So I’ve been part of a street team for a year and these are what I’ve learned…

Being part of the L’Arc~en~Ciel Philippine Street Team is a huge achievement for me. We may still be eons away from having our ultimate goal of having the band perform in the Philippines, but the rewards I’ve gotten in the first year alone are very much invaluable. To say that it is life-changing is an understatement. It gave me direction and ingrained in me lessons on leadership in a way much more profound than that provided in being in a classroom or office setting.

These are just some of those gems:

BRAND BUILDING – As a market research professional specializing in brand health, it is my duty to provide insights to companies on how they can develop their brands. Being a key part of the street team enabled me to put those insights into practice myself.

Now a golden rule in brand building is to know your market and in our case, our “market” is 3-pronged: the existing L’Arc~en~Ciel fanbase, the non-fans or those who are not even aware of the brand and to some extent, the former fans. We have to know what makes them tick. Needless to say, our big challenge is to appeal to the non-fans while still catering to the needs of those who are hungry for all things L’Arc~en~Ciel.

The strategy then is to build awareness. We need to provide timely information via the right channels.  This is where social media plays a crucial role. Concurrently, we also need to live up to being a street team per se. In other words, we have to go out into the streets. Well, maybe not literally. Participating in conventions and similar events allows us to cast a wider net and to put a personal touch to our cause.

Awareness is only a starting point. People would be more likely to be engaged if the offer is relevant to them. This is why we created the #LArcMNL campaign. #LArcMNL is the very foundation from which we build all our efforts. Communication materials, activities and events are fashioned to appeal to Filipinos. The juxtaposition of L’Arc with the country’s capital is a constant reminder that this campaign is for us local fans. It also differentiated our offerings from other L’Arc~en~Ciel related sites online.

And then there is also the matter of brand identity. Perhaps it may be just nitpicking on my part but I pushed for a conscious effort in the team to observe consistency in the our usage of the team’s logo, even down to the color and placement. This extends too to all branding elements of not just of the team’s but also of L’Arc~en~Ciel’s.

SOCIAL MEDIA SAVVINESS – The medium is the message. This maxim holds true even in the realm of organized fangirling.

There was a time when I’ve sworn off Facebook and got turned off by tumblr but eventually I’ve learned (or in the case of tumblr, still learning) to immerse myself into the forms and functions of each medium and the respective cultures that inhabit them. The team has also explored other sites online taking into consideration how they will enrich the campaign in terms of reach and response.

Speaking of reach, no matter how much literature on it I’ve read, I still cannot fathom much of Facebook’s so-called Insights. Furthermore, understanding Edgerank is a pain. Nevertheless, using it to our advantage and learning how to create an app are on my bucketlist.

CONTENT CURATION – Currently, we maintain a Facebook page, a Twitter account, a Facebook group, a website/blog and a tumblr account. In all seriousness, managing all of those is an acrobatic feat in itself. But each medium has its own strengths and learning how to harness them separately and in synergy is an arduous but important process.

Many factors come into play: access, accuracy, relevance, timeliness and even the availability of the person who can make the post. There are slow news days and then there’s a deluge of updates. We are required to sift through all of those while of course, still keeping in mind the needs of our “market”. It’s also about maintaining a balance between quality and quantity. In other words, understanding the difference between being up to date and spamming.

We actually had a meeting once wherein a question was posed on whether our content is fangirl-friendly enough. Should we post more eye candy? Inject more titillating pictures? Then again we run the risk of alienating people who are not into that. I am actually one of those. I mean I do appreciate seeing a sexy picture of hyde now and then but barrage my newsfeed with it and I would promptly unclick Like.

Perhaps it can be said that I take this task of managing our content too seriously but I sincerely believe that it will advance our cause. People’s attention span is dwindling. Delivering critical content at the right time and via the right medium is essential. Besides, it’s fun. I get to wear different hats: journalist, historian, researcher, advertising specialist…the list go on.

NETWORKING – I am an introvert by nature which is why this is where I am making the most adjustments. It’s inevitable. When one deals with information, having the right connections is a big plus. Even more so, nurturing the local fanbase actually demands that we reach out to as many people that we can. Getting out of one’s shell is part of the bargain.

File this under major work in progress.

