Category Archives: Human Relations

3 Life Lessons From SpongeBob Squarepants


Coffee. Puppies. Spongebob Squarepants.

This is my definition of the ideal Sunday morning. Slowly waking up to the gurgling of the coffee maker and the sweet aroma of fresh-brewed French Roast; the sight of my two dogs, Coco and Cece, eagerly waiting for permission to get on the bed; and tuning in to Nickelodeon for a few episodes of Spongebob Squarepants.

Spongebob Squarepants is about the cockamamie adventures of a sea-dwelling buck-toothed anthropomorphic sponge. He lives in a pineapple in the underwater metropolis of Bikini Bottom, with a pet snail named Gary, Squidward Tentacles his chronically cranky neighbor (and comic foil), and a pink starfish sidekick named Patrick. He works as a fry cook at the Krusty Krab, a greasy-spoon restaurant owned by Eugene Krabs, going through life with youthful exuberance.

I’m a huge Spongebob Squarepants fan, and probably watch more Spongebob than the average six year old (it helps that Nickelodeon runs an endless number of episodes during the day). It’s not high-brow entertainment, and humor is a combination slapstick and absurdist, consisting of one silly scene after another… perfect for those with viewing patience like mine. Created by artist and former marine biologist, Stephen Hillenburg, the show is one of the most popular cartoons on Nickelodeon, consistently ranking in the Top 10 in the Nielsen ratings, recipient of six Emmy nominations and winner of five Nickelodeon Kid’s Choice awards.

Amid all his misadventures, Spongebob never ceases to find the positives in any given situation. He is the epitome of friendliness, enthusiasm and resilience – the very picture of “Zen” happiness. And he’s the cartoon character I most relate to. An online “personality test” confirms this. A few weeks ago, my girlfriend Brenda sent me a “personality test” with a series of questions asking for my preferences in dates, movies, music, etc. Anyone scoring 29-35 points resembles Spongebob Squarepants. I scored 30 points.

According to the description: You are the classic person that everyone loves.  You are the best friend that anyone could ever have and never wants to lose.  You never cause harm to anyone and they would never misunderstand your feelings. Life is a journey, it’s funny and calm for the most part.

Ehem. Okay, even if this (admittedly fatuous) crackpot test isn’t true, I’d say I’m still “sponge worthy,” opting to see the sunny side of things and finding humor in every day life. David Myers, author of The Pursuit of Happiness, says that “Happiness is rather like cholesterol level – influenced genetically, but also by things we can do.” Often, when I start to feel sad, I self-medicate by watching hours of cartoons and comedy. Laughter really is the best medicine.

With the holiday season coming up, laughter and lightheartedness becomes even more important. Work, shopping, cleaning, visiting relatives, wrapping presents, and the slew of dizzying chores can be overwhelming, sometimes resulting in strain and gloominess. The Mayo Clinic identifies three main trigger points for holiday stress and depression: relationships, finances, and physical/emotional demands. The lack of relationships can lead to loneliness, while being around a continuous stream of family and friends can be exasperating. Whereas some folks overspend during the holidays, others feel guilt for not having enough resources to buy that “perfect” gift. And finally, fleeting from mall to mall, and party to party, can simply wipe us out. To ensure happy holidays, perhaps we can all take a cue from Spongebob.

First, become a friendlier person.

Spongebob has a knack for remembering the names of Krusty Krab patrons, and never fails to acknowledge people he passes on the street. Author and psychologist William James once said that, “The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.” But often, we are so consumed with receiving validation that we forget to dish it out – we focus on being loveable instead of being loving. Sincere appreciation costs us nothing to give, and means the world to those who receive it. Not flattery – sincere appreciation and recognition, which can come from a simple smile, a greeting, and a genuine interest in the other person. And in becoming friendlier, begin with nurturing existing relationships. Bonus points: studies have shown that those in intimate relationships – both men and women – have lower death rates than single people.

Next, live with enthusiasm.

