3 Surprising Things I Did in 2019

Time flies so fast. You wake up one January morning, make plans for the new year ahead, and before you can revisit (and re-evaluate!) your list of big-picture-goals for the past year — another year has gone by.

Last year, I declared “growth” as my word of the year. Today, as I look back, I think it would be more apt to say that 2019 was a year of “surprising growth” on my end.

What does the word “surprising” have to do with the growth that I envisioned at the beginning of the year? This listicle tells all.

1. I surprised myself by signing up for a workshop on fundamental analysis of stocks.

fundamental analysis workship with Aaron Say of First Metro Securities
fundamental analysis workshop with Aaron Say of First Metro Securities

While I was already reading up on asset management, financial markets, bonds, equities, and related concepts late in 2018, attending a fundamental analysis and valuation workshop wasn’t in the plan. It was a last-minute decision.

This year, I learned a ton about financial markets not only from the workshop but also from books and podcasts. I also attended an investor briefing of a local company who’s about to get listed in the market.

For the rest of 2019, I was glued to quarterly reports, market trends, news, and  speculation in the Philippine stock market. Observing and participating in the market last year taught me a lot about human behavior. We are undoubtedly irrational beings!

I’m also happy to report that my portfolio beat market index growth last year. Would I continue to participate in the market this year actively or just pick passive funds? I’m still unsure.

While position trading (never tried day trading!) and stock picking brought me joy (or sparked joy ala Marie Kondo) last year, these activities ate up a significant amount of my time.

Instead of checking out company disclosures, scouring forums for discussions on the next undervalued stock, and pouring over financial reports, I think I’m better off spending my time learning a new skill, reconnecting with an old friend, or making new friends.

Who knows if I’ll decide to learn about technical analysis this time around, right? Time will tell.

2. I surprised myself by doing yoga consistently.

4 people doing yoga
Yoga at Mindful Yoga Mactan

Who would have thought that I’ll stick to a yoga routine and join a yoga class consistently (also read as once to twice a week) when I swore years ago that I’m not a yoga person?

two men and two women doing yoga
New to yoga but I can definitely notice some progress!

It was a surprise for me to enjoy (despite the struggle) different yoga poses and challenge myself to level up to the next challenging pose. I assumed that my swimming and kettlebell routines were enough to keep those endorphins coming and make me feel more mindful of my body. It turns out that yoga gave me the same feeling.

The community of yogis that I met was also a clincher as to why I did yoga more frequently. They were my kind of people — sensitive, warm, but not aggressively intrusive.

Will I do more yoga this year? Definitely!

Unfortunately, I got into a minor mishap at the airport last December, and I ended up with bruises on my knees. For this reason, I’m hitting the pause button on my yoga plans for now.

3. Finally, it was a surprise for me to have never entertained the idea of going back on Facebook this year.

I deactivated my Facebook account in late 2018 because I realized that the time and energy that I spent on the social network weren’t worth it anymore. Fake news was rampant and there were acquaintances who seemed to misunderstand the meaning of “civil, intelligent conversations.”

In 2019, I half-expected that I’ll be back after a few months of sabbatical, but it never happened. Can I imagine myself back on social media this year? I can, but I don’t see the need for it right now.

Moving Forward

For 2020, I intend to rekindle my love for the mountains and trails because 2019 was when I hit the pause button for outdoor activities. It wasn’t even a conscious decision for me, I just got interested in other things.

I’d also like to read more fiction this year. The fiction-to-non-fiction ratio of books I’ve read last year is probably 1:5.  It’s not a good ratio for me because I’ve always wanted to strike a balance between the two.

Monsters of Men, the third (and last) book in the Chaos Walking series, was my favorite piece of fiction this year. It was heartbreaking yet beautifully written.

monsters of men book

For non-fiction, Tasha Eurich’s Insight: The Surprising Truth About How Others See Us, How We See Ourselves, and Why the Answers Matter More Than We Think was the most impactful read of the year for me.  Her thoughts and insights on introspection, perspective-shifting (and how it’s different from empathy),and  asking “what” questions instead of “why” were aha-moments  for me.

All in all,  2019 was the year I surprised myself by doing things that were unexpected yet valuable to the growth I was envisioning for the year.

