Category Archives: Lessons learned

The Sphere of Choice

I told him to get his heart checked multiple times. He never did. He died a few months later.

He had a high salary but he’s often in debt. I told him to save and to keep a budget. He didn’t. I lent him money, and tried my best to help him financially, but there was nothing I could do except helplessly watch as his cycle of spending and borrowing escalated.

I asked him not to quit his job. With his age, lack of experience, and job-hopping history, I knew finding another job for him would be hard. It’s more than a year now since his last employment.

The doctor told me the surgery wound would be closed in one week. But I could still go surfing that Saturday–3 days before the wound is estimated to close. Friday came and the wound is nowhere near healed and I could still barely walk, let alone surf. I had no choice but to cancel my long-awaited surf trip and find something else to do that week.

Expectations: Surf trip expectations (me last year)


Reality: Picture taken with comedian Gabe Mercado (Ok ka ba tyan??) after an improv class the next Wednesday (First time I was able to go out properly after surgery)

Why I know about control — or the lack of it

AT first, this entry reads like a rant. It’s not that simple though.

All these recollections are from different events in my past.

I have no control over my body. I can’t control people around me. I never did and never tried. These failures are my reminder that despite the best intention and logical explanations, people will act as they see fit. As for the body? It heals on its own time.

“We control our reasoned choice and all acts that depend on that moral will.”


I’ve internalized this stoic lesson long ago because I know that each person has to walk their own path and to make their own mistakes. The only thing I control are my thoughts and actions.

But I won’t pretend that I don’t get affected when things go wrong. Yes, stoicism teaches that the path to happiness lies in giving up all outside your sphere of choice.

Logically speaking, I understand this. Yes, it’s useless to be upset because of things outside my sphere of choice.

It’s easier said than done, however. It’s hard not to get affected when the person suffering is someone precious to you. The cancelled surfing trip, for instance, is easier to accept compared to the knowledge that someone I know still can’t find another job.

So I’m still learning this lesson. The best  I can do for the people that matter to me is to comfort and support them. I can help, but I shouldn’t get attached to the outcome of that assistance. Whether they follow through or not is up to them, not me. I’m not sure how that will affect the part of me that feels concerned when things go wrong, but at least this is a step forward towards detachment.


Ask the Wrong Question, Get the Wrong Answer (A Lesson)

From an old journal entry: A lesson I need to remember.

Sometime ago, I was asked if I felt something for someone.

I’ve never felt attracted (physically, mentally, emotionally or any matter of lly’s) to anyone before, at least not in the butterflies in your stomach way. I had no information or protocol for answering this question except for my slightly weird grading system. And since that system may not be as flawless as I once thought, I did’t know what to say.

I was also asked what would happen if things got complicated. At least to this, I had one confident answer: we’d still be friends. I was confident things won’t get complicated–on my side anyway.

A Slippery Slope

It got complicated for him. Something I didn’t expect, because I thought he was “safe” as he also viewed love and attraction as nothing more but science (i.e. chemistry and biology) at work. I thought he just wanted to help or was just as curious as I was on why I’m incapable of attraction.

Now I’m thinking that’s not the whole story.

“Well it got complicated”

“I root for the couple to work it out”

“I will find a girl who will be real and vulnerable with me and I will treat her right”

I didn’t realize the full implications of these words when we were talking. I got so caught up in my desperation to make him understand I meant no harm (and that I wasn’t trying to control him), that I missed the signs. All I wanted was for him to find happiness– not with me of course. But I feel like that part of my message got lost in translation in my effort to explain the virtues of forgiveness and pain (both in friendship and in love).

My brain is still having trouble comprehending this, but I can’t find another explanation for those words, other than what my other guy friend said: secretly or subconsciously, he was checking if I could be the girl he could be vulnerable with.

Vulnerable friends? Sure. Someone to date? Not so much. That thought never crossed my mind, even after his snap judgement hurt me and I got curious about him.

Whatever the case, it was the wrong question. 

The question asked should’ve been: Will I date him? or Will I consider a relationship with him? (instead of the question about attraction).

I wouldn’t have agreed to his invitation if I knew he had these ideas early on. If my friend’s interpretation was correct, that meant he was compromised.