Spongebob starts each day with the mantra “I’mmm ready!  I’mmm ready!”  Whether he is flipping Krabby patties or chasing after jellyfish, Spongebob tackles everything with enthusiasm and maximizes the fun in any endeavor. Aristotle called enthusiasm “the regenerative force of conviction.” It is a manifestation of confidence, positive attitude, and optimism.

Perhaps the best description of enthusiasm is its Greek root word entheos, “having the god within,” from en, “in, within,” and theos, “god.” Inner fire is infectious and can be the difference between mediocre and magnificent. Live with enthusiasm, and learn how to arouse enthusiasm in others. Remember that “a candle loses nothing of it’s light by lighting another candle.”

Finally, develop emotional resilience.

Regardless of what trouble Spongebob finds himself in, he remains positive and resilient. Even international leadership training organizations think that Spongebob is a good character to emulate. Using the model created by Daniel Goldman, author of Emotional Intelligence and Primal Leadership, researchers from the Hay Group in the United Kingdom evaluated Spongebob’s emotional astuteness and determined that while IQ-wise, he is not the sharpest, he possesses a high level of EQ, or Emotional Intelligence. Consistently demonstrating integrity and empathy, Spongebob is flexible and adaptable in his approach to adversity, trudging forward despite difficulties and setbacks.

This holiday season, if you ever find the need for a quick jolt of cheer, tune in to Nickelodeon and watch an episode or two of Spongebob Squarepants, a positive role model for adults and kids alike. And Happy Holidays!

First Things First


Lovers Desire | TheSociaholicOver the years, very few things have affected or upset me. And when they do, I comfort myself with endless episodes of SpongeBob SquarePants and America’s Funniest Home Videos.

At the beginning of our relationship, my swift emotional recoveries confounded my husband. He couldn’t understand how I could get over things so quickly. Is it that I’m hard-headed or just plain heartless? At first, I told him about the concept of Human Dynamics developed by Sandra Seagal (which explains how people process information and experiences) and that I am “physically-centered” – very systematic and practical, primarily concerned with progress and results rather than logic and structure.

Then, I had an “A-ha!” moment – perhaps it had nothing to do with my “information processing center” nor my heart of stone. I was just an Über-Optimist. A textbook Pollyanna (minus the denial and passiveness). How could one remain upset when one truly believed that there is always a positive spin to unfortunate events?

In Stephen Covey’s book, First Things First, he talks about living life guided by a “compass” of purpose and values rather than a “clock” of schedules and due dates, and where the long run is where we go for life balance. By focusing on the big picture, our ultimate legacy, we can identify what roles and activities need our attention right now, helping us determine what battles to face and decisions to make at each moment.

For example, on your way to visiting with family, are you really going to waste your time chasing after that rude driver that cut you off on the freeway, just to shake your fist impotently at him, or focus on driving safely so you can spend quality time with your loved ones?

Often, we’re distracted by what’s most urgent that we forget about what’s most important. This leads to frustration, dissatisfaction, and disappointment. By valuing and living in a “state of abundance”, we’re able to appreciate the little victories in life and find meaning in everyday occurrences.

We could all learn from Viktor Frankl, Holocuast survivor and author of Man’s Search for Meaning, who says that “Life has [a purpose and] meaning under all circumstances, even in the most miserable ones.” He also said that “Everything can be taken from a man, but the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.”

So today, and everyday, I choose to be grateful. Hopeful. Happy.

Here’s to a wonderful 2013!

Everything I Know About Social Media Etiquette, I Learned from Dale Carnegie


Civility, social grace and common courtesy… shouldn’t rules of etiquette in the real world simply carry over to the virtual realm? Why do some people think that hiding behind an online profile excuses them from rude, crude behavior?

Manners matter. As Will Cuppy says, “Etiquette means behaving yourself a little better than is absolutely necessary.” Here are nine lessons I learned from Dale Carnegie that guides my social media interactions.

