The Best Way to Tackle Difficult Customers or Difficult People in General

I think here’s the best way to tackle demanding customers or difficult people in general.

When it comes to customer service or dealing with angry customers or people, I always remember my friend’s story who, at the time, was working for a retail telco. He shared that the customer slammed the phone on the floor in front of him. That, to me, is the ultimate difficult customer to handle.

If you put things into perspective, high self-esteem is what you need if you are pursuing a service business or this line of work. That’s the primary key. Because if you have high self-esteem, then you can stay calm, you can listen to what the customer says, you don’t take things personally, you don’t argue, but instead, you will have the confidence to provide solutions and offer a compromise.

If you have high self-esteem, then you can always give sincere apologies if you made a mistake and show empathy.

But in any relationship, you should have a threshold. Unreasonable customers or people is the indication to fire your customer or stay out of the relationship eventually. Yes, firing a customer is an option especially if things are unjust. Self-esteem is also self-love. Yes, you care, but you should also care for yourself if things are unfair.

How Integrity Helps You in Creative Decision Making

Integrity came from the Latin word Integritas or Integer in English. As you know, an integer is a whole number and cannot have decimals or fractions. In life, a person with integrity is incorruptible and 100% in terms of doing the right thing. It does not mean that the person will not make a mistake. It only says the person is doing what he or she thinks is right.

I’ve been an advocate of integrity for a long time already. I have a Chinese symbol tattoo on my back and one of the core values defined in Hilsoft’s core values.

In business or any workplace, you’ll be faced with a lot of scenarios that will challenge your integrity. There’s always a question of what is the best action for a particular problem. The first thing that we do is to reason with it and use our logic. If it couldn’t be explained through logic, then we follow our gut feel and intuition. But if integrity is within your core values, then that I think is the last filter to tell yourself if you’re making a sound decision or not.

I always hear from NBA coaches to play the game the right way. And most of the champions play the right way. What stuck to my mind is the 2004 Detroit Pistons led by coach Larry Brown and with no superstar player. They played the right way by passing the ball, selflessness and team chemistry and they were able to defeat the LA Lakers with an all-star team such as Shaq, Kobe, Karl, and Gary.

This example above gives integrity a strong argument, and that’s what I firmly believe. Would you choose positivity over negativity? Half full or half empty? I will never choose negative because positivity always wins. Cynical people may win in the short term, but in the long run, positive people or positive culture still prevails and wins.

So what are the practical ways to demonstrate integrity?

  1. Keep your commitments. Don’t say yes if you want to say no. If you say you will give feedback tomorrow, then provide feedback tomorrow.
  2. Let go of your ego. Sometimes our judgment is clouded because of ego. There came a time at Hilsoft where I had to let go of my perks and allow our finance team to controls my expenses. It’s my job to be a model for my team and let go of the ego when the finance team controls my costs. I also know that I am responsible for the survival of the company, our customers, employees, and our shareholders. They should all come first before me. It was difficult at first but I let the concept of integrity guide me.
  3. Take responsibility and accountability. If you made a mistake, admit it, and correct your errors.
  4. Don’t tolerate problems. People tend to tolerate problems when they see them. They always assume that it will take care of itself. It is not. So we have to resolve every issue that we see. It will never end but at least it doesn’t pile up.
  5. Negotiations should always be a win-win. Sometimes, people are tempted to win a deal without carefully assessing the other party’s benefit. This should apply not only to customers but also with employees and suppliers.

These are just a few examples. The takeaway here is to learn to always be in check on your decisions before making actions. Would you rather win but will bug you in your sleep forever or win with a peace of mind. An integrity-based decision to me is always a peace of mind. If you do this, then you have nothing to hide, and you won’t take criticisms seriously.

On Finishing What You’ve Started: My Ironman Experience and Road to Marathon

It felt like someone stabbed me on my left shoulder and then twisted the knife clockwise. It was March 2011 when I had a terrible accident that prevented me from training the Ironman 70.3 Triathlon scheduled in August in Cam Sur. I got my shoulder dislocated. The pain was excruciating. I was sent to the ER and placed it back. After a week, I contemplated having surgery because if not, with the torn ligaments on my shoulder, there’s a big chance it will recur. I had to do it soon so I can keep up with my training.

