Good relationships keep us happier and healthier

What makes a good life? 

Fame? 

Wealth? 

“errng!”  wrong… 

I’ve recently stumbled upon this talk by Robert Waldinger over a 75-year old study of adult development. And I kid you not, it’s actually the longest study on human happiness. When you think about it, we can easily give out answers to some of the most complicated questions on earth such as why does the earth rotate on its own axis and how far is Jupiter from us. Yet, when people are asked about what really makes them feel fulfilled in life, there’s still no such definitive answer- not until a great initiative of Harvard University in the 1930s set off to find out. 

Initially they gathered 724 men who came from different backgrounds and walks of life. Some were from well off families and some from really nasty neighborhoods during those days. And after several decades, only 60 of those men have survived to tell what really matters in life based on their own experiences. According to Mr. Waldinger, some of those guys climb up the ladder of both social and financial statuses. And some ,sadly, did the opposite. 

The study finally concluded that good relationships keep us happier and healthier

3 takeaways from this “tip one’s hat ” study. 

  1. We should be wise in choosing our relationships. 
    Not all relationships are healthy. Some people are just plain toxic and will drag you to their graves when you let them do so. Don’t waste your life. Don’t even try and change them for your benefit, you’ll just end up more miserable than you already are. 
  2. Loneliness kills. 
    According to the study, people who are lonely are more likely to live shorter than those who have a family and a community they thrive with. These lonely people also tend to develop chronic diseases. Lonely here doesn’t mean alone. Because one can be lonely in a marriage. Or within a group. Therefore, being with people doesn’t guarantee true happiness. 
  3. Good relationships are  like magic beans
    Social connection really has something to do with our physical conditions. Most cancer survivors that I know of have surrounded themselves with a family and a community that lifted them up and eventually triumphing over their illnesses. 
    A great number of people are seeking the way to stay young and healthy. They go through great heights and depths of the earth and the latest technology and medicine to find solutions but they fail to realized that the answer is just in front of them. 

What about you? Are you investing your time and money over things and fame? Maybe we should ponder for a while , lessen our “screen-time” and have more of “people-time.” 

The secret place of success

Is there an easy way to greatness? What’s Usain Bolt’s secret to his success? Or Warren Buffet’s’ ? Elon Musk’s? 

Have you ever wondered how these people got to where they are right now? There must be some kind of  a formula or something right? I used to wonder about that too. So I began reading ,watching  and dissecting  interviews of them. 

In a video I have recently watched about Usain Bolt, he highlighted the importance of his training behind the scenes. He said that what he does in the Olympics is just a glimpse of what he does in secret! 

Also, Warren Buffet and Elon Musk.. they have this “behind the scenes” that catapulted them to their current success.. and that is – Reading.. 

Even  T.D Jakes, one of my favorite preachers, in all his achievements are credited to what he does when he is all alone; studying and practicing while his friends were out playing. 

I have realized 3 key elements that determine one’s success in whatever endeavor he or she is in. And in which I also have found out to be true myself. Here they are: 

  1. What you do in secret is rewarded in public 
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With Cornerstone Mission team 

Before a virtuoso performs, guess what, he has practiced for more than 10,000 hours! Prior to the Beatles’ success, they had already been playing a lot longer more than they had played during their reign! Let’s go to sports, Ray Allen, one of the best shooters in the NBA history.. comes to the court hours before the game to shoot 3s with the lights off! Wew! Imagine! What about in the Bible? Before David slayed Goliath, he had a “simulation” game by killing a lion and bear! And you think David was just a puny prey… 

2. Delayed gratification  

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Dozing off at practice 

Our day and age have evolved into the “Now” mentality. I want to get rich- “Now” I want to be lean and muscular -“Now” I want to get promoted -“Now”  I want this and that “Now”  Even in marriage and having kids! Boy, I wish nobody is thinking of grandchildren right after having their kids! 

Most successful people I have observed have this unconventional mentality; Study now play later.. Pay the price now, enjoy later.. which most of us had it reversed. 

