I Forgot I Was On Vocation!


The past few months have been some of the most rewarding for me as an entrepreneur. At the start of 2013, we made a crucial decision to split STORM Consulting, my startup baby, into two, distinct, laser-focused firms: STORM Rewards was going to focus on flexible benefits. I was going to lead the efforts as its CEO. STRATA was going to focus on HR competency frameworks. The big difference here was that I really wanted to source an independent management team to lead Strata – I didn’t want to be involved in the day-to-day operations.

In hindsight, it proved to be a very pivotal decision. (yep, focus is everything)

Armed with a new business model which allowed it to offer Flexible Benefits for FREE to large firms, STORM more than doubled its client base and became the country’s flexible benefits leader in 12 short months. A learning junkie, I got to learn how to do two things: a) running an e-commerce firm (something STORM pivoted into with our new model), and b) truly scaling a firm. I am 3/4 into hiring a complete management team using internal revenue. Last week, I was in Cebu setting up operations to expand there. We’re also in the midst of a major fundraiser to fuel our efforts to expand into the region. There isn’t a shortage of interested parties. We will be in another country in a few months. That’s a statement I never thought I’d utter this soon.

Struggling out of the gate in 2013, Strata started 2014 with a risky decision. We decided to let 26-year old Dino Alcoseba, who started in STORM immediately after his graduation, to run EVERYTHING. It was risky because the usual service providers to the HR market are typically led by people decades older than Dino. With STRATA more consulting-heavy than STORM, and with management consultants usually being a lot more seasoned, the risk was real. However, with Dino’s proven record with us of being ultra-dependable, a leader, extremely coachable, entrepreneurial, and someone with a high degree of integrity, I heavily endorsed his appointment.

Dino started the year off landing no less than three 7-figure projects and one 8-figure project for STRATA (with significant help from COO Orvin Hilomen and HR wonder-boy Mico Subosa). In one quarter. He also has raised his game, showing a strategic side of him I’ve never seen, and most importantly, showing a genuine care and interest in the members of the team he was building.

As an entrepreneur, I should be on cloud-nine. But there was something missing.

Don’t get me wrong, I am extremely happy and feel extremely blessed for all of this. Some part of me WANTS me to be satisfied with this.

However, I felt like Tom Cruise near the end of Jerry Maguire when triumphant Cuba Gooding was surrounded by reporters. I was supposed to feel awesome. It WAS awesome. Still, I felt terribly incomplete.

Screen Shot 2014-07-13 at 11.07.35 PM
It was shocking not to remember after years of mindlessly logging in

“When are you posting again?”

I had been avoiding any talk of Juan Great Leap for months now. It took me 5 tries to remember the right username-password combination to access this WordPress account. I would brush off queries as to when the next blogpost would be, or when the next Open Coffee would be. I would indefinitely postpone requests for a coffee-chat or a Skype session with dozens of people. I would ignore internal moments of inspiration for a new blogpost. I’d ignore all of these, rationalizing it with thoughts like:

“I had done my part”

“It’s now time to concentrate on my own firms.”

“I’ll do it next month.”

“I’m busy with more important things.”

“Why do I need to spend several hours writing a post when it doesn’t make me a centavo?”

But that gnawing feeling would come to haunt me every so often, accentuated by the occasional “when’s JGL coming back?” comment.

That made me think.

What is my purpose for JGL anyway?

Is it a medium to share my thoughts? To network? To better my brand? To help? A medium for a frustrated writer?

I then got around reading this and this, which, reading now, I almost feel comes from a different person.

Juan Great Leap was is the central medium for my vocation.

The reason I felt incomplete as an entrepreneur was precisely because my vocation wasn’t to be just an entrepreneur. It was to help others find their own vocations in this brave, new, fascinating world, where one has a lot more choices than to be a corporate cog.

I felt incomplete because I wasn’t following His plan. The Strata experience exacerbated this incompleteness even more, because seeing Dino finding himself and develop into his own brought such an intense feeling of satisfaction in me.

I think this incompleteness comes to us in many different forms, called by many different names:

“quarter-life crisis”

“mid-life crisis”

“existential angst”

“something is missing”

“why the heck am I not happy?!”

“I feel detached”

I believe God has a plan for all of us. It is a beautiful plan – one where all our talent and faculties are used to the fullest. Where we feel whole.

