Author Archives: M.A.D. LIGAYA

LEBRON’S GREATNESS

You can love LeBron James or hate him, but you can’t ignore his greatness. “The kid from Akron” has accomplished much, not just as an athlete but as a businessman, that even his staunchest critics and haters, the “Skip Baylesses” of the world,  could not help but sing praises. 

The list of his career highlights and awards  is long. On top of that list are 4 NBA championship rings and the same number of NBA Finals MVP trophies. He was also voted NBA MVP 4 times. His critics would be quick to mention that Michael Jordan has more rings and trophies than Bron and therefore is a greater player… and the greatest of all time.  Bill Russel won more championships than Jordan and Lebron combined. So, should he be the GOAT?  I could almost hear basketball pundits calling me names for asking that question. They might even say that I know nothing about basketball for not agreeing that MJ is the GOAT.

For the record, I don’t buy the idea of declaring a basketball player as the GOAT. Each of the aforementioned players is/was great. The list of great players who showcased their superb talents and have brought us entertainment through the years is long. The GOAT debate is just like a championship ring. It is rounded and has no beginning or end. Discussions about it would always end in a stalemate. Nobody could definitively say who among past and present basketball players is the greatest of all time. Nobody could claim that they have a statistically sound metric to objectively determine who among those basketeers should be declared the best. Not because ESPN’s Stephen Smith says that Michael Jordan is the greatest hooper that everybody in the basketball universe would already accept it as the truth. 

We cannot disregard the greatness of a certain athlete by saying that another one is better. We should not diminish LeBron’s greatness by saying that Jordan (or anyone else) is a better cager. We should learn to appreciate the accomplishments of players individually, not comparatively. 

I find it amusing how the LeBron doubters would eagerly await that he fails at something or his team would not perform as well as expected  for them to have something to say against him. Is it because they expect too much from him or do they just hate to see him succeed? They won’t consider him helping bring his teams (Miami & Cleveland) to eight straight finals as an accomplishment but rather a monumental failure having succeeded only thrice in those multiple trips to the NBA finals. They refuse to give him credit for leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to come back from a 1-3 deficit and win the championship citing as the reason the suspension given to Daymond Green in Game 5 of that series. They also considered the championship he won with the Lakers  as insignificant because the 2020 NBA season was shortened and disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. In short, his critics would always find a way to either  downgrade  or disregard his greatness.

But no matter what the fault-finders say, LeBron remained steadfast  in his quest for greatness. At the age of 38, he remained competitive. I don’t know if any player could beat him in the category of longevity. And it is not just a matter of playing as long as they could but playing at a level the way Lebron has been doing it. 

Whether he could play as long as Kareem Abdul Jabbar (who retired at the age of 42)  remains to be seen. But what is certain to happen is him passing Kareem as the NBA’s all-time leading scorer. As of today (01-04-23), Lebron has 37,903 points. He needs just 485 more points. He is therefore at the precipice of another great  milestone. Estimates have it that sometime in February, 2023 the “Kid from Akron” will be breaking the said record that stood since 1984. 

King James, for me, is an epitome of a person “aging like fine wine.”  At the age of 37, (according to Forbes) LeBron James is the first active NBA player ever to become a billionaire. At the age of 38, he is about to become NBA’s all-time leading scorer. By the way, among the top 5 all-time leading scorers, he has the highest number of assists and is third in total rebounds.

We don’t know if those who despise Lebron so much would be happy to see him add all those feathers to his cap. They may be. Skip Bayless said he is. I have no reason to doubt Skip…  or should I?

TO BE OR NOT TO BE  A “DON QUIXOTE”

Those who assume that the  academe is an ideal workplace where everybody thinks, acts, and talks within the bounds of professionalism and fair play are in for a big disappointment. It is a mistake to think that the school is an organization without faults and that those who work there are infallible. Schools are similar to all other institutions in our society. They are not perfect. And the people who work there – as educated as you may think they are – are human beings susceptible to human frailties. 

The foregoing  are the things I discovered having served in 8 different schools in 2 different countries. If years were feathers on a cap called academic career, I already have more than 30 of them. And those years I spent in the academe, both as a classroom teacher and as a school administrator, gave me the opportunity to mingle with different kinds of students (and their parents), teaching and non-teaching personnel, administrators, and school owners.   

Imagine the wealth of experience I gained during those years supervising teachers and being one of them as well. Indeed, I experienced a lot, both good and bad. On top of being able to hone my pedagogical skills, I learned how to deal with different personalities, both good and bad also. I obtained a lot of insights about school operations and organizational behavior… insights that could not be read in books.  

I learned a lot of lessons, very valuable ones. One of the most significant lessons I learned from the past years of my stay in the academe,  is “Be not a Don Quixote.”

Don Quixote, in case you don’t know him,  is a fictional character introduced to the world by the Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes through his epic novel “The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha.”

For you to know him better, let me (not paraphrase but) give you exactly how sparknotes.com describes the character.

