“Personal effectiveness is the core of our business.”
- Sheila Viesca, TalkShop

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Why The Best Writing Advice You Can Learn Is Also The Worst

Why The Best Writing Advice You Can Learn Is Also The Worst

In the movie Ruby Sparks, a writer is so stricken with writer's block that his psychologist gives him a writing assignment. Can it be bad, the writer asks. The psychologist replies, "I'd like it to be very bad."

All too often, aspiring writers (and even established writers!) feel the need to get it right the first time. But most writers will tell you that no one ever gets it right the first time. You see, the secret to writing is simple: write. It's easy to write, but hard to write well. Once you accept this basic truth, only then can the writing process truly begin.

And writing is just that: a process. Writing isn't just about writing. The real work comes after you write that first draft. Rewriting. Editing. Styling. Whatever you may call it, that is where the real magic happens. And believe me, that is what will take up most of your time while in the process of writing.

So yes, in some sense, telling a writer to write badly is bad advice. You don't want writers to take it literally and write something not fit to be seen by humans. But when taken in the right away, then it becomes the best kind of advice, the kind that sets you free.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

What 50 Shades of Grey Can Teach Us About Building Anticipation

What 50 Shades of Grey Can Teach Us About Building Anticipation
Source: somecards.com
By the end of the first chapter in EL James' Fifty Shades of Grey, the main protagonist, Anastasia Steele, meets and falls in love with the handsome and enigmatic love interest Christian Grey. Why does she fall in love with him, you may ask? That's a good question, but you won't find any explanation other than this: Christian Grey is so handsome. Christian Grey is so engimatic. Anastasia loves Christian (but she won't admit to it, yet)!

Fifty Shades isn't meant to be enjoyed as a story - it's meant to evoke a reaction (which it does admirably) - which is why it does away with any sort of buildup towards the love story between Anastasia and Christian. But if you want to tell a story, if you want your audience to be invested in what happens, then you must learn how to build anticipation.

In the case of the premature couple, you can build anticipation by answering basic questions such as how do they fall in love OR why do they fall in love? And no, Anastasia biting her bottom lip seductively doesn't count.

Now, Fifty Shades isn't exactly a love story; it's S&M erotica. Perhaps you've noticed Christian (before Anastasia discovers his secret) saying things like, "I like being in control," or, "I will punish you" as a highly-telegraphed form of foreshadowing. This doesn't build anticipation; in fact, it kills the anticipation because of how blindly obvious it is made out to be.

All in all, the book is a terrible read (unless you aren't in it for the reading). It did, however, give me a greater appreciation for stories that do it right. And those stories are the ones that know how to build anticipation as it leads towards the climax. I believe Ms. Steele and Mr. Grey can agree with that.

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Friday, September 21, 2012

Hulk, Smash? No, Me, Smash!

Hulk, Smash? No, Me, Smash!

My favorite moment in the Avengers movie happens when the enemy army is invading New York, whereupon Captain America instructs Dr. Bruce Banner to get angry so he can transform into the Hulk. Banner replies, "That's my secret, Cap. I'm always angry."

Wow. That short moment takes The Hulk character into a whole different level. Prior to that point, we operated on the assumption that Banner transforms into The Hulk only when you make him angry. But then we discover that The Hulk has a deep-seated anger in him, and it takes an incredible amount of discipline and self-control just to function as a normal human being, in this case, by not transforming into The Hulk.

Instead of thinking of anger as a reaction to some external event, we get a glimpse into the quiet everyday struggle The Hulk faces with his anger issues, his internal emotional state, if you will. This shows us that our perception of anger may not be as simple as we might have thought.

This portrayal of The Hulk character implies that one way to deal with inner anger is to lose control and find an outlet for that anger. For Bruce Banner, this means transforming into an indestructible green giant and smashing things!

The question then is: is this a healthy way to manage anger? The answer: Of course not. For one thing, Banner is still always angry. I'm sure he feels a whole lot better after hurling tanks across the street, but it's clear that his inner anger has not abated - it still resides deep in him.

The healthy way, in my opinion, is to find out the cause of the inner anger and work towards resolving that issue. It might not be as fun as Banner's method, heck, it's not fun at all, but that's what happens when the anger is rooted deep inside you.

But oh what the heck. Seeing The Hulk destroy things is just so much fun. Maybe it doesn't hurt to just, from time to time, to go, ME, SMASH!

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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Google Pilipinas, In English, Please

Google Pilipinas, In English, Please

Whenever I try to use Google from a computer other than my own, I am momentarily jarred when I see the Tagalog instructions. This is because the default setting for Google Pilipinas is to display the website in the Filipino language setting. I always have to change the settings to use Google Pilipinas in English. Nothing against Tagalog, but it's a strange transition given that most other websites I visit are in English.

It's a minor quibble - many users barely notice the difference because there are already very familiar with the Google interface - but it raises the question of why Tagalog is the default langauge. You may answer: because Tagalog is the national language, of course. Whatever the logic behind the decision may be, I'd much prefer the default language to be English.