TIME MANAGEMENT – Oh man. While street team work could be fun because you’re doing what you love for the one you love, it can also be excruciating sometimes, especially when trying to fit it into the rigors of everyday life. And as any fangirl would know, it gets even more difficult when other people cannot seem to understand why we are investing so much time on this.

As much as possible, street team work should not interfere with responsibilities to our family, to our day jobs and to our other social obligations.  Nevertheless, we do have to uphold our commitment to deliver on time.

The beauty of working as a team is that we get each other’s backs. Everyone is accountable for something but in case someone is in a pinch, another person could help out or takeover. One just needs to be gracious enough to give enough leeway or an early heads-up, particularly when the task would affect the progress of other people.

PEOPLE MANAGEMENT – John Maxwell said something about leadership ability being truly tested when one gets to work with volunteers and I couldn’t agree more. People’s level of commitment extremely varies and  you have to be careful not to be too demanding lest you end up with overburdening them. The reality is that when there’s no other incentive apart from passion, it’s easy for people to leave once that passion is extinguished. Volunteers may opt to leave at any time they want. The street team has only been in existence for a year but we’ve seen our share of quitters. And sadly, we can’t hold them accountable.

As a volunteer myself, I know how it can be difficult sometimes to squeeze in resources for street team related tasks. Therefore, I couldn’t fault other members of the team for missing out on a deadline or two. But be too lax and the entire team’s performance might suffer. Really, it’s akin to dancing atop the thin line separating being empowering and being indulgent. Boosting the team’s morale and giving each member positive reinforcement must be on a high. At the same time, one has to be ready to cast a firm hand in order to get things on track again. But at the end of the day, it all just boils down to trust.

The L’Arc~en~Ciel Philippine Street Team is my baby and it kinda pains me that I can no longer oversee its growth as closely as before since I moved to another country. But I left with my mind at ease because I opted to give full confidence to the people I have entrusted it to. We are a team, a solid one at that, and as long as everyone believes that, we are inching and inching closer to reaching our goals.

And then finally, TEAMWORK – Or to put it more succinctly, valuing teamwork. I’ve always been independent and prefers, as much as possible, doing things myself.  But the street team has taught me more than ever that it’s ok to rely on others. A rainbow is majestic because it is made up of different colors arching as one. We shouldn’t be much different from that.

It’s not a L’Arc~en~Ciel song but somehow I feel the song MISSION totally encapsulates my thoughts about teamwork right now. There shouldn’t be any walls. We should embrace the journey ahead as one and of course, with music to guide us.

Ok, special shout out now to all L’Arc~en~Ciel fans based in Manila. Please join the street team in celebrating its first anniversary with L’Arcoustic Jamming Session and Pool Party! Click here for more information.

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2013 Challenge: How I want to be remembered

2013

Honestly, I just want to be remembered. That’s all.

I have this fear that someday no one would even remember me. As if my existence would be a dust-encrusted furniture elbowed out of the attic that is every one’s memories. But if ever a handful, or even at least one, would remember me, let it be for being able to look at anxiety’s face then punching it. Really, really hard. I want to be remembered as that someone who was able to rise above self-doubt and was rewarded with a life lived on her own terms.

In a previous challenge where a prompt was to write our own obituary, this is what I have accomplished:

Nerissa capped a long fruitful life lived on her own terms by dying peacefully in her sleep last night. She was 89.

As an accomplished researcher, she traveled the world to further advance the field and to share her expertise with others in the profession. She pioneered the development of tools that empowered stakeholders to better understand their market. Together with friends, she has established one of the most respected consulting firms in Asia.

She has also pursued her passion for writing to great acclaim. Two of her essays won the prestigious Palanca Awards. Her first full-length novel was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction before finally winning it for the final book in her critically acclaimed saga. And in 2027, she became the first non-American to win the Newberry Medal for her first foray into children’s literature.

Nerissa is survived by her two daughters, one son and her pet panda.

I wrote that 5 months ago. I’ve had a better understanding of living life on one’s own terms since then. I view it now as more of the pursuit of one’s passion irregardless of the conclusion. It’s not about achievement as dictated by others, rather it’s about having the courage to actually go for it. Living life on one’s own terms is about making a choice and standing by that choice.

