OUR JOURNEY TO FINANCIAL FREEDOM

A debt-free adult is either really well-off in life or just really educated in the area of financial management. But most, if not all, have some kind of financial obligation to an institution or an individual. Debts, per se, are not a sin, but the Bible did say enough to emphasize the disadvantage of being in debt. The latter part of Proverbs 22:7 states, “…and the borrower is slave to the lender.” That clearly means losing financial freedom.

STARTING LINE

As I write this post, we are currently undergoing strict debt management. My wife and I longed for financial freedom in the middle of 2019. We prayed for God’s favor in our plans to curtail our spending and set up a livable debt management routine and pay off all our outstanding debts in 5 years’ time. But then, we found out that my wife is pregnant. You gotta love God’s sense of humor. This did not stop us to push through with our initial plans. This actually motivated us to stick with the plan because we have another responsibility to feed and clothe. Then, the global pandemic transpired. Talk about challenges. Still, God never failed to amaze us in the perfect timing of His provisions. A lot of things happened during the pandemic and we acquired more debt than what we planned to settle. The journey was hard and oftentimes disheartening, but we routinely kept tithing, paying, and praying that what God left for us will be enough until the next payday. Amazingly, God blessed our efforts and we are now over 50% of our projected goal.

PARADIGM SHIFT

To be honest, our initial reason for obtaining financial freedom is materialistic in nature. We wanted to invest and create wealth. After a while, we realized that wealth will be the obvious effect of being financially free. Creating wealth is really understanding the source of wealth – GOD! Now, we are aiming at the opportunity of being a conduit of God’s blessing to other people. It’s hard having that burden to help financially but can’t do anything about it. Financial prosperity is equally proportioned to our spiritual progress. 3 John 1:2 says, “Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers.” Matthew 6:33 also emphasized, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided to you.”

TRUE PROSPERITY

We are not yet financially free. We are still struggling and we understand the sacrifice needed to attain our goals. We also know that the journey we are going through is a way for us to solely depend on God and acknowledge His ultimate sovereignty. True prosperity is not just about creating wealth, but more about developing accountability and Biblical stewardship. It’s unlikely that our names will be published along with the billionaires of this world, but we do know that our names are written in the book of life, and whatever we gain in this world will pale in comparison to the glory of Christ that awaits us in heaven.

 

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. Roman 13:8

Photo by Josh Appel on Unsplash

WE CREATE TO SERVE

My creative intentions are for the purpose of serving others. It may seem superficial, but that is the truth. My actions may not look like it, but that is the reality. The moment an artist starts the creative process, we subconsciously look at the end in mind and ask ourselves “who will benefit from this?” This is a million-dollar question for artists like me because once we fail to fulfill this, then technically we have failed our project. Either we don’t finish or it gets rejected at first glance.

Serving may not come naturally to most people, but I think artists innately have a small percentage of this desire whenever we create. The moment we realize and use it to leverage our skills and abilities, we open up a whole new realm of possibilities. Success becomes one of the options.

SERVANT’S HEART

We have to understand the power of serving and having a heart that is willing to serve. As a Christian, I usually hear the phrase SERVANT’S HEART. It gets thrown around in Christian circles so much that we start getting immuned and start to disregard the weight of the concept behind the phrase. Internalizing the heart of a servant or a slave is what we need to do. Most of the scriptures were written during a period when slaves are in existence. Slaves are not free and they work because their lives depend on it. So, most of the time, when we see the English word “servant” in the Bible, it is pertaining to a SLAVE! With that in mind, having a SERVANT’S HEART is really having a SLAVE’S INTENTION. Take note…we are not promoting the SLAVE’S MENTALITY, but their INTENTION!

SLAVE MENTALITY

The mentality of the slave is confined to the limited freedom they are provided. They have limits and boundaries that they dare not cross. The intention of the slave, on the other hand, is to stay alive and get the approval of their master. They work for the master. As a Christian creative, I work for my heavenly Master. I now hone my whole being to my sole purpose in life – Love God, love others, and make multiplying disciples! So, am I a slave? Yes…I am should be willing to enslave myself to Christ. Because in Him, there is freedom. I know that sounds contradicting, but it’s really not. Let me illustrate it for you.

