28 August 2007

Playing with Fairies

Earlier tonight, I decided to see if I could see the lunar eclipse. It was supposed to have turned the moon a 'bloody red'. Not that I am particularly attracted by this color, as I prefer the fusion of all colors -- Black, but I thought that I would never get the chance to see another event such as this. While these things still mattered to me, I had to see it.

With all the trees protecting our home, I thought I'd walk to the main thoroughfare, through our dark road, where I thought I would get a better view of the sky. Along the way, in the pitch dark of night, I spotted some movement from the corner of my eye. I quickly turned to see a lone firefly whizzing and flickering a few feet from me. They say the presence of fireflies meant that the air is still clean, for they cannot survive in a polluted environment.

But why just one?

It took me back to a time, barely a year would have passed, when I was gently but unknowingly roused from my slumber. With the haze still in my eyes, I saw outside our window, a beautiful sight, a medley of sorts, a waltz of light. Hundreds, maybe thousands of fireflies, like little blinking beacons beckoning for the ship to sail home, filled the picture frame formed by my window. In the still of the night, the little fairies danced for me, frolicking around the tree that was the backdrop of their concerto.

I could almost hear their music.

Nothing else mattered that night, not another sound could be heard, except for their faint giggling as they saw me peer at them, enchanted, from where I was perched.

Building a Solid Foundation for the Technopreneurs of Tomorrow (An Article Written in August, 2002 for the Manila Observer)

Allow me to build a case.

Progress --- the deep, dire desire of every organization, be it a budding startup or a deep-rooted enterprise. Why is so much importance placed on progress, and why do companies strive to be in this state at all? Because progress is an indicator of growth, and growth, in turn, is associated with increased revenue and hopefully, increased profit as well. One manifestation of progress may be by way of expansion into new markets --- product-wise or service-wise. When we see a tree increase in size, we know that it is growing, and the fact that it is growing tells us that one day this tree will be big enough to bear fruit --- and hopefully it does bear fruit. This holds true not only for the organization, but for the individual as well.

I have always believed in, and preached on, the benefits of being a business owner versus being a simple employee. Now, more than ever, considering the turn of events that tend to favor business owners over employees, I would recommend taking a serious look at the prospect. The fact remains, as the threat of events such as downsizing becomes hauntingly real, it’s the employee who suffers more than any other party. So, why put all your eggs in one basket? Diversify your life.

The Entrepreneur is the driving force; s/he is the individual whose motivation for innovation fuels progress. And in order to be an effective entrepreneur, one must learn to make use of technology to his advantage. This is true now, much more than it ever was. We see how technology changes everyday. What was relevant and very much ‘cutting-edge’ last week may be replaced and hurled to obsolescence today, giving us more reason to cope with technology. If we now see technology as a tool, then this is poised to be one very elusive, but indispensable tool. Technology can be harnessed and put to good use, it is not merely a tool for commercial or industrial productivity, but personal productivity as well. It allows you to do so much more with even less time. Let’s take notice of that and learn to make technology work for us. Now, if technology’s sole aim is to make processes more effective and efficient, that is to make life better, then this too leads to progress. Hence, we can surmise that one way, or should I say one of the fastest ways, to achieve progress is by way of technology.

What then must we do in order to learn how to survive tomorrow? We must learn to take advantage of technology AS it changes. We must learn to be Technopreneurs.

But first, let us vanquish the thoughts of “changing the way we do business”. You may change the methods, but the principles remain the same. The principles of accounting shall always govern the intricacies of any financial statement, whether it be online or actual. We must continue to be well grounded on solid, proven, tried-and-tested business fundamentals. And so it is for the fundamentals of marketing, production and finance…..Indeed, we cannot change the way business is done, but we must learn to play by new rules. Playing by new rules without changing the fundamentals is like driving a car in a foreign country. What you need to do is to learn the traffic rules in that country, you do not need to learn to drive all over again. Where do go to learn the rules? School and Industry --- Formal Education and Real-world experience in Real-world Scenarios. We can do without this, but it merely makes the learning experience less beneficial, incomplete, and in fact raw. I don’t believe in going into anything you know nothing of. Investing in stocks without understanding finance and investment, setting up a dotcom without understanding the technologies, going into business without understanding the basics of accounting, being a restaurateur without knowing food or how the business is run --- these are all exercises in futility. You might as well stand in the middle of Ayala Avenue and give your money away.

