Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Smelling an Old Cheese

Image from
I arrived at the huddle room 15 minutes before the schedule.

I left four hours after with full of thoughts on how am I coping with the big change in my life.

Actually, I was asking myself what happened with the past 11 months since I was left alone and had to adapt to change. As what I learned from the book, Who Moved My Cheese?, had I noticed the small changes early on, I should have been able to help myself to adapt to that big change that came my way.

Lessons Learned
Last Friday, February 24, I attended a half-day, classroom training called Adapting to Change, one of those soft skills training offered by our company. Like with other trainings from the company that I already completed, we started with the house rules, introduced ourselves to the class, and shared our expectations or what we like to achieve from the training.

My expectation was the training would be about coping with change – in the workplace. I started 2012 with a change in employment status (from project-term hire starting June 2010 to a regular employee now) and a new project to work on. It is a change that I was not expecting, but I know I deserve since I have been working hard to achieve whatever I am having now from the company.

So, I thought the training was “perfect,” as while I know I can do this, I still feel sometimes that I am unskilled for the project I am in now. Not to mention that I will be having more client interaction than with my previous project and, almost two years since I joined the outsourcing industry, I am still getting the hang of it somehow.

However, Friday’s training was different. It did not meet my expectations. For me, the training was the Universe’s way of telling me, of nailing it hard to my head that it is time for me to adapt “fully” to the change.

I like to share with you sample lessons from the training, which I find very applicable to me now:

There are four phases of change:

  1. Change: In my case, it was about a life-changing event that I still avoid talking about in general or with those who keep prying about what happened.
  2. The Unknown. Would you believe that 11 months after, and I am still in this phase, the “unknown”? There are still days and nights that I find myself very disoriented. I keep asking myself, what went wrong? What did I do? What did I not do?  I am stuck here, in the “unknown.”
  3.  The Adjustment. I made – and still making efforts – to keep hold of myself. My colleagues, my friends, even strangers, have said, it is not worth it. But once a pang of sadness hits me, I revert to the unknown and everything I did to adjust were just nothing ….
  4. The New Norm. While the change is already a part of my “daily” goings-on, I still have not accepted it. I am still in the unknown. I keep asking the same questions over and over and over. I would pick myself up but stumble again because of my own doing. I have not learned my lesson – rather, I have not made that “lesson” my reality and to eventually get into this “new” norm in my life.

The Change Emergency Kit  
I am so unprepared for this change. I am naïve to think I can undo whatever that had happened already.

I know I have to take charge. However, I have barely applied this emergency kit called, “Test – Drive Change”:

T - Think about it. I reacted. They said it was normal. When I paused, I decided to step back. I tried to identify how the change was affecting me, eating me, ruining me. I keep on reflecting what would happen to me, to the promises made, now suddenly broken.

E – Examine feelings. The key action that was discussed for this part of the training was, “identify what you need to ‘let go’ to accept change.” I am still holding on to empty promises, to broken dreams. I asked myself way more than the prescribed “five times” why am I feeling this way. I keep looking back at “the way things used to be.” I gave the benefit of the doubt, but I think I gave too much of it already. I am stuck. As emphasized in the training, I have to change to survive. I am surviving somehow, but I eventually like to take charge.

S – Seek information. I sought information from the source but all I got was cold treatment. When I finally got a response, it was more of avoidance. Then the blame was on me. I tried to make the unknown “known” based on what I actually know. I held on to the information until I thought it was time to use it to my advantage. But it backfired. I thought I was impatient for wanting to find the answers right away. But as stressed in our training, I have to understand that all the answers might not be available now – or not at all and I have to accept uncertainty when I can’t get the answers. It has been very uncertain indeed.

T – Take Charge. After the training, it became more crucial to me to learn to take charge. That I have to view this change as an opportunity to continuously learn and grow. To seek support. To measure progress, make adjustments, and celebrate my achievements. Above all, I must “let go of the past.”

How Am I Coping
Excerpts from Dr. Spencer Johnson, Who Moved my Cheese?, were shared with us as we concluded our training. From the excerpts alone I learned a lot. I must get that small yet truly helpful book.

The cheese is a metaphor for what we want to have in life – job, a relationship, money, etc. You name it, you want your own cheese. How I lost my cheese is something I am making sense still but among the lessons from the book that struck me the most are:

  1. The more important your cheese is to you, the more you want to hold onto it. So true. Need I say more?
  2. Smell the cheese often so you know when it is getting old. I thought blue cheese smells yucky. But it tastes damn good. I have accepted my blue cheese as it is. But as this change came my way, maybe I did not have blue cheese at all. I had something that had become stale, just stale. Maybe it was already stale but I held on to it thinking it would turn into a blue cheese?
  3. Noticing small changes early helps you adapt to the bigger changes that are to come. This is where I failed. But I very much need to redeem myself. As stressed in the book, “when you see that you can find and enjoy new cheese, you change course.” I have other cheeses to enjoy now, so I will focus on such. Searching for a cheese to replace the old cheese will have to wait.

