Uncommon Sense: A Framework for Life

On Ideas
There are a lot of ideas floating around.

There are a lot of compelling ideas, some good, some bad, and for some the verdict is still out. Choosing which ideas to accept and practice can be quite confusing. In this information age, you’d think that having more data should help us make better and “more informed” decisions. Instead, despite still being more informed, we can’t say our decisions are better. I find, at least in my experience, “more informed” many times leads to analysis paralysis or information overload.

From Ideas to Life
Since too little information can lead to ignorance and too much information can lead to confusion, it’s important to know how to navigate through all the different ideas and pieces of information, be able to come to useful conclusions, and make the right decisions. This is how one succeeds in life: To discover one’s own life purpose and make free wise decisions that its accomplishment. It’s not about knowing more, being more efficient, or having more experiences. It’s about committing to a great picture in your head and making that picture a reality. That great picture can be for one’s family, nation, business, industry, or whatever area. Success is turning your vision into a reality. So don’t get caught up in trying to read every new must-read, or doing every new life hack, or experiencing every new must-experience. Much of those are distractions. Instead focus on these three things:

  1. Understand What Is
  2. Practice What You Ought
  3. Create What Will Be
A Framework for Life

These are what lead to success in life.

To Understand What Is means to understand Purpose (what it is and what your’s is), understand Principles (what they are and which govern your purpose), and understand People (who they are, what they do, and why they do what they do).

To Practice What You Ought means to Do That Which is Purposeful, meaning to be deliberate about working towards that which you want to achieve. It also means to Do That Which is Right. And what is right? That which satisfies the Principles that govern your Purpose. Lastly, it also means to Do That Which is Loving, meaning, do things that are honouring to God and improves the lives of others.

Finally, focus on Creating What Will be, which I’ve simplified to Build (construct things into existence), Bear (incubate things into existence), and Bridge (connect things into existence).

I hope you find the following articles useful but I don’t mean this framework to be comprehensive. This is a personal guide that I’m sharing, a guide I’m fleshing out mostly for my son, Elijah. Don’t place your faith in it but use it to inform you in formulating your own framework for living. The responsibility of learning how to live is your own, no one else’s, because the responsibility of the results (or lack of results) is your own.

Now that we’re done with the introduction, let’s go into more detail, starting with Understanding What Is. #DB


In This Moment

I have 3 birthday posts for you, two of them only partially finished. The first one, this one, is about identity, about what I’ve found to be helpful way to answer, for myself, “Who am I?”

The second one is about honoring your father and mother with your actions and attitudes, which I believe is extremely important for personal and community thriving, but, sadly, not practiced seriously in modern culture.

The third is about breaking things and disappointing people, and about the price of being not just successful, but originally successful and distinct.

I’ll flesh them out when I have the time as work has been very busy, a mixed bag of exciting and frustrating. It’s all part of the entreprenuerial life. The beauty of this is that I don’t write as an observer but as a practitioner. I have a lot of skin in the game. When I talk about juggling the responsibilities of family, work, community, health, and our other requirements, I share from my experiences of running a growing startup, managing multiple companies and multiple investments, while also raising a startup family, and also diligently improving myself. This, I believe, gives me a level of credibility that a mere opinion from someone who is just interpreting quotes or giving comments on things they’ve never practiced does not have.

I did finish one of the three posts, this one, so here it is.

In This Moment

Who am I?

This is a question we take for granted until something shakes our identity, or to put it more accurately, until something shakes that which we have built our identity on. What we have built our identity on becomes obvious by what causes us to lose our peace. In my case, I have observed that business threats and business failures cause me to lose peace because I’ve placed a lot of my identity in my role as a businessman. If I’m not a successful businessman, then what am I? A failed businessman? An inconsequential businessman? These are questions my mind wrestles with, particularly, as I said, when business is shaken. Interestingly enough, I don’t care if, let’s say, the fashion world was shaken. I don’t suddenly ask myself, “Am I bad designer?” or “Don’t people like my work?”. Why? because I have no stake in that world. I have no identity connected to that. I could be wearing a black t-shirt everywhere (like I currently do) and even be given an award for worst dressed CEO and it still wouldn’t shake me at all. Who I am is not affected by fashion. (I’m only using fashion because it’s one of those things I’m not too particularl about. It could be anything, like the world of stamps, or horse racing. Because I’m not a part of that world, because I have no identity connected to it, shaking it doesn’t affect me. But with the things that affect me identity, if you shake them, they will shake me.)

