The power of the second wind
IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE - Rod Nepomuceno () - June 13, 2005 - 12:00am
I was one heck of a runner when I was a kid. I used to challenge my classmates to sprint races across the football field. And I’d always win by a mile. When my classmates had had it with me (since I always beat them), they left me by my lonesome. So having no one to run against, I challenged myself. I’d run across the field and time myself. And then I’d go back to where I started – and I’d run again and time myself again, trying to beat my old record.

Yup, I was kind of an oddball growing up.

When I was around 12, marathons and fun runs became the "in" thing. It was so popular that a local running apparel brand called Botak (Gamit Pantakbo) became a big hit. Everyone was wearing Botak back then. And it was at this age when I shifted from sprinting to long-distance running. Sprint sort of became anti-climactic for me. You run for 13 seconds and that was it. All the preparation you go through and then, come competition time, the whole thing is done in a flash. Then you go, "Huh, that’s it?" Marathons, on the other hand, had more drama. The competition is for more than two hours and so many things can happen during that time. There are so many ups and downs in running a marathon. You could be a slow runner but if you had more stamina, you can eventually overtake all those people who jumped the gun and sprinted ahead of you, and you could eventually win. Then there would be water stops along the way and you would see the runners pour cups of water all over their head, and then continue on running, their contorted faces expressing temporary relief. Very dramatic. And then there are all of these thoughts that would enter your mind while running – "Can I make it? Ten kilometers to go... I can’t make it. I’m going to stop for a rest. No, no, no, no, don’t stop, Rod... you’ll lose your rhythm. Keep on going, keep on going... I’m blacking out, I’m blacking out... But wait a minute... second wind, second wind... yes, yes!"
Mr. Second Wind
For me, the eighth wonder of the world is not the denuded rice terraces – it’s this thing called second wind. Second wind is that mysterious, sudden surge of strength that hits you after going through something demanding for a period of time. It normally happens when you’re running or playing a sport. Personally, it happens to me when I’m on the treadmill. After running for a while, I feel really tired. And at some point, when it becomes almost painful, I just want to stop. But despite the pain, I continue on. And at some point after that, I get my second wind. All of a sudden, I’m not that tired. In fact, at some point, it’s almost like I can go on and on – like I can run forever. It’s really weird because usually, just a few minutes before hitting my second wind, I almost feel like dying. Where do I get this additional energy? Beats me. What I do know is that it’s within all of us.

And this second wind doesn’t only apply in physical activities. It happens in business and in life in general. One person who personifies this second wind in business is my good friend, respected businessman, Mr. Second Wind, Bobong Velez.

As most people in the corporate world know, Bobong is the former big boss of Vintage Enterprises. He was also behind the highly successful and legendary party place, Faces, and the very popular Doña Nena’s restaurant. Most teenagers may not be aware of this but during the late ’80s and during the ’90s, Bobong ruled. He was "The Man." He owned the TV and marketing rights of the most popular league in the country – the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA). During Bobong’s time, the PBA was the biggest show in town. It enjoyed double digit ratings and was the one program that kept Channel 4 and Channel 13 afloat. Faces, on the other hand, was the most popular club in town. It was the only place to see and to be seen. If you didn’t have a Faces card back then, you were out. Personally, Faces will forever be a part of my life because it was where I first dated the cutest girl on earth, Teemy Ledesma. She was only 16 then and it was the first time she entered a dance club in Manila. She was totally blown away. I guess I really impressed her by bringing her to Faces. She eventually married me. So you can just imagine how thankful I am to Bobong.

I worked very closely with Bobong in the late ’90s when my company, IMG, entered into a joint venture partnership with Vintage. And though I never told him then, I learned more about business – and life in general – from dealing with Bobong than any other person I had dealt with at that time. To me, he is one of the most respectable and decent guys in business. He was truly an inspiration. He built an empire and was a major force in the media and disco world. And he deserved all of it. He has a magnetic personality and everyone I knew liked him. He was in an enviable position.

But in 1997, the entire Asia, including the Philippines, got hit by the worst financial crisis ever. And Vintage was hit badly. To make things worse, Vintage’s deal with the PBA was about to lapse at that time, and the league started entertaining offers from the other networks. Bobong suddenly found himself in a bidding war under the worst of circumstances. Hit by declining advertising sales as a result of the crisis, Bobong valiantly fought in the ensuing bidding battle. Joining forces with Viva Entertainment and IMG, he eventually won the bid over the other rival networks. However, he didn’t come out of the battle unscathed. The PBA demanded an astronomical TV rights fee from Vintage. Bobong found himself between a rock and a hard place. He couldn’t afford to lose the PBA and yet, having the PBA was a big financial burden. He did give it a go but the advertising revenues couldn’t match the escalation in costs. Eventually, Bobong knew that Vintage was a losing proposition. He eventually decided to sell all his rights over the PBA and over Vintage. Bobong got compensated for whatever was left of Vintage and he entered into a non-compete clause – that is, he won’t get involved in anything competitive to the PBA.