Learning to play the guitar made me realized this.It took half of my high school days just to learn it. I had to shun parties and ball games! Imagine what that means for a growing teenager! Some of you may play it down, but it meant a lot to me. Yet , I had this insatiable desire to be a guitar player at our local church. It was painful and frustrating at the beginning. But it surely did pay off in the long run.. I was not only able to play at our local church but also in other churches nationally and eventually at our university! Even during mission trips when I joined with some NGOs back then. 

3. You can not be secretly great.  

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With Asia Pacific Theological Seminary Mission Team 

Eventually, greatness will have its way.. Darkness can never hide a bursting light.. Throughout history, great people can not be hidden.. no matter how long it may take.. I recently have watched “The Imitation Game” I learned about Allan Turing. (Start Googling my friend ) … Back in College, I took up a course in computer. We learned the history and the mechanics behind a desktop computer. However, I never heard (I probably was sleeping in class, don’t judge me! ) of someone named Allan Turing! Why? Well, I found out by watching that movie that even history tried to hide his existence ! 

The height of your success is determined by how low you’ve been in secret.No matter how you define success, it will always boil down to what you do when nobody is watching. 

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Haven’t you counted your blessings yet?

Just finished giving an online language lesson with the student whom I have been working with for the last 3 years now. And a thought suddenly hit me.. Wow… isn’t that amazing? I’ve got something consistent that I should be grateful for! 

So from now on, I will do my very best to write 3 things I’m grateful for everyday to remind me that life isn’t just full of bad news and crazy stuffs that almost every newsfeed brings in these days but also, when we look closer enough, we do have a lot of things to be grateful for each and everyday. 

Such as …. 

1. The gift of life. 

I woke up this morning feeling refreshed and blessed to have been given another day to live life and make an impact to this world. 

2.  A dream job. 

I had a dream that someday I would be working in a multi-national company. Grateful to have been doing it since April of last year. Going for my anniversary now and more years to come! 

3.  A gift of love. 

What more could a man ask for? A lovely lady who inspires him to become better and stronger. Whose smile brings in joy and inspiration that makes a life worth living for. 

Are you one of us?

Have you ever felt the unquenchable thirst for wanting more? 

Like wanting more chicken wings and potato salad? Ordering extra large French fries and diet coke?! 

What about more games?  More PokemonGo-time? More Warcraft or Starcraft or MineCraft and all the other piece of Crafts! 

In fashion? Like wanting more of micro-mini skirts and you feel like you are in short of extra short-shorts? 

Whatever the case is. I believe that every human being including me crave for more from something or from someone. 

More money. More time. 

I’ve recently found out by reflecting over my life for the past 20 years that there’s always more to life than what we are having . Irrelevant to whether you are satisfied or dissatisfied in your present situation, there’s always something more to look forward to. 

When Christopher Columbus stumbled upon the Americas in 1492, Spain thought that there’s no more land beyond their west borders; “Ne Plus Ultra” that was they use to say. It means ” no more beyond ” in Latin. 

I pondered where would we be and what would have happened if they had settled for what they knew was the only place on earth to be. 

Yet again, all the discoveries and inventions we have known since the beginning were ignited by this desire that enamored  everyone who dare. 

The question then is, what does it take to get more? 

Take it from the words of the great motivational speaker Jim Rohn ,”If you want more, you have to be more.” 

And that is exactly what had happened in my life. 

Despite having raised in obscurity and homelessness and being born a Filipino entails so many hurdles for many. Like we need visas when we travel to some countries and several stereotypical ideas about us. In addition , the profession of a teacher isn’t the course to take if you wanted to get rich. 

And so they thought, believe and did so. 

Well, I had the choice to make, either I listen to the noise outside or respond to  call within me-the desire to become more. To rewrite my life story and live a life that is totally mine to decide upon. 

So for many years, I have devoted myself to study and practice. While my friends were having a good time at the weekends, I was in my apartment reading. Learning from successful people. Watching motivational videos and so on. I had sacrificed my weekends to gain more knowledge and skills. 

Of course, some people pity me because I had no social life. 

They were kinda of right, indeed sparrows fly with other sparrows. Unlike the eagles who prefer flying by themselves. 

I’ve learnt that in every achievement, there’s a price to pay. 