1. Don’t criticize, condemn or complain

Dont-criticize-condemn-or-complain | TheSociaholic.comA survey conducted by Real Simple Magazine indicates that chronic complaining is the second most annoying kind of social media post, preceded only by vague posts. Negative attitudes are more virulent than positive ones. And while criticizing others might make you feel better, it’s often an exercise in futility because it simply puts others on the defensive. Then the cycle repeats.

Mena Trott, Time Magazine’s 2006 Person of the Year once said, “If you aren’t going to say something directly to someone’s face, than don’t use online as an opportunity to say it. It is this sense of bravery that people get when they are anonymous that gives the blogosphere a bad reputation.” Keep in mind that anything you post on the web becomes public domain.

On that note, check out these 13 posts that got people fired from their jobs.

Give-Honest-Sincere-Appreciation - TheSociaholic.com2. Give honest, sincere appreciation

Williams James says that “The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.” Satisfy this hunger with a small gesture – reply back or post a comment.

Don’t have time to scribble something in 140 characters or less? Hit the “LIKE” button. Retweet. Share. Simple actions that cost nothing and take no time at all, but show sincere appreciation.

3. Arouse in the other person an eager want

Charles Schwab, chosen by Andrew Carnegie to run the U.S. Steel Company in 1921, was the first person to be paid a salary of over a million dollars a year. He was hand-picked by Carnegie because of his ability to arouse enthusiasm in others. What do people want? To survive. To be safe. To belong. To be recognized. To achieve. And sometimes, simply to be entertained. The only radio station playing in other people’s heads is WIIFM (What’s In It For Me), so keep this in mind when crafting posts.

4. Become genuinely interested in other people

For me, online networks are for connecting with people, for supplementing real-world interactions, fueling conversations, and forging new relationships. Thus, I don’t find it critical to accept every “friend” or “connection” request; neither do I feel compelled to auto-follow everyone that follows me. I’m a human being with limited time and energy. I don’t want to have to fake interest. That way, I can focus my attention on people and issues I truly care about.

5. Smile

A smile a day keeps the pain and the doctor away

Need I say more? 🙂

6.  Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language. Remember-their-name |

I hate to admit it, but one of my favorite morning activities is checking the Connect tab on Twitter and the Notifications button on Facebook. Everyday, it’s like opening a present – I eagerly dive in to discover who has replied, commented or mentioned me overnight.

Responding to a comment or a post? Put in the extra effort and tag the other person’s name so that they become aware of the interaction. Posting photos from an event? Tag the images of those in it. People love seeing photos of themselves. As with anything, tag with caution and care (lest the tags cause embarrassment for your family and friends, or are completely unwelcome – refer to Principle 9).

7. Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.

Be-a-good-listener | TheSociaholic.comWhat’s the difference between a gossip, a bore, and a brilliant conversationalist? A gossip talks about others, a bore talks about himself, a brilliant conversationalist lets you do most of the talking. Building an online relationship isn’t a one way street. Reading and responding to other people’s posts is simply good manners.

When posting, keep in mind that that the world wide web isn’t your big wide billboard. It’s not just about broadcasting and self-promotion, but rather engaging others in conversation.

8. Talk in terms of the other person’s interests

As people peruse the web, they are looking for posts, blogs and articles that will make them be better, feel better or do things better. Commandments #2, #3, #4, #6 and #9 in the PC World article “10 Commandments of Social Media Etiquette” all allude to this principle. As the author, JP Raphael notes, “Social media is not a private diary. If you’re going to share something with your friends, make it something they’ll actually understand.” And may I add, enjoy.

9. Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely

Give-Sincere-Appreciation | TheSociaholic.comThere is nothing worse than getting tagged on event posters, promotional posts, or random crap that has absolutely nothing to do with you. After falling victim to this several times, I updated my privacy settings and de-activated automatic tags and posts to my Facebook Timeline. Yes, I enjoy being tagged, but only if it has something to do with me. I assume that other people feel the same way. Rather, I try to be “lavish in my approbation and hearty in my praise,” by freely acknowledging and sincerely complementing posts that make me pause, think, feel good, and most of all, laugh.