Here’s hoping that you’ll surprise yourself in the coming year!

What I Mean When I Write “Nestled Within a Comma’s Curve”

Months ago, a curious stranger who stumbled upon my Twitter profile asked: what the heck do I mean when I write “nestled within a comma’s curve” as my whereabouts in this corner of the universe?

I began using the phrase around three years ago when I felt uncomfortable sharing my exact location on my social media profiles. Although there’s no doubt that Zuck and his minions can easily figure out my exact location through their sneaky algorithms or some ancient alchemy, it was at least comforting to think that I’m not giving my coordinates that easy. In hindsight, it gave me a false sense of privacy.

Privacy stuff aside, what am I hinting at when I say “nestled within a comma’s curve”?

1. Let’s start with the most obvious. A comma is a punctuation mark that you’ll end up wrangling with when you’re writing — from print ads to thousand-word essays to lengthy novels that you can’t seem to finish reading.

Whenever someone reads “nestled within a comma’s curve” and takes a pause for a second to think about what it means, my writerly heart jumps with glee! All the more when they’ll associate the phrase with writing, words, or any form of wizardry that involves putting letters together to tell a story. After all, it’s what I do for a living.

2. As for the not-so-obvious meaning, what comes to mind when you read the words nestled and curve?

Can you envision someone who’s sitting comfortably in one of those cozy lounge chairs?

If you can, hats off to you because it’s exactly one of the images that I want you to think about when I wrote that phrase!

As someone who scores high on the introversion scale, I’m perfectly okay with the idea of lounging cozily in a chair with a good book or listening patiently to a friend who’s sitting across me.

3. Finally, let’s take a look at its metaphorical meaning by considering one of the comma’s major roles in writing: to join two or more independent sentences.

With that said, I have this slight obsession with unifying contradictory opinions, ideas, or thoughts.

The idea of finding that one main thought or commonality that unites two or more opposing ideas sends me into a frenzied state of aha moments.

My reasons (particularly the last one) may sound too far-off to you, but there’s a certain sense of allure and artisty when making up new metaphors or symbolisms in language.

Do you feel the same way?

Where to Find Work as a Freelancer Besides Upwork: Online Edition


It has come to my attention that friends and frenemies are curious about the following:

1. When am I getting married?
2. When am I having kids?
3. Where do I find work besides Upwork as a freelancer?

So here’s a response to the third most frequently asked question by friends, colleagues, and family who are also thinking about transitioning to full-time freelancing.

I totally get it when people repeatedly ask this question. While Upwork is the go-to source for most freelancers,  it’s no secret that majority of the work pays unreasonably low, unless you stumble upon that unicorn client who truly appreciates what you do. High platform service fees are also discouraging.

Over the course of two years that I’ve been freelancing, I have never (thankfully!) ran out of work despite my absence on third-party sites like Upwork.  Maybe it’s pure luck. Maybe it’s my slight obsession with getting things done. Maybe I’m just at the right place (virtually) at the right time.

So where do I find clients besides Upwork? Let’s jump right to what has worked for me!

May you find some useful ideas in this list. If it works for you, you owe me a month’s supply of avocados. A kilo a week will do. 

1. Participate in forums associated with your niche.

Don’t just sign up for an account and lurk. Participate in discussion threads. Ask questions. Provide insightful answers. Show up consistently.

Before you know it, a potential client will find out more about your work (stalk your online profiles) and reach out to ask if you’re available to work with them on a project. You just got yourself a lead!

It boils down to finding your target clients’ online watering hole, hanging out there yourself,  and showcasing your skills without being a hard sell.

2. Publish an essay or blog post about your work.

So what are you going to write about?

Talk about your work—  from what you specifically do to work issues that you’ve successfully dealt with in your field of expertise. You can also write about your current fields of interests. Writing about these things is another excellent example of subtly selling yourself to potential recruiters and employers.

This hack is not just for copywriters like me. You can be a developer, designer, or an SEO pro.

Speaking of selling yourself, I noticed that some freelancers are hesitant to market their work. So you hate marketing? As Alexandra Franzen writes, you have to understand that everything is actually marketing.

