Thursday, December 02, 2004


Goodwill Bookstore is holding a warehouse sale from Nov 16 to Dec 29. Books are discounted up to 80%. Visit Goodwill Bookstore Quezon Avenue: 388 Quezon Avenue, Quezon City. For inquiries, call 781.9189 or 741.4289.

A Different Bookstore also has a sale (around 20% off on normal items) until Dec. 7, 2004.

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Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Mundane or Original?

Nearly five years ago when I was taking the college entrance exams, one of the essay questions I encountered was this: would I invest my money in a shop selling cellphones (which was what most people were doing at the time), or invest it in a state-of-the-art, never-seen-before toilet seat. Now on one hand, I have something that's everyone is using. On the other, I have something wholly original, something which people doesn't have access to as of yet. I passed the exam, but upon retrospect, I don't think my answer was really sufficient. Several years older and a tad bit more educated, I'll discuss the pros and cons of both choices, and why they aren't necessarily the best choices.

First off, we have something mundane, such as the cellphone. Whenever I look at something, I first look at its weaknesses. Now the problem with something mundane is that everyone has it already, whether it's a refrigerator, a TV set, or yes, a cellphone. And the other biggest problem I had at the time with selling cellphones is the fact that you have lots of competitors. I mean many small businesses are involved in the buying and selling of cellphones and its related paraphernalia. But in favor of something mundane, peddling cellphones isn't exactly something I should convice people. I mean people (or in this case, a good number of Filipinos) will inevitably buy cellphones. It's just a matter of who they'll buy it from. If I can find my niche or cater to a specific loyal consumer base, then I won't have much problems. But in order to do that, I have to find them (my loyal customers), and give them a reason to buy from me.

Now let's look at the item that's original. We have your toilet seat. Let's give it features, such as it lights up when you sit down, and let's just say it's really extra comfty (maybe it has fur on it or something). When I was a kid, I thought the key to a successful business was offering something that other people couldn't. And to me, that meant products, products, products. With the toilet-seat product, I had something nobody had yet. I essentially have no competitors. And compared to other toilet seats, it's a superior product when it comes to features and comfort. So why would this be a bad thing? Well, unlike the cellphone idea, I first have to convice my customers why they want this toilet seat and why their old one wouldn't do. I mean when computers came out, a good number of people were skeptical about it. "It's a glorified typewriter" some might say. And the same goes for the cellphone. "Sure, it's possibly useful, but it's too expensive." Fast forward several decades later and computers and cellphones are now the norm of modern civilization. But in order for that to happen, the world (or those who have money) had to be conviced that they needed this product. And when you're a new product, that's pretty difficult to achieve, unless you're the miracle cure for some existing significant problem (i.e. cancer). I mean several decades ago, people didn't really "need" computers or cellphones. They were luxuries. But now, they're necessities to some people. I want my original product (in this case, the super toilet seat) to be a necessity to them.

So both options have their own sets of advantages and problems. Which one should I choose? Right now, I realize that I should work with a different paradigm. Products are a favor, but they're not the most vital element. I was on the right track when I thought that successful businesses offered something that other businesses couldn't. I was, however, mistaken to think that "that special something" had to come in the form of products. For example, do you really think Henry Sy is rich right now because of the superior items Mega Mall sells? It's really more about the service, of setting up a place like a mall, that makes Henry Sy rich. In the same way, McDonalds or Jollibee doesn't serve quality food. What makes them successful is that 1) they're fast, 2) they're very accessible, and 3) they have good promotions. There are a lot of other factors to success. It's not just about talent or superior goods. If that were so, a lot of people would be successful by now. I mean I know a lot of skillful people who are either unemployed or are overqualified for their jobs. Marketing can play a vital role. I mean the reason why Skyinternet was popular several years ago was because of the advertising, despite their really inefficient and ugly service. There's also thinking using a different paradigm. I mean if everything came down to hard work and loyalty, a lot of Filipinos would now be rich. Do you think many Filipinos are currently enemployed because they're afraid to work? Why do you think the Philippines has many maids and Overseas Foreign Workers (OFWs)? It's because they're willing to work and work and work. But if many people are hardworking, why isn't their status improving? Because it's not being channeled in the right direction, and they're using an archaic formula for success (which involves working hard and depending on the graces of others to make you succeed). Henry Sy worked hard for a time, selling shoes and sandals just to earn enough capital. But after a certain point, he stopped selling shoes. He still worked hard but it was channeled in a new direction: towards making himself successful. Did he accomplish this by thinking of simply working hard? Of course not. He had the vision and the idea to channel all the accumulated wealth and effort into something different, such as building SMs and Mega malls. That's what I mean about using a different paradigm. And of course, there's also speed. I mean convenient stores and fast foods thrive on the fact that they're faster than the rest. Convenient stores are more expensive than going to the market, but hey, they're near and the lines aren't as long (plus they're open all day and night). Fast foods aren't exactly fine dining, but above all, you get instant gratification. In a matter of a few seconds, the food's there (of course advertising, customer service, and location also helps).

The question for me really isn't whether I have something mundane or original as a product. I think the real question is what else do I to back it up with? If I have a successful system which is what franchises gives you, then I'd go for it. It doesn't matter if I'm selling something crappy or something superior as long as I have a good system to back me up. But if it's something I have to build up from scratch, well, then a lot more thought must be put into it, even if I'm peddling the best product in the world. And like any good researcher, the question one must continually ask is how will I find out, or where will I find the resources to answer my problem?

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Tuesday, November 30, 2004

What Can I Do For You?