I started asking myself this question more deeply, and some first thoughts included:
1. I am my roles: I am a husband, a father, a manager, a friend, a son, etc…
2. I am my affiliations: I am a part of Bridge, a member of the Bonifacio family, a volunteer at Habitat for Humanity, etc…
3. I am my capabilitees: I am a voracious reader, I am an extremely hard working guy, I am someone who can run a marathon, etc…

I kept finding more and more categories that affect my self-image, until I ran into one that depressed me:

…I am my regrets. I am someone who has done things he wishes he never did, who wishes he could erase any memory of certain actions, or even better, turn back time and done things differently.

A flood of regrets crushed my mind, as I remembered event after event. “I shoudn’t have done this”, “I should have done that instead”, and “I wish I could fix that” kept coming up as I recalled painfull, embarassing, and sad moments.

This avalanche of negative memories triggered more devious self-imagery.

“I am a fool.”

“I am evil.”

“I am fake.”

“I am…”

I had to stop myself. It wasn’t helping. I sat there confused. Who am I? Yes, I can honestly say I am the worst parts of me. There’s too much evidence of that to deny it. I have been foolish. I have been evil. I have been fake. I have been a whole lot of horrible things. But I’ve also been good. I’ve also been virtuous. Am I fake for being a mixed bag? Do the bad parts of who I am cancel out the good parts? Who am I?

Then it hit me: Who I am, who I really am, is who I am in this moment.

Let me give you an example. Let’s say my wife and I get into an argument due to my impatience (which is 99% the cause of our fights), in that moment of impatience, I am not “wise David” or “insightful David”. I am not a “good husband” nor a “good leader”. Who I am, in that moment, is “impatient David”, “harsh David”, “angry David”. I am, in that moment, an ugly version of me. But in that moment, at any moment, I have a choice to be a better version of me, to decide instead to be a virtuous David, someone patient instead of impatient, someone gentle instead of harsh, and someone peaceful instead of angry. And if I choose then to be patient instead of impatient? Then I become “patient David”. If I choose to become gentle? Then I am “gentle David”. And if I choose to be peaceful? Then I am at peace. I am no longer an ugly version of myself, despite the reality that my wife might still be mad at me, desite that there still may be tension, and despite the case that I may be sleeping on the couch. I am a better version of me, despite the consequences brought about by the ugly version of me. And if I bear those consequences with virtue, meaning, with courage, with peace, with honesty, with kindness, with patience, with gentleness, and all sorts of goodness, then I am, in that moment, defined by those virtues, not by the consequences I may be facing.

Who I am, who I really am, is who I am in this moment.

So let’s say I failed big time, and it causes me my job. Yes, I am a fired, jobless, maybe embarassed David. But if choose to look for what I can learn and do better, then who I really am is teachable David, and if I choose to thank God for the experience, then I am grateful David too. I am not defined by my work failure, but by my moment by moment response.

Let’s say I have no money, and have to pay off debt. I don’t have to be “poor David”. I can, from this moment on, be “money-wise David” by deciding differently on future financial decisions. I may have been “money-dumb David”, but by choosing better right now, and committing myself to choosing better in future “right nows”, I am someone new, someone better.

But this is a double-edged sword. Just as I don’t need to be trapped by past mistakes, I shouldn’t rely too much on past achievements. I may have been extremely generous in times past, but if I decide to be selfish in this moment, then, in this moment, I am not a compilation of generosity, but a selfish man. Just as it is protection from bitterness and being swallowed by regret, it is also a guard against pride and thinking too highly of one’s self. I may have succeeded in things past, but in this moment, am I succeeding in being the person I have to be?

