article banner
From Where We Sit

Growing for others

Anton Ng

There are certain periods when it seems like I am trying to do a lot simply because I overestimated my capacity.
Between completing my work responsibilities, entering into coaching engagements, and pursuing spiritual and learning growth initiatives, I was on the brink of burning myself out.

At times, I would ask myself: What is the point of doing all these things? Do I really need all these in this stage of my life? I tried to convince myself that I chose to do these things because I knew I would gain something out of it.

I was just being true to my word of minding my growth. What if I decided to drop some things I am currently doing by justifying that I will be fine without them anyway; that I can face the consequences of my actions. The resources already spent—money, time, and effort—will all be wasted. I am the only one who will be affected anyway.

Over the past two years, I have written several articles about growth—from being mindful about it to funding. I even broached the topic of quitting as a tool for growth. In most of my articles, I focused on being able to develop an internal motivation to pursue growth opportunities and to be persistent in overcoming hurdles as one pursues growth initiatives. Pursue growth because you owe it to yourself to do so.


In few instances, however, I brought up the topic on motivation—how can one sustain the pursuit of growth initiatives despite the hurdles and setbacks along the way.

Growth takes time which means patience is required. Growth is painful as well, which means persistence and resilience are needed. Having a single and narrow source of motivation such as pursuing activities to better one’s self might not stand a chance when one is toiling while reaching for growth.

In his book, Habits of the Heart, American sociologist Robert Bellah wrote. “To make a real difference… (there would have to be) a reappropriation of the idea of vocation or calling, a return in a new way to the idea of work as a contribution to the good of all and not merely to one’s own advancement.”

Similar to how Bellah looks at work to be performed as a contribution to the good of all, we can also look at pursuing growth as something beneficial to others, or at least for the people that truly matter to us. This would further expand the basis for our motivation. Apart from working on improving oneself for advancement, there is another element, something that is far more stable, to anchor our motivation.

In an anecdote I read in Timothy Keller’s book, titled Every Good Endeavor, Mike Ullman, former chief executive officer (CEO) of JC Penney and the current chairman of Starbucks, retold a story on one of his conversations with Starbucks founder Howard Schultz when Ullman was first offered the JC Penney position.

Ullman, who had some hesitations at accepting the CEO role at JC Penney, was eventually convinced to take the job because he saw an opportunity to reorient 25,000 retail employees to seeing that their work matters and that serving their customers is an honorable career.

He saw this new work opportunity for him to grow as a means to make a difference in the lives of people beyond himself. By expanding his motivational horizon, Ullman accepted the CEO post because of the pull of what he can bring for the benefit of JC Penney employees and customers.

Keller further argued in his book that doing things merely for oneself will not lead to success in the long run.

He wrote: “If the point of work is to serve and exalt ourselves, then our work inevitably becomes less about the work and more about us. Our aggressiveness will eventually become abuse, our drive will become burnout, and our self-sufficiency will become self-loathing. But if the purpose of work is to serve and exalt something beyond ourselves, then we actually have a better reason to deploy our talent, ambition, and entrepreneurial vigor—and we are more likely to be successful in the long run.”

The message is clear: our motivation, our reasons for pursuing growth should be anchored on something that is beyond ourselves.

It should be something that would make us endure and persevere. It should be something that, even if we go home every day physically and mentally exhausted, our spirit is still keen on continuing on our journey for growth.

Anton Ng is a Partner of the Audit & Assurance Division 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 900 staff members. We’d like to hear from you! Tweet us: @PAGrantThornton, like us on Facebook: P&A Grant Thornton, and email your comments to or


As Published in The Manila Times dated 26 September 2018