My impostor syndrome experience


In 2006, I received the Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM) award, the highest accomplishment a Toastmaster can achieve, seven years after my icebreaker speech, the first speech in the Toastmasters’ educational program. Being a self-paced program, there is no prescribed time period for completion, some finish in a year or less, while others take longer.

The DTM award exemplifies achievement in communication and leadership excellence: the two learning paths in the program. Receiving the award confirmed something I already knew in my heart – I love to speak in front of people!

The Toastmasters community around the world provides a safe environment for people to learn public speaking. For DTMs, it provides opportunities to share our knowledge and experience to newer members, to encourage them, and to show them the benefits of the program.

After countless speaking and training opportunities within Toastmasters, I decided to venture out and become a soft skills trainer. After all, I had so much to share about communication, leadership, public speaking, customer service, etc., so why not make money from my knowledge, skills and experience.

I was quite successful in my first attempt at becoming a trainer in the Philippines. This was also when I first experienced impostor syndrome, defined by Wikipedia as a concept describing individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud.”

Although I received flattering feedback at reaction surveys after every training session, and was often requested by name for repeat business, I always felt I was shortchanging my clients, that I wasn’t really a trainer and I just used my finesse in public speaking to get into the training field.

As fate would have it, I got a second chance to go to Canada, and this time I knew exactly what I had to do. I took night classes and completed a certificate in instructing adults from George Brown, a respected college in Toronto. Soon thereafter I received the Certified Training Practitioner (CTP) designation from the Institute for Performance & Learning. I am “certified” and have the letters after my name to prove it.

My education and certification filled in a lot of my own gaps about learning and development, like how adult learning principles underpin the design and development of training courses; why trainers should debrief every learning activity; and why it is critical to provide opportunities for learning transfer, among other things.

Because of my propensity for learning, I didn’t stop there. I take every opportunity to advance my knowledge of learning and development via online and face-to-face courses and seminars. Networking is crucial. I seek out experts, contact authors requesting further information about their books, and scour the Internet for developments in the field.

I have now overcome my impostor syndrome. I have my bona fides. I know what I know.

Trainer, anyone?


Boston Stronger

(Spoiler alert: This article will reveal details of the movie “Stronger” which debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 8, 2017.)

stronger movie

In the aftermath of the Boston marathon terrorist attack on April 15, 2013, the slogan “Boston Strong” became ubiquitous in Boston, in America and around the world. The message was a defiance against terror.

We will not be defeated.

We will not succumb.

We will be strong!

boston strong

Jake Gyllenhaal plays reluctant hero Jeff Bauman, who had both legs amputated as a result of one of the bombs that exploded that day. Jeff was a regular guy who enjoyed having beer with his family and friends. They were a close-knit group and their support would be invaluable to him after the tragedy.

Tatiana Maslany takes on the role of Erin Hurley, Jeff’s on and off girlfriend, who provided great support to Jeff, but was also instrumental in getting him to become more responsible in life. Their love story, tumultuous as it was, provided the underlying theme of hope in an experience defined by chaos, death and terror.

I loved the way director David Gordon Green told the story in a down-to-earth matter-of-fact way. The Bauman family was a raucous bunch who loved to watch baseball games in the pub while drinking beer. A simple family, they weren’t at all prepared for the sudden popularity Jeff attracted after the attack. Ironically, the loss of his limbs, and the fact that he was able to identify one of the bombers, made him a celebrity and got him all the attention he never wanted, and later despised. Even Oprah wanted to interview him!

On the day of the bombing, Erin was running the marathon and Jeff came to support her. They had just broken up and he was trying to woo her back. Unluckily, he found himself close to the first bomb when it exploded.

Jeff’s mom, played by Miranda Richardson, relished her son’s newfound popularity. She became the stage mother who pushed him to go to sports events, attend news conferences, and bask in the spotlight, without ever caring whether he wanted the attention or not. It was her moment of glory, her 15 minutes of fame courtesy of her disabled son.

Jake Gyllenhaal did a fantastic job of portraying Jeff’s story on the silver screen. Those big, round eyes were always captivating. He lost weight for this role and didn’t have the gym-buffed physique he normally wears. I would bet on an Academy award nomination, at the very least.

