The following is an excerpt (albeit revised) of a speech I gave during the Academic Conference held by the University of British Columbia Filipino Students Association (UBC-FSA).
You are starting the rest of your life. It’s wonderful, but you are probably thinking you are not allowed to make a mistake in choosing your path. It is, after all, expensive.
But please know that loneliness and dissatisfaction are more expensive, not to mention damaging. So what I want to tell you is that we are given many chances, and allowed many starts. We can – in fact – be anything and everything we want. Our paths are not straight but meandering, allowing for that detour which would make us realize our fullest potentials. There may be in fact not just one path, but many paths, and many different sort of happiness and fulfillment.
To show you the truth of that, let me tell you about the stories of many Filipinos here in Canada.
Your parents, or your grandparents perhaps, were doctors, lawyers, professors, engineers, architects, teachers and nurses or businessmen in the Philippines before they came to Canada. Some have found that to survive – and some of you are witness to this – they needed to shed that image of themselves, which was difficult, if not downright impossible.
I know. Because that’s what I did. I was lawyer and then I was not.
A person should not be defined by what he or she is. I totally understood that in Canada when I was forced to forget (temporarily) that image of myself. It was difficult because I loved being a lawyer.
But tabula rasa, a blank slate – as I and some of your parents may have found out – is a good state to be in, especially here in Canada, which presents many uncharted beginnings and several delicious possibilities.
From being a Philippine lawyer to editor-in-chief, my biggest lesson in this journey is that everything can be learned. And that humility – acceptance of the fact that we do not know anything but are ready to receive the lessons – was the magic wand that would open doors.
But let me also tell you about another reality – up is down and down is up and we do not know what the future will bring. Economies which appeared infallible are crumbling to pieces. Job security is turning to job insecurity.
So please allow me to lead you from your dreams of career and employment to an option. Something that will make the world economies – and hopefully, your economies – go round: entrepreneurship.
That other route.
A route shown to me by my husband and his family. A route I thought was laden with dangers hidden and obvious.
I was wrong. It was a more exciting road, a road that is teeming with possibilities, where untapped potentials can be explored and realized.
Businesses do have attendant risks and it takes a lot of work – but it is worth it. So pursue your careers but here are some tips you may want to try:
1. Like I said – be in business.
How, you say, when you think you have little or no business sense (or interest)? But it could be something that could be the spin-off of a hobby, like design, or baking, or planting, or painting. It could be a skill, like playing the piano or making up stories or writing love letters. You can also look at a franchise, or invest with or in a friend (caveat: money can break up friendships), or sell an idea.
We are in a great digital age and we can use it to our advantage. So make use of social media. Through it, small businesses are given leverage that it never enjoyed before.
2. Read, read, read.
About anything of interest, about finance. Too much of a good thing, in this case, is a good thing. Read as if the future depended on it. Look for mentors in books, and look out for skills that can be learned or developed. Be inspired.
While at it, attend seminars.
3. Attend seminars, network, and meet people.
Sometimes the silver lining can be seen in the eyes of people and opportunities found in like minds. Go out, be seen. Learn, follow, and lead. Be enthusiastic, be insatiable. And when an opportunity presents itself, grab it with both hands and do not let go.
4. Ready, fire, aim.
Know when to let go. Know when enough preparation is enough and when the business should begin. A lot of ideas and business acumen die because people get lost in the preparation. Prepare, yes. Study the business, yes. But fire. At all cost. The real excitement is there, the real lessons are there, the big money is there. Then adjust course accordingly.
Nothing drives home a lesson or catapults a person to his or her fullest potential than many a night drowned in worry or sorrow or having the walls crash down. Learn the lessons and start again. And again, and again. Do not be afraid.
6. Say “thank you”.
“Thank you” reverberates in the universe and attracts little everyday miracles and more of the wonderful, great, awe-inspiring miracles. Try it.
Nothing multiplies blessings more than sharing it.
A personal message: know that some time ago, in your present or in your past, someone dreamed your dreams for you. And that someone went to Canada because they want you to have a better life. So the message is – you are loved – enough to forego, sometimes, their own dreams, sometimes shedding their own definitions of themselves.
All we want is for you to succeed and be happy. Good luck. And more power.