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2010 yearend review Dec 31, 2010

2010: A Year in Review

Now that 2010 has come to an end, it's a good time to look back on what the year has been - accomplishments, failures, works-in-progress, should-have-beens, could-have-beens, lessons learned, etc. It's always a good idea to do this annual introspection if only to get a sense of bearing on where you are on the journey. Sometimes you lose yourself in the thick of things that it's easy to be reactionary to what's immediately in front instead of keeping focus on the big picture.

Erica Boucher, my yoga teacher, put out her annual year-end reflection and stated that it's easier to write down the failures or misses than it is to write about your accomplishments. But with a little effort, it trickles down, becomes a flow, and it becomes hard to stop. We've usually accomplished more than what we give ourselves credit for. I'll give it a try.

  • abs showdown - this is not so much about sculpting abs but more of the funds it raised for charity. The showdown finished this July with P3000 raised to defray the medical expense of Shianne Tupas, of the SP Dot Commers, a fan organization of the reality tv show, Survivor Philippines, to which I was one of the 18 castaways in season 1. For a guy with no money, I'm glad to find ways to chip in.
  • moving out of Manila - Manila has become too toxic a city for me - bad air, congestion, crime, cost of living, stress, etc. Sure, it's the mecca for cultural life and popular joints, but they're not nearly enough to make the city less difficult than it's worth. I'm not against big cities. I've lived in big cities outside the Philippines and I'm cool with it. I'm against badly-planned or badly administered cities - and Manila is a perfect example of that.
  • moving to Dumaguete - I think the litmus test for a city is not the height of its skyscrapers or the magnificence of its skyline, but how it balances quality of life with urban living. It's a tight wire act and very few cities make the grade. Dumaguete is certainly one of the rare exceptions. It's big enough to be diversified without being rushed, but small enough to be intimate without becoming too familiar.
  • moving to Valencia - what could be better than living on a mountain slope with all the bounty of countryside living - lush vegetation, cooler climate, laid-back friendly people, no pollution (except noise pollution - motorbikes!), BUT is still within 16 minutes of a city? That's what I call getting the best of both worlds. Valencia is such a place being adjacent to Dumaguete.
  • shifting to wealth-building from poverty - I can't say I've pursued wealth at this frenzied pace ever - not even while I was running my own office coffee service company in Toronto. I take this mandate seriously with fanatical zeal. What's weird is, it's a complete turn-around from a vow of poverty I've lived my life on, the past 7 years. Since I'm not attached to my current lot, I can turn on a dime. With a new mandate, I'm nimble enough to jettison everything I no longer need for the new endeavour, move out to a new location (if it's called for), and even have to start fresh on a steep learning curve. Of course, I can only do this factoring-in my pending commitments - my deliverables have to be handed on time and according to specs; this is of paramount priority.
  • developing 5 websites - these are the tangible by-products of my shift. I have developed 2 real estate websites and 3 directories - all of which I'm hands-on almost on a daily basis. Apart from the web dependencies, I'm also constrained to foray into web marketing which I realize is a huge industry on its own with its own subculture, jargon and best business practices. With the real estate site, I do a bit of ground work when I see a property for sale. A lot of new things challenge me and the expected returns have not yet been realized. I'm all for perfecting my game, so it's all good.

Personally, 'failure' is such a strong misplaced word. Even with deliberation, I can't think of one. It's not because I haven't failed on anything. The fact that I'm living life on loaned money can be seen as failure. But if you're open to take on anything that calls out and you've given it your 100%, even if you don't get what you aimed for, it can't be a failure - at least not in my book. I view that episode as a process that needed to take place to clear the way for other things to happen. I would simply relegate the objective as something that was never for me to begin with. There's got to be something else for me out there.

Ah...there's many. In fact, I don't think there is such a thing as a finished product. Everything can still be improved upon and everything is in a state of evolution. They're all subject to change. I welcome change.

Lessons Learned
I learned these things, some like a kick in the teeth.

  • the world moves independent of you. If you're stuck in a rut, life passes you by
  • if someone borrows P90 and you never see his face again, it's actually cheap matriculation
  • when you extend or loan-out something long term, be prepared to part with it permanently (that's after getting flak for charging one-way links to sites that enjoyed it for free before)
  • just when you think you've figured out the answers, the rug could be pulled from underneath you when the questions are changed

Year-end Dimlights
While it had its highs, 2010 was a difficult year characterized by transition.