But it’s my fault. I should’ve seen it coming the moment he asked about things getting complicated.

If he asked the — No, scratch that. If I rephrased the question to “Will I date him” or “Will I consider a relationship with him” instead of answering the “tension” or “attraction” question head on, I would have been able to give a straight answer.

I already had data to formulate a logical response, it’s just that I failed to connect the dots because a different trigger/question was used.

Given the right trigger, I would’ve realized that

  • The person is younger than the guys I usually date.
  • I wouldn’t have liked the fact that he had no long-term relationship experience because that meant he’s not yet mature as a partner. I saw evidence of this, too. But my confirmation bias– the desire to believe I found someone with roughly the same mindset as me– was so powerful I missed the glaring signs about his trust issues and easy dismissal of people.

And this is one of my biggest lessons in asking the right questions, outside the sphere of work. Previously, I’ve only seen the applications of using the right questions in talking to new clients or negotiating new projects. Now, I also see its importance in social dealings.

Stoicism and Controlling Myself

Since I’ve been practicing stoicism for almost a year now, I know that the I can only control my thoughts and actions.

I can explain my point of view well enough, but I can’t and will not force it on others. This encounter has made me realize that sometimes, however well-meaning and purely explanatory my ideas are, it may come off as an effort to control someone else. Right now, all I can say is I’m just trying to explain myself– to make my ideas heard and understood– not necessarily followed. But I need to find a way to make that clear.

Perhaps, I can avoid this compulsion to explain my ideas by asking questions, and then letting people come to their own conclusion. If they truly understood my explanation, they will arrive at pretty much the same conclusion (or another variation of it). If they’re seeing things from a different point of view or are not open to my ideas, then they’ll arrive at a different answer. All consequences are okay. What matters is I communicated. The outcome is up to the other person.

2014 Annual Review: An Honest Look at My Personal and Professional Performance Last Year

This is an excerpt of my 2014 annual review, which I wrote on the last week of December. I’m publishing it here to set a public benchmark for myself—a stick to measure myself against on December 2015. My main goal is to avoid repeating my mistakes last year, and to improve on all facets of my life this year.

I’m very nervous about publishing this review, especially my income and failures but I’ve decided to suck it up and just go with it. I’m doing this to hold myself publicly accountable of everything that happened to me. I want to own up to my shortcomings instead of blaming it on my unpredictable health and other external factors.

I’m not just doing this for myself either. I’m publishing this to make others realize that the life of a freelancer isn’t all vacations and working in pajamas.

Here we go… Charley’s 2014 Annual Review

Personal Goals

  1. Invest 20,000 Pesos in a Time Deposit or Mutual Fund to Build my Emergency Funds
    1. Status: Failed
    2. Reason: I’ve saved up 10,000 and 15,000, and about 13,000 on different months, but I wasn’t able to invest any of it because I used it to eat out when I had major fights with my partner. I also used it to pay for my living expenses on months where I barely worked. It seems that building an emergency fund will be harder than I expected.
  2. Be Good Enough to Bike Outside
    • Status: Success
    • Reason: Okay, this might seem a petty goal for you but I just learned to bike last year—on my 25th birthday to be exact! Took me about 30 minutes to learn even when I was using a heavy mountain bike. A few months after that, I went to test my skills at the UP bike lane. I was so scared, but I survived without a scratch. And I can do U-turns well! Success!
  3. Go on my First International Trip
    • Status: Failed
    • Reason: Wasn’t able to save enough money because I didn’t work for 4 months. I also used some of the money I earmarked for this on local travels instead, like my 2 impromptu trips to Baguio, Rizal and Batangas. While this goal is a failure, it’s not a total loss because I managed to get my passport this year.
  4. Learn how to Ice Skate
    • Status: Success
    • Reason: Went on my very first ice skating lesson late in November. 🙂 I learned how to do forward and backward swizzles, two-foot glide and the one-foot glide. Yes, I still fall but not as much. I don’t feel embarrassed about it as well because I’ve seen tons of skaters more advanced than I am and they still fall, hilariously if I might add.