Fortunately, I have a friend doctor who can do the Labral tear surgery in Baguio at half the price. The big day came, I drove for 6 hours and checked-in the day before. The next morning, I walked in the operation room, observing nervously. The doctor asked me to countdown from 100, then when I woke up after a four-hour surgery, it felt like there’s a huge dagger pinned on my shoulder. The operation was a success.

While recuperating, I was also suffering from a major heartbreak. Though I still feel a powerful urge and belief that I can again resume my training and finish the tri. I attended a weekly shoulder therapy for a while, and by May, I went back to swimming without yet gaining my full range of motion. My conditioning was horrible. My shoulder was weak, and my heart rate went back to zero. For two and a half months I stayed resilient and persevered. Both physical and emotional. But for strange reasons, those pain were my motivator.

The Ironman Experience

The big day came. Gun start for “30-34” age grouper, was 6:20am. It was 5 minutes after the pros. But before that, I sat down on the sand and did my dynamic stretch. I felt the anxiety and excitement of the participants and the audience around us. Some athletes were dipping in the water and doing some kind of prayer. There were several pro athletes that I noticed like Noy Jopson and Monica Torres and celebrities like Drew Arellano and Pia Cayetano.

The swim course was really intimidating. Looking at it, it seemed like from Guadalupe in EDSA to Megamall, back and forth. I was really nervous because I am worried about my left shoulder having it repaired five months before the event. I was thinking where to position myself, and then I decided to place myself at the rightmost corner so I can have a good view of the trail.

Swim – 1.9km
People started the countdown from 10 to 1 then on the 6th, bang!!! Take-off began, I plunged in the water and started my swim gradual. But then, as expected, I had elbows, kicks, and collision with the participants both left and right, front and back. I checked my heart rate, and to my surprise, it elevated above my maximum. Sadly, I remember the guy who died in the first-ever tri in the Philippines while swimming and then realized why. I slowed down to make it drop. At the 20min. mark, I found myself gliding smoothly and people have already spread around. I felt the confidence of finishing strong. I did it in 50min.

Bike – 90km
I got out of the water, put on my bike shoes and ran to the bike, I noticed that I don’t have the bib number with me, so I went back to the changing area. I started strong and maintained a 30-35kph so I can meet the 2.5-hour target.

During my training, I already knew that the bike course is my weakness. I bought my bike just 3 months before the event and what I got was just an entry level road bike. I didn’t even have the time to fit it with my height and length. My training was even poor because of the rainy season in the months of June and July.

About an hour during the bike course, the rain poured. I was worried about the air friction, and yes, I started to slow down. From 30kph, down to 25kph. I was confused with where to put my gear, and I experimented. I reached half-way for 1:30. I stopped to drink, and that was the biggest mistake. When I took off, my upper legs started to cramp. I didn’t know what to do. Participants were already taking a pass over me, and I was on a 15-20kph, and then about 10kph on steep roads.

I was on the verge of giving up when I started talking to myself. “I am strong, I am a fighter, I am going to show you how great I am.” were the words coming out from my mouth. I finished the bike leg in 3:30.

Run – 21km
Yes, I trained the transitions, but in the actual event, I couldn’t explain the feeling on the bike to run transition. I was limping exaggeratedly because of thigh cramps, but then I heard encouraging words from the marshalls and told me it will only last a few minutes.

I ran for just about 75 strides per minute which is below my target of 90spm while maintaining a 75% heart rate. My shoes were wet because of the rain, but the sun began to shine. I was worried about the “rice cooker”, the term they use to describe the hottest run course in the country. I ran stable until I reached halfway, they handed me the rubber band marker and put it on my wrist.

I stopped again to take a piss, and when I ran back, this time, my calves began to cramp. I alternate running and walking so I can make it go away, and it did. But after several minutes, it came back again. My only objective was to finish the race while I think of ways how to survive the heat, deal with the cramps and endure everything until the finish line and before the 8:30 cut-off. To me, that’s the actual playing of the game.

Water stations were available every 1.5km, and I poured water from my head to toe on each and every station. One of the runners saw me and advised me not to wet my shoes because I may get abrasions, but I didn’t care because I cared more about not to get dehydration. And I did get abrasions.

