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ANN Exceptional VA’s 2013 in review

My VA blog 2013 in review was recently released. All my stories will not have many comments and reads if not for all of you.

Honestly, I am still at awe every time somebody says “I read your blog!” for many reasons – get an idea, laugh at my story, laugh at my story more, or just to keep their sanity.

Moreover, having many followers were a dream. But seeing my followers growing by hundreds was still jaw-dropping.

I’m sharing my year in review to you because YOU made it happen!

Happy 2014!

 

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 3,800 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 3 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

4 The Exceptional Things I Have Learned during the First Ever Virtual Assistant Summit 2013

Snapshots of what you missed (if you weren't there): fun games. Christmas gifts, fun people, and answered questions. :)

Snapshots of what you missed (if you weren’t there): fun games. Christmas gifts, fun people, and answered questions. 🙂

I was super glad to be one of the participants of the first ever Virtual Assistant (VA) Summit 2013. The Luneta Hall of Bayview Park Hotel Manila was packed with top-caliber Filipino VAs, aspiring VAs, employees, and entrepreneurs. Our mentor, Jomar Hilario, hosted the summit.

Eight speakers, including Jomar, took turns in imparting empowering messages, heartwarming stories, easy-to-do action steps, and a lot of a-has.

It was fitting to note that the first ever Virtual Assistant Summit 2013 took place on the 150th Anniversary of one of our heroes, Andres Bonifacio. I think it’s because Bonifacio fought for what is for Filipinos – their land, their country, their freedom. Same with us VAs (and newbies, even wannabes), we have gathered in one event to sought another way of having financial freedom, time, and pursuit of our passion.

What I love about the summit was that each speaker were given 15 minutes to answer questions on each table. I was so humbled to be asked questions, too, even if I was not a speaker, because I am already a virtual assistant. I hope my seat mates learned something from me (a big shout to Table #6!)

Moreover, it was great to see people in the flesh because we only see each other online! 🙂

It was great to learn from these exceptional Filipino Virtual Assistants!

It was great to learn from these exceptional Filipino Virtual Assistants!

So, what are the exceptional things did I learn from the first ever Virtual Assistant (VA) Summit 2013?

1. Marvin Macatol – A VA needs 3Es to Nurture (endowment, energy source, and endurance), 4Ps to Watch Out (priorities, progress, phrases, and posture), and 4Cs of Getting Gigs (connect, communicate, correspond, and contract).

2. Mr. Clement Wong (Managing Director, SocialMetric Pte. Ltd.) – A VA’s best bet is education. It is best to invest in 200 hours of education a year! Later, Mr. Marcus Ho (SocialMetric Pte. Ltd.’s Operations Director and a best-selling author in Singapore) said that they look at a VA candidate’s suitability and eligibility when hiring the best person for their company (thanks to Sir Marvin for correcting data here!)

3. Noemi Cariaso-Mora – techonology is a VA’s frenemy. A VA has to stay focused. And it’s okay to ask for help.

4. Joyce Villarisco – one is never too young to start thinking big (and having a Rich Dad mindset!). Joyce is the YOUNGEST Filipino VA that the circuit knows – she left school to pursue what she wanted. And I think she got more than what she asked for.

5. Shawi Cortez – a VA is and should never confined in a four-walled home office. She has traveled many countries that even I could not pronounce correctly and still earned money. If she can do it, so can we!

6. Franz Escolastico – time management, doing tasks in advance, and having a ME time made her earn money as a VA and at the same time play violin in different music gigs. She even played two songs for us! (Get well soon, Franz!)

7. Joanne Vergara – a Filipino can become a VA – that’s a fact. But Joanne taught us that it is also possible for a Filipino VA to become a leader through empowering one’s online team.

Feast Builder JC Libiran sealed the summit deal when he shared to us that we VAs are not only earning money at home and are with our loved ones most of the time. We are serving somebody else’s mission. JC and his wife also shared God’s faithfulness in us. JC gave these inspiring insights after the video message of Bo Sanchez, Philippines’s leading Catholic preacher.

Bro Bo. Sanchez and Feast Builder JC Libiran gave empowering messages.

Bro Bo. Sanchez and Feast Builder JC Libiran gave empowering messages.

