Making Magic Real

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Sharing with you the transcript of my talk e given to the graduating EM students of UA&P. The first paragraph is something that will be appreciated by those who experienced the school.

Before we start, I want to give everyone a quick tour down memory lane. Back in 1995 when I was a freshman, UA&P was known as CRC or Center for Research and Communication. The CAS garden was still a driveway, and ACB was non-existent. When ACB was erected, we called it CAB, short for kabila ng CAS. The big parking building was an open parking space that turns into a mud pond during rainy season. The school was still a smoking campus. You just go out you room if you want a smoke. You can even buy cigarettes from the head guard. The ledge beside the entrance of CAS was only for the all-male EM student. But there was a time when the whole ledge was reserved for the EM students.

A lot changed but the core message of the school, blaze a trail, has not, just like my message today. It is not something new but a reminder which I think is much needed in our culture and society today.

If you watch movies or sitcoms made in today’s world, even the messages promoted on media, there are 2 prevailing ideas: you need to do things on a big scale and the need to be in control of things. My talk today is not about how to be successful or even about taking control, in fact, it is counterculture. It is about the other way around. This is what I propose: Do the little things and allow the unexpected, then you will experience magic in real life.

Magic has been my hobby for a long time now. It is a hobby I picked up from my dad. There are different types of magic: close up, parlor and stage. I do close up magic, I manipulate little objects like cards and coins.

What fascinates me about magic are 2 reasons: the wonder I get every time I see a good routine. Think about the last magic you saw that astonished you, that feeling is unlike any other feeling in this world and that same feeling is also the reason why I do magic, to bring and share magical moments. The other reason why magic fascinates me, is its philosophy and how it relates to life, which is where I draw my inspiration for today’s talk.

We all know that magic is not real, that behind every effect is a clever trick created to astonish or fool you. No, I do not fool people, I want to use magic to make them wonder. Now, why is it that every time we see magic, we feel astonished or amazed and even believe that some supernatural powers are behind the trick? That is because magic makes us experience the impossible and the unexpected, to see in front of us events that defy logic, a miracle: a coin disappears, a man walks through the great wall of China, or a thought of card, lost int the deck, appears in the most impossible location.

(Demo and analysis) Let me show you what I mean. I will not be doing magic but one of you will.

Wouldn’t it be great if we make magic real? So here are the 2 ways on how to make magic (to experience the impossible happen).

The magical moment that happened in the demonstration is because of the magic of little things and the magic of the unexpected. Let me start with the little things.

Magic happens because of the little things and moves magicians do that go unnoticed: The flicking of hands, the turning of head, and the waving of the fingers that manage the attention, or the subtleties that magicians do to convince you of a certain reality. All these little things put together leads to magical moments. The same principle applies to life.

The people who have made a dent in the universe believes in the magic of little things: one is the great painter Van Gogh who said, “great things are done by a series of small things brought together.” And then you have the great poet Maya Angelou who said, “courage-you develop courage by doing small things like just as if you wouldn’t want to pick up a 100-pound weight without preparing yourself.” Here you see, how greatness comes from the magic of little things.

Yes, little things, small work, lead to magic, to greatness. Just like in real life. However, this is counter to our culture which teaches us that we need to do big things, we need to have big vision, we need to be the most, we need to create a big impact, we need to influence, we need to change the world. Yes, it is good to go big, it’s good to have a big dream. I did not say be lazy. But this culture of big has undermined the power and magic of little daily tasks that build discipline, that build your effort muscle. This culture has put focus only on the big and the most. It led people to justify illegal means, to satisfy what they think is an end. It has disappointed people who judge themselves by the scale of their action because they think they are not enough.

This leads me to say we should not judge the little tasks and the necessary little things we need to do daily. As St. Escriva puts it, “Do not judge by the smallness of the beginnings. My attention was once drawn to the fact that there is no difference in size between seeds that give annual plants and those that will grow into ageless trees.”

In real life the little things that lead to magical moments are the little work we do for others like cooking for the family, bringing the children to school, treating a friend to lunch. Sometimes it is also about changing our little faults before changing the big social problems. Sometimes it is about fixing your bed before fixing the community. All these little things lead to moments that let others, and you, experience magical moments.