Work Goals

  1. Put up a basic writer’s website
    • Status: Success
    • Reason: My freelance writer site, however simple and lacking in design, is up and giving me quality client leads.
  2. Publish at least 6 guest posts in different popular blogs on my target niches
    • Status: Published 4 out of 6. Failed
    • Reason/Notes: Published 2 guest posts on Brazen, 2 on PicktheBrain and 1 on YourOnline.Biz. Even though I didn’t hit the target number of posts, I consider this a success because these guest posts brought me 3 new clients. The posts are also doing well because they were syndicated in different websites and shared hundreds of times.
  3. Publish 3 articles for a magazine in my target industry
    • Status: Failed
    • Reason: I took a 3-week vacation sometime in March so I could focus on learning how to write pitches or queries for magazines. But for some weird reason, I got overwhelmed and depressed during this time. I didn’t know what to do, I was so confused with everything that I had to learn and I gave up. Until now, pitching magazines still seem like a daunting task to me.
  4. Get 2 clients willing to pay my set rates for ghosted and authored work by pitching and marketing my services.
    • Status: Success
    • Reason/Notes: Sent an email pitch to 5 people. One of them replied but the deal didn’t push through. That’s okay, because in terms of prospecting, 1 reply out of 5 emails is still a good result.
    • Applied to a few jobs—got 1 for guest posting but it’s not a regular source of income. Pays $50-75. Got 1 referral from a friend, but the client pays late and wants too many phone calls. While he’s not an ideal client, I managed to convince him to pay 3x more than what he usually pays, so I got $60 per 600-800 words.
    • I got two one-off clients: one in the coaching industry and another in the recruitment industry. Both of them said they’d hire me for other work in the future.

Other Things I Did or Accomplished


  • Got myself closer to two of my favorite authors and mentors, Ramit Sethi and Tim Ferriss by connecting with Charlie Hoehn. Last November, he announced that he’ll be giving one of his courses for free in exchange for detailed notes. I submitted an entry and was chosen, probably from over hundreds of applicants. Of course, this doesn’t mean we’re best buds now but it’s a start
  • Met Ramit Sethi when he visited Manila. ramit

He’s one of the people on my must-meet list. Despite his strict and scary demeanor on his emails, he’s incredibly friendly and approachable.

  • Met new friends through the IWT Manila friends and acquaintances at iwtramit in manila
  • Went on all Pinoy500 meetings and met almost all of them. Got great support from the groupGot my first client who agreed to pay a down payment before I start working. Invisible script shattered!
  • Got syndicated by Chicago Tribune and Business Insider three times!!!
  • I got so much work I declined some job offers that were below my target pay or not in my target niche. Hoorah!
  • I was offered a regular contributor role at after 1 guest post
  • Conquered my fear of heights by joining a trapeze flying classtrapeze2 trapeze
  • Conquered my lactose intolerance.. first by drinking different types of milk, then by eating different types of cheese (cooked), then graduating to cheese plates. I love cheese!


An Overview of My Income for 2014

Income USD PHP conversion Notes
Lowest monthly income $100        4,200.00 Php This was in October when I only worked about 3-4 hours. I was burned out after two months of working full time hours in August and September
Highest monthly income $1119.64      47,024.88 Php This was in August when I accepted 2 copywriting projects
Average monthly income $512.0117      21,504.49 Php Monthly income for an average of a 4-6 hour workday, divided by 12.
Total annual income $6,144.14    258,053.88 Php  

Other notes

  • Highest Paid Project: $750 (Presentation)
  • Highest Paid Article: $400 (Rush article)
  • Lowest Paid Article: $8 (Blog post). I’m happy to report that I no longer accept work at this rate.

My findings and observations:

  • The months I barely worked severely affected my total earnings for the year.
  • If not for my savings due to good months were I earned more than enough, I would have been in debt.
  • Total months I didn’t work at all for whatever reason (sad, sick, etc) = 3. It’s 4 if you count October where I ‘barely’ worked.
  • High-earning (productive) months, are often followed by at least 1 low-earning (non-productive) month. Ex: Jan-Mar I earned $600+/month, but I got burned out and had to rest

That ends my 2014 annual review. Next up, I’ll post more in-depth findings based on my observations, like what I did to achieve my best results and the different areas of my life that need improvement.