In between grotesque flashbacks of the bombing incident, Jeff had to learn to adjust to his new life without legs. His reconciliation with Erin resulted in her pregnancy, which he wasn’t prepared to face. They had a huge fight about this which ended up in yet another breakup.

The turning point for Jeff was when Erin left him in the car while she ran to the apartment to pack her stuff and leave him for good. He started to have a panic attack, which triggered the horrible flashbacks, as he painfully crawled from the car to the apartment building, but Erin was long gone.

Her departure caused Jeff to turn his life around. First, he told his mom how he hated all the attention, and that he didn’t want to go to any more events. Then he worked diligently on his physical therapy and was finally able to walk with his prosthetic limbs. He learned to accept his unborn child and made up with Erin, who would later become his wife. Jeff took control of his life!

In the final scene of the movie, Jeff is seen struggling to walk from the car to the coffee shop where Erin was waiting, their first reunion since she left him for good. As he sat across from her, wide-eyed and out of breath, he held out his hand and she took it, as he said, “I love you.” Subdued but poignant!

As the closing credits flashed on screen, photos of the real Jeff, Erin and his rambunctious family were shown. Tears flowed from my eyes like a waterfall and I couldn’t stop crying – for Jeff and for all that he’s been through.

In an incident of hatred that was the Boston marathon bombing, a reluctant hero was born in Jeff Bauman. His hero’s journey showed the world that a simple man can make a profound impact, even if he didn’t believe in himself. And the power to change our lives is not found in other people, no matter how much they love and care for us – it can only be found within ourselves.

We can rise above our challenges.

We can overcome adversity.

We can be stronger!

I’m a sucker for brands


I love branded items. Remember those rowdy cowboys in the Marlboro cigarette commercials or the sexy, almost naked A&F models that subconsciously told you to wear A&F and feel as sexy as them. I tried – it didn’t make me look or feel sexy – but I loved A&F just the same.

I recently bought a 128gb iPhone 7 Plus, matte black. It was quite pricey so I decided to scrimp on accessories – a glass screen protector and transparent skin cover. Big mistake! Two weeks later, the screen protector had bubbles on the edges and started coming off, while the skin cover got deformed. My brand new, shiny device didn’t look new at all and it didn’t have the protection I required.

The perennial problem of what to do with an older device when you upgrade haunts me here in Toronto. I wish I were in the Philippines where there are many friends and relatives who would delight in having the older devices.

In ensuring protection from day one, I end up with devices that have no scratches and dents, and fetch a higher price when sold pre-owned online. Such was the case with my iPhone 6 Plus and the one before it. Online buyers are quite scrupulous and many have been scammed by online sellers, so they are very careful when buying online.

I ended up going back to the Apple store and buying the proper screen protector and cover for twice the price of the unbranded items. They also installed the screen protector with a machine which ensured that alignment was perfect.

Lesson re-learned: branded items promise and deliver quality and durability. In trying to scrimp I ended up spending more. Now my iPhone looks immaculate and I’m happy with its protection.

This principle applies not only to electronic items – it’s universal in my world. I can cite countless examples of how branded items provided a better experience and made it worth the extra spend.

My big pain in the butt

Baboon's ass.jpeg

This is not a blog post about a baboon’s ass.

For the longest time, I suffered from hemorrhoids. It’s familial; several in our family have it.

When you have hems you are used to seeing blood during bowel movements. When she was 76 and my mom saw blood in the toilet bowl, she thought she was having one of her hemorrhoid flare ups and just ignored it. Like me she had hems for the longest time. She didn’t know that the blood was from a different source, colon cancer, which would take her life three years later.

What happened to my mom has stirred me to action. I wasn’t going to wait that long. But before I share how I resolved my problem, I want to tell you my story and the lessons I learned along the way.

This is a topic that’s considered taboo. In the office you hear a lot of people say, “I have a migraine attack” or “My vertigo is killing me” but seldom, if ever, do you hear someone say “I can’t sit through that meeting because my hemorrhoid is acting up.” It’s not glamorous to talk about your butt and its problems.

