Thursday, November 24, 2005

If it’s to be, it’s up to me!

Business Times p.B3
Thursday, November 24, 2005

By Moje Ramos-Aquino, FPM

LAST weekend, I was blessed to facilitate District 3780’s self-awareness and management program for select third-year public high-school students who would be our future leaders. Project Bukas (Bayan Uunlad Kabataan Ating Subaybayan) is hosted by the Rotary Club of Cubao East led by president Celso Hiwatig and project chair Carmi Bergado inspired by District Gov. Benjie Bacorro.

At the onset of the two-day workshop, the youngsters appear to lack the inner drive, stamina and belief to succeed in life. This early in their life, they are prepared to simply live through their present circumstances. After the workshop, they came home energized with their own life plans consisting of their personal vision, mission, values and big life goals after examining their strengths, weaknesses, fears, past achievements, knowledge and skills and opening their minds to the possibilities of the outrageous. I am confident this batch of 56 hopefuls will succeed in whatever undertaking they set their heart and mind on.

And I am glad that I chanced upon this book The Road to Success Is Paved with Failure by Joey Green. It is a fun-filled, fact-filled and star-studded compendium of pop culture and historical trivia that celebrates failure as a necessary stepping-stone to innovation, albeit success.

• Confucius failed to convince the ruler of his own city-state of Lu, China, to make his teachings the official state of philosophy. He then traveled to neighboring states, only to have his doctrines rejected by every ruler he visited.

Confucius became revered as the most influential and respected philosopher in China’s history.

• Joan of Arc was illiterate.

Joan of Arc, a French national heroine and beloved saint of the Roman Catholic Church, liberated the besieged city of Orleans from the English in 1429 and escorted the uncrowned King Chalres VII to the city of Reims for his coronation.

• Sigmund Freud’s first book, The Interpretation of Dreams,”sold only 600 copies and netter the author a mere $250 in royalties in the first eight years after its publication.

Freud became the father of psychoanalysis and one of the most influential thinkers of the twentieth century. His most widely read book, the Interpretation of Dreams, is considered the gospel of psychoanalysis.

• Walt Disney’s first cartoon production company laugh-O-Gram, went bankrupt.

Walt created Mickey Mouse and became the most famous name in film animation and founded Disneyland.

• The Beatles were rejected in 1962 by Decca Records executive Dick Rowe, who signed Brian Poole & The Tremeloes instead, following back-to-back auditions by both groups. The Beatles’ Decca audition tape was subsequently turned down by Pey, Philips, Columbia and HMV.

They were finally offered a recording contract by Parlophone producer George Martin, became the most influential rock ‘n’ roll group in history.

• Martin Luther King Jr., was forced at age fourteen to surrender his bus seat to a white passenger and stand for the next ninety miles.

King Jr. became leader of the American civil-rights movement, delivered his famous “I have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial before an audience of more than 200,000 people in 1963, and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.

• Charles Conrad flunked out of Haverford, a prestigious private boys school in Pennsylvania, where he was known as a prankster who hid in drainpipes and blew up Bunsen burners in the science lab.

In 1969, as commander of Apollo 12, Charles Conrad became the third astronaut to walk on the moon.

• John Denver threw a party to celebrate the publication of his high-school yearbook and no one showed up.

John Denver became an internationally famous recording star, best remembered for his pop ballads “Sunshine on My Shoulder” and Rocky Mountain High,” and starred in the movie Oh God.

• Charles Schulz asked his girlfriend, Donna Johnson, to marry him, but she turned him down and married a fireman instead.

Schulz created the beloved comic strip Peanuts and immortalized Donna Johnson as the little red-haired girl who constantly rejects Charlie Brown. Peanuts run daily in 73 countries and earned Schulz $30 million to $40 million annually.

• Andy Warhol, a sickly child whose white skin was marred by brown blotches and acne, was nicknamed “Spot,” “Albino, and “Andy the Red-Nosed Warhol” by other kids and had three nervous breakdowns.