God tries to give us clues as to what it is. We see glimpses of it in our innermost desires, in our unique gifts and talents. We feel a bit of it when we find ourselves in situations where we can clearly help others with our gifts, where we cease noticing time and find ourselves in the “zone.” It is when we feel not merely happiness, but true, inexplicable joy.

It is when we are doing what God BUILT us to do. So naturally, there is a FELT alignment when we are on the right path, and a FELT misalignment when we are off the path.

Steven Pressfield and Seth Godin call this doing your “art” (as opposed to doing a job). I call it pursuing your vocation.

And I almost let it get away.


Do allow me to start over.

There’s so much I’ve learned in the last 6 months which I absolutely need to share with you. New insights. New paradigms. New strategies.

But let’s start small and simple. Starting small and simple has worked tremendously for me.

First, you can now expect regular updates from hereon. Let me ease into this again.

Second, I want to organize a quick, intimate get-together – largely because I want to meet some people who have recently reached out to me wanting to do a coffee-chat. There are around 5 of them. I’m opening 5 more slots. I just want to meet 10 people in an intimate setting. Criteria: you need to be someone who has a clear startup idea and needs a bit of advice or you need to be a current startup entrepreneur with less than 1 year experience who needs a bit of advice. It also needs to be okay with you to share your idea with the rest of the people invited.

Email me your idea and your background. If things check out, you have the slot. First 5 people to email (and fits the criteria) gets in. Coffee will be on me. I’m thinking of scheduling it next Thursday night, July 24. We can meet at the STORM offices along Julia Vargas.

Let’s do this.

Sales Tips: How to Overcome Your Fear of Rejection

I’m not a salesman, but I’ve sold many things.

At the age of 11, I sold cellphones at my uncle’s telecom store in Makati. When I worked for GK CSI, I sold everything from kamoteng kahoy, talong, and chicharon (no relation to Lapid’s 🙂 ).

Me purchasing kamoteng kahoy from Ate Maricel at GK Enchanted Farm
Me purchasing kamoteng kahoy from Ate Maricel at GK Enchanted Farm

For my first full-time job in the States, I sold consumer banking products. I was exposed to the world of cold calls and sales scripts. My personality wasn’t cut out for a “sales” job. Back then, pitching  for me was like pulling teeth.

However, a job in sales taught me many things. It taught me how to use assumptive language, and never to make assumptions about a person based on his/her appearance.

I also learned how to pitch the sale to ALL customers who met the basic criteria. In my banking stint, one of the most successful salesmen in the region was selling credit cards. He never failed to ask every customer that he encountered about applying for a credit card. He wasn’t scared to ask, and most importantly, he wasn’t scared to hear:


That fear of hearing no, the fear of rejection, is what cripples people. It’s that fear of rejection that bogged me down. That fear which made me tiptoe instead of pushing me to run. I cared so much about preserving my image that it hindered me from reaching my full potential as a salesman. Sure, there were days when I overcame this fear, but it wasn’t consistent. I lacked a strong sense of purpose in my work and it made it even harder for me to overcome my fear.

I’ve since learned that communicating with a sense of purpose in my work and life is a powerful tool. It enables  me to overcome my fears and move forward without dwelling on my past failures.

sales_trading_to_investment_bankingMy mission nowadays is clear – to contribute to national building in the Philippines by starting up a Philippine enterprise  to help myself while helping others. My sense of purpose gives me peace, and it can drive me to achieve highly improbable things, if I let it. While I still carry that fear and anxiety at times, my greater mission trumps the fear.

What are my sales tips, after all of these sales experiences and life realizations?

  • Embrace the power and significance of sales in your business. Without generating any sales, you’re not a business. As a result, it is very urgent that you sell.
  • Don’t feel guilty about selling. Selling is not a dirty thing. It’s a part of business. Remember, you are sharing value with your customer when you offer your product/service through a sale.
  • If you are confident in your mission, then continue to take that leap of faith everyday. In the end, we’re all flawed humans. If you compromise your mission and work because you’re trying to get everyone’s approval, it won’t happen.
  • If you possess a higher purpose that provokes you to think outside of yourself, then allow it to take over. You will speak with more confidence and move with conviction. The right people will gravitate towards that spirit that you exude.
  • Do not give in to the need to conform to the status quo. As an entrepreneur, you are a leader. As an innovator, you must distort the norm.