For some reason, formal Tagalog just seems much more complicated than when used in real life. Consider the following Blogger warning for age-restricted content:

I know I'm not the best Tagalog speaker around, but that's a tough read. I shudder at the thought of having to read a technical manual written in Tagalog.

Of course, other Filipinos might prefer their websites to be written in Tagalog. I have no quarrel with that. I'm glad the localization benefits them. But what if a lot more Filipinos feel the same way that I do? Wouldn't it be beneficial to have English as the default language setting, if that's the case?

So what say you? Do you prefer Google websites in English or Tagalog? Sound off in the comments section below.

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Monday, September 17, 2012

A Major Major Beauty Queen Answer

A Major Major Beauty Queen Answer

Say what you will about the superficiality of beauty pageants as a whole, but the existence of the Q&A portion as the culminating and deciding event is proof that inner beauty still matters.

Spot's Top 10 Unforgettable Beauty Queen Answers

Miss Universe 2010 runner-up Venus Raj is number one in Spot.ph's Top 10 Unforgettable Beauty Queen Answers, and the ranking is very much deserved.

The phrase "major major" is just catchy enough and, let's face it, is so beauty queen-ish in essence that we can forgive the grammar faux pas.

It's a shame the judges couldn't overlook it because Raj was definitely on track to winning the crown that year. It ultimately underscores that, yes, speaking eloquently in English is a gamechanger when it comes to beauty pageants.

Should Philippine contestants choose to answer in Tagalog and have it translated? It's a highly debatable subject, but the Philippines is known for having good English speakers, so shouldn't we strive to cultivate that image?

Regardless of the language, it behooves the beauty contestants who are serious about winning to place greater emphasis on improving their speech eloquence. They don't have to transform themselves into rocket scientists, but learning how to answer in a calm, composed tone, with the right word emphasis and pauses, can make the difference in winning the ultimate prize. That's a major major thing to think about.

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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Why You Need To Take A Shot of Confidence

Why You Need To Take A Shot of Confidence

"You miss 100% of the shots that you don't take," said hockey legend Wayne Gretzky. The Great One's message is simple: take the shot, and keep on taking it even after you fail.

When applied to our daily lives, this means that we must be active in creating opportunities for ourselves and taking advantage of opportunities that come our way.

Many men have this problem when it comes to approaching women - they see an attractive woman they want to meet but don't even approach her for a friendly conversation. What do these men lack?


Confidence allows you to create opportunities when there are none. Confidence gives you the courage to accept the challenge of opportunities that may seem impossible. Do you have an important job interview to attend? The best outfit you can wear to that interview is confidence.

If you find yourself asking why you lack confidence, ask yourself instead: are you afraid of rejection? are you afraid of failing? are you afraid of being inadequate?

If you answered yes to these questions, then you know that the key to building your confidence is to rid yourself of these fears.

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
 -Marianne Williamson

There is no reason for anyone to shy away from confidence. When you learn to embrace who you are, then you have started walking towards the path of confidence.

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Friday, September 07, 2012

How to Stay Sane When Things Go Crazy at Work

How to Stay Sane When Things Go Crazy at Work

Imagine you are a marketing officer planning an advertising campaign for a coffee product. Your boss gives you a deadline of one week rather than one month to take advantage of the surge in instant coffee sales. Three days in, you find that your total expenses are massively over the budget, your celebrity endorser Piolo Pascual suddenly flies out of the country for a Hollywood audition, and your marketing team are threatening to tear each other's hair out.

How do you fix this situation and complete your award-winning coffee commercial? But more importantly, how do you resist the urge to scream your lungs out and hurl office furniture everywhere?

The answer, of course, is workplace diplomacy. More specifically, you have to find a way to band your team together and work towards the end goal of executing a successful advertising campaign.

Let's take a cue from the interpersonal dynamics between a drill sergeant and his privates-in-training. The drill sergeant will use a variety of motivational tactics during training, the most common being the get-in-your-face-and-scream-really-loud technique. The intended effect is to get the privates to band together against a common enemy, in this case the drill sergeant.

In our imaginary scenario, the work-related pressures are the drill sergeant, and you and your coworkers are the privates. Your task is to get your coworkers to realize that you are all fighting this common enemy, and that you can lean on each other to overcome it. Once that happens, you will not only have completed your goal, but you will also have developed a stronger relationship with your coworkers.

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Thursday, September 06, 2012

Why You Should Work More After a Breakup

Why You Should Work More After a Breakup

How do you heal a broken heart? You could call up a few buddies and drink your sorrows away. However, the conversation will inevitably stray towards you and your ex and how it all went sour. Your sadness will become anguish and you will all consume even more alcohol and wake up the next morning with a massive hangover.

No, the way to heal a broken heart is to occupy yourself with something else. For most people, that something is work. Work is routine, which is exactly what you need to regain a sense of normalcy in your life after a breakup.

Employers often stress the importance of keeping your professional life separate from your personal life. You should have no trouble doing so if you are trying to forget a certain somebody. Your coworkers, however, will have no qualms asking about your breakup. Nothing breaks up the monotony in an office quite like a juicy piece of gossip.