Warhol became a pop artist famous for his vivid silk-screen prints of Campbell’s soup cans and Marilyn Monroe’s face. He founded and edited Interview magazine and predicted that one day everyone would get fifteen minutes of fame. We’ll share with you more such stories next columns.

The important thing to remember is when your fifteen minutes comes, what do you have to offer?

Moje is president of Paradigms & Paradoxes Corp. and the Rotary Club of Quezon City North. Her e-mail addy is

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Innovation, discipline and abundance in Vietnam

Business Times p.B3
Thursday, November 17, 2005

By Moje Ramos-Aquino, FPM
Innovation, discipline and abundance in Vietnam

ROSAMUND and Benjamin Zander believe that in the realm of possibility, we gain our knowledge by invention. “The action in a universe of possibility may be characterized as generative, or giving, in all senses of that word—producing new life, creating new ideas, consciously endowing with meaning, contributing, yielding to the power of contexts. The relationship between people and environments is highlighted, not the people and things themselves. Emotions that are often relegated to the special category of spirituality are abundant here: joy, grace, awe, wholeness, passion and compassion.

The Zanders might have been describing the people and life in Vietnam when they wrote their book, The Art of Possibility.

My good friend Bert Tato, president of RC Diliman, lived, worked and started a family in the 10 years that he stayed in Saigon. He traveled throughout South Vietnam during the war surveying and mapping roads, ports and harbors, airports, bridges and military facilities. Likewise, my fellow Rotarian, Edison Gatioan, visits Vietnam frequently for business reasons.

Here are some of their experiences:

• Vietnamese people eat only what they think they need for the day, so that they have something for another day. This results in excess supply such as rice that enables them to export. They also eat less fish so there is abundant supply. So, they stay slim and use less fabric for their clothes, and many other benefits of abundance-thinking. Hoarding of anything (except gold bars) is unheard of, sharing is the norm.

• The size of families is small because they know that it is difficult to feed so many mouths and nurture them to imbibe traditional Vietnamese values.

• If a husband does something wrong to his family, e.g. has a mistress, he is asked to leave the house. He is not allowed a second chance, because they believe that if he is forgiven, he will do it again.

• During the war, farmers never left their fields. They simply stayed in their bunker/shelter during bombings and shelling. When all is quiet, they go back to the farm and continue tending their crops; production is not disrupted. This is because of their prolonged war with China, France and USA. They learned that running around will not bring them anywhere.

• Theirs is an agriculture-based economy. Their agriculturists studied here and when they returned to Vietnam, they consistently apply and improve w• At the Mekong Delta, the fields are almost always submerged in high waters, they couldn’t plant under deep water. So, they use a tall variety of rice. When they harvest, they leave one or two stalks for each bunch so they need not replant.

• There are many small entrepreneurs to spread the wealth around and for more people to benefit from a robust commerce.

• Every community council (similar to our Barangay) maintains a National Family Record where the names and number of residents (parents, children, etc.) are recorded. The council officers conduct a random check on each family every now and then. When a family member is missing, an explanation is demanded.

• When anyone travels to another place or province for longer than a day, he needs to ask permission from the council, then register his presence in his destination.

• Vietnamese people are highly nationalistic and patriotic.

• They do not rely on their government for livelihood or job. The neighborhood helps each other. Example, if you have something to be done in the house like repairs, you employ the unemployed. They never blame their government for their misery.

• Office hours are 7 to 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 to 6 p.m. They take three hours lunch and siesta breaks to go home, get rested and go back to work refreshed and reenergized.

• They have little use for banks. They prefer to exchange their money for gold bars and keep them at home. Likewise, for big transactions like real estate, they use gold bars as currency. They only use their dong for small day-to-day purchases.

• Their houses are made of bricks, so when there is fire (which is very rare), only one house or one part of the house is affected.

Bert and Ed have many other poignant stories, but space is limited here. My own observation is that life in Saigon is laid back and relaxed. The self-imposed speed limit on city streets is only about 20 KPH. No wonder there were no road accident in the four days in November we were there.

As I told Bert, no comparison with the Philippines, please. Draw your own conclusions and action plans.