“The novel’s tragicomic hero. Don Quixote’s main quest in life is to revive knight-errantry in a world devoid of chivalric virtues and values. He believes only what he chooses to believe and sees the world very differently from most people. Honest, dignified, proud, and idealistic, he wants to save the world. As intelligent as he is mad, Don Quixote starts out as an absurd and isolated figure and ends up as a pitiable and lovable old man whose strength and wisdom failed him.”

In any kind of workplace, people in the organization are classified as employees, middle managers, and employers. Let me call the employees “people downstairs” and the middle managers and employers “people upstairs.” In the schools where I served in the Philippines, most of the time I was “upstairs.” Here in South Korea, “downstairs.” 

We all dream of belonging to an organization  where everybody from downstairs to upstairs coexists peacefully. But out of 10 organizations for example, how many of them do you think have fostered a harmonious coexistence among all members? It’s hard to guess.

What I know is both sides of the fence are seemingly locked in the ancient battle between good and evil. Which side is good… and which is evil… is anybody’s guess. The relationship between employees and those supervising them is analogous to the relationship between the administration party and the opposition in the realm of governance. They are in perpetual disagreement.

Usually, the point of disagreement between subordinates and their superiors (in the academe.. between teachers and school administrators)  emanates from the creation new policies and the corresponding changes they create. 

Naturally, people abhor changes. Anything that displaces us from our comfort zone makes us anxious and uncomfortable. Our comfort zones are like territories we will defend at all costs. This is because we are hardwired to resist change. Psychologists found out that the part of the brain called the amygdala interprets change as a threat and prompts the body to release the hormones  for fear, fight, or flight.

But in organizations, in the business world or in the academe, some changes are inevitable. I figured that we can resist them all we want but they will happen, whether we like it or not. We can howl our disagreement as loud as we can but that will not prevent changes from happening.

In a related essay that I wrote, I pointed out the following… 

“What employees (teachers) need to bear in mind is that employers (school administrators) have to do what they need to do in order for their business to prosper or simply survive. They need to implement changes and tweak policies at a certain point, sometimes at times when the employees least expected them. Notwithstanding  disagreements coming from downstairs, changes people upstairs want to make,  will be implemented. 

When changes are implemented and policies get tweaked, the employees should not take them personally. Changes in the workplace happen when they are due. It is something inevitable. They need to get used to it. Employees need to be ready to make decisions when they happen. There are available options that they are free to exercise. They may simply embrace the changes and move on. They may decide to just accept organizational shake-ups, policy modifications, and what-have-you then continue working. It’s either they view the changes as necessary or accept the fact that they could simply do nothing to prevent them from happening.”

Those who would consider that such changes are unacceptable… those who think that they are being taken out of their comfort zones… those who feel being taken advantage of… do have two possible courses of action. They can either resign and continue their quest to  find a perfect workplace or they may stay and do a Don Quixote.

Expat teachers who think they could dissuade their employers who hired them  from making the changes the former wants to implement are as delusional as Don Quixote. We could possibly do it in our own countries. But in a country where we are foreigners and work on a contractual basis, it’s a QUIXOTIC endeavor. It’s like “fighting  the windmills.” 

It frustrates me when I have colleagues who cannot understand that if the management wants to exercise their prerogatives, they could and they would, whether the people downstairs want it or not.

When in one meeting, a colleague stood and gave a long speech against a policy our university was about to implement, I felt obliged to cordially beg him to stop his litany because whatever he was saying then would all be in vain. Additionally, I told him that he was just unnecessarily prolonging the meeting and wasting my time and that of those not interested in what he was saying. I also gave him advice that if he wanted, he should set an appointment with the university officials and tell them directly about his protestations.  That Don Quixote did not realize  that he could not force anybody to join his cause, especially those who consider changes necessary and inevitable. What he was trying to do at that time was force everybody in the room to listen to his whinges and whines. 

The Don Quixotes should not  expect their colleagues to look at things and issues in the organization in the same way they do. People in organizations do not  have the same perspectives. Even their circumstances are different. People are also driven by sets of motivations that might be entirely different from one another. If the Don Quixotes came to South Korea  to fight against what they perceived as injustice, well I did not. I just want to do my work and earn a living for my family.

One thing that the Don Quixotes should realize is that locking horns with the bosses  is a difficult struggle and a lonely battle. Yes, the legality of new policies  that employers might implement can be contested. But employers are always careful with the decisions they make. Only the ignorant ones would risk getting hauled to court by effecting changes or making moves contrary to established laws and ordinances. Most employers are wise.  One of the things employers or businessmen worth their salt does is study the laws and regulations that govern their business endeavors. It’s hard to catch them off-guard in legal matters. They simply know what buttons to push whenever “push comes to shove.”  In addition, they also consult lawyers to make sure that they face no legal impediments with anything that they do.

There are still Don Quixotes in our rank. It’s annoying to hear them repeatedly complain about the policies and practices of our employers. They have been doing it for as long as I could remember. The funny thing is every time they are presented with a new contract when a new school year begins, they accept it and sign their names on the dotted lines. They agree to work for the employers whose policies and practices they don’t like. Is that what you call “idealism?”