Let’s go back to that proverbial car. Now, if that car were the latest model, we probably should learn how to use newer options such as cruise control, enhanced audio and turbo speed enhancements, but just like in technology, we may opt to ignore these new options --- anyway, all it does is deprive us of the benefits the options would have provided us in the first place. If we look at our business in the same way, however, ignoring the latest technology may render us constantly in the pits. Business literacy is what we need to learn to play the game; otherwise we might as well be wearing blindfolds.

The skills needed by the technopreneur can be acquired from a variety of sources, but nothing beats the benefits derived from a good, solid institution like your brick-and-mortar school. Aside from the lessons in business literacy, the daily grind somehow inculcates in us a sense of value for discipline and a working knowledge of rules. This scene serves as a stage where we learn to play by and master the rules in order for us to invent new ones. Being part of an institution provides us with great benefits. On that level, we practice, little by little our newly acquired skills in an immensely forgiving and less conditional environment. We should maximize the use of that playground by making as many mistakes as we can before we jump out into the real world, hitting the ground with both feet running.

The acquisition of IT skills, however, should not be confused with utilizing technology in order to enhance business processes. Tech skills, if at all obtained, must not be acquired in order to isolate these, but must be fertilized and grown based on solid business fundamentals --- at all times. In fact, these skills must be limited or stunted so as to avoid the myopic perspective prevalent among skilled workers, which is essentially what they are. The routinary grind tends to inhibit one’s response to peripheral, much more general environmental, stimuli. The technopreneur must learn to manage his tech-skills, keeping them at bay and confining them so as to avoid the obsession to ‘go deeper’. He must put everything in the proper perspective, viewing how these skills relate to doing business. Let’s not forget that good implementors are not necessarily good planners.

How should we look at technology then? Let us open our eyes to the truth that technology is just a tool, a tool that we must learn to manage. Let not technology be any company’s sole purpose for existence, but a means to an end. The end, we must realize, being profit --- being progress.

In summary, we must first make the first step by deciding to grow; to diversify our lives and our businesses by being technopreneurs. Then we must recognize the potentials that technology offers, and how it relates to progress. It is then that we must learn how to make use of that tool we call technology as it changes, but not before learning the rules; studying them in order to change them. And through it all, we must always remain focused. Remember, it’s the business skills that matter, much more than the tech skills.

The fact that Globalization is now a reality, and is at our doorstep, forces us to rethink our strategies. No longer must we be limited in our breadth by parochialism, but we must learn to adapt to the constantly changing landscape.

26 August 2007

The Red Moon

Isn't technology wonderful? On Tuesday, between 5:30 to 8:30 PST, there will be a full eclipse of the moon according to the Discovery Channel. This phenomenon will, according to them, turn the moon a 'bloody red'. Now, I have been thinking whether I should anticipate the event and go outdoors, stare at the sky and start snapping photographs with a good borrowed digital camera. Then, I realized that I may not be able to find someone willing to loan me his camera as he himself will probably be doing the same thing -- snapping photos of the event. Then I thought: I am a poor photographer anyway, I would probably mess up those shots and waste the whole experience of savoring the moment. I decided then, I would not waste my time with taking photos. Let the professionals handle it. I would probably be able to find a picture, a hundred times better than one I would have taken, over the Internet. Such a wonderful thing, the Internet. We were always told that all human beings are interconnected to one another by a spiritual tie, the Internet takes us another step closer to understanding what is meant by that Law. Going back, I am now going to just download a picture from some photobloggers site for my personal collection and suck the whole experience in as it unfolds. It is great how connected we all are. In any case, with all the smog in the Philippines, that bloody red would probably look more like ashen gray.

09 August 2007

Sincerity and You

I do believe that the human body is a work of art, so much so that painters find that it is one of the best subjects in the world, so do photographers or practically every artist that lived. Of all creation, it is also the most astounding. To a scientist, it is an amazing machine capable of self-healing, articulation and reproduction. To a mystic or a quantum physicist, it is much, much more. Its potential to influence the universe is not yet even fully understood. In that respect, it is not a remote possibility that ancient man probably knew more about the human being more than we do today. Which is probably why we fail to respect the human body, much less the human being. No wonder we have wars, famine, global disasters and resource shortages. We don't even respect ourselves. Just look around, let us not go any further: broken marriages, sibling rivalry, greed, exploitation, crime, addiction, and the list goes on.