Imagine committing a heinous crime and you are bound to live your whole life in prison. You have been found guilty beyond reasonable doubt and you yourself know that it is true. Then, someone, you don’t know volunteered to live out the punishment for you. I know that our justice system does not work that way, but what if the judge says OK and swaps you out. Then, after a while, you found out that the person who volunteered is the judge’s son. What would you feel? Aside from feeling confused, wouldn’t you feel indebted? Somehow, your body would want to do something to repay their kindness. Let’s add to the plot. Since people know that you are guilty and despise you for being free, you have a hard time living your life outside. Life becomes hard and unbearable. But then, you are invited to live in a big house, free of rent, and your basic needs are provided. You are also given the opportunity to start a career and succeed. What would you do? How would you feel if your opportunities in life also came from the judge – the father of the volunteer?

PURPOSE

Basically, that’s how I view my life here on earth. The moment I responded to the grace of God in Christ, I realized the privilege and opportunities that are laid out for me. I am free because of Christ, so now I dedicate my life to Him…even to the extent of enslavement. Galatians 2:20 says –  I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. My life is now lived for Christ. So, therefore, my ability to create is a form of service, first to God, then to people around me.

As a Christian Creative, I do what I do for Christ. With every blog I post, every artwork I conceptualize, and even every conversation I have, I need to fulfill my ultimate mission in life – Love God, love others, and make multiplying disciples. I create to serve…until people recognize my Master.

So now, ask yourself. – “Why do I create?”

EVALUATING YOUR CREATIVE SELF

It takes a lot of effort to sustain creativity. As a person who started in the design industry almost 20 years, I could attest to the fact that motivating myself to create quality output is always a challenge. I tried a lot of ways to keep the creativity flowing and maneuver it to the place I need it to flourish. While all of that is happening, I also consider deadlines, client preferences, maintaining branding, and other projects I am working on. Not to mention my ministry in the church and my responsibility as a husband and dad. So, before I start burning out, I need to do some self-evaluation. Assessments and evaluations are crucial to any kind of growth. That is why I would like to go through my personal evaluation question on my creative self.

WHAT IS MY ULTIMATE PURPOSE?

Creative people are subconsciously trained to strive to visualize the end in mind. Every project has an ultimate purpose. Every design has a definitive objective. In every project I involve myself with, I always remind myself of my ultimate purpose. I’m not talking about the purpose of what I am currently working on, but my own ultimate purpose in doing this project. Why am I even doing what I’m doing right now? Why do we create content? Why do we pursue these things? It might be a cliché, but having a definite purpose in life will create certain standards in our life processes. Objectives and goals are easier to conclude when you are guided by your purpose in life.

If you haven’t thought about your ultimate purpose then maybe you have to go back to your core beliefs. What do you believe in? In my case, as a professing Christian, I hold on to the standards set forth by the Holy Bible. My purpose is then founded on my spiritual walk. Don’t get me wrong, this post is not designed to push my belief system on you. But it is not an impossibility for you to also acquire what I have. Whatever you decide on, one thing is clear – WE NEED AN ULTIMATE PURPOSE IN LIFE!

Now, what you are about to read next might confuse you, so take your time and re-read if needed. YOUR ULTIMATE PURPOSE IS BOUND TO CHANGE OVER TIME. Huh!? Yes, and I can attest to that. When I was young, my ultimate purpose was to survive. Get through everything as quickly as possible, by any means, to get to the next thing. Then when I started to work, I looked for stability. My goal was quantitative. I wanted to reach a certain salary grade and a certain amount in my bank account. Then, I got married and started a family, and I think I found my ultimate purpose with much finality. It’s letting God lead me to a life where I can point people to my core beliefs. Every project, write-up, event, family gathering, business tie-ups, and future endeavors are pursued with that in mind. As I type away, I think about what people will receive once they finish reading this (I hope you do finish reading this).