Everyone went home happy, thanks to the Christmas exchange gifts, 1 minute dances, and new friends.

Attending the VA Summit was a great way to start my week-long break for an out-of-the-country trip (hey, did we say that a VA is not confined in a four-walled home office?). I will bring with me the exceptional learnings that I learned and the online friends that I finally met.

Next year’s VA Summit is on November 29, 2014. So if you already got a 2014 calendar, I suggest you mark it red.

Super thanks to our mentor, Jomar Hilario, for making this event happen (and kudos to the volunteers, too!)

Super thanks to our mentor, Jomar Hilario, for making this event happen (and kudos to the volunteers, too!)!

2 A prayer for the Virtual Assistants in the Affected Areas of Typhoon Yolanda/Haiyan

Please continue to pray for our country and our fellowmen. And a big thank you for sending us help.

Please continue to pray for our country and our fellowmen. And a big thank you for sending us help.

We thank you that working from home has been possible now due to the brilliance You have given to man.

Thank you for the opportunity to work in the comfort of our homes; just a hand’s reach to our loved ones every day. This chance has made us Filipino Virtual Assistants earn from the work of our hands in our own country.

This past week, Typhoon Yolanda hit our country, particularly in Visayas. All of us directly hit or not, prepared well for the worst. But the typhoon was just too much.

We pray for all the victims of Typhoon Yolanda, especially the Filipino Virtual Assistants who are living in the affected areas. May all of them and their families be safe.

May they be able to communicate with their clients. Their clients may understand their situation.

Send the Filipino Virtual Assistants their immediate need like food, water, and clothing coming from generous people all over the country and abroad

Let the Filipino Virtual Assistants who lost their homes and their equipment find solace in the fact that material things can be replaced, but not their life.

May other Filipino Virtual Assistants who were spared find many ways to extend their hand to those who need help.

Somehow, we still cannot understand why this disaster happened. Maybe some of us don’t know what lies ahead. But the typhoon’s disastrous magnitude is so little compared to Your wisdom.

We know that You are holding us even in these times of uncertainty and desperation. We will be steadfast on our faith. We may never understand now, but we trust You.

Because we know that at the end of these, better days are coming.

We are going to see the best in us.

What we lost, You will help us gain.

Your grace is enough until the pains heals.

With Your guidance, we Filipinos will rise again.

Lastly, we pray for those who have helped and are still extending help to us. May Your blessings pour on them immensely.

Amen.

Courage: Doing it Afraid

post-op trending image

This is my “trending” (surprisingly shocking, to others) Instagram photo a month a day after my thyroid operation. I got back to my wedding singing gig! Honestly, if this is God’s grace, I don’t know what it is.

 

What really, is courage? Is it facing a battle for others to feel safe again? Is it standing up for what is right? Is it facing the music? Is it jumping off a 50-foot cliff, or diving the deep ocean? Or is it reaching the highest peak despite not having enough supplies and tired feet?

It has been a month and 5 days since my total thyroidectomy operation. It was an overwhelming experience, yet I could not seem to find a time to sit down and write the story. But then, I told God I was ready to become a miracle worker.

This, my family and friends, is my story of courage.

For those who knew my medical condition, you may remember that I was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism since 2008, with additional nodules inside (for those who didn’t, well, now you know why this voracious eater was not getting fat). It started with one nodule at the right thyroid lobe. Last summer, the ultrasound scan showed there were 7 nodules in both right and left lobes of my thyroid. It seems the visitors were not oriented much of the Reproductive Health Bill. My endocrinologist suggested for a biopsy of the biggest nodule (measuring one centimeter), which I obliged.

The pathologist said he could not commit whether it the overstaying nodules are good or bad. Based on the shape of the specimen (as seen in the microscope), he cannot clearly say if it is just a normal nodule (which is still bad because it might grow bigger and choke me. Oh geesh, small is really terrible!) or papillary carcinoma.

Upon seeing the results, my endocrinologist gave the verdict: the best option is a thyroid operation. My thyroid will be removed.

The next four months, I asked five doctors to see my biopsy results. Who knows? I may get a different answer. But I also prepared for the inevitable. I signed up for a health maintenance organization (HMO) that my company provided for its employees. A friend, whose spouse underwent a thyroid surgery, selflessly gave me tips on what to prepare (from the hospital to the schedule of operation to post-operation must-dos). I prepared a checklist of what to prepare.