If we want to experience magic in real life, we need to give importance to the little things, those that go unnoticed, the things we do not want to do, the things we want others to do for us. In other words, we need to do the little things, the little tasks that are required of us because those little tasks create miracles in our lives. As Saint Francis of Assisi puts it, “Start by doing what is necessary, then do what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”

The magic of the unexpected.

The magician’s code tells us not to share the secret and not to repeat the magic, the reason is to maintain the mystery. If you already know what the effect of the magic will be from the start, if you know a coin is to disappear, the moment will no longer be magical. This is the magic of the unexpected. The prolific writer, Paulo Coelho, puts it this way, “We will only understand the miracle of life fully when we allow the unexpected to happen.

When watching a magic show and unexpectedly, the coin transforms into silk, the audience will be in disbelief, then astonished. Unexpected transformation is magic. This is true in real life; we experience magic when we are transformed. Now, this pandemic is an unexpected event, something we did not welcome, and something we were forced to accept. It has transformed lives of many people. It has transformed businesses. It transformed schools. Some have gained, some have lost. Is it magical? Yes, to those who see meaning in the transformation. No to those who are still grieving and to those who still find it impossible to see something meaningful behind the painful event. However, I am hopeful that one day they look back and see that the painful journey was part of the magical transformation.

The unexpected is something we do not want in our culture today because we want everything in our control. That is what we were taught and made to believe. We don’t want to be disappointed, and we cannot bear the anxiety brought about by the unknown. We want to have explanation for everything, and we disregard those that we cannot logically explain as superstition. We want to satisfy ourselves the power to be in control. This gave rise to scientism, the belief that everything can be turned into an equation; that science can explain everything or the answer to all. I have nothing against science, in fact, I am thankful to science for what we have today but to believe that science is the answer to everything is not the way to go. If we go down this route, and try to control everything, we shut down the door that lets magic happen in our lives.

Making magic real means giving up what we cannot control and allowing God to work his magic in our lives, or at least accepting that we are not in control. To let go means letting God take care of the rest after doing everything humanly possible. It is not doing nothing at all.

Whatever that transformation or magic is, will happen in the most unusual time, when we least expect it. Nobody knows when and where. The beauty of magic lies in its unpredictability. The more mysterious, the more unexpected, the more magical it will be. You will know it when it happens, but you must first change the way you see, then what you see changes. As Roald Dahl, author of Charlie and the chocolate factory said, “watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”

Today’s talk brings you to the place where the road forks. You can go back to common wisdom and pretend nothing happened and follow the old template, or take the other road, and make real magic happen with the little things and the unexpected.

I leave you with these words from Albert Einstein, “there are only 2 ways to live your life, as though nothing is a miracle or as though everything is a miracle.”

What I learned from Peter Drucker about Innovation

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Listen to the podcast. Click link below

Peter Drucker is an Austrian author, educator and management consultant. He has been described as the founder of modern management, and being modern means that he approaches business with science and reason. Joseph Schumpeter, an economist, who tackled the topics of entrepreneurship and innovation, a friend of his father, is Drucker’s major influence on the said topics.

By now, most of us have heard from many management consultants and business authors that innovation is the key to survival and success of a company. This idea has been reduced to a philosophy: innovate or die, which is attributed to Drucker, but this is still a matter of dispute according to a Harvard article entitled, Innovation on the fly.

Here, I will share lessons on innovation I have learned from reading Peter Drucker.

First I would like to say that for Drucker, innovation is beyond do or die. With how Drucker characterized and defined innovation, it is easy for writers to conclude that he would say those words. In a Harvard 2002 article, he said, “innovation is the specific function of entrepreneurship, whether in an existing business, a public-service institution or a new venture started by a lone individual in the family kitchen. It is the means by which the entrepreneur either creates new wealth-producing resources or endows existing resources with enhanced potential for creating wealth.”  What I got here is not about survival and success but innovation as a tool that shifts resources to greater yield.

Drucker, it seems, is less interested in survival and success of a company and more on the improvement and development of humanity and society. He wrote this definition that appeared in his book: technology, management and society. This is how it goes, [innovation is] “the purposeful & deliberate attempt to bring about, through technological means, a distinct change in a way man lives and his environment – economy, society, the community, so on….” So here we see that the consequence of innovation is social value. This point of view, to me, is crucial in presenting innovation because often companies chase innovation for money more than creating value for others.