It is always up to us whether to bet on it  and take the plunge or back off and settle for mediocrity. 

I have talked to some people who have settled believing that they have reached their ne plus ultra already. Although, I can’t blame them for that. Who doesn’t like security and stability? Isn’t having a good job,a nice family, reliable friends and enough money to retire more than enough? 

If you are one of them, I apologize for having wasted your time reading this. But this proposition is for the hungry. For the people who crave for a higher and more quality life. For the radicals who dare challenge the status quo. 

Are you one of us? 

Are you just drifting or are you daring?

Yep, you guessed it right. 

This reminds us of the old saying that life is liken to a box of chocolates where you never know what you’re gonna get. 

Well, I dare say ; NOT REALLY! 

You mean if I work hard and develop myself, I still wouldn’t know what life could give? 

Or if I smoke, drink and neglect my health for 6 years, life could still give me something unpredictable? 

Absolutely not! 

Our habits determine our future and therefore, both success and failure are predictable. 

Whatever our current routines are will determine our destination

Life gives us what we deserve and like the box of chocolate that you see on this post is an image of what life has given me recently – joy and sweetness! 

These chocolates were a present from the mother of whom I bound to tie the knot with. It came as a surprise actually. I never thought that she was thinking about me while she and her daughter where on their day off enjoying Disney. 

I couldn’t be any happier. 

Truth be told, we didn’t have a good start since her daughter’s choice wasn’t someone she had expected but as I mentioned in my previous posts ; “..Doesn’t matter how you start, it matters how you finish. ” 

And that is also true in life. We may all started on the wrong footing, but we can always recalibrate and move to the direction towards our ideals. 

Habits can be re-formed as much as our lives can. We don’t have to always accept what circumstances have placed in our hands, we as humans aren’t geese, we can decide where to go and what choices to make. 

It’s not what happens, it’s what you do. 

What do you do when things don’t happen the way you hoped for? 

When you worked hard and studied all night yet you failed the exams. 

When you worked your butt off but still didn’t get the promotion. 

When you gave up everything to win someone’s heart but you got stab behind before you even knew it. 

When you sacrificed your own joy and career raising children but they still end up prison. 

When you did all your best but it seemed like your best wasn’t good enough. 

What do you do when life hits you with a brick and no one was there to help? 

We all have these frustrations in life don’t we? Don’t be a pony now and pretend that everything is going exactly the way you want them to be. We all have this “in-control” mentality which I believe that human nature is wired with. Whether it is your life or someone else’s. We all want to be in control. And I kid you not, we will never be in control. If you don’t believe me, try and tame a cat. Try to make it do some tricks or make it fetch. I’m telling you, even if you squeal , it won’t happen. 

When I was 17, I tried going to South Korea to rendezvous with my foster parents back then. I summoned all my strength and resources even skipped classes. I prayed and believed and shouted my hallelujah victory but in the end, I was denied of entry. I was so mad at the world then. It was pivotal and life altering experience for me. 

And yet, I have kept my promise to myself that I would still go there no matter what. 

15 years later, I thought I should give it a shot once more. I believed in the power of second chances. This time the odds are heavy on my side since I live in Japan and I’ve got a legit visa. But little did I know that the rules have recently changed! Talk about good timing! And the worse, I found out about it at the airport when I was about to check in for my flight! Holy smokes! I just wanted to crush the air! 

What do you do at times like  this?  What do you do when your dreams are shattered to smithereens ? Do you curse and blame people and the system? Or Do you grow up and take responsibility? 

Here’s my thought about these undertakings – It’s not what happens, it’s what you do with what happens. What happens, happens to us all . Don’t wish it was easier, wish you were better. By the way, I heard all of these spoken by Jim Rohn who is one of my heroes. 

So when a small winter hit me at the airport, I immediately thought, this was all on me. No one else is be blamed but me. Now, what do you do James? 

Well, it was no use getting mad and crying over spilled milk so I chose to chill out a bit and chose to go on a domestic trip instead. 

