My eldest daughter has just finished her last set of examinations for the school year. It was a particularly challenging period for her, as she would often complain about her tired and calloused hands. Her lola (grandmother) astutely pointed out to me that her apo (grandchild) did not seem to be happy studying—a comment to which I was not able to give an adequate response at that moment. After much pondering, I realized that nobody is always happy with whatever he is doing, even for the things that he is supposed to do. I, for one, am not always happy at work. I, too, have my moments of utter drudgery in the office. The same is true with my commitment to read the Bible everyday. I am only on my 71st day, but there are days I find it difficult to start.
One of the reasons I was able to pull through the trying periods in my life was the inspiration I always got from other people. Through their stories, I realized that my struggles are not unique to me: other people, even distinguished people, have gone through the same struggles I am facing. I was able to relate to them, because they were generous enough to share their stories to people like me. They were courageous enough to be vulnerable, to let other people know that, “Yes, just like you, I am struggling.”
Being relatable allows people to see the connection between one another. One of the inspiring messages I received for an article I had written was that they could relate to what I was going through and say, “Siya rin pala [Ah so, he is in a similar situation].” It was a validation of why I write what I write. I want to write about things that hopefully other people can relate to. As human beings, we want to be able to connect with one another on a more personal level: not necessarily through a face-to-face conversation, but the affirmation that we are not alone in our thoughts and feelings; that there is another person in this world who is going through what we are also going through. Sometimes, that is enough for people to fight their daily battles.
Having a relatable leader in an organization is important. Apart from allowing people within the company to feel connected to the leadership, being relatable also empowers other people to do more.
During the early days of my career, I once had a new manager who would always push me to the limit and demand excellence in all I do. I was not used to this, and would sometimes sulk in the corner, cursing at my new boss, because he was too demanding. “Does he ever get tired? I am already tired!” I would often say to myself. It was a frustrating experience. But what if my manager had told me that there are nights when he too would cry out, because of exhaustion; that he, too, is tired of all of the things our team needs to accomplish; and that he just wants the entire team to excel? I am positive that conversation would empower me to get over my sulking and demand excellence in myself as well, regardless of how exhausted I was.
Every time I am asked by students, or P&A Grant Thornton employees, about whether I had ever thought of leaving this job, I never hesitate to tell them of instances when I felt like doing so. There is a particular instance I often share: it was a few days before April 15 some years back, at 5:00 in the morning. I had just returned to the office after leaving four hours earlier, when I started literally crying out to God, telling Him how tired I was and how my mind, body, and spirit were ready to give up. Inside my parked car, I cried and shouted for a good 15 minutes. Despite those instances, I chose to stay and continue my growth with this Firm. I narrate that story as my way of sharing that I have gone through what they are now going through. Sooner or later, they will find out that this work is not always easy and fun. But just like I, and many others, have done, they can also pull through if they really want to.
It is by being able to relate with one another that we can pull and push one another onward.
I once told my eldest daughter about the time when I was in high school and my Math teacher asked me (she actually yelled at me) to get out of her classroom. My teacher said that I was making faces at her. Everybody makes mistakes, including my Math teacher, I suppose. To this day, I am claiming innocence. Yes, I was making a face, but not to my teacher. I was making a face to my seatmate, who was saying something about… well, our teacher. This story always makes my daughter laugh. I can see from her eyes that she can relate; that she can picture me inside her classroom, making faces and being scolded by her Math teacher. She can imagine me being a part of her reality, and hopefully stories of my own struggles, no matter how silly they are, would get her through her own struggles in school.
Anton Ng is a Partner, Audit & Assurance of P&A Grant Thornton. P&A Grant Thornton is one of the leading Audit, Tax, Advisory, and Outsourcing firms in the Philippines, with 21 Partners and over 850 staff members.
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As published in The Manila Times, dated 14 March 2018