All along, I was praying for a twist of verdicts. But all the doctors said the same thing: stop taking care of most likely “unwanted visitors.”

I again sat down and rethought of what took place in the last few months. Then I saw myself writing this in my prayer journal:

“I’m done dilly-dallying. Scared as I am, I am ready to have a smile on my neck. I am not worrying anymore, which was surprising even to me.
Send me and lead me to the best doctors and nurses, to the clean and best equipment, to the best medicines, and to a comforting bed with all those I love and respect surrounding me.
I promise to follow. I want to become a miracle worker.
Today, I am surrendering my ailing thyroid to protect the rest of me. You know better than I.”

This was where grace entered and the blessings just kept pouring.

The surgeon, recommended by my endocrinologist, was suddenly listed as one of the accredited surgeons of my HMO. A few months ago, his name was not included in the list. During our first meeting, he saw the possibility that the nodules are only colloids, so he could save some parts of my thyroid.

I targeted my office clearance (I had to do this because I will be out for a month) to be finished within a week. It was all signed in six days.

A week before the operation, I wrote this in my prayer journal:

“The next Monday, by the time I write this, I am in my hospital bed, part of my thyroid gone, resting from the operation. I don’t know if I am already thick-skinned in these kinds of situations (I never had a surgery before), but I just feel that everything’s going to be great. I feel that someone has to think that not all that others heard or experienced will happen to me. If somebody has to think that I am going to get through this, it should be ME.”

Then, the day of the operation came. It was Monday, the 23rd of September. It was raining hard outside the hospital.

Hours before the operation, I read the Day 23 Faith Declaration written in Bo Sanchez’s book, How Your Words Can Change Your World: “I trust in God completely even when things do not go as I expect. By waiting and by calm I shall be saved, in quiet and in trust my strength lies. In Jesus’ name.”

Somehow, I could not seem to swallow the words: I trust in God completely even when things do not go as I expect.

My surgeon’s initial diagnosis was that the nodules in my thyroid were colloids, so it is possible that a part of the organ will be left. That’s what I wanted.

What if God has another way?

I breathed deeply. I calmed myself by reading the faith declaration again.

Then I whispered, “God, I am here because I trust You. Let us get this party started.”

Then, my stretcher arrived. I was wheeled to where the party begins.

It took close to four hours before the start of my operation, as my surgeon was still finding his way to the heavy rains that day. I remembered being so asleep due to the injected medicine for relaxation, but I always woke up without the groggy feeling. During those times, I ushered prayers and songs (and I asked for linen each time because it was freezing cold).

My surgeon and anesthesiologist talked me out on my next run when they arrived. Then, as the anesthesia was about to be injected in my dextrose, I closed my eyes.

I woke up. It was freezing cold again. I was in a different room.

“Nurse, ang ginaw!”

Wait a minute. Oh gosh. Did I just hear my voice?

It was a bit hoarse, like someone held it. But it felt that nothing has changed.

The nurse placed linen on me when I said, “May boses ako.”

I continued talking, “Recovery room na ba ito?”

“Opo ma’m,” the nurse replied.

“Salamat po, Diyos ko,” I said as I tried to find my rosary. I saw it taped a few inches away from my hand. I also felt a white set of gauze below my neck. The nurse also applied cold compress in my neck.

“Ano’ng oras na?” I again asked.

“Five o’ clock na po, ma’m.”

“Maulan pa din?”

“Opo.”

After twelve hours, I was back in my hospital room. I was confident enough to say “Hi!” to my mother with a big wave. A few minutes later, my mother told me what happened: my thyroid was removed.

Everything in me felt silent. Then I breathed calmly and said, “Ok na ‘yun. Kung anuman ang nakita nila, natanggal na.”

I continued thinking of how I would look and feel like at my recovery. Still, the events that took place still amazed me.

I had none of possible post-operation complications. Two days after my operation, I was home.