All I knew was that I just wanted to have some time off and think but little did I know that I was actually meant to be in that place at the right time. I booked a guesthouse in Hakone where I met this young couple who happen to be the owners of the property! I was so inspired that they weren’t even in their 30s yet they are successfully managing their own business. We got the chance to get to know one another and for some reasons, we sort of having that chemistry in all our philosophies in life. They are outliers indeed. They thought differently and acted out what they are really passionate about. I was really inspired by their stories which was too good to be true but it was. I came in feeling down but I took off rejuvenated and had my moxie back! 

3 Takeaways. 

  1. It’s not what happens, it’s what you do.  Each of us has a fair share of trouble and if you feel like you have more, that means life thought that you were tougher than others. 
  2. Get your bounce back quickly. Succumbing yourself to a pity party wont do any good. Champions don’t stay down when they tripped. 
  3. There’s always the bigger picture. When you thought that you were better off that way, make no mistake, the good Lord has always something better and grandeur plan for you. 

A remarkable trip with remarkable people in Hakone, Japan. 

What’s your legacy?

It’s not  what we have acquired that matters. It’s what we leave behind. 

For the first time in my life, I have attended a Japanese classical concert. It wasn’t long ago that I became so enamored with classical music

( I guess because of age? ) . 

“Koto,” a 13-stringed instrument was the ringer of the performance and Shuretsu Miyashita II , a woman whose elegance and sophistication engages the audience with her superb performance. 

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With Shuretsu Miyashita II 

The concert hall was packed with a diverse people. Adults, kids, teenagers, elderly , watchers, clappers and sleepers as well! Yeah, while I was enjoying the performance, two ladies beside me were in the dreamland snoring their way out! I couldn’t care less, the performance was excellent. During the break, I pulled out the program along with the performers’ profiles and found out that Shuretsu Miyashita II ‘s father had lost his sight when he was in high school. I couldn’t imagine how tough his life was when it happened. Yet , what really caught my attention wasn’t his condition but what he did with it. He not only learned playing Koto, he, later in his life,  would invent the 30-stringed one and composed a number of scores which were greatly awarded! 

C’mon! That’s amazing! Don’t you reckon? 

Suddenly I remembered Ludwig Van Beethoven, he lost his ability to hear yet he was able to compose remarkable music as well! His works of art still fascinates and performed by so many around the world. 

From these two great musicians from different countries I pondered what made them so great and their legacy endured. It wasn’t really the awards and attention they got when they were alive. It was what they left behind. 

Their creations.. 

The music.. 

As if their souls were attached to every note being played. And these creations of greatness are being passed on to the next generation one after another. 

Of course, music isn’t the only place we can leave our legacies behind. The late innovator, Steve Jobs left behind Apple . Mind you, no matter who takes over that company, we would always associate Apple with Steve Jobs. 

Microsoft? Of course, you know it.. Bill Gates. 

I have to admit, for more than a year I still thought that he was still MS’ CEO and probably would still think so in the years to come! 

What about Helen Keller? Nelson Mandela? 

Adolf Hitler? Saddam Hussein? 

You? 

What would we leave behind? 

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With the rising Koto player of the Shuretsu Clan 

Our society these days have blinded us with materialism and vapor-like popularity. It has taught us to think about only of ourselves and don’t mind under people’s business. “As long us I’m happy, and nobody is hurt, it’s alright.” Everything affects everything. Whatever we do or say or even think of, affects us or the people around us one way or another. 

I spoke to one of my acquaintances recently about this matter.. he asked, why bother? A good life is finishing your studies and getting a good and stable job then getting married and having your family. After which you retire and spend the rest of your life travelling,taking pictures and golfing! That’s a good life isn’t it? 

Yeah right. I bet you also nodded. I have nothing against such. It’s indeed a good life. But to me, what’s great about it? Is that what life is all about? 

Isn’t everyone here meant for something great ? 

Isn’t our objective to make life better than we found it? 

Isn’t our responsibility to make the world a better place to live in for those who will come after us? 

I wonder, what would be written on your epitaph. 

Do it again

About 15 years ago, a desperate 17 year old lad wanted to escape his country in exchange for a greener pasture in foreign a land. He was disgusted , exhausted and vexed over his country which seem to have lost its identity due to colonialism. One may not blame him though, since he was raised in obscurity in a very dysfunctional community; drugs, crimes and poverty were pillaging the lives of people. 