If you wish to maintain a sense of sanctity in your office, then perhaps a little workplace diplomacy might help. Do make friends with coworkers, but keep the relationship professional rather than personal when working. You never know when you might need some piece of mind after a brutal breakup.

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Wednesday, September 05, 2012

3 Effective Ways to Communicate With Your Boss

3 Effective Ways to Communicate With Your Boss

Developing a healthy relationship with your boss is the key to building your career. Your boss and his evaluation play an important role in shaping your career advancement in a company. Your boss and his recommendation will influence your ability to pursue future employment opportunities.

Communicating with your boss is an essential part of workplace diplomacy. If you want to develop a healthy relationship with your boss, you must learn to communicate with him in a respectful and productive manner. Here are three effective ways to do it:

1. Communicate often, but not too often
The best way to develop a romantic relationship is to communicate with your partner often. The same is true with your boss (unless you desire something other than a professional relationship).

Lovers might enjoy a serendipitous "Hey love, how are you?" or "What are you doing, honey?", but your boss will not appreciate an hour-by-hour update on the progress of your project.

When in doubt, imagine yourself in your boss' shoes. Ask yourself, "Will I enjoy hearing about this at this point in time from my subordinate?" If you imagine kicking yourself out the door, that is your cue to keep to yourself.

2. Listen and learn
Most boss-subordinate interactions can be summed up as: boss talks, you listen. Make the most out of these situations by being an active listener rather than a passive listener.

Be an active listener by understanding what your boss is trying to say. What does your boss want? Why is he saying this? What is expected of me? Also take note of speech patterns, tonal inflection, and body language. Are there any words being emphasized? Is he speaking with a sense of urgency?

The next step is to react accordingly. Did you detect a sense of urgency? Respond with, "I'll get right on it, boss." Proceed to completing the task as efficiently and effectively as possible.

3. Be assertive, not aggressive
Establishing your presence in the office will help you become indispensable to your boss. Doing so requires an assertive form of communication rather than an aggressive one to avoid making the wrong impression.

Here is an example of assertive vs. aggressive communication:

ASSERTIVE:  I disagree. I think ...
AGGRESSIVE: I'm right, you're wrong.

Notice how you are able to convey an opinion in a respectful manner by using an assertive tone. On the other hand, the aggresive tone is accusatory, which creates a divide between the opposing sides of the conversation.

In short, to be assertive, you must express your opinions confidently while respecting the opinions of others.

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Tuesday, September 04, 2012

A Fond Farewell to Christian Bale's Bat-voice

A Fond Farewell to Christian Bale's Bat-voice

If you have ever doubted the importance of eloquence in speech, then read on dear reader. Read on.

There is a moment in The Dark Knight when Batman apprehends a group of vigilantes dressed up as Batman. "What's the difference between me and you?" they ask. "I'm not wearing hockey pants," Bat-Bale growls.

Atleast it sounded like that. Or was it hockey pucks? Of course both of those don't make any sense. What he was actually saying was, "I'm not wearing hockey pads." Forgive us for not laughing - the joke was lost in translation.

Christian Bale's approach to Batman is to act as if he were real. Part of his thought process included the idea that Batman would have to disguise his voice to protect his secret identity. The voice should also reflect the idea that Batman is a symbol to strike fear in the heart of criminality. The result is an almost animalistic rumbling that, in fairness, would indeed induce fear if it weren't so incomprehensible to the listener.

Look no further than the Joker interrogation scene in The Dark Knight for proof. It happens again with Bane in The Dark Knight Rises and the result is glorious. Bat-Bale launches into a beyond mythical tirade screaming, "WHERE IS THE DETONATOR BANE, WHERE IS IT?" If there ever was a need to type something in all-caps, this is it.

Alas, the The Dark Knight Rises marks the end of one of cinema's greatest movie trilogies, and with it, Christian Bale's Bat-voice. Whether you love or hate the voice, it will always be remembered.

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Monday, September 03, 2012

Keep It Simple, Silly

Keep It Simple, Silly

Take a look at this fictitious legal document excerpt:

"The claimant is entitled to a reimbursement commensurate to an amount reduced pursuant to Act 781. Any reimbursement from other sources will be subject to proceeding in corroboration between the two parties involved in the claim. All activities are hereby ordered to cease until the reimbursement proceedings have been discharged."

Did you get all that? If you didn't, then the document did its job. The reason why many legal documents is bogged down with polysyllabic words and complex legal jargon is to force the reader into not reading it and skipping to the part where they have to sign. This is also beneficial to attorneys as part of their jobs is to argue semantics, and it is easier to do so when there is ambiguity in the document.

Of course, not everyone works in such an environment. If you are an office worker, chances are you won't benefit from using the same type of language. In fact, it may even prove detrimental for those involved, causing undue confusion.

Hence, it would behoove the populace to deliberate on the verbiage they choose to employ, lest it become a befuddling endeavor leading to the degradation of human communication.

Translation: When in doubt, keep it simple, silly.

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