A week after the operation, I was back in my endocrinologist’s clinic. She told me that the pathology report showed that my left lobe nodules are of the colloid type. But the right lobe with the biggest nodule has papillary carcinoma. This was the reason the thyroid was removed. She added that she will get back to me within the week to confirm the report, as it stated that the papillary carcinoma is “microscopic.” She explained that if this is very small (hence, microscopic), there is no need for me to undergo a radioactive iodine (RAI) procedure.

Two days later, I received an SMS from my endocrinologist: “Hi Ann. No need for RAI. Please see me next week for your medicine.”

With this experience, I kept on thinking of what Bo Sanchez wrote about courage.

Courage is about surrendering everything to the Lord, even if you are scared.

Courage is telling God, “This is what I want,” yet adding, “Your will be done.”

Courage is holding on to God’s grace, yet taking one step forward.

Courage, indeed, means doing it afraid.

It is with hope that you found many lessons, cried, laughed, and above all, was amazed by God’s grace.

—–

I took a month’s off from my full-time work to, get this: update this site, take FREE Brainbench exams, and read a lot of books! More on them on the next succeeding posts!

Becoming a VA means isolation? Not for me!

This is my dream home office. I have this in my dream book and computer wallpaper. :)

This is my dream home office. I have this in my dream book and computer wallpaper. 🙂

Recently, Mashable.com published an online article on how to solve top pitfalls of working from home. In the article, four pitfalls and solutions were identified. One of the pitfalls was virtual assistants may bring “inevitable sense of isolation.”

Well, I’m going to be honest: one of the reasons why I want to work full-time at home is because I can no longer stand office politics and getting along with people who, for reasons I don’t know, are born negative. I believe in the saying, “you are the five people who you hang out everyday,” and so I try to either be positive or hang out with positive people. But the office really IS a corporate jungle – one really can’t find a lot of positive people around (I’m sorry to all the companies where I previously worked, but it’s true). I actually envision myself standing on top of my office table, with red high heels and red lipstick on the last day of work for my grand rant. Ok, I’m kidding on that last sentence.

On the other hand, I also thought of the “isolation” idea. I thought of what life would be working alone – just me and my computer, working on the outputs for the day, then checking Hollywood gossips and stalking at Facebook friends during the break. Interesting thought, right?

I know I can work well with others and alone. I have tried and tested myself on that after 11 years of working. But life would be utterly boring going solo. So when the isolation idea occurred, I immediately listed down things that I would do to fight loneliness:

1. That running club in Alabang every Thursday that I’m so raving to join? Hah! That would be a great Thursday night run with new running friends!

2. I’ll be the official events organizer of every circle of friends that I have. I’ll make sure we will meet once a month.

3. I’ll buy another computer for Skype, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest break during the day.

4. How about tutoring kids after school? I’d get to earn and learn with children at the same time!

5. I’ll enroll in Spanish Language Class and Cooking Class – that another set of new friends!

6. I’ll visit my former office mates for a short chat and let them see how great it is to work from home.

7. I’ll burn the phone lines and Skype. No SMS, just pure calls.

8. I’ll do once-a-month seminars for my church. That’s a great set of people.

9. Get to know the neighbors one by one (honestly, I don’t know some of my neighbors ever since I started working).

10. Oh well, I could sing my heart out loud in the house and sing “it doesn’t mean I’m lonely when I’m alone!”

So, is becoming a VA means isolating myself from the universe? Not for me!

Helping Ricelle

Last February 2, 2013, I was one of the guest panelists in a private webinar by my mentor, Jomar Hilario.

The private webinar was the prize of the second winner of Sir Jomar’s Christmas promo. The webinar is a one-and-a-half hour no-holds barred question and answer about my life as a part-time virtual assistant. My co-panelist is the amazing work-at-home mom, Noemi Mora (for those of you who attended the September 15, 2012 VA seminar of Sir Jomar, Noemi is the first sharer of her VA life. Such is our team up, I guess.)

The winner’s name is Ricelle Velasco. Man, she came really prepared on her questions! She was very honest in telling us that she has not started listening in the Virtual Assistant Bundle that she bought, which was okay with us. Sir Jomar’s role was to listen (while typing) in the webinar. It was really the three of us talking.

We ended up the private webinar with full of hope for Ricelle. Just after signing off at the Access Webinar and Skype, I whispered a prayer to Ricelle. I prayed that she finally finds out what she wants to do in life, and be aggressive in going for her dreams.