For thirty years I had hemorrhoids. Six months ago, my doctor here in Canada diagnosed another anorectal disease: anal fissures. When I went to her for help because I couldn’t stand the pain in my butt, she asked me to describe it. I said it felt that something down there got torn. She said hems don’t tear or give the sensation of tearing. She said I could have anal fissures which was confirmed by the anorectal surgeon she referred me to.

All this time I have been incorrectly attributing my anal fissures to hemorrhoid flare ups. I did have legitimate flare ups. One time I remember my hem got thrombosed and my anal sphincter collapsed so the hem wouldn’t stay inside my anus. The doctor put a lot of lube and pushed the hem inside my anus. He then put tape to close my anus and keep the hem inside. An exposed thrombosed hem is extremely painful.

I had two anorectal diseases with different treatment options.

Let’s talk about fissures. This is the most painful experience one can ever have. In reading the online forums, a mom described fissures as more painful than normal child birth. If only I could verify that! There is an informative article published by the New York Times about this topic.

Other mind-boggling descriptions of fissures: it’s like giving birth to a pineapple or passing razor blades! You would know you have fissures when you dread having a bowel movement. Hard stools that pass through the fissures cause excruciating pain.

The best solution to fissures is having soft stools. To achieve this I took a stool softener in the morning and in the evening. I also took a magnesium citrate food supplement. These are available over the counter. In addition, and one which I consider the magic solution, I drank a glass of prune juice before going to bed. Sometimes, depending on how much fiber I had in my diet, I would end up with loose bowel movement in the morning. This is fine. Loose bowels cannot aggravate fissures.

Until my doctor diagnosed my anal fissures, I wasn’t addressing them properly, thinking I was just having a hemorrhoid flare up. I had the fissures on and off for a couple of months.

My doctor prescribed 2% diltiazem ointment for my fissures which was very effective. I also had regular bowel movements once a day in the mornings. For as long as I had soft stools, I managed my fissures well until they healed. Another thing I did that was really helpful was to use lube before bowel movements. I would apply lube outside and inside my anus to coat the lining and protect it when I passed stool. Others recommend Vaseline ointment but lube worked wonders for me. Even now that I am free of fissures and hemorrhoid, I still use lube to aid in my bowel movement.

When my fissures were fully healed, I went back to the anorectal surgeon and asked him to remove my hemorrhoid. I’ve wanted this for a long time but was always thwarted by the much-ballyhooed post-operative pain. I have a low pain threshold.

My surgeon said that hemorrhoidectomy, the surgical removal of hemorrhoids, is outdated and he hasn’t performed one in 15 years. He said that there are now several less complicated and less painful procedures.

During my appointment, he asked me to describe what was bothering me. After a 15-minute conversation he asked me to lie face down on a small table in his office. I had to kneel on a step attached to the table and lie face down. He then adjusted the table to bring my butt up.

Using a sigmoidoscope he confirmed that my fissures were all healed and asked me to stop using the ointment. He said I had one small hemorrhoid. He froze it first and put a rubber band on the “neck” of the hem. The procedure, rubber band ligation, was completed in ten minutes. The frozen, choked hem would dry up and fall off in a couple of days and would pass with my stool. It was a painless procedure with no post-op discomfort.

In two weeks I will turn 51 years old. This is the greatest gift I could ever give myself. After 30 years of suffering, I have finally rid myself of my hemorrhoid. Happy birthday to me!

There are many procedures available now to treat hemorrhoids. If you are suffering, please go see your doctor and ask about options.

There is a reason we use the phrase “pain in the ass” in the English language. You don’t want it to apply to you.

Why I Love Bose®



Several years ago, when I was in Bahrain, I bought a nice pair of wired, in-ear Bose earphones. They had nice silicone tips with several sizes so you can choose the best fit for your ears. These earphones were great for listening to music, but I used them more for mobile phone calls, especially when driving. They delivered a great audio experience. I was very happy with my purchase and enjoyed the earphones immensely.

Fast forward three years I was back in the Philippines and my Bose earphones reached the end of their rope. The wires connected to the in-ear parts got torn and rendered the earphones useless. I was sad.