I reached the 20.5km mark, about an hour remaining before the cut-off and 500m left. I couldn’t run anymore because my legs were really painful. It was like there’s a big bear trap clamped into my calves. Then after a few moments, I could already see the finish line. I finished my first-ever Ironman 70.3 triathlon in about 7:30.

This by far is at the top 5 of my happiest moments in life.

The Road to Marathon.
A few years after the triathlon, I contemplated finishing a full 42k marathon. I already checked Ironman in my bucket list and so the urge to check marathon this time. When I was in NYC January of last year, I dreamed of running at Central Park. It was a snowy night, but I didn’t care. I ran full clothes and jacket on, started on a walk and had that runner high moment. That was a go signal to start the marathon training.

Similar to Ironman, I downloaded a free program online. I bought a new pair of Nike shoes and strictly followed the plan. Sundays were the long runs. I had to wake up at 4am again, and I had been consistent for about three months until I reached my 25km mileage. I got bored and trained on and off. Imagine running for 2 hours or more. I ran out of podcasts and audiobooks to listen to. I still persevered, but June and July were the worst times to train because of the non-stop rain. I looked for marathon events that I can register to. The only schedule left was Milo marathon but in Cebu and Lucena and that discouraged me from continuing. I failed, and then I gave up. I tried rationalizing the urge, but I couldn’t come up with a good reason to persevere.

The thing is, the thought of finishing a marathon doesn’t go away. The logic says no but the heart says go. I tried connecting the dots and relate it to work, in relationships and life in general. Your intuition, gut feel, or whatever you wanna name it, is your guide to success. As long as it doesn’t hurt anyone, follow your heart. It’s a cliche, but it’s true.

I’ll try to walk you through the experience and my road to marathon in the coming months. I may fail again yes, but I trust that my heart will tell me the right thing. The obstacle is the way.

Just recently, I registered to Run Rio trilogy marathon. The leg 1, 21km, is on April 7. It’s funny that I wrote this in the middle of the night around 3:30am. It’s just another manifestation of my passion for finishing what I started in life, in business, and in dreams.

Integrity: A Positive Model to Solve Problems

“ca. 2004, while most of our prospective clients are in the pre-sales stage, my brother was becoming impatient about the nature of our business. The sales conversion process was really long. A typical cycle takes 3-6 months. Because of that, our team was already shaking. I got frustrated, we all are.

One of our few and critical programmers, on the other hand, was changing career. He was destined to take over their family business in Lucena. A mom and pop but famous auto-supply retail shop. During his last days in the company, he enrolled at Don Bosco for a mechanical course. Then suddenly, his dad died from a sporadic disease. That forced him to resign early. Then he left.

Dann and I have decided to dissolve the company. We agreed to talk to our uncle Manny about our departure. The night before our mtg, for some reason, I took a book from the office shelf that had been sitting there for years, it was a book given to us by Manny. The title of the book was Built to Last by Jim Collins. I started reading when I got home. I read overnight for hours. I knew my purpose. I knew I have to be resilient. I knew that more than profits, the company has to do a mission.

Next morning, we sat down at Starbucks near the office. The awkwardness was galling, making me fidget. Dann had no idea that I won’t be leaving the company. I cleared my throat and said, “I am staying.” He was disappointed to know that I changed my mind. It was the first time I felt independence from under his wing. I took that courage to stand alone and try to turn things by myself.

I went to the office right after the meeting. It was gloomy. I knew I had to take over Dann’s engagements with the prospective clients, Unionbank and its clients, Summersault Outsourcing to name a few. I knew I had to do presentations with corporate executives. Just by the thought of it was so nerve-racking.

I sat down and gaze around the office thinking about the weight on my shoulders. But deep inside, it was fulfilling. I survived.”

Integrity, as defined, is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness. It presents as a positive model within morality and legality. When a person is faced by problems, integrity is a tool for solutions, increased performance and quality of life. Though commonly ignored, I firmly believe of its significant role in productivity and performance.

Here are practical ways to exercise integrity in solving problems:

  1. Determine your core values. We all see this in offices and corporations but do you know what’s this for? These core values guide organizations in decision making. When faced by circumstances where we have to choose between path A or path B, one of the criteria for the decision is, it is aligned with our core values?
  2. Keep your word. Many of us can relate to when friends or colleagues who commit to call back, reply back, promising this and that but always fail to deliver. It has become an acceptable norm for many of us. Please don’t say yes if you wanna say no because if you do, then expect that the solution to the problem you agreed upon will not happen.
  3. Keep an open mind. Listening to and respecting the opinions of others is one of the keys to problem-solving. A leader will never know everything. Don’t assume that you know everything especially when solving problems. It is essential to gather thoughts of the people around you and analyze what they have to say.
  4. Do the basics. Solving the problem by doing the unethical and illegal is a big NO.