It is always humbling to have the chance to help people who want to finally reach for their dreams through becoming a virtual assistant. Never in my dreams did I imagine that I’d get to do this. All I really wanted was to be a full-time virtual assistant – update my blogs, apply on jobs, and eventually get many gigs. I didn’t know that I’d get to share my VA experiences.

Here’s to Ricelle and to other aspiring virtual assistants: never never never never never never never give up.

Ever.

Want to become a Virtual Assistant? Jomar Hilario’s running the first “How to Become a Virtual Assistant Seminar” on March 16, 2013. Go to http://filipinova.com for more details.

Here's my email to Ricelle minutes after the private webinar. Try changing Ricelle's name to yours. :)

Here’s my email to Ricelle minutes after the private webinar. Try changing Ricelle’s name to yours. 🙂

Success in Gestation Period

always think positive!

always think positive!

I’m not sure if this will be a shock to you, but here it is: my part-time virtual assistant job folded up effective first day of 2013.

Not really a good way to start the year, you might say.

Here’s the story: I was doing my usual work for the client when I got an email from her, telling me that she has to end my contract. The client told me that her travel website is not going live yet (real-time registration), so she could not afford to pay me anymore. She kept telling me that I was a consistent great worker, but she could not keep me.

Again, not really a good way to start the year.

Of course I got sad. I’m a human working for a client whose miles away from me. I was looking forward to helping more in her business. Also, I am still experiencing having online office mates, as she hired two virtual assistants last December.

I sighed. Then, I sent her my reply. I told her that it’s okay. Now I get to focus on finishing my research proposal in my master’s degree class. Also, I will have more time to finish my VA 2.0 assignments. Wow, I got a lot of work to do still!

The client appreciated how I welcomed the news, albeit sad. The client told me that I could always ask her for referrals if I needed it.

A few days later, I saw my contract ended, with a great feedback from my client.

It was bittersweet. At least, I was not fired.

Recently, one of my mentor’s virtual assistants asked me for a private webinar – I would be a guest panelist for a no-holds barred question and answer with a budding virtual assistant. I was hesitant: I am no longer a virtual assistant (well, for now). How can I be a credible panelist?

My mentor’s VA said it all: it doesn’t matter. You’re still a VA, with full of experiences under her belt. (More of this story in my other post.)

Now, it’s close to three months since I my contract ended with my client. I am focusing on finishing my research proposal and finishing my VA 2.0 assignment. I realized it’s hard to juggle many things, but I’m still trying.

I consider this gestation period another journey to success. I know I’ll come out of this more ready for challenges and more open to better opportunities.

Getting an end contract was not part of my 2013 plan. But one thing’s for sure: this year, I see myself working full-time from my home.

4 Planning My 2013

This is a print screen of my 2013 plan. I was officially finished on December 27, 2012, 5 minutes before 5 PM.

This is a print screen of my 2013 plan. I was officially finished on December 27, 2012, 5 minutes before 5 PM.

Others woke up last December 26 to brace another day at work after Christmas. Me? I did my 30-minute ran, cleaned the house, took a bath, then closed my door’s room.

I was so excited for my two-day ME Planning. I waited for this day to happen. This was my second time to do this after learning how important it is to plan our life for a year from one of my mentors, Jomar Hilario. My 2012 came into light through my attendance of Sir Jomar’s Plan for Your Best Year Ever last January.

My room was not the ideal venue for ME Planning; Sir Jomar advises anyone who would like to do this to get out of the city (or your house) and go somewhere else where quiet and nature is closer. Alas, the hotel rates during December have sky-rocketed, so I settled for my room this year. Well, I made sure that my ME Planning next year will be in another place!

As I reviewed my 2012, I again remembered how blessed I was. I went through a lot this year, like getting rejections for online jobs almost every day, then getting a job then losing it for a week. The sacrifices paid off – I got a part-time job after months of trying. Not only that, I got to share my experience through one of Sir Jomar’s webinars and his last How to Become a Virtual Assistant seminar of 2012.