Perhaps someday, someone would pass by my tombstone and say, “Oh her. I remember her. She lived her life like she was meant for great things. She was so passionate about it that she made me believe that she was. She made me believe that maybe I was meant for great things too.”  Wherever I may be at that time, for sure I would be smiling.

2013 Challenge: What people love about me

2013

I have been told that I am wickedly funny and surprisingly caring. But most of the time, these compliments were followed by the admission that their initial impression of me does not even suggest, even in the barest sense, that I could be either of those. Snob, stuck up, intimidating, SCARY, bitch…these are just some of the words that have been used to describe me. Sometimes I mind being labeled as such immediately. But more often that not, I embrace it. I can be intimidating. I can be scary. Yes, I can be a bitch. And believe it or not, there are people who do appreciate me for being exactly those.

I even have one friend who, to my utter amazement and perplexity, declared that my personality belongs to the top 5 that he admires. I couldn’t believe it because in the first place, I find it strange that he has a list like that (Sorry Fred 🙂 ). In addition, I have sensed that I am not exactly the most approachable and easiest to get along type of person. I am a bully. There’s really no point denying it given the word might as well been tattooed to my forehead since grade school. But friends and colleagues had been frank in stating that it’s one of those things that endeared me to them. Office mates who transfer to other companies message me to say they will miss being “bullied” by me. (Whatever happened to being lovable and generous?!). I guess I add spice to their lives.

To be honest, I find the whole thing amusing.  And yes, very touching. The fact that they find my erm, playfulness endearing means they really did take the time to get to know me. The not so good impression did not deter them from reaching out and for that I am truly thankful.

(note: My being a “bully” is not the “I shove you to the wall then give me your lunch money” variant, ok? I just like to tease people a lot and play HARMLESS pranks.)

Twenty Nine

I now begin the last chapter of an adventure called “being twenty-something”.

As expressed by some birthday greetings I’ve received, I am truly getting old. I cannot hide under the cloak of youthful impulsiveness anymore. It’s high time I clean up my act and wholeheartedly embrace being an adult. But first, was I the twenty-something I expected to be when I was much, much younger? Hell, no.

Nevertheless, I’m still glad. It may have been due to a different scenario but I’m proud to say that I am made of sterner stuff now. I made it this far with my wits still intact. Well, sort of. But I am here and that is all that matters.

I also realized I have been shackled so long by my own undoing. As I get closer to another turning point in my life, I resolve to be no longer held back by the weight of the past. Enlightened dawned at me when yesterday, I gave myself a good cry. As in I literally bawled my eyes out. It was….. liberating. Every teardrop washed away some of the pain and the anger I have been cradling inside. I felt drained afterwards but also, strangely enough, empowered. I then rubbed away the streaks on my face, stood up and did something I should done before: move on.

In a few weeks, I shall be transferring to a new country. I’ve never been there before and I don’t know anyone. All I would be bringing is a big suitcase, my trusty backpack and the determination to get a new lease on life. It is a huge change but perhaps is exactly what I need right now.

A clean slate. That is my gift to myself this year. And I am determined to fill it up with happy and loving memories of friendship and of family, memories I wouldn’t mind carrying off to my next adventure. I would also stock it with achievements and milestones, with dreams fulfilled and items crossed off the bucket list.

This is my last year as a twenty-something. This is my BEST year as a twenty-something.

2013 Challenge: Things that make me happy

Pictures of pandas and plateful of bacon

Rich dark choc’late, a rainbow and some coffee

Brown paper packages straight from Japan

There are just a few of my happiness cues

Ketchup fries in bright red canisters

Bishonen and the girls that adore them

A new album, a live and some posters

These are just a few of my happiness cues

Silly banter full of innuendos

Conversations with friends that goes on and on

A smile from my niece and a pile of prawns

These are just a few of my happiness cues

When my days sucks

When the job stinks

When I’m feeling sad

I simply indulge in my happiness cues

And then I don’t feel so bad

2013 Challenge: My negative aspect that I want to change

I write this not only to fulfill the challenge but also as a reminder for myself. I know for a fact that even though I say I have learned my lesson already, sooner or later I would regress. Should that moment comes, I will go back to this post to remind myself that I am stronger, that no matter how hopeless the situation may be, there is ALWAYS a way out and it is up to me whether to take it or not.