So, the first lesson is that innovation leads to improvement of humanity and society. The second one is about what it takes to make successful innovation.

Creativity, defined as ability to generate novel and unique ideas, is often thought by many consultants a per-requisite for innovation. I also thought this was the case until I read Drucker and for him, Innovation “is capable of being presented as a discipline, capable of being learned, capable of being practiced. Entrepreneurs need to search purposefully for the sources of innovation, the changes and their symptoms that indicate opportunities for successful innovation.” The focus here is the objective search for innovation, less creativity but more research discipline. This is not to say that creativity has no role in innovation, if creativity here is defined as being able to create and make things happen, then this is what Drucker wrote as one of the requirements for successful innovation,  “innovation is work…innovation becomes hard work, focused, purposeful work making very great demands on diligence, on persistence and on commitment. If these are all lacking, no amount of talent, ingenuity, or knowledge will avail.”

So that was the second lesson, innovation is about search and hard work. The last one is about risk taking.

There is no risk taking involved in innovation. This for me is a big takeaway being educated in an entrepreneurial environment that led me to believe in the propensity of entrepreneurs to take risks. In media and most mainstream books, entrepreneurs, and innovators are sculpted into figures that present them as risk-takers. This is not the case for Drucker when he wrote, “ most of them [innovators] in real life are unromantic figures, and much more likely to spend hours on a cash flow projection than to dash off looking for risks….. Successful innovators are conservative.” That was the last one.

I learned not to see innovation from success and survival point of view but from transformation perspective. That creativity plays a little role in successful Innovation because innovation is about hard work and research. Finally, innovation is done conservatively to the point of taking little to no risk.

Philosophy of Entrepreneurism

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For entrepreneurs, even a problem has the potential to be an inspiration for a new product. For entrepreneurs, even a crisis is seen as a turning point that can be of value. For entrepreneurs, no object or action or idea too small to make lasting effect. The result is creative destruction. For Joseph Schumpeter that is challenging the status quo by bringing something new. 

How does one who challenges the status quo thinks? How do they see the hidden diamond through all the layers of garbage?

Entrepreneurism is potentiality in everything; it is bringing a being’s existence to its higher essence while maintaining the being’s dignity.  Entrepreneurism is a philosophy of how one sees potential value in oneself and everything that occupies space. Alongside seeing the potential in everything is being immersed in existence. As Martin Heidegger said, being is always involved in doing something even when it seems that they are not doing anything; that could be thinking or doing. Entrepreneurism involves a way of seeing and Being immersed.

All who created value for themselves or for others, from Thales, the ancient Greek Philosopher, who controlled olive press supplies to the modern day entrepreneur, saw potentiality while others saw nothing, and seeing potentiality was not left as potential.

Entrepreneurism works within the framework of how Business is defined by Pope Francis in his encyclical, Fratelli Tutti: Business activity is essentially “a noble vocation, directed to producing wealth and improving our world”

So, business venture developed from entrepreneurism is first a noble vocation only to be followed by profit and world improvement. Now, if we see ourselves and the world around us as having the potential to generate value to someone then that value is to be noble or carry ideals. 

No one is born a natural entrepreneur but has the potential. A case of a student of mine may be used to illustrate potentiality. Most entrepreneurs come from entrepreneurial families, however, my student did not. This student is interested in the idea of doing business and so he enrolled himself in an entrepreneurial program and immersed himself in the ideas about entrepreneurship. He became a full fledged entrepreneur who is among the few who went straight to doing business after graduating college.

The hindrance to entrepreneurism is not the lack of creativity but the blindness to the dynamism of being. Enlightenment and modernity dared us to think and that led to what we have today; science and technology, invention and innovation. Enlightenment taught us to create and even self-create, to take control of our direction, hence individuality. I want to emphasize that there is potentiality in everything, a little caveat though: potentiality is a benefit inherent in our being so is limitation. In other words, we may have free thought to see potentiality in everything but limit the creation and self-creation so that it does not create a monster. 

Entrepreneurism is then the philosophy of seeing potential in everything as well as immersed in existence, but acting within the limit that preserves the dignity of the being.