I searched for Bose in the Philippines and found their representative office in Manila. When I explained the situation, the technician was very knowledgeable and explained my options. I could buy a new one – a later version because the one I had was already discontinued. Bose is very big on product innovation and they create better versions of products in no time. My second option was to return the damaged earphones and get a brand new replacement of the newer version for 30% of the SRP. This was essentially a 70% discount on a new set of earphones. And this despite the fact that I used the unit for 3 years and had no extended warranty! I was even prepared to buy a brand new one. Thanks, Bose.

In 2013 I returned to Toronto and bought wireless around-ear headphones, again from Bose. I loved the wireless freedom and the crisp, delicious sound. My daily subway commutes were comfier! After two years I had to replace the ear cushions. Again, one phone call to a very knowledgeable and helpful technician and my problem was solved.

On the third year, the band of the headphones showed signs of wear and tear (little pieces where chipping off). About this same time Bose came out with an upgraded version of the unit (pictured above).

Fourteen years ago I quit smoking and I have been buying myself a nice “treat” every year to reinforce the behaviour. This year I bought the Bose around-ear wireless headphones.

This left me with a quandary as to what to do with the old unit. It is fully functional apart from the chipped exterior. Out of curiosity, I called Bose and the courteous technician was very helpful. He politely said that the band was not a replaceable part but if I were interested, because they still have surplus stock of the discontinued unit, he can replace mine with a brand new unit for approximately 25% of the original cost. Additionally, the courier costs to return the old unit and to deliver the new one were free. Again, like the experience in the Philippines, I’m getting a brand new unit for a 75% discount. I couldn’t pass up on this opportunity.

I now have a spare brand new Bose around-ear wireless headphones. If a friend from Dubai is nice to me, he just might get a surprise!

Bose displayed consistently excellent customer service in three countries: Bahrain, the Philippines and Canada. The technicians were courteous, knowledgeable and helpful. They try their best to make the customer experience as hassle-free as possible. Bose is a great brand that creates great products!

Fast forward three years from now when I need to get a new set of wireless headphones, guess which brand I’m buying.

[Disclaimer: I do not represent the company Bose or any of its subsidiaries. The comments above are my own based on my personal experience purchasing Bose products.]

High Tech Travel


I travel as much as I can and I love technology, which makes travel easier. However, during a recent trip to the United States, I was taken aback by how technology has impacted air travel and I’m not sure that I’m thrilled with what I experienced, although in time, when the innovations become more familiar, I know I will be grateful for them.

Because US immigration and customs control is done here in Toronto, I got pre-processed via a machine that scans your passport and where you answer pre-screening questions. The machine also takes your picture and prints out a form that you need to submit to the US immigration officer before being admitted to the United States, even while physically still in Toronto. There are three airports in Canada with this facility – Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.

In a previous post I lamented about how I was inconvenienced by an airline that did not accept cash for inflight food sales when I didn’t have a credit card. Now, they’ve gone a step further by selling entertainment on board. Yes, you need a credit card to view the movies or listen to songs on the inflight entertainment system. Seriously?

Online check-in twenty four hours before your flight is quite common in North America. I received my boarding pass in an email from the airline. I didn’t have luggage to check in so I was expecting everything to go without a hitch. I was travelling from Toronto to LA with a layover in Charlotte.

The problem was, even with roaming activated on my smartphone, I couldn’t access data or wifi at Charlotte International Airport so I couldn’t retrieve my electronic boarding pass. Neither could I open the airline’s app or WorldMate’s app where I had copies of my boarding pass.

Thank goodness the email that the airline sent had a PDF of my boarding pass which I presented during boarding. Going paperless meant I didn’t have a printed copy of my boarding pass. Lesson learned here: have a printed back up of your boarding pass for situations when data or wifi are not available.

A week later, I was early at LAX on my trip back to Toronto with a layover at O’Hare International Airport. I decided to skip online check-in on this trip.

At the counters I was caught by my biggest surprise of this trip. There were no more counter check-in staff. Instead, what greets you at the check-in counter is a monitor and keyboard – you need to check yourself in! If you have luggage to check in you need to put it in the weighing scale. The computer asks for your booking reference or travel locator. Then you need to scan your passport on the scanner.

Because I didn’t have pre-assigned seating when I bought my ticket, the computer now advised me that all available seats were for sale, meaning I had to pay to get a seat assignment on the flight. Because I was really freaked out by this new experience, I chose a seat, swiped my credit card, and waited for the computer to print my receipt and boarding passes.