Nonetheless, a rather odd event completely changed his life ( probably the planets were aligned back then) for good. A missionary from a foreign land showed up as a “knight in shining armor!” Immediately this young man grabbed the opportunity and opted out of his country. 

Driven by selfish ambition, he hammered his way to liberty. 

It was excruciating and despairing like riding to  war but not to victory thingy. He was a year shy to be allowed to travel all by himself since his country forbids minors travelling unaccompanied. Yet, tenacious enough, he pushed through but in the end, it was all in vain. He was denied and left broke. Adding insult to injury, he lost the trust of the missionary along with his “parent-like” relationship with her. 

For years, he lived in the memories of this past defeat. He was even scared of even trying to renew his passport after it expired. He flinched at the thought of travelling and meeting with foreigners. 

Yet life has it’s own reasons why things happen. Despite running away from the past, he ended up working with people from the same country as that of the missionary’s. Rubbing it in, he also had to live with foreign missionaries who happened to have similar countenances as that of the missionary’s whom he first met! 

Those coincidences haunted  the young man who is now in his 30’s and enjoying his (stable?) life.  Surrounded by good friends, a good paying job, and a school life where he acted as if he were still 17! 

However, Destiny has its tricks under its sleeves. Little did this man know that he was just being molded throughout the years just as gold passes through refinement so is his life  underwent crises for his character to be ready for the good things which lies ahead. 

Finally, another odd opportunity comes along. An invitation to work abroad in a country where it’s almost impossible for him to get into and most of the people in his country. And the job was even out of his league! 

So he thought that it was only a joke but later  he found out that the employer was as serious as dead serious. So he playfully answered him with a “yes, why not” careless response .. Little did he know that the other guy took it seriously and began the process of his papers! Well, when he found out about it, he was appalled and didn’t know what to do..  He was reluctant to leave behind everything- his comfort zone and besides he was already satisfied with what he had and he loved his country and its people already. In fact, he dreamed of launching a ministry that would help his fellow country men especially those who were homeless and orphaned. 

But it was the right time, of course, he didn’t know it was the right the time.. Until he did and processed his trip all over again. 

He did it again. But this time, he was more ready and his attitude towards his nation has dramatically changed. In the end, he finally flew and started working in a land rich with opportunities he never knew existed. 

I would have told more of my story but I realized that this was not an autobiography. 

But ,what about you? 

Have you ever dared doing again the things you once failed doing ? 

Did the thought of failing cringe you? 

Did the past failures choke-held you? 

I have. 

But I’m also here to tell you that it’s worth it. 

It’s too early to throw in the towel. I could tell you some famous personalities who refused to give up despite of failings but their challenges may not be the same as yours and mine but one thing is really common for all of us.. Choice.. Yes.. You have it too.. Either you live in the past and die regretting or shatter glass ceilings of confinement and failures to reach for your dreams.. 

Before I end.. I would like to share a rather small story about my gym application recently. 

About a month ago, I went to a nearby gym to register but I was turned down because I needed first to speak their language since they needed to explain some house rules and some  payment terms. 

…I left frustrated and annoyed. 

I could have asked a friend to help and translate for me but I didn’t want to bother somebody else for such matter. 

Now, another “blue moon” moment again as I was passing by the gym, I suddenly had that feeling again.. The “Do it again” feeling. Yeah, the same voice I heard before.  And there I was hoping I wont see the same staff who rejected me once and luckily a wish came true! ( Well, actually I couldn’t remember her face anymore since the last time I saw her so I wasn’t so sure if it was her or not, Ha!) . After an hour and half of explanations, mostly in their language, ( Thank God for Google translate!) I finally got registered! Now I have more reasons to go to the gym since I went through such tumultuous endeavor just to get its membership! 

Gasp! So…. 

Would you dare do it again? 

This time you might finally pass the exam. 

Win her heart. Get the job. Succeed in business. 

This time your life may not be the only one to change but others as well. 

So Why not do it again?