That is how am I adapting to change. I have a long way to go. But I am getting there.

How about you? How are you adapting to change?

Oh, it is leap day today. I heard over the TV last night we could use this rare day to reflect on the changes that happened to us in the last four years. So, this is my reflection ….

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

On Stage: Mamma Mia! is Love

The world loves Mamma Mia! The Musical and The Movie. OK, maybe not all (as evident in a newspaper column last Sunday of a lawyer and socio-political analyst who basically just “ranted” that he had to watch it as a dutiful husband). Anyway.

Mamma Mia! is one thing I will never get tired off. I know the songs by heart (by ABBA, the Swedish group that rose to fame in 1974 and disbanded in 1982). My exposure to ABBA’s songs was intensified when I was in the university and at the same time, spending countless sleepless nights in our university publication office, putting an issue to bed, fighting for our sanity, and with that, I heard Dancing Queen sang ala Mariah Carey, ala Miss Saigon, ala else.

I love the movie to bits. I love Pierce Brosnan even if he was fighting for his life singing S.O.S. with “the” Meryl Streep. The latter was a revelation – she had opera and ballet training and that she exceeded expectations as Donna Sheridan.

Thus, when I learned it was staging here, I simply could not wait. I wanted a very good seat however, the earliest date I liked to watch it had no premium seats left. I could not wait until the next weekend thus I got myself a lower box seat (left of stage). As I am familiar with the CCP Main Theater layout (having covered numerous events and was given a tour of the 42-year-old building when I was a newspaper lifestyle and entertainment writer, then became a magazine business and finance editor), so the seat I had was already good.

I am still high from Sunday’s musical. Here are six reasons why Mamma Mia! is so dear to me:
And they're all watching the smash hit musical 

The CCP Main Theater was eventually full and at the end of the musical, majority of the audience were on their feet, dancing and waving to the encore
  1. ABBA is ABBA. Period. They have disbanded a long time ago, but their music lives on. And thanks for the cooperation of ABBA’s genius duo, Björn Ulvaus and Benny Andersson to producer Judy Craymer, their discography's glory days continue with this phenomenal musical
  2. Mamma Mia! never fails to uplift me. When a former colleague gave me a copy of the Original Broadway cast recording, I shamelessly sang my heart out in my office workstation and I bobbed my head in much gusto. I was like that for two weeks straight and all the songs – even the overture and entr’acte – kept me company when I was beating deadlines and dealing with heavy, personal matters. Yesterday, I resurrected my iPod shuffle hoping I saved the album there, but no. Sad – must save later.
  3. Mamma Mia! is by women, for women, for all. Much praises were given to the musical, evident in its continuing success since 1999. Both the musical and the movie were mobilized by the women trio of Craymer as producer, Catherine Johnson as scripwriter, and Phyllida Lloyd as the director (who again directed Streep in The Iron Lady). Women across the globe and across races and generation have danced to Dancing Queen. They are either Donna, Sophie, Rosie, or Tanya at some point in their lives. Admittedly, the musical got majority of females as audience, but yes, admittedly too, thanks to the movie, it has become more endearing to the younger generation.
  4. The musical is about you, me, us. The men were not left out in this musical – the prolific duo of Ulvaus and Andersson as proof. The male audience could have been at one stage, Sam, Bill, Harry or Sky - even Pepper. At Sunday’s matinee, there was an old lady sitting on the second row facing the stage who bolted up during encore and danced proudly, and the rest of the audience – men, women, young and old – from the orchestra up to the second balcony – were dancing in their respective places. I wished they danced in the aisle, it could have been more fun!
  5. I’m Donna than Sophie. Yes, I identify more with Donna. She is real. She is a woman who fell in love, got her heart broken, became a single mom, was disowned by her mother (like my mother who almost disowned me for my stubbornness, haha). But she continued, raised Sophie as a beautiful daughter inside and out, kept a scenic tavern despite the hardships, and eventually, was reunited with her love, Sam. Her songs, Money, Money, Money, Dancing Queen (with the Dynamos, Rosie and Tanya), and above all, The Winner Takes It All, sum up her ups and downs in her life, and those are the songs I closely identify with.
  6. Mamma Mia! is fun. Need I say more? When strictly concerts and musicals prohibit clapping until an act is finished, or it is rude to cough or sneeze during the lull scenes, Mamma Mia! is nothing like that. Sunday’s audience was generous to express their appreciation by applauding one number almost after another. They expressed it even more during the encore, and the audience was wild when Ellie Leah (as Donna) asked, in Filipino, if they want more. Of course!!!
  7. More musicals. After this opening salvo of Mamma Mia!, the Philippine musical stage will be graced by another Broadway hit. Since I resolved to see more arts and culture events this year, so this is included. Can’t wait for this, too!
On standby for schedule and ticket prices

Mamma Mia! is staging at the CCP Main Theater until Sunday, February 19, 2012. For tickets, call CCP Box Office at (632) 832-3704 or check Ticketworld.                      

For my review of Mamma Mia! The Musical, please visit Rediscover.