  • sadness - even though I always find a way to prop my spirits up when I feel defeated, I also allow myself to just let it be. I need that slack to keep my sanity. Given my predicament and extended isolation here in Negros, a hovering cloud of void looms as a menacing companion. If I put my guard down, it'll eat me up. I'm reminded of the song, Sound of Silence, "Hello darkness my old friend, I've come to talk with you again...". Interestingly enough, I was just watching Biography Channel's episodes on Hong Kong's top 2 entertainment icons - Anita Mui and Leslie Cheung. They were lavished in the adulation of their hysterical fans shouting, "We Love you!". And yet they come home alone to a cold empty bed. Leslie even committed suicide. Sometimes, the sadness can be unfathomable.
  • no partner - whoever I'm intimately with, be it a girlfriend or yakapmate, defaults to being my best friend, almost to the exclusion of everyone else. Breaking off with that person consequently means losing a best friend as well - a double-whammy. The landscape is littered by possibilities, but it takes a lot of filtering and sorting through to find that resonance.
  • loaning money - I've never loaned money for my subsistence. I never had to. Despite my 7-year vow of poverty, money had its uncanny way of landing on my lap. But here in Negros, all that changed. The money just dried up. I had to resort to the abject humiliation of loaning money. It's like eating broken glass. I'll never get used to that.

    However, seeing repeating patterns in life, I took that as a message that there's something else in store for me, not in the poor house, but in wealth building. I'm too stubborn that being humbled into loaning money was the only way for me to get that message. With that realization, I've made a 1800 turn overnight from poverty to manifesting abundance through wealth building. Frankly, I don't really care about the money (as long as I have food on my table). I'm more curious where this new mandate takes me. It's really another adventure.
  • no returns - With the wealth building paradigm, I readily took to task going the whole 9 yards on every Aha Moment that popped-up. Now, I have 5 websites that's been crafted with just about everything I can think of - clean interface, squeaky-clean W3C-compliant code, search-engine-optimization, GIS-mapping, Facebook integration, etc. I promoted the sites using web marketing practices employed by the industry. I thought I had the perfect business model to take with me on any industry to any part of the globe. But the market remained unmoved - not even nibbles. My spirit came crashing down like a house of cards.

    But just when I thought the web-directory approach wasn't going to work, Fox News just featured a rapidly growing website on the internet - Angie's List. It's a directory of home-improvement companies as reviewed and rated by consumers. While she has over a million subscribers, it took her 13 years to develop that. I've only had my sites 3 months running. Hmmm, maybe there's hope.
  • not knowing what to do next - Having something to work on is a blessing. It provides an objective, a direction and defines the scope of things to be done. What I find very difficult is when you've done what you set out to do, and find out it's not working, and NOT KNOWING what to do next or where to go from there. Of course there are options - I can do the freelance sites and compete with guys from India who'll bid on the same job for a song, or go back into teaching, or go into adventure tours. But without a creative spark or what I call an AHA Moment, it's playing Russian roulette. I feel I painted myself into a corner. I'm stumped not knowing what to do next.

Year-end Highlights
Highlights do happen, but with tight resources, they can be far in between and fleeting. I cannot rely on chance to feel good about anything. For my psychological well-being, I generate my own excitement, some with a little help from friends.

  • work - I guess I'm one of the very few fortunate people who can honestly say they love their work. When I was still working for the man, the work at times could be repetitive, sometimes frustrating specially when I have to take orders from someone incompetent - I call it grunt work. I look around me and I see clock-watchers on auto-pilot as they wait for 5 o'clock. I really feel for them. The world would be such a better place if people were empowered to do work that's meaningful to them. As a freelancer, I'm fortunate to manage my time and do only work I enjoy doing. I have the freedom to pursue anything I want to learn - emerging technologies, real estate, web marketing, quantum mechanics, etc. The only ceiling I have is the one I set.
  • body painting - Dumaguete's first body painting show was new ground and quite memorable
    (thanks to Ian and Luz)
  • friends - There are people who can weigh you down - they can be somebody else's friend, that's ok. If I'm a liability to anyone, they should dump me too, no hard feelings - it works both ways. Admittedly though, I've walked away from some promising friendship, too easy and too soon - my bad!

    As an outsider looking in, I am blessed to have developed friends in Dumaguete. Not a whole lot, but enough of the quality kind. I'm fiercely loyal to my friends - to a fault. Investing in a relationship (friendship or the intimate kind) can be exacting and taxing - so I choose them wisely. Would you invest 4 years of your life in just any learning institution? Same thing. Don't get me wrong, I'm not looking for a friend who'll be there when shit hits the fan - that seems to be asking too much in this day and age. But if they're still around when that happens, hey, nice!
  • 10-Day Vipassana Meditation - it would be good to participate annually to this event. Every year of Vipassana brings with it a new flavor. The flavor for this year was forgiveness - I can't really say I've come to grips with it. Transcending religion, creed and color, Vipassana is a present-day gift by the ancients to humankind. Lucky are those who avail of it.
  • backpacking - I didn't do a lot of backpacking this year, but coming down from my climb to Mt. Kanlaon, I got to visit Bacolod, Silay and Talisay
  • adrenaline - there's nothing like a rush to kick you out of your rut.