Let us start making a change by respecting ourselves and the bodies around us. Let us not look down on them as mere sex objects, as tools for lure and marketing or as toys. When we start looking at them with respect, as heavenly creations made for the purpose of love and procreation, then maybe we can start being sincere with ourselves. It all starts with Sincerity. It starts with you.

Countryside Economics

We should all live simpler lives. This makes us happier and a lot more friendly to the environment and our fellow man. If we all lived simpler, we would be free from at least some of the woes that beset modern man.

In fact, taking the idea a step further, why don't we just relocate to the provinces? With the wide reach of connectivity and technology these days, we could actually continue to enjoy the pleasures of modern day life, and still make a living, while out in the boondocks. The countryside is developing rapidly, we have internet almost everywhere -- the competition between our telcos made sure of that. Back in the day, the Hacienderos of Bacolod would live on their farms, seemingly a great distance from civilization, ut they continued to live decent and auspicious lives. They were able to educate their children who now play many an important role in our industrial world. These days, there are options such as homeschooling, the phenomenon of the internet,
courier companies that reach the farthest corners of our expanse, transportation routes that grow each day, airline flights that seem to serve more and more routes. If that doesn't work for you, there are seaplanes and boats, FTP and email. What a wonderful time we live in. Imagine this:

Sitting on a rocky stream somewhere in a cozy corner of the country, a Dr. Pepper soda in hand, reading my email on my BlackBerry. Oh my, I need to edit that draft attachment attached to that email message. Good thing I brought my IBM laptop and wireless aircard, then connect to Smart's 3G (or at least GPRS, if really way out in the wilderness) service and send back that contract, duly proofread and ready for my client's signature. I will probably get the signed copy through fax tonight.

Enough of relaxing, I need to check back on my business. I return home on my Old school Toyota Land Cruiser, and swing out back to where my livelihood is. Passing through my pine tree grove, taking in a whif of its lovely scent, I check on my Anthuriums, my vegetables, mushrooms and free-range chicken eggs, which are just about ready for packing to be picked up by 2GO. My client has been waiting for my shipment. When 2GO gets this to him, his customers will enjoy their fresh mushroom soup, arugula and baby lettuce salad and main dish of assorted grilled vegetables with devilled free-range chicken eggs. If I prefer to use Air21 tomorrow, I'll just give them a call.

I go in my house, see my wife and children busy homeschooling, researching over the internet. My, am I glad they don't have to go through miles of traffic or the risk of any mishaps if we had decided to school them in Manila. I feel better knowing I have control over the information made available to them, which not only includes those seen in school but also mass media, adverts and even newspapers. that is not to say that they will never get to come across these types of information, but at least either me or my wife will be close enough to satiate their hunger for knowledge in the proper manner, and in the right perspective. You cannot avoid such situations, especially while they go to town for their Kumon and soccer games with the other kids. But I know I can rest easy knowing that their parents are the dominant characters in their early lives. When the time comes that they need to go to Manila for college, their minds would have been molded correctly such that they can filter the bad and suck in the good.

That fax came in. I will have to visit Cebu every other week for a consultancy engagement in ISO. Not bad. Now, I have something to tell my friends when we meet for a few drinks at our usual haunt, the Bahay na Tisa. It is, as common here as pan de sal, al fresco, since the pollution we have all grown used to is practically non-existent here. the guys would probably be sick and tired of all the new niceties I have called "projects": my new composting toilet, my new cistern that gets filled up by rainwater, my new waste disposal/composting system, my new solar-powered pathway lights, my new wind-powered water pump, my new blah-blah....

Now, we just moved here 2 years ago after purchasing the property we live in now, but I was so taken and accepted among brothers and fellows of my fraternity. I have never met them before, but I came well recommended, and we now treat each other as brothers would.

Not ready to make that leap yet? Imagine the economics of it all. I generate more jobs where I live, preventing the locals form having to go to Manila for that dream life that will not come as easily as imagined. I am helping minimize the influx of people into Manila that contribute to its pollution, homeless colonies and crowds, thereby exerting more stress on the already-complicated eco-system that is Manila.

Now, doesn't that make you at least a bit more excited?