Sure, people will eventually notice your good work. But how long do you have to wait before someone stumbles upon your portfolio?

Be proactive and get out of the waiting game.  Put something of value out there and market yourself.  

3. Turn to social media.

LinkedIn and Twitter are two platforms that I’ve had success in finding clients as a freelance copywriter.

I posted something of potential value to audiences on both platforms, a few people noticed, and cared enough to ask if I can work with them. Value is the operative word here. Are you noticing a pattern?

Not convinced? Last year, I  tweeted about a book that I’m currently reading, and the author himself reached out via email to ask if I can help him write a short video script. Nifty, right?

It turns out that I caught his attention with my tweet. He checked out my profile and made his way to my website/portfolio. I did not intend to find work when I tweeted about his book though.

4. Fire off cold emails.

Have you been wanting to work for/with a certain brand or organization?

Hop on to their website, learn more about what they do, and fire off a cold email describing how you can help them accomplish their business goals. You can either use their contact form or find the right person to get in touch with on LinkedIn.

There’s a classy way to do cold emails right (and that would probably call for another blog post), but like everything else in marketing, do not talk about features (so you graduated with the highest honors?). Instead, highlight the benefits of working with you. What’s in it for the organization when they hire you?

5. Announce to your network that you’re currently open for business.

This may sound like a no-brainer but some freelancers tend to overlook their personal network when looking for work.

Email or text every single person you know who can potentially refer you to a client. Write a short status on Facebook declaring that you are now freelancing full-time. 

If all of these steps in finding wonderful clients (besides selling your wares in third-party sites) worked for me, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t for you!

Social Media or Bullying Media? Stop Hating on Zubuchon

Recently, Zubuchon (a lechon purveyor in Cebu) is the subject of social media ridicule and mockery that, in my opinion, has blown out of proportions.

Some even left unreasonable one-star reviews on the restaurant’s Facebook page, just because media outlets mentioned that they are the best lechon makers in Cebu.

I rarely talk about my thoughts on current events (even politics) but the recent social media spat is worth writing about.

Social Media or Bullying Media?

While social networking has its own merits, it can also rear its ugly head when people behind the comfort of their screens carelessly spew out hateful and negative comments. It’s disappointing when people do this without pausing to reflect (I am even reflecting if I’m going to hit the Publish button right after I end this post).

Will you even spit out the same comments in real life?
Or are you just chiming in and joining the hive mind because your network’s going to see how supposedly insightful your thoughts are?

Admit it, some people don’t truly care, but they want to pretend that they do. There’s a huge difference between the two.

Also, have you even reflected how the other person will feel if you publish your comment?
Imagine if the roles were reversed, how would you feel?
What if it was your business?
And will your thoughts on the issue even help at all?

On Empathy and Getting Your Facts Straight

As for folks who are calling out Zubuchon for their supposedly false advertising, they’re not even claiming that they’re the best. Anthony Bourdain did.

If you think Zubuchon isn’t the best, write about your opinion on your own Facebook page but do not unmindfully leave one-star reviews on the brand’s page. You can leave one-star reviews when you’ve been to the restaurant, and felt that the food and service didn’t meet your expectations.

And if you are going to write a negative review, can you at least be more helpful by politely giving suggestions on how to improve their food quality and dining experience?

Imagine you’re an employee waiting for feedback or a performance review. Your feedback says “Juan was so lazy and dumb. He can’t even understand simple instructions.” Now, wouldn’t you be riled up with this unhelpful feedback?

Zubuchon is clearly the victim of social media bullying, except that the bullies themselves are hiding behind the glow of their screens. 

Undoubtedly, social media has made our lives better. But we have to understand that it’s just a tool,  and at the end of the day, we still need to act and talk like a human.

And I’m not even paid to write for and defend Zubuchon. I don’t even agree that they have the best lechon in Cebu. But come on, Zubuchon owner Joel Binamira is right — why can’t we just strive to be better, not bitter?

Ironically, the slew of hateful comments on social media is giving Zubuchon free publicity.

If there’s something that we need to work on,  it would have to be two things —get your facts straight and imagine if the roles were reversed. You know, plain old empathy.

Hitting the Publish button now.