Perhaps one mentality that I have which differentiates me from most people is that I often think of "what can I do for the other person" whenever I meet them. Don't get me wrong, I don't have this mentality because I'm innately altruistic. It probably stems from the fact that I'm insecure and for the longest time, I didn't have friends, let alone a best friend (and even until now, I still don't have a best friend... will you please be my friend?). So there's a constant need for me to prove myself to other people, as if they'd stop being my friend if I stopped being helpful.

While perhaps this is far from the best self-image a person should have, maybe having the "what can I do for you" mentality isn't so bad. I mean when it comes to customer service, for example, you should have that mentality. When it comes to helping other people, that kind of mentality sure beats the "I'm only doing it for the publicity or to impress someone who's watching". And when it comes to meeting new people, well, "what can I do for you" is better than "what can the other person do for me". People can sense the difference, after all. They can detect whether you're out to befriend them because of who they are or because of what they can do for you. "What can I do for you" is a radical step. Instead of withholding your friendship and trust from the other person until they prove themselves worthy, you're the one that offers trust and friendship, assuming that they're worthy people to begin with. And in a way, that's logical. I mean we logically assume that people are trustworthy; we don't expect the other person to lie (although we do get lied to often). Perhaps by taking the initiative to extend this kind of trust and faith in the other person, the other person becomes worthy of it, and they in turn offer their trust to us. An example of this is when I offer to loan my books to people. I love my books; I don't want them to get ruined. But I also want them to be read by other people. So I offer to loan them the books that I have. And I'm personally surprised when they're surprised that I'm willing to loan them a book. People are suddenly disarmed. It's because I trust them. And they, in turn, suddenly trust me. They try their best to take care of the books that I loan them (well, there will always be casualties). It benefits us both.

There's also this old adage that says "you're only as good as your last race". In certain ways, I adhere to that belief. That's why I always have a constant "what can I do for you" mentality. I mean it's possible that I was a good friend to you a long time ago. But times change. What matters is the present. I must not only be a good friend to you in the past but in the present as well. And perhaps one of the best ways to prove that is to help you and comfort you in whatever way I can. Another old adage is "a friend in need is a friend indeed". The question you have to ask yourself is whether you want to be the friend that's helping, or the one that needs help (not that either one is better than the other). I try to be the former as much as I can. Because I know the day will inevitably come when I'll be the latter (and it has happened several times). I want to repay the kindness I was shown. I want to prove to people that I'm not out there to merely use them. I want to see people happy (because I know what it feels like not to be happy). Helping other people is a choice. Accepting help from other people usually isn't (well, you can decline the offer, but you really had no say over the situation which made you ask for help). If there's an opportunity to aid someone, why not do it? What will it cost you? Time? Money? Yes, it's an expensive price. But only if you're thinking what you can get from it. Remember, it's not about what other people can do for you. It's what you can do for them. And if each one of us practices that kind of belief, well, wouldn't the world be a slightly better place?

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30% to 50% off on Comics and Manga

from December 1 - 18
Store Hours: 10am to 530pm, Monday to Saturday

It has been a pleasure serving you for the past three years. We have met so many wonderful people and learned so much about life, business and ourselves.
We thank you for your loyal patronage.


**For those with consignments or reservations with us, please settle your business by December 10, 2004.

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Sunday, November 28, 2004


Right now, I'm having my not-quite-monthly bouts of cold,s which is probably due to my allergies. Neither drugs nor exercise not steroids have managed to cure my affliction, although a friend recently told me that surgery might be an option I want to pursue. If there's any reason for me to avoid health-related vices such as smoking, it's because I don't have a good body to begin with. Struggling to breathe every evening is far from the most pleasant of experiences.

When I was a kid, I was teased because of my "perpetual colds" (which were thankfully not contagious). Which is also why you always see me with a handkerchief, because more often than not, I'd be using that handkerchief to blow my nose (and if I were to resort to tissue, I'd probably consume an entire forest). And whereas other people would just resort to medication to solve their problem, that wasn't an option available to me, considering I was allergic to a certain anti-biotic, which would only cause my allergies to mutate and come out stronger than before.

Phlegm and mucus usually clogs my throat and nose, and my handkerchief was often wet. Of course when you're a prime target for bullies, one either concedes to them, or learn inventive ways to fend one's self. Let's just say I used other people's disgust to my advantage. I mean you wouldn't beat up a kid who threatened to spit at you in retaliation, would you? Or if I wanted other people to keep their distance, there's nothing like a wet hanky to stave them off.

I've gone through a series of doctors in my youth, and it's really difficult to tell them about my situation when you can't exactly give them a specific name for my condition. I mean for one thing, the bone in my nose is slanted, so one of my nose holes is literally larger than the other, and that contributes to my respiratory problems. There's also this doctor I went that gave me a list of what I was allergic to, and one of them was chocoalate (and actually made sense since I usually drank chocolate before I sleep, hence the recurring colds). There was even a time when I had to go to Cardinal Santos on a weekly basis for shots (well, if I had any fear of injections, it's gone now). And of course, there's all these methods I had to try such as an air purifier system and this device which you had to stick up your nose to deliver a dosage (I gave up on it after the first few times... it's just too uncomfortable).

The only time I significantly got better was when I started to disregard the advice my parents were giving me. For one thing, I got my own room. I mean I constantly told my parents that I wanted the aircon turned off because it was interefering with my breathing. Did they listen to me? So after a few years of suffering, I moved out of their room and started sleeping at the sofa in the business room, and then later I moved in to the guest room. The other advice I disregarded was going home with the driver. I started to walk home from school, and despite traveling the pollutted atmosphere of Ortigas, my respiration did improve. Sure, I'd still have allergy attacks like now, but they don't occur as often. And of course, I decline when I'm offered chocolate. Chocolate overdose literally kills me.

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