The luggage tags were still printed inside the counter where airline staff used to check people in. I saw one airline staff who went back and forth checking for printed luggage tags. He will verify your identity and tag your luggage.

I’m sure if you really freak out and don’t know what to do you can still call the very few airline staff and ask for help. I observed that people were already used to this process and knew what to do.

Some questions in my head:
1. What if you didn’t know your booking reference or where to find it? (Lesson here: always write down your booking reference or know where to find it on your itinerary.)
2. What if you didn’t have a passport? I’m not sure if the scanner would scan/accept a driver’s license or any other form of ID.
3. What if you had to pay for your seat and didn’t have a credit card? Where do you pay with cash when there’s no one there to help you?

Upon reaching Toronto, I was processed via the automatic immigration and passport control system where you scan your passport and customs declaration form. After processing the machine prints out a form which you need to show to the officers guarding the exits. You don’t get to speak to a human immigration officer anymore!

Some lessons I want to share with you:

1. Always have a copy of your itinerary and know your booking reference.
2. If you opt for online check-in and electronic boarding passes, be sure to print a copy of your boarding passes in case wifi or data fail while you are boarding.
3. Have an international credit card available and ensure that you make a travel notification to your bank to avoid unnecessary delays.
4. Bring your passport, if available, even for domestic flights.
5. Lock your carry-on luggage because airlines sometimes collect bags during boarding to load in the cargo bay and to give back to you at the destination airport. You wouldn’t want to part with an unlocked luggage.
6. Most important of all: arrive early and give plenty of time to go through the travel formalities. The things you have to go through are stressful enough. If you arrive late and are running to make your flight, your stress will be so much worse.

If you do what you can to ensure you are prepared for your trip, you will have a better, hassle-free experience. Safe travels!

The Credit Card Necessity


There are two things I don’t like about Air Canada: one, they sell their food to passengers; and two, they don’t accept cash payments onboard.

I still dread that awkward moment two years ago when the stewardess asked me, at 30,000 feet, “We don’t accept cash, do you have a credit card?”. I swear the entire cabin heard my negative reply. And I’m sure several of those that heard my reply jumped into conclusions that I either have poor credit or worse, am a discharged bankrupt.

In North America and most of the first world, credit is a privilege bestowed on individuals who have, in the financial institution’s estimation, the capability and intention of repaying debt. These capability and intention are often gauged using the credit score provided by credit bureaus. The higher a person’s credit score, the higher his credit worthiness, which means he has access to more credit. On the other hand, a person who is a discharged bankrupt or who is currently in a consumer proposal, has very limited chances of being granted credit.

It’s quite ironic that the person who has access to credit usually doesn’t use it and the one who needs it cannot access it.

After being out of Canada for seven years I came back and checked my credit score – the credit bureaus expunge records every six years so all my old records were gone and I had a clean slate.

Barely one month into a full time job I applied for a credit card with a provider known to help those who have no or bad credit history. A credit card is a necessity here. Imagine purchasing an LV bag for $3,050 and paying in $20 bills. Doable, yes, but the norm is you pull out your plastic, swipe or tap, and you’re done.

I had to build credit again and the sooner I started the better off I would be. I got a card with $500 as credit limit. I was grateful the card provider didn’t require a security deposit.

Fast forward two years I now have credit cards from three major banking institutions with credit limits I can’t afford to use.

Two strategies helped me get back on track with my credit. First, I always paid the minimum payment required on time. It’s better to pay the balance in full every month if you can afford it. Second, I ensured that my credit utilization is always within 30% or less of my revolving credit. This is the amount of credit you use versus what’s available to you. So if you had $10,000 credit, you shouldn’t use more than $3,000. If you maintain these two strategies, within a year or two your credit score will improve and credit offers will start coming your way.

I can now comfortably travel on Air Canada and proudly pay for my onboard purchases with any one of my three credit cards. In two years my situation has turned around for good. The challenge is to continue my responsible use of credit. I hope I don’t get depressed and use shopping as therapy. With credit at my fingertips, I avoid browsing LV and Tag Heuer websites for fear I might do an impulsive purchase. And get stuck paying for credit for a very long time.