Teacher training: sponsor a teacher to the ongoing 4-day accelerated learning workshop at the Aurora Quezon Elementary School. Call 0917-899-6653 for details.

Moje is president of Paradigms & Paradoxes Corp and the Rotary Club of Quezon Ctiy North. Her e-mail addy is

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Innovation and Ho Chi Minh City

Business Times p.B3
Thursday, November 10, 2005

By Moje Ramos-Aquino, FPM
Innovation and Ho Chi Minh City

I WAS in Ho Chi Mihn City (Saigon), Vietnam, in the early nineties as part of the Philippine Airlines team who trained the employees of Vietnam Airlines. I recall that back then:

• The streets teem with motorcycles, scooters and bicycles especially during rush hours. On the outskirts, there were also buffalo-drawn carriages.

• Tourists could take the cyclo, a human-powered three-wheeled carriage.

• You can stand by the roadside and count less than five cars/trucks/vans passing by the whole day.

• The average (not minimum) wages a month was US$20. The lowest monthly rent for a small apartment is US$0.50.

• Women of all ages wore ao-dai (national costume) for daily use or special occasions.

• Vietnam’s rice harvest was so poor, the whole country almost went into famine.

• There were very few hotels and very few foreign visitors.

• It was a shopping haven. For less than US$500 you can bring home suitcases and boxes of goodies—18 and 24 karat gold jewelry, crystals from Czechoslovakia, watches from Russia, hand-embroidered linen for kitchen and bedroom, fabric, handicrafts, antiques, lacquerware items, rosewood boxes and bowls, ceramic and porcelain things, garments and many, many others.

• We went to a nightclub at the end of our five-day Customer Relations Workshop to celebrate and dance the tango. To my amusement, my “students” ordered milk and noodles. Our pulutan was popcorn. The classy club didn’t have Kahlua or Bailey’s cream. I settled for the very comforting hot Vietnam tea.

• Shopping at Ben Thanh Market, where you can buy everything you need and want except cars and real estate, was from 8 a.m. to 6p.m. only. When the bell rang, the whole market closed down.

• There were no refrigerator magnet sold.

• There are no fat people. Food was healthy (veggies galore!) and fresh. No junk food. And there are many people who exercise at the numerous parks in the city.

• Ho Chi Minh was safe, secure and peaceful. There are not that many people in the streets at any given time.

Last week I joined my fellow Rotary presidents Eric Medina (RC Talipapa), Susan Valencia (Tomas Morato), Berna Ronduen (Primavida Cubao) and Cristy and Nes Mariano (Valencia) on a short trip to Ho Chi Mihn City and a side tour to Cambodia.

I took note with much admiration that:

• There are more motorbikes and bicycles in the streets. According to our tour English-speaking tour guide, Stephen, there are about four million of them in the city alone. There are more cars, SUVs, vans and trucks, too. There seems to be no more buffalo-drawn carriages anywhere on the outskirts.

• There are taxis (sedan and AUV) and the xe om (motorbike taxi) with honest meters and chivalrous drivers. They open the door and help you with your baggage.

• According to some sources, the average monthly wage is US$40. The rental or sale prices of real estate have skyrocketed.

• There are now very, very few women wearing ao-dai. Most women, especially the young ones wear fashionable and sexy clothes.

• We import rice from Vietnam.

• There are many hotels for the backpackers to the well heeled and in between.

• I’ve practically been around the world and I dare say that Ho Chi Minh remains a shoppers’ paradise, in terms of price and quality of goods. The whole city, not just Ben Thanh Market, is a shopping center. Saigon Square is their Greenhills.

• We didn’t go to a nightclub, but we passed by many such places and we noticed habitu├ęs imbibing spirited drinks. Eric and Nes spent one evening in a dive-girl watching.

• There are still no fat people in Ho Chi Minh. Ergo, there are no apparels that fit us.

• I was able to buy some souvenir refrigerator magnet.

• Ho Chi Minh is safe, secure and peaceful. There are not so many people in the streets at any given time. You can walk the streets at any time of the night or early morning and nobody will bother you except the cyclo drivers.

