Writing on Air

Writing on Air by Jim Paredes

Archive for June 17th, 2007

Everyday wisdom 11

Posted on June 17, 2007 by jimparedes

Sunday, June 17, 2007

I thought I’d write about practical things this week — lessons that everyone can learn and apply in everyday situations. I surveyed relatives and friends and asked them for some nuggets of practical wisdom I could share with my readers. I told them that it had to be the kind of wisdom that came from direct experience, which only life itself and years we’ve spent living it can give. Here are a few I learned on my own and some I solicited from friends.

1. Live below your means.

This has been my mantra ever since I started earning money, and even when I was in school. I have made it a habit to be frugal and always save for a rainy day. I actually live simply, although my wife will disagree since I buy a lot of cameras and electronic stuff. But the truth is, every gadget I have bought has paid for itself and more.

I’ve had this habit of setting aside as much as 60 to 70 percent of whatever I earn for savings and for future planning. It is a practice that has served me well and it is something I pass on to newcomers in showbiz. It is pathetic seeing upstarts buying expensive cell phones, Rolex watches and big Expedition pickups only to watch them part with the stuff later when their careers plateau.

2. Apply different standards when talking to men and women about love.

Truly, women are from Venus and men are from Mars, especially when it comes to love. For example, the memories of men and women operate differently when talking about their past loves. I am not just talking about men forgetting anniversaries and women never forgetting their partners’ indiscretions. Their memories just work differently.

As an example, and as a rule, men like to inflate the number of women they have had to bragging levels, while women like to downplay the number of boyfriends they have had, perhaps to appear more innocent and chaste!

3. “If you want to eat steak, don’t buy the whole cow.”

This was my driver’s comment when we were talking about how some married men end up having not just girlfriends but second and even third families.

This is good advice as well, which is helpful to those who think that they really want something — say, buying a vacation house — when all they really want is to go to the beach occasionally.

I’ve always wanted to own a yacht but, thank God, I have never had the kind of money to actually purchase one. And I probably will never buy one, ever since I came across a joke popular among boat owners that their two happiest days were the day they acquired their boat, and the day they sold it!

It saves a lot of money and trouble if one can be clear about what one really likes.

4. Tread carefully when talking about religion or politics.

A musician friend stresses the fact that these two domains have claimed more lives in human history than anything else. Religion and politics are so potent, they can arouse passions so strong — both constructive and destructive — that can consume their followers with the zeal to convert, or more likely, to conquer in the name of God or country. And the need to “win” or be proven “correct” is as attractive as the ring’s compelling allure in the epic Lord of the Rings. If you don’t believe me, just ask Gollum.

It would take a wise person to avoid being sucked into such an argument, or to be able to wriggle out of one with dignity and humor intact.

5. Be nice to the people you meet on your way up. They’re the same ones you will meet on the way down.

The nature of showbiz and life itself is volatile and uncertain. However high or low your peaks and valleys, or how wild the ride can get, the people you work with, like makeup artists, musicians, production people, fans and the other “little people” in the studios, will be the constant witnesses who tell others how you have treated them. They will be there when it’s your time to leave and they will either give you a round of applause or wish you good riddance.

6. Be nice to anyone who serves you food or has to poke a needle into you.

With some incredulity and shock, I have heard firsthand from some waiters how they spit on food or put dirty stuff on plates when they have to serve grouchy, catty or unkind customers. I imagine there could be some nurses and medical assistants who take secret pleasure in making things uncomfortable for people who do not treat them with the respect they deserve.

All in all, it pays to be polite and patient with people even if their service may be unsatisfactory. And if you feel the compulsion to complain or give restaurant staff a piece of your mind, it is best to do so only after you have eaten the food.

7. Never say never.

Many times, I have been bewildered at how circumstances and situations can change so much that I find myself doing something I have sworn never to do again. Sometimes, we feel that we have written something off with finality, and then life brings us back to it. Only this time, we have no choice but to engage it again. Haven’t we written off certain people or made final decisions on something, only to find ourselves facing them again and again?

8. Truth is stranger than fiction because fiction, at least, tries to be logical.

I am paraphrasing Tom Clancy. Life can indeed be unpredictably illogical, irrational and can produce totally unexpected outcomes. A guy buys a lotto ticket for the first time and wins P100 million! A housewife beats a seasoned and powerfully entrenched politician and becomes president. Or how about a country experiencing “people power” for the second time?

9. Murderers and rapists are more trustworthy than thieves.

My grandfather was Director of Prisons in Muntinlupa when my older siblings were growing up. And an uncle was Assistant Director of Prisons when I was growing up. They knew and understood human nature. One of the things I remember as a child was the household help the family kept. In my uncle’s quarters were “living out” prisoners, reformed murderers and rapists who had served part of their sentences and were out on good behavior. My grandfather had this theory that people who murder or rape, or commit a crime of passion, are easier to rehabilitate and trust than people who plot and premeditate to steal and plunder.

My grandfather’s youngest daughter (my aunt), as a beautiful teenager, was chaperoned by this small funny man we called Patok, whom I discovered later had been an inmate in Muntinlupa for rape. In my grandfather’s eyes, thieves and robbers were generally incorrigible. He just could not trust them, period. His judgment seemed correct because the reformed inmates who were his household help kept his home neat and tidy, and served him and his family loyally and well.

10. We cannot change other people. We can only change ourselves.

Pity those who marry with the mission to straighten out and convert their spouses, for they will fail. And I’m not just talking about marriage. Gerald Jampolski, the spiritual writer and psychologist, says: “Peace of mind comes from not wanting to change others.”

On a visit in Manila a while back, he talked about the many years of stress he spent trying to change his mother, until he got tired and gave up and just learned to accept her totally for what she was. It was only then that he saw his mother change from a cantankerous, unreasonable and angry woman to become a more pleasant, easygoing and loving person. He says that it happened because he was the one who changed!

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