So what is this negative aspect that I want to change” Not even sure if it would qualify as an “aspect” but if there is one thing that I really want to get out of my system or at least improve on is how I deal with stress. Alright, make that super stress. The small fry I can handle, as for the major ones…well, let’s just say I revel in them. And there’s the rub exactly.

First off, some context. I had been in a very stressful job for 5 years. And when I say stressful I mean endless overtimes, working on weekends and dealing with all kinds of shit all the time. I experienced working for 40+ hours with hardly any sleep and staying in the office for 4 days straight more than once. When beloved peace icon Cory Aquino took her last breath in the wee hours of the morning, I was in the office finishing a report. During her funeral procession that gathered thousands in the street for hours, I was also in the street, although mostly trying desperately to get home because I have a presentation the next day and it had been days since I last took a proper shower. I arrived home shortly before midnight. By 3AM, I was back at my desk in the office with my nose buried yet again at my tasks. This went on and on. Whenever people asked me to take a break, I told them I’m fine and really meant it. Sure, there are times when I complain but in overall, I was having a ball. There’s nothing like the thrill of accomplishment and the adrenalin brought about by crossing out yet another item in an infinite to-do list.

But then as years passed, my enthusiasm began to wane. Suddenly it was hard for me to say that I’m fine. I did not know if it’s just physical exhaustion finally catching up with me but I began questioning why I was subjecting myself to all of these hardships. Sometimes I would find myself just staring at my beloved computer and wishing I was somewhere else. I pined for the time when I still had a life outside of my cubicle. And so I found myself trapped in a deep dark hole. Waking up was extra hard and coming to the office was starting to lose its charm. I tried to shake it off by pushing myself even harder. But the harder I pushed, the tighter the darkness embraced me. I became a wreck. I drove people away. I got caught in one of the most tragic things that could ever happen to anyone: loathing what was once beloved.

That experience brings me now to this list – an enumeration of life’s lessons that I have learned the hard way. May you find comfort in it too.

HOW TO DEAL WITH STRESS WITH YOUR HEAD STILL INTACT:

1. Love what you do but don’t get into a relationship with it. 

My tragedy was that I became too enamored with work to the point that it superseded every other aspect of my life. Working had literally become my life. All the rest had to be patterned against it. And considering all the bullshit I had to go through, I knew no other way of living but dealing with stress every single minute of the day. In time, I became comfortable it. That began my downfall. Pushing myself harder and harder became an addiction.

There were times when I could have gotten out of the office earlier, moments when I could have set out this task for another day but I chose not to. I wasn’t in a hurry to get home because I was already home. My cubicle became my sanctuary. In it I was invincible.

But my strong facade eventually crumbled. I thought of all the times I took a rain check instead of meeting with friends, of those moments with family in which I was only physically present because in my mind I was worrying about my deadline. I thought burying myself into even more work would shake off the negative feeling. But work was a demanding bitch who gave so little in return. I got lonelier. My keyboard never felt so cold.

So now, I pledge to continue giving my best in what I do but leaving room for me to pursue other interests. I will love my work still but I will love myself even more.

2.  Acknowledge that you have an issue. Just don’t dwell on it.

I was physically, emotionally and mentally exhausted but still sane enough to notice the signs. I was close to burning out. What aggravated the situation further was that I chose dug myself deeper into the dark hole.

Whenever a very stressful situation came up, I became even more negative. Indeed, why bother to search for the silver lining when the dark cloud was just looming in front of me?

There were times when I would be edgy and a war freak. Other times, I would be such a Debbie Downer. Whenever I was on this mode, I often found myself wanting to do something self-destructive. As if being a stress-a-holic wasn’t self-destructive enough. Either way, it was unhealthy and of no help at all. I turned people away and I ended up feeling more alone.

I’ve since learned that in times of negativity, the more I should crawl myself towards things that could make me happy or would make a positive difference not only to me but to others as well.   This leads me now to the next lesson..

3. Stop complaining. It’s self-indulgent and not to mention annoying.

In retrospect, I’ve come to a better understanding of the fine line between trying to come to terms with what one is going through and launching your very own pity party.