The past mistakes are beyond my reach. They exist in a moment I can no longer recover. The past achievements though beneficial do not matter as much as today. And the future? Who knows what the future will bring? Why hinge my identity on what may or may not happen? But in this moment, the only moment I am ever actually in, there are only two choices: Will I or will I not be the person the moment requires me to be.

I can hear my baby crying. Time to be that man.

Professional Growth Requires Personal Growth

While we like to think that life can be lived in neatly separate compartments, the reality is that all the different parts of us flow into all the other parts. It is our responsibility to make the different areas of our lives thrive, by developing each as best as we can, and fixing the connections between them.

I’m writing this for young professionals (and maybe even some older ones). I’m writing this because I keep observing a disconnect between what people want and what they’re willing to do to achieve them. I see this in many areas, and the common mistake is wanting something without accepting the responsibility that leads to what we want.

“I want to be healthy. But I don’t want to give up sugar.”

“I want to be successful. But I only want to work 9-5.”

“I want to get married. But I don’t want to risk getting heartbroken.”

“I wish for world peace. But I need to love myself first.”

“I want a better government. But I won’t vote.”

I can go on and on and on about the number of times I’ve spoken to people about their resolutions, faith goals, OKRs, and ideals, only to listen to them conclude with excuses. This reminds me that, for all our so-called advancement and enlightenment, we are not as rational as we think. What kind of truly rational person would believe, “I want something but I don’t want to fulfill the requirements of achieving that something.” That is as irrational as believing in unicorns. Isn’t it more rational to accept, “If I want something, I must do what is necessary to attain it”? It is.

What do you call accepting of personal responsibility for one’s own results? In a word, maturity. Maturity IS personal growth. It isn’t reaching a level of perfection or of taking less risks, or having less failures, or even of committing less mistakes, but finally accepting that I am who I am, I am where I am, I have what I have, because of my decisions, and if that I am to advance from here, I need to grow – personally. I can’t hide behind my team, my family, my nationality, my excuses, nor my bright ideas. I, David Bonifacio, need to accept responsibility and do whatever it takes to fulfill what’s required.

This is why I ignore 99% of the business advice out there and focus on the information that will help me satisfy the requirements of my responsibilities. It doesn’t matter how cute or good sounding it seems, if it doesn’t help me be more responsible it is virtually worthless to me. Professional growth does not come from buying new gadgets, downloading new productivity apps, applying some life hack, nor getting a promotion. Professional growth starts and continuous through the acceptance of more and more responsibility. I love this approach because it puts my promotion in my hands, not someone else’s. I don’t need anyone to promote me. By increasing my sphere of responsibility, by being more and more personally accountable, I am promoting myself.

The bottomlife is this: Professional Growth Requires Personal Growth. Unless we deal with the personal weaknesses in our lives, we will never be truly professionally strong. Unless we deal with our personal bad habits, we will never be professionally sustainable. Unless we deal with our personal demons, we can expect those very demons to haunt our careers. I know this from experience. This is why I believe in a daily moment of prayer to spend time with God, because I know I have my own share of demons that I don’t want hurting what I’m building. Instead, I don’t want to react. I don’t want to be easily-triggered, easily-worried, easily threatened, and easily-angered. I want to understand, so I need to clarify. I want to be wise, so I need to be teachable. I want to achieve, so I need to be diligent. And the gap between who I want to be, what I want to achieve, and who I am now is vast! But I accept that reality, and embrace the responsibility to develop myself continuously.

And after all of that, what happens if I fail?

Then I failed. As simple as that.

But by being responsible, I improve my chances of success, though never really eliminating risk. Risk is part of life. Get used to it. At least, I wasn’t a coward, nor irresponsibile, lying to myself that the ills of the world were not of my doing, when my own lack of contribution made them possible. The goal of life is not to die unscathed. The goal of life is to love God and others with the outflow of the best possible version of you. #DB