The 2013 plan was completed thanks to MindMaps app. This was my second time to plot my year through MindMaps, so the preparations were a breeze. What gave me a bit of headache was the plotting of schedules – I had to make sure that I my plans for the year were there, without sacrificing all the targets in all areas of my life. To release myself of confusion, I did the following: got out of the room to eat spaghetti (my all-time comfort food), read books, and watched movies (I finished Ratatouille and 3 Idiots for my two-day planning).

Now, my 2013 is now printed, like a spider ready to create more and bigger webs. I was even happier to have our parish priest blessed my plan.

Even though my 2013 is already printed, I still remembered some plans that should have been there. I am about to open my file again to add some details.

Planning my year is one of the best things that I have learned ever since I decided to take responsibility for my destiny. But I’m not resting everything on what I have put on paper. I believe that in every year, the best is yet to come. Planning my year does not mean I hold every little detail in my hands. I still open myself to whatever the Divine Providence will give. I just made sure that the new 365 days that He’s going to give me is well-planned; that I’m prepared.

And I’ll keep doing it even until I meet my dreams.

Happy new year, everyone! Cheers to new 365 days!

Happy new year, everyone! Cheers to new 365 days!

Christmas Decor

a few days to go!

Have a wonderful Christmas! http://www.flickr.com/photos/99472898@N00/5278223836

It’s 11 days before Christmas as I wrote this piece. It was also the only time my mother finished setting up the Christmas decorations in the house. She started last Monday.

The past few years, she has prepped up for Christmas a week before the nine dawn Masses. She said she doesn’t want to decorate early, as the trimmings and garlands will also start gathering dust early. Moreover, my mom has stopped putting up the Christmas tree. She told us that a Christmas tree is not THE symbol of Christmas anyway. Besides, she finds it tedious to set up.

Honestly, I just agreed with that idea for the past few years. She was the one who has put them up, taking them down, cleaning them, and then storing them, so she has a point about the dust and the time it takes to put the house in the holiday’s mood.

I just realized: since I started working, I never got to help decorating the house for Christmas. Less pair of hands meant more time for my mom to spend all by herself for the Christmas decorations.

I felt bad about it.

I felt bad not only because I am not able to help my mother, but because I don’t get to do the decor because I have no time.

So in the past few years – no, decade – , every time I come home from work, all I do is say, “Wow! It’s nice!”

Because every time I arrived from work every December, it’s all been set up.

As I gazed on the Christmas lights and lantern that she patiently set up outside the house tonight, I told myself that this December was not the same as last year’s. I got a part-time job as Virtual Assistant now, a goal that was just that – a goal – last year. My earnings somehow helped augment my income every month. Also, I get to do what I love to do. I have to say that there is much development on that.

But as what others say, one can never be satisfied. I just don’t want my part-time virtual assistant job to be just that – a part-time job. So my next goal is to work full-time as a virtual assistant, and be happier every day. Then become a full-time online marketer.

Who knows? Maybe next year, my mom and I can put up the Christmas tree when September comes.

And I would never mind setting them up, taking them down, cleaning them, and then storing them ‘til the next year.

I am sure that my mom will be happier with another pair of hands.

And a lot of time.

2 November Blessings

 
In all ways, be grateful!

In all ways, be grateful!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

November ended for me with much to be grateful about. A few weeks ago, I got my rate increase from my client. I have started working as usual for my client since then.

Not long after, I got a lot of links from articles and free e-books from my client. The client told me to read the articles and e-books one by one per week then send a report of what I think she should know. The client told me that I could go “over 10 but not beyond 15.”

I couldn’t understand what the client meant, so I e-mailed back. As the conversations and instructions got clearer, the idea made sense: I was to educate myself more on my job and get paid for it.

This was the coolest thing ever!

Full-time workers in the office do get to attend seminars. Based on experience, both full-time workers and virtual assistants to get the education that they want but it should benefit the organization/client. But I do know that not all full-time office employees get to attend seminars yearly. Sometimes, what the full-time office workers attend will only help them in their job. With the education offered to me by my client, I will not only get to apply in her company. I would also get to apply it in my blogs and social media. What’s more, I can see more money coming with these new learning!

As of now, my client introduced a co-worker to help me in my work. This is my first time to experience a co-worker as virtual assistant. I have not asked my client if we have the same work, but I welcome this new development.

Blessings, indeed!

 

Photo credit