And so began the "quiet years" of Bobong Velez. In the minds of a lot of people, Bobong may have been beaten. But in the mind of Bobong, he was beaten, yes but definitely not out. He knew he still had something in him. He knew he still had a second wind. And I knew it too. I always knew he would come back. I met with Bobong regularly during his "rest" period. I knew he was cooking up something. He was just waiting for the right time.

And then, it happened. After lying low for around three years, Bobong found his second wind – and he’s back with a vengeance. Two weeks ago, Bobong launched the newest "in" place in town – a restaurant/bar called Mezze (which means small servings of delicious food) located at Greenbelt 3. It is Bobong’s second coming. And what a dramatic one too. Mezze was launched via two parties – the first one catering to the yuppy crowd (28 and above), the Faces crowd; the second one catering to the younger crowd (my crowd – yah, right). Both parties were smash hits. The who’s who crowd in Manila were there in full force to welcome Bobong back. It was a clear statement that Bobong has finally arrived – again!

I recently had lunch with Bobong at a jampacked Mezze and we talked about his renewed vigor in life – and how he got his second wind. I asked him where he found his motivation and his energy to continue on, despite all the challenges he had to face in the past.

"I know this may sound cliche, Rod," Bobong said, "but really, I get my strength from two things: 1) my faith in God and knowing that everything that happens to me has a divine reason and purpose; and 2) I genuinely love what I do. I love dealing with people. I love the fact that I could offer a good place for them to eat and have fun. I love entertaining. It’s in me. If I didn’t have my faith in God or if I didn’t enjoy what I was doing, I won’t be successful at all."

Bobong and I talked about the good old times – and "the dark ages," the time when he lost the PBA and he found his empire crumble slowly.

"That happened for a reason," Bobong continued. "It was a very humbling experience. It was then that I realized that I was not in full control of my destinythat someone bigger than me was in control. It was an eye-opener. When something like that happens to you, you can either crash and stay down forever – or you can learn from it. Personally, what I got was a better perspective of things. You realize the more important things. My mind became clearer. And I was able to see things more clearly."

"Mezze was an opportunity that fell on my lap," Bobong said. "Soleil closed down and this space suddenly became available. I immediately became excited. And I instantly knew then that it was the right time. I just knew I had my second wind because there was this sudden surge, this sudden rush in me. Sure, I had other business opportunities during my three-year hiatus but this was the one business opportunity that really excited me. Probably because it’s the one thing I always wanted to do. It was the one thing that I was really good at. I waited a long time for this. And the wait was painful at times. But my patience paid off. And now, I am having a blast."

And what a blast Bobong is having. After two successful parties, he will be hosting a Faces-themed reunion party in late July. Undoubtedly, that will be another hit. And, as if that wasn’t enough, he was recently asked by the PBA to participate in the bidding for the league’s TV rights. Talk about poetic justice. It’s only right. Bobong deserves the good karma. The PBA’s brightest years was during Bobong’s time.
Digging Deep
I know a lot of people my age who seem to be getting to that point of weariness. This feeling is called burnout and it happens to a lot of people. It’s a natural thing. And the feeling comes and goes. But for a lot of people, the feeling lingers on for too long that they can’t avoid questioning whether or not they are going the right direction.

When you go through this phase, don’t raise the flag and give up right away. It’s a pain but sometimes time has a way of healing the pain. Just continue what you’re doing and persevere. Sooner or later, you’ll find yourself very comfortable in what you’re doing. And when you do that, it’s inevitable that you’ll hit on some bullseyes. You can’t be shooting blanks all the time. When you achieve these small daily victories, you’ll eventually find yourself gliding effortlessly. You get confident in your work because there will come a time when you know your job so well that you can almost do it blindfolded. You become a master of your craft. And your work doesn’t become a chore anymore. It becomes second nature.

And that’s when your second wind sets in. It’s just like running. If you continue running long enough, there will come a point that you can go on and on and on. The idea is to ride out the wind and enjoy the ride.

Life is a marathon. It’s never won on sprints. It’s won through perseverance and patience, relying not just on our initial excitement but on our second wind. Always remember that you have it in you – it’s in all of us.

I know it’s cliche but it’s worth being reminded – don’t let the challenges of life knock the wind out of you. Bad things can happen and you will sometimes find yourself knocked down. But to quote Billy Joel – "Don’t forget your second wind!" Always acknowledge and always believe that it’s there. That is half the battle won. Only by eventually using it and harnessing it will you determine how you will eventually come out of this life.

Remember, not every one is blessed to have a second chance. For as long as your heart is still beating and your mind is still functioning, your second wind is there.

Don’t blow it.
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