Once you refocus your mindset on your ultimate purpose, then it’s time to move on to the next question.

HOW AM I CONTRIBUTING TO MY ULTIMATE PURPOSE?

As we define our ultimate purpose, it’s now time to assess if our decisions in life are contributing to it. The artistic mind might seem to be very complicated, but it processes data and information just like any other person. In my opinion, we are just wired uniquely because of our heightened imagination and the ability to look at a situation from different perspectives. That is why this question should technically be easy to answer. SHOULD. But nothing in life is a walk in a park.

Countless decisions are made every single day and considering all of them is daunting for a creative like me. So focus on major decisions that are game changers – pursuing a new client, changing the artistic direction of a project, investing in a new partner, etc. Look into them with our special artistic viewpoint and evaluate if they would contribute to your ultimate purpose.

Just recently, we moved into a new home and the process my mind had to go through was the most meticulous I ever experienced to date. I had to reconstruct different situations in my mind from the time we make the down payment up to the actual move. It was like Dr. Strange going through every possible scenario to find the crucial one that would fit my ultimate purpose. Don’t get intimated by possible failures, because it hasn’t happened yet! Fear of failure may be a setback for artists like us. Risks are part of life but don’t make it a necessity. Adhere to the natural inclination of our mentality as artists and make that a basis of making calculated risks. Don’t delay your growth just because you see failure ahead. Inevitably, we move forward…just make sure you turn to the direction where your ultimate purpose is served.

AM I GENUINELY HAPPY?

As we create art, either for ourselves or for other people, is there joy? With every brush stroke we place in our painting, every word we add to our story, every element we include in our composition, does our heart jump in natural elation?

All my life I am taught that HAPPINESS IS A CHOICE. We choose to be happy. I always struggled with that saying, because I felt that emotions are somehow uncontrollable. But as I grew older, I accepted the reality that happiness IS a choice! In my experience, it’s not a conscious choice with immediate results. Happiness came from past choices that constructed my current condition. Just like any other emotion, it is built upon the norms and standards that we have. That is why most normal people don’t burst out of anger, because our conscience says otherwise.

If the reason for your self-evaluation is because a current situation is stealing your happiness, then mentally step back from where you are and consciously look into your other affairs and assess if you are still happy doing those things. Sometimes, I also get caught up in the hassle of my current project that I immediately dismiss life as unfulfilling and unfair. But as I refocused on my family and my other personal projects, I instantly realize that life is good. So don’t let a hard situation define your overall happiness. That is why we need to evaluate ourselves from time to time and just be reminded of the important things in our lives.

THAT’S IT!

Only three (3) questions? Yes. These are the only questions I need to realize the general status of my life. If you really think about it and chew on the questions, a lot of other questions will come up. I often do this whenever I was woken up by an upcoming project or a pending problem that I need to address. I alternately reflect on the questions while talking to God in my mind.

I pray that you take the time to slow down and evaluate yourself as you pursue creative excellence in your life and career!

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

EIGHT

Looking back and considering all the times I have failed you, I am so blessed that we have reached this point. Thank you for being sooooo patient with me and your kids (Alam kong minsan parang tatlo anak mo at panganay ako). We have so many pending plans partly because of the pandemic, but I know God has already set the perfect time for all of them to come into fruition. I won’t make this post longer than it should because all I wanted to say has been said in our prayer time a while ago. So…I will leave you a link to the song of our first dance (hindi ko na kinanta kasi di ko kayang hindi naiiyak…haha!)

Love you Pag!

THE CREATIVE PERSPECTIVE TO MANAGEMENT

I recently took a quick left/right brain test to confirm to myself that I am a right brained person. And it did confirm that but only for 4%. I took two different test and it said that my brain have reached a level of harmony where my creativity does not overpower my ability to logically assess, and vice-versa. I guess that comes from my Phlegmatic / Melancholic personality. Still, I feel that my creative self has dominated my career path, even in operations management.

