a community, there’s always power play. While we would ideally want to have an equal or at least equitable treatment of community members, there will be some who will want to take control and keep it. Then there is the never-ending battle of wills among those that want to be at the top. There may be times of peace, in which level-headed and responsible members of the community will take control, but this is often short-lived.

There will always be rotten apples. And we know what these do, right? They tend to spoil the whole bunch. It’s a matter of containing the problematic members of a society, and not letting these spread their influence too much throughout the community at large.

In a community, you will find people who are surprisingly good. Yes, first impressions matter. But what matters even more is finding the reality behind those first impressions. You might find true friends — or at least true neighbors — in those whom you least expect to.

The whiners. In a community, there will always be those who whine about this and that. It’s great to offer constructive criticism. But whiners will just whine about, without actually contributing anything good to the community. These are needy people who always want to make their presence felt, but in loud and irrelevant ways.

Then there’s everybody else. There are just some people who don’t really give a damn — those who just go about with their business, quite oblivious to the fact that there’s a whole lot going on around them. There’s truly nothing wrong with being oblivious, but being apathetic is a different thing altogether.

This is my ideal, though: I’d rather just go on minding my own business, which I especially need, given that my time is precious.

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