Tomalo con calma Don Quixote.

Race To 100 (Longevity)

As I explore deeper into self-improvement, I came across a lot of literature written on longevity. I got so fascinated by the idea of people not just reaching  their full potential as persons but living as long as they could. 

Creating a paradigm to capture the relationship between the constructs  “reaching one’s full potential” and “longevity” is a little bit tricky. Will the conceptual  model  show that the latter is an integral part (or the result)  of the former?  Which of the following questions should be answered –  “Is living as long as a person could a part of reaching the maximum physical capability of their  body?” or “Is longevity the result of being able to develop fully as a person?” 

I think longevity should be viewed as a product of the efforts of people to reach their full potential. To say that living as long as people could is the result of them giving their physical bodies the maximum care only is tantamount to considering a person as a mere physical specimen. A person has, not just a body, but a mind and a spirit. In psychology, an individual  is looked at as  a physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual being. I believe that only when people are able to strike a perfect harmony among these different aspects of being that they could hope to have a shot at longevity.

The interest that longevity has been drawing from both the scientific community and the general public has seemingly created a new sport which I call “race to 100.” I signed up  for the race. I want to celebrate my 100th birthday. It is my desire to  be on my feet dancing and probably carrying one of my great-grandchildren (or would it be great great-grandchildren) when that happens.  I don’t like to be in a wheelchair struggling to blow out those 100 candles. 

Celebrating the 100th birthday is a milestone only a few were able to reach. Those who are lucky to live that long are called centenarians. The United Nation estimated that worldwide there are only  more or less 600,000 centenarians. That’s less than 1% of the world’s total population of 8 billion people.  Studies have shown that they live in certain locations in some countries which were designated as “blue zones.” Japan has the highest number of centenarians  with more than 90,000. 

When I told some of my friends about me wanting to be at least 100 years old, they said I am crazy to want to live that long. For them, they would be happy to live a few more years after their retirement. One of the reasons they would not want to go 80 and beyond is the possibility of them becoming weak and sickly and unable to fend for themselves. They are worried that their loved ones might just send them to nursing homes. One of them who happened to have visited an institution for elderly people lately told me that the pitiful physical, mental, and emotional condition of the old people she mingled with seemingly made her dread reaching advanced age.

That’s the most challenging part of the “race to 100” – getting there on your two feet and not aided by a wheelchair. Thus, it should be treated as a serious goal entailing careful planning and execution. It is definitely not a walk in the park. For those intending to join the race, it will help to know the life expectancy in the country where you live. In the whole world, it is currently pegged at 72.98 years. That’s the number of years an earthling can expect to live. Adding 20 or so more years is a tall order.

Genetics and environment play an important role in healthy aging and longevity. Thus, people aspiring to live way beyond their retirement age need to be aware of their family’s health histories for them to know if they have any genetic predisposition that should be addressed as early as possible. They need to ensure as well that they live in a conducive environment that would help them live healthier and longer.

The to-do list for people wanting to live as long as they could is as formidable as it could be. The list includes among other things slowing down aging, avoiding and curing diseases, staying healthy, striking a work-life balance, and keeping a robust wellbeing. All of the said undertakings are not easy to do.

There are procedures and treatments available to slow down aging. Most of them are skin-related. But it’s not only the skin cells that age. The tissues in our muscles, brain, heart, and other bodily organs succumb to the unforgiving hands of time as well. And available are natural and practical ways to  slow down (if not reverse) it. What’s on top of the list is not surprising – proper nutrition and regular exercise.  Eating the right kinds of foods and staying physically active help us stay healthy. Health experts claim that they contribute also to making us feel and look younger. Activities like getting enough sleep, meditation, and fasting intermittently or fully have been proven to contribute to longevity.

Additionally, it is also important to take a look at one’s lifestyle. Aside from genetics and the environment, how long people live is influenced also by their manner of living. Destructive habits like smoking should be avoided. How many times we have been told that smoking is known to cause illnesses that include heart disease and lung disorders. Scientists also found out that alcohol doesn’t only inflame the liver, it also infuses every cell causing damage to the genes. So, if drinking could not be completely avoided, at least it should be done moderately.

That’s how difficult the  race to 100 is. As if those undertakings listed on the to-do list of people wanting to celebrate their 100th birthday are not already difficult, they must also observe self-discipline and sacrifice self-gratifying activities (of course only those that are classified as destructive). What makes joining this race a bit more challenging is the fact that it’s not just a matter of making sure  that the physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual aspects of your being are in tip-top shape as you march toward the century mark. It also entails financial stability to ensure that at least your basic needs – food, shelter, clothes, medicine, and what-have-you – are met. Part of the planning in racing to 100 is calculating how much money you’ll need.

If you save more than enough to secure all that you need as you run the race to 100 and you have plenty to spare, consider traveling to places you have never been and enjoy life. Enjoy aging, don’t gripe about it. Age gracefully and gratefully. A study concluded that “those who view growing older positively lived seven years longer than those who griped about it.” So, instead of griping and worrying, just prepare for its coming.

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