I realized that I could have saved myself a lot of time and frustration if only I skipped all the pseudo-rationalizing I did back then. Instead of finding ways to get myself out of the rut, I opted to hating myself and worrying about a ton of things that were not really crucial.

And then there were the negative posts on social media. I’d tweet about how messed up my life had become and how I’m barely hanging by a thread to my sanity. And when someone would inquire how I am faring and if I need a shoulder to lean on, I would just shoo them all away because fuck you world, I was an emotional wreck so I have all the right to be moody and unpredictable. Sometimes, I would just let it all out, even when the other person did not even ask for it. I literally shudder every time I remember how I poured all my frustrations to anyone who would listen back then.

But by being a gloomy ball of negativity, not only was I dragging myself further down, I was also lassoing all those around me into despair. I had no right to do that to them. Also, if only I channeled all that energy into getting the job done, I could have gotten myself more time for sleeping and other more enjoyable activities. Delving into the hole analogy further, contemplating on how dark the hole was won’t really get me out of it. I could curse at the darkness all I want but until I get the courage to light a candle, I won’t be going anywhere.

4. Just because you are not close to passing out doesn’t mean you are not giving your best. 

I know that I am good at what I do. There was even a time when I was considered the very best. I just need to accept that I don’t have to kill myself in order to live up to expectations, even if they are my own. I am much better than that.

I’ve also learned to listen to my body more. There will always be a time when I need to go the extra mile but not to the extent that my health would suffer. I’ve known how it was to work despite being sick. So now whenever I have a junior that is not feeling well, I tell them to rest. And if they refuse, I flat out say to them that I have better use of them when they’re healthy.

And sleep is not just for the weak. It is also for those wise enough to know that resting would give them more time to do so much more while being in optimum condition.

5. Lastly, the best way to conquer stress is by helping others beat theirs

Or just by helping out others. Period.

I’ve done this a number of times and I always get the same results. Not only do I get the pleasure of being actually able to do good, I am also empowered to consider myself within the grand scheme of things. Even by just listening to the concerns of others, I’ve come to understand how petty my issues actually are. It’s also a good reminder that it’s not just all about me.

So those are my lessons learned. I would have closed this more dramatically but my body is telling me now that I should get to sleep. Therefore I end with this…

GOOD NIGHT!

2013 Challenge: Things I want to do this year

This new year, there is nothing I would want more than to accomplish these 2 goals: 1) be more financially responsible and 2) get into healthy living. I figured that if I’m able to successfully achieve those, then everything else would follow. Like enjoying more perks in life, for example.

My first goal concerns financial stability because all these years I’ve focused on the now. Since I am getting much older, it’s just about time that I concern myself with the future. Actually, come to think of it, I am already late. Nevertheless, I’m more determined now more than ever to save up. I commit also to be more wiser in my spending. It’s something that I’ve been trying to implement since last year. There was a time when I would immediately pounce on say, a limited edition first press CD, but I’ve come to learn how to temper the urge. What I do is give myself a time frame. If the item is still available by the appointed time, then I would consider buying it. But only after I’ve asked myself a dozen times if indeed I can’t live with that certain item not in my grasp. Another thing, I’ll be more wary as well of those seemingly innocent small amount spending that takes out a huge chunk in my wallet when accumulated. For example, giving in to emotional eating by buying a stick of Magnum ice cream. At just 50 bucks, it’s hardly a luxury but if I do that everyday, or even every other day, the liability is catastrophic.

That last situation is also somewhat connected to my 2nd goal: to get into healthy living. I seriously need to be more mindful of what I eat and get into exercising pronto. When I said good-bye to my gallbladder last year, the doctors warned me that I am now more prone to disorders, specifically those in relation to my liver and kidneys. This is why for months, I’ve expelled caffeine, junk food, pork and even dairy products on my diet. But eventually, I just had to give in. This time, I don’t want to eradicate all the good stuff but more of taking them in moderation. Even better, offsetting or rather, balancing it out with proper exercise. Ah exercise. What an alien concept to me. To be honest, I’ve never set foot on a gym before. And the last time I actually exercised was way back in college when I was still in varsity. I do like talking long walks though up to now. Does that count? Oh well. The city I’m moving into is famous for its traffic. Perhaps I should just jog my way to the office. Haha. Either that or kickboxing. Finally.