WHAT IS A CREATIVE?

Being a creative is not confined to having the ability to design. I believe that if you have the capability to come up with an idea that has the potential to solve a problem, then you are a creative! A creative is a problem solver. So don’t restrict your notion of a CREATIVE to the stereotypical artsy person. That is just one aspect of the creative. Even programmers can be considered as a creative. If you are reading, you have the potential to be one.

THE CREATIVE IN PROCESS

I have been working since 2002 and through-out the years, my creative side has always been a factor in building my personal routine and business processes. My thinking process is not linear where I see a hierarchy or a chain line. My mind starts at a single point (not even the starting point) and stems out from there. I see multiple possibilities in my head and then decide where to zoom in for possible fine tuning or purging. It’s an organized mess in the beginning, but once I narrow down key areas, I get my notebook and start listing them down in a particular order. Don’t ask me what order because I usually decide once I see what I have written down.

Don’t get intimidated by the messy start, it usually gets clearer once we get to the end. If I get stuck with a mess, I usually scrap everything and start at another point. A successful process is comprehensive to everyone and not just one person. We have to push for clarity at the end, because we don’t want a self-serving process. We should always aim for an inclusive and functioning process.

CONNECT WITH OTHER CREATIVES

My work involves people. I have a core team of 4 supervisors who handle a specific section, and I consider them as my co-creative. Our organizational chart may say that I am above them, but once we start meeting face-to-face or online, their input is as good as mine. I bounce my ideas with my core people and I make it a point to listen to their suggestions. My connection with them is a valuable factor that enabled us to lay down working process in our department. Each section is unique in their roles and responsibilities, yet a certain harmony and sense of unity is seen in the way they collaborate.

We function better within a community. I wholly believe that we are hardwired as social beings and our desire for connection and community is a strongpoint that should be nurtured. The right connection can bring in good results. So don’t consider charging into war alone. You will need someone to watch your back.

STRENGTHENING YOUR BELIEF SYSTEM

As a creative, I adhere to a strong belief system that generally makes up my standard in pursuing ideas. Personal preferences in designing are also influenced by my belief system. As a Christian, I adhere to the infallible Word of God as the very foundation of my core beliefs. Christianity is not a once a week occurrence. We should be living and breathing the very doctrines we are hearing every time the Word is given to us. Every aspect of our lives is part of our Christian living. The moment we have responded to the gospel and made Jesus Lord of our lives, then even our creativity is subject to the standards of Jesus!

If you are reading this and not sure on what kind of belief system you are embracing, then maybe you are destined to hear my story.

GOING FOR THE LONG HAUL

There is a stigma about creative people in management that I want to break. There is this presupposition that we are all over the place, emotional, and too involved…well, sometimes we are but that doesn’t mean we suck at managing processes and people. Just like any other professional, we have our bad days and I wholly believe that we are not defined by our failures.

As a right-brained person who was catapulted to a senior management position since 2010, I think I have gotten the hang of this thing called MANAGEMENT! I haven’t reached the peak of my career in operations management, but the learning curve is much flatter than I expected. I may have a different approach in collaborating with people and building processes, but I think I still hit my goal at the end of the day. I’m still learning and enjoying every bit of it.

If there is one thing I am confident about as a creative, that’s pushing through every project I’m involved with even if the deadline has lapsed. I’m here to see through it even if it takes me longer than planned. I’m not insinuating that deadlines don’t matter….I’m just pointing out that finishing is more important! An unfinished project does not sit well with me, and I think that every creative person has the same sentiment on different levels. Pending projects, whether forgotten or out of negligence, does not leave my system. They haunt me till they are resolved. This is my greatest motivation in developing my processes.

At the end of the day, I know that I am where God intends me to be. I believe with all my heart that my full potential is found in the middle of God’s will for me. I was blessed with a creative mind and a place to flourish. How about you?

Photo by Diego PH on Unsplash