In my story above, I came up with the decision of continuing the company because I kept my word to the stakeholders, partners, and customers. I solved the problem in sales by determining my mission, which is to help them solve their business process problems through software automation.

I AM – Affirmations for the Soul

“I am not good enough.”, ” I am not going to make it.”, “I am going to fail.”, “I am not a good speaker.”, “I am not going to live a happy life ever.”, “I hate my job.”  Sounds familiar?

Everyone experiences these tapes from our heads, and that ruins our day. We drag ourselves going to work because of all we think about are these negative thoughts and complaints about our life. We become paranoid with our significant other because our self-esteem is low and we tolerate them.

I’ve been there. I was in my early 20s when I become aware of this. I studied behavioral-cognitive therapy, mindfulness, Buddhism, and meditation. As time pass, I gradually stitch techniques together and stumble upon tools on how to swing negative to positive.
If you search “positive affirmations” on YouTube or Audible or Google, you can find a lot of interesting positive affirmations you can listen to every morning or even at night before you sleep.
Try it, and it will change your life forever.

Below is the top 10 on my list of positive affirmations I listen to and tell myself every day.

  1. I am confident
  2. I am calm and in control.
  3. I am full of life and filled with gratitude.
  4. I am enough, and I have enough, good health, work, and relationships.
  5. I am living my life out loud, and I love it.
  6. I love and enjoy who I am.
  7. I am a strong and confident person.
  8. I have the ability to do anything I wish.
  9. I am a wonderful person with so much to offer.
  10. I am not my negative thoughts. I am my actions.

My Top 5 Mood Enhancing Questions in the Morning

Taken in Pasay -April 2018

Today, I am introducing “Curated List” found at the top menu of this blog.  As I document things in my life thru this platform, I’d like to share some creative content on different topics that might be valuable to the readers.

Here are the top questions I ask myself in the morning when I wake up that makes me get energized in the morning.  I follow-through by doing frequent check-ins through the rest of my day.

  1. What are the three things I am grateful for?
  2. What are the three important tasks that I should focus on today?
  3. What’s my energy level today? (1-10) Why?
  4. What’s my enthusiasm level? (1-10) Why?
  5. What’s my mood? Why?

What is it About Passion, Really?

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We all have read it or heard it from the greats. Find your passion before starting any business. Do what you love. Do what you’re passionate about.
I’ve been contemplating these thoughts the past weekends.

If you ask me what my passion is, I have so many things in mind. I love music; I love writing and scribbling. I love solving problems and innovating. I enjoy spending time with my family and kids.

I often ask, especially with people I just met, what makes you get up in the morning? Most of us, get up because it is an obligation. The passion for doing your obligation. That’s a little tricky because doing what you need to do requires some sense of motivation.

Mark Cuban says, “The things I ended up being really good at were the things I found myself putting effort into. A lot of people talk about passion, but that’s really not what you need to focus on. You really need to evaluate and say, ‘Okay, where am I putting in my time?'”.

“Because when you look at where you put in your time, where you put in your effort, that tends to be the things that you are good at. And if you put in enough time, you tend to get really good at it,” explains Cuban.

He is talking about self-awareness. You may be passionate about basketball, but if you’re not genetically designed to be athletic, then you’ll end up a failure.

So why am I writing this anyway?

I am writing this for the young people. You need not be overthinking about what your passion really is. When I was in my 20s, I attempted most of the hobbies in the hobby list in Wikipedia. Some I found boring, some are interesting, but I didn’t pursue, but some come back to me naturally. It is okay to fail, and if you are in your 20s, you still have forever to figure it out.

Now that I am nearing my 40s, I figured I am still passionate about a lot of things and those I still pursue. It just comes to me. Like writing, playing the piano or guitar on weekends, spending time with the kids, photography, and business. Mark Cuban is right. I just followed my effort. How do I maintain it? I just do it mindfully and just have fun.