Thinking of your next travel destination? Make it Saigon or Ho Chi Minh.

Moje is president of Paradigms & Paradoxes Corp. and the Rotary Club of Quezon City North. Her e-mail address is

Thursday, November 3, 2005

Innovation and planned obsolescence

Business Times p.B3
Thursday, November 3, 2005

By Moje Ramos-Aquino, FPM
Innovation and planned obsolescence

WHATEVER happened to the typewriter, horse-drawn carriage, betamax, VHS, luksung-tinik, palo-palo, gabardine, Wordstar and other things and processes we used to have?

Yes, there is such a thing as planned obsolescence. Like right now there is a race among automobile makers and enthusiasts to render obsolete gas-guzzling cars and make them run on cheap alternative fuel like water, air, electricity, or even pizza pie. Presently there are many car models that have moved into hybrid fuel efficiency and net-centric electronics for safety, fuel economy and convenience.

According to “Planned or built-in obsolescence is the conscious decision on the part of an agency to produce a consumer product that will become obsolete in a defined time frame. Planned obsolescence has great benefits for a producer. It means a consumer will buy his product repeatedly, as the old one is no longer functional or desirable. It exists in many products—from vehicles to light bulbs, from buildings to software. There is, however, the potential backlash of consumers that become aware of such obsolescence; such consumers can shed their loyalty and buy from a company that caters to their desire for a more durable product.”

Wikipedia cites three types of planned obsolescence and describes them as:

Technical or functional obsolescence. The design of most consumer products includes an expected average lifetime permeating all stages of development. For instance, no auto-parts maker would run the extra cost of ensuring a part lasts for 40 years if few cars spend more than five years on the road. Thus, it must be decided early in the design of a complex product how long it is designed to last so that each component can be made to those specifications.

Planned obsolescence is made more likely by having the cost of repairs being comparable to replacement costs, or by actually refusing to provide service or parts any longer. A product might even never have been serviceable. For instance Microsoft no longer provides customer support for Windows 95, creating a greater incentive to buy a more up-to-date version of Windows.

Creating new lines of products that do not interoperate with older products can also make an older model quickly obsolete, forcing replacement.

Style obsolescence. Marketing may be driven primarily by aesthetic design. Product categories where this is the case display a fashion cycle. By continually introducing new designs and retargeting or discontinuing others, a manufacturer can “ride the fashion cycle.” Examples of such product categories include automobiles (style obsolescence), with a strict yearly schedule of new models, and the almost entirely style-driven clothing industry (riding the fashion cycle).

Expiry dates. Many products today have expiry dates long before they become inedible or unusable. Potato chips or soft drinks have dates that if exceeded will not be hazardous, but the date compels people to throw away and buy more, rather than save. Products like milk and yogurt also err greatly on the side of caution, meaning, that vast amounts of perfectly good food are thrown out each year that must then be replaced by consumers. Other products, like razors or toothbrushes, also have dates past which they can be used with no ill effects.

Planned obsolescence could have beneficial or detrimental effects. Most benefits would be expediency, economy, safety, beauty, efficiency and many others.

Is planned obsolescence socially responsible? What about alone or with a driver driving in the horrendous traffic in Metro Manila with a four-wheel drive SUV? Or the copying machine that gives anybody a license to make awful number of unnecessary copies of documents without regard to the trees that have to be cut down to make paper. Or styrofoam that kills fish and other sea creatures.

Or as a good friend laments, as soon as you marry a guy, he becomes useless, unromantic and nonchivalrous. That’s planned diversion so you don’t get in the way of their boys night out or bowling Sunday, r otary activities and watching basketball games on TV.

Accelerated learning workshop for public elementary school teachers. The Rotary Clubs of Quezon City North, New Manila Heights, New Manila South, Quezon City Southwest, Capitol Hills and Diliman are planning to make boring lectures obsolete by sharing with teachers creative and caring techniques of learning. Join us by becoming a sponsor. Our next class will be on four Saturdays starting November 12 at Aurora Quezon Elementary School.

(Moje is president of Paradigms and Paradoxes Corp. and RCQC North. Her e-mail address is