Entrepreneurial Virtues

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Virtues are behavior showing high moral standards. Here I will share virtues found in entrepreneurs.

Based on the 3 traits of entrepreneurs, which are: idea generators, innovators, & initiators, there are virtues connected to those traits:

  1. As idea generators the entrepreneurs must be able to formulate insight through introspection, investigation of the environment and trust intuition. The virtues related are: rationality and faith. Rationality because the entrepreneur must be able to think, reason and imagine as he or she introspects and investigates the environment to come up with insights. When it comes to intuition, the ability to envision the future by sudden knowledge without need for conscious reasoning, the entrepreneur must be able to have faith in intuition. This faith allows him or her to hold on to a belief while finding ways to create reality.
  1. As innovators, the entrepreneur must be able to have the virtue of objectivity. Innovation entails research and to be able to come up with sound findings, the entrepreneur must be able to judge without partiality. Objectivity is then the concept of truth independent from individual subjectivity.
  1. Finally, in order for the entrepreneur to initiate the venture the entrepreneur must have the virtue of integrity and the virtue of courage. Integrity means to be whole and for a person to be whole, he or she must be able to align what they are thinking into action, of course the thought must be morally upright. The opposite integrity is hypocrisy or to say one thing and do something else. Then we have the virtue of courage. This virtue is for one to be able to make decision, take risks and rectify errors. Often, a lot of people have great business ideas yet fail to pursue because of fear. Nelson Mandela best explained courage with these words: “Courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

Evolution of Entrepreneur

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Charles Darwin popularized the theory of evolution: that we are all related and gradually changed or evolved overtime. I won’t be talking about that kind of evolution instead I will be discussing the evolution of the word entrepreneur by giving the definition of entrepreneur from 4 different thinkers across different centuries, then I will integrate the features that define the entrepreneur so we have a better picture of an entrepreneur.

The simplest definition of entrepreneur we know today is someone who starts a business and bears the risk. To trace the early definition of entrepreneur, the story begins during enlightenment; a time when the main philosophy is reason and no longer faith, a time when science and liberalism gained traction and a time when economies are starting to open that resulted to more prosperity of mankind.

The word entrepreneur comes from the French word entreprende, which means, to undertake. The word was first used in 18th century France to describe someone who promotes a theater show.

Richard Cantillon, an Irishman living in France first used the word “Entrepreneur” in his book Essay on the Nature of Commerce published in 1755. The word entrepreneur was applied to anyone who buys a product and sells it at a higher price, in short, someone in trading business or a businessman. An example would be an apple trader who buys several apples for 5 pesos each and sells each piece for 8 pesos.

Now in 1803, Jean-Baptiste Say, in his Treatise on Political Economy defined the entrepreneur as someone who “shifts economic resources out of an area of lower productivity and into an area of higher productivity and greater yield.” This means that the entrepreneur increases the value of a resource. Going back to the apple example, now the apple is no longer being sold an apple fruit but now sold as an apple juice in bottles.

Then in 1911, Joseph Schumpeter, an Austrian American political scientist and economist, gave us a more modern definition of entrepreneur. You can find it on on his book Theory of Economic Development, “the person who destroys the existing economic order by introducing new products and services, by creating new forms of organization, or by exploiting new raw materials.” Now, the apple is no longer sold as apples or apple juice. The apple entrepreneur has created an organization to put up juice stations around the country to sell fresh apple juice.

Peter Drucker, the modern management guru defines entrepreneur as someone who always searches for change, responds to it, and exploits it as an opportunity. The apple entrepreneur would find the opportunistic idea through research, and knowing through research, how healthy lifestyle has been an increasing importance in the modern age, the apple entrepreneur then would search or farm for organic apples and sell to the market.

Now, here are a few observations and at the same time an integration about the entrepreneur based on the definitions from the 4 thinkers. First, the entrepreneur is a businessman, in the sense that he or she is involved in trading and to do this, there has to be a vehicle, the enterprise. Second, the entrepreneur increases the value of a resource and this is done through innovation and finally, the entrepreneur is in constant search of opportunistic ideas. So, the entrepreneur therefore ideates, innovates and initiates businesses.