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The reason for being

IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE - Rod Nepomuceno -
Over the past weeks, I’ve been suffering from a bad case of "Whyosis." OK, I know you’re probably saying, "Yikes, what the heck is that? That sounds pretty bad!" Well, in a way, it is bad. It’s some kind of sickness. But not the physical kind. In a nutshell, it’s the syndrome where I get into this funk – a mode of sadness and desperation – coupled with the question "Why?" pounding repeatedly in my head.

Physically, there was nothing wrong with me. But emotionally and psychologically, I was drained. The daily grind, the drudgery of everyday living was taking its toll on me again. Every day, my life was centered on the same thing – fax, e-mail, business calls, texting, drafting memos, meetings. And every night, questions would go around my head. I was questioning the reason for everything that was going on in my life. I felt like I was possessed by one of those ancient philosophers that I studied in college. I kept on asking questions like "Why am I here?", "What’s my purpose?", "What’s the meaning of life?", "Am I contributing anything at all to society?", and so on. All of these questions could be summed up to the ultimate question – "Why?"

I know some of you might be thinking that these musings are clearly coming from a man who hasn’t found God yet, or who hasn’t read the very popular book, Rick Warren’s Purpose-Driven Life. That’s what’s bothering me actually. Because while I admit I’m not exactly a candidate for the Mother Teresa award, I do have faith in God, and yes, I do pray to Him constantly. I have read the Purpose-Driven Life and I think it’s great. It answered a lot of questions and it was an eye-opener. Still, I find myself asking "Why?" It’s like eating, you know. You get hungry, and then you eat. And you get your fill. But after a while, you get hungry again. And you get the same stomach pangs. In the philosophical realm, I feel the same way. Even if I’ve had enlightening moments in the past, somehow, the "Whyosis" syndrome manages to come back and haunt me.

I guess this is God’s way of making sure that we’re always hungry for the truth, lest we get complacent. It’s his subtle nudge on all of us so that we’ll always work hard to find our mission in life. But whenever I get hit by this dreaded disease, I can’t help but feel a little desperate. I feel helpless and vulnerable. I feel like I’m not in control. And I don’t like it.

Luckily for us, God never forgets to send an angel to help us out in those situations. And it happened to me two weeks ago.

That particular week was dreadful. Everything was going awry. There were lots of problems in the office. A couple of pending deals slipped out of our hands. I was having some problems with some of my staff. The second-hand car that I recently bought had some kinks. And to make things worse, I had a little spat with my wife (although it was a minor one, it felt big at that particular time). I felt useless. I was totally out of it. I felt everything was not in place in my life. I wasn’t in control. And the "Why?" question started rearing its ugly head into my subconscious. Then, like I always do, I went through my e-mails, thinking to myself, "I bet I’ve got some bad news waiting for me again."

And then I saw this e-mail with the subject title, "Mondays and It’s a Wonderful Life." It was from a person I didn’t know. I opened it and it read:

Dear Mr. Nepomuceno,

It is almost like an obsessive -compulsive ritual: I cannot get to work in my office without having first picked up the Philippine STAR, turning to Business Life, and scanning the pages for the familiar column. Reading your articles are always comforting; it is almost like having a conversation with an old friend because I have been doing it for so long. Sometimes, I disagree with your views, sometimes your words give me precious lightbulb moments. At other times, I do not learn anything new, but I am given the blessing of feeling that I am not alone in my idiosyncrasies and struggles, that someone has given a voice to them, and therefore there are other people in the same boat as I am.

Thank you for sharing your views, ideas and stories – never preaching, never "talking down," always just sharing. Thank you for your honesty in opening up about your weaknesses. Thank you for the vulnerability in talking about sensitive issues. We don’t always get this from male writers. You have been able to balance wisdom and weakness, and it all comes across to the reader as strength. I hope that you never think that your column is "in vain." You have many fans; your writing is more powerful than you think. There is a spirituality in your writing, but it doesn’t come across as "churchy." This is what many people are looking for. We read you because you are not a government official, a celebrity, or an expert with an intellect we have to study to understand (this is a compliment). We feel that you are like us, traveling the same journey.

Three years ago, my family died in a car accident in the US. I was going out of my mind in pain. One morning a few months after, I was scanning the STAR when I saw the title of your column. I remember my reaction: "Hah! Wonderful life, my foot." I was bitter and angry and wanted to crumple the page, the photo with your smiling face. I thought, "He doesn’t know what he’s saying." I read your article though, and for a moment, it was a friendly, cheerful, light diversion. It did not cause inner transformation, no big aha moment, but it lifted my spirits a bit. I remember that, because at the time, almost nothing could lift my spirits.

And so it went. Every Monday, my morning ritual would include reading your thoughts. My favorite article is your "Be Good, Not Kind." It came out on the birthday of a family member who died in that accident. Months before, I was having another "grief attack" and lashing out at all my employees for certain misdemeanors. Reading that article was life-saving – I have you to thank for a more relaxed BP ever since. I have that article glued to my daily planner, and I read it everytime I need to remember.

Sometimes, we do our best at something, like the way you write your articles – and you are never sure whether they make an impact or not, or whether you write them well or not. You just hope that they make a difference. Mr. Nepomuceno, they have made a difference in mine. You were the friendly face that gave sense and humor at a time when I was grieving and dreaded Mondays because crying in bed was more appealing than facing another workweek. You have taught me, re-taught me, and reminded me of the beautiful things in life. I thank you so much. Not all of life is wonderful, but there are certainly experiences and people that make parts of it so – one of them is your column.


I stared at the letter for around 10 minutes. I was stunned. I’ve received quite a number of e-mails from readers in the past, but none quite as powerful and emotional as this. This letter brought me to tears. I was shaking after I read it. I was totally humbled by the message – I actually meant something to someone – someone I have never met in my life.

LW’s letter was certainly an eye-opener. It made me realize that maybe I think too much of myself. I’ve learned a valuable lesson from LW’s letter – we will never find the reason for our being if we only looked within ourselves. The moment you stop thinking of yourself and start thinking of others, you will find that elusive reason. And the "Why?" question immediately becomes answerable.

Even in the corporate world, this whole concept makes a lot of sense. No company will ever get big if it only thinks of itself. A company will only be successful if it thinks of its customers’ needs and how it can serve its clients better. A company dedicated to its market’s needs rather than its stockholders’ needs need not worry about growth and profits. It will automatically come. A corporation’s reason for existence should never be self-enrichment. A corporation, just like any other person, should always prioritize its market and its customers’ needs. That’s why in every Articles of Incorporation, there is always a clause on Primary Purpose. And if you look at all the Articles of Incorporation in the SEC, you will never find one that says, "To make loads of money." The purpose always states a reason for existence. And it’s usually to provide a service or a product for others. The reason is in others.

The band Hoobastank in their song The Reason summed it all up: "I found a reason for me... And the reason is You."

So stop thinking of yourself. You’ve done too much already. Think of others for a change. I know this sounds ironic but when you start "seeing" others, you will ultimately find yourself.

And that’s a good reason to live.
* * *
Thanks for your letters! You may e-mail me at By the way, LW, thank you for your wonderful letter! I will forever cherish it.

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