    • mountain biking - ocular rides on the trails of San Juan, Batangas, riding with the ONE Bikers, trail riding on Mt. Talinis and epic ride with UP Mountaineers to Sta. Inez
      (thanks to Fredd, Dr. Simon, Jeremy, Ylang, Rene, Jojo and Naomi)
    • kayaking/beach camping - Coron/Busuanga/Cheey, Palawan
      (thanks to Greg)
    • free diving - within the world-reknowned Coral Triangle (Apo Island, Siquijor, Dauin, KooKoo's Nest, etc)
      (thanks to Dudz, Rene and Bianca)
    • surfing - Liw-liwa, San Felipe, Zambales
      (thanks to Aris and Bernz)
    • mountaineering - recon climb to Mt. Banahaw and summiting Mt. Kanlaon
      (thanks to Tope, Reggie, Aaron and Xtine)
    • adventure race - Dumaguete's first Eco-Adventure Race was a blast
      (thanks to Ian, Luz and Aesha)
  • learning new things - learning is an on-going process no matter what stage in life you're at. The moment I feel the arrogance to say I've learned enough, is the moment I start deteriorating. Come to think of it, "feeling old" largely happens to people who no longer find the need to learn something new or further what they already know. I'm blown away by retirees who suddenly take up Photoshop or mountain biking. Or engineers who shift focus and take up Philosophy.

    • Geographic Information System (GIS) - I've always been interested in mapping, but this was taken a notch higher when LIDAR specialist Al Duncan hosted a GIS workshop. I was in a frenzied high all those days. I've learned so much and I continue to apply GIS into my web endeavors. Al Duncan, you are FAB!
    • Google Analytics - website analytics is knowing how site users behave within your website, where they came from, where they landed on your site, who referred them, etc. It's an excellent tool to help better design the navigation, content and layout of a website. I found something interesting too. The 2nd biggest referrer of web traffic to me is the site of the Hells Angels' legendary leader - Sonny Barger! I guess these bikers like my book review, Hell's Angel.
  • tv - yes, the stupid box! Well, it used to be the stupid box, but times have changed. Now, it's up to you on what to make of it - a stupid box or knowledge box. Values and shifting market demands have immeasurably changed tv programming. I like the way that the programmers make it engaging and relevant to our changing times. With the likes of Nat Geo, Discovery and TLC, knowledge has never been this accessible. With no tv practically in the last decade (yes, I didn't even see my Survivor Philippines show!), I have a lot of catching up to do. But it's fascinating how watching a one-hour show on Nat Geo about geothermal energy (for instance) can make you well-rounded on that field. And it's not just technical knowledge I updated myself with - Kim Kardashan is svelt, Justin Bieber is funny and Lady Gaga rocks!
  • house sitting - when friends had to leave for Manila for 2 weeks, I was asked if I can house-sit. House sitting is like renting a fully furnished house without the rent. Add the tv, 24/7 internet + a pair of dumb bells....whoa! All I had to do was start the car, feed the fishes and water the plants. It's not exactly the Australian reef job (aka the best job in the world), but I can't complain. Wouldn't it be cool drifting into people's lives, one house at a time in rapid succession? Totally cool! I could probably do that for a few years before I start hurting for roots.

Special Thanks
This is an opportune moment to give thanks to all the people who helped shape the year in a positive way for me.

  • Abesamis Family - for welcoming me into their family, for introducing me to their friends, for the dives and mountain bike rides, for good eats at their lovely home, etc. These guys are a great family...and remind me of what I used to have.
  • Efren and Patricia Cordura - for providing a roof over my head and adopting me as an overstaying house guest. These are two of the nicest people I've met.
  • Lim Family - for the yuletide invites
  • Ian, Luz and Dudz - for tagging me along their excellent adventures
  • Char - for being there through the thick-and-thin, and providing a roof over my head. Char, you are FAB!
  • Dad - for reaching out and being there
  • Mom - for reaching out and being there

Ending Thoughts
Altogether, 2010 has been a challenging year. The prospects are still undefined and I remain unsure what happens next. I can only hope that whatever I've done this year paves the path to an easier 2011. To all the blessing of 2010, I'm profoundly grateful.

--- TheLoneRider

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