One of the ways to do this on Twitter is to acknowledge people you are following by adding them to descriptive lists. For example, I have a list called “Rockstar Entrepreneurs” consisting of men and women who have changed the world with their visions and ideas along with Digital Divas, women who rule the social media-sphere.

The Bottom Line

Sincere appreciation goes a long way. Dale Carnegie says “it is the legal tender that all souls enjoy.” Online and otherwise, a good lesson to learn is that proper etiquette and being “liked” has less to do with being likeable, but rather with genuinely “liking” others. Pass it on.

The X Factor


Derick MacabentaLast week, my nephew Derick joined the ranks of the estimated 1.78 million students that graduated from college in the U.S. If there’s one piece of advice I could give him now, along with the rest of the class of 2012, it would be this: the most valuable lesson you’ll need to become successful was NOT part of your college curriculum.

Back in 1984, Mark McCormack, founder of International Management Group (IMG) and touted by Sports Illustrated Magazine as “The Most Powerful Man in Sport”, authored What they don’t teach at Harvard Business School. McCormack himself is well-educated – a graduate of Yale Law School – as well as a frequent lecturer at Stanford and Duke. But he is the first to admit that “what they don’t teach you [in business school] is what they can’t teach you.”

Without a doubt, education and training contribute to one’s success. But raw knowledge is useless unless put to practical use. McCormack calls it street smarts, “the ability to make active positive use of your instincts, insights and perceptions.” Some refer to it as “soft skills,” a nebulous set of attributes that you either have or you don’t. Period.

I dub it the X Factor, an amalgam of positive attitude, people skills, and extraordinary flexibility.

Don’t Ever Tell Me You Can’t
When Celia Ruiz-Tomlinson moved to the 1968, she had $300 in her pocket and a degree in Civil Engineering from Mapua Institute of Technology in Manila. Although she grew up in impoverished conditions, living in a 10×10 fish market stall that doubled as the family’s home, she managed to rise from abject poverty, overcoming one roadblock after another in pursuit of her dream. She is now President and CEO of Rhombus, PA, a successful civil engineering consulting firm in New Mexico. In 2002, she received the Asian Women in Business Entrepreneurial Leadership National Award, and in 2004, was recognized for her entrepreneurial acumen at the Filipinas Magazine Achievement Awards. She wrote a book about her exploits, aptly entitled Don’t Ever Tell Me You Can’t.

Positive attitude – the belief that no matter what, things can be done – is so critical that it is the first item on the checklist for AirForce Survival Training and Military Bootcamp. Laurence Gonzales, author of Deep Survival and contributing editor for National Geographic, says that in a crisis situation, Positive Mental Attitude (PMA) is the biggest determining factor for who survives and who dies. Perhaps Mahatma Gandhi put it best. He says that, “If I believe I cannot do something, it makes me incapable of doing it. But when I believe I can, then I acquire the ability to do it, even if I did not have the ability in the beginning.”

Win Friends and Influence People
There’s an often quoted story of a young woman who dined with William Gladstone one evening, and with Benjamin Disraeli the next. They were prominent British statesmen of the 19th century, both serving as Prime Ministers at one point. They were also bitter rivals. Asked her impression of these two powerful men, the young woman replied, “After sitting next to Mr. Gladstone, I thought he was the cleverest man inEngland. But after sitting next to Mr. Disraeli, I thought I was the cleverest woman inEngland.”

Personal magnetism, it seems, has more to do with being genuinely interested in other people rather than being “interesting.” Dale Carnegie, who wrote the grandfather of all people-skills book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, says that to succeed in life, you have to “Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view.” First published in 1937, Dale Carnegie’s flagship book continues to rank in the New York Times Best-Selling Business Books of all time. Carnegie says that success is due 15 percent to professional knowledge and 85 percent to people skills. His training organization, founded in 1912, has a 12-week program revolving around 30 principles that focus on how to become a friendlier person, win people to your way of thinking, and be a leader.

Dance with the Winds of Change
The Bible tells the Parable of the Reed and the Oak. The Mighty Oak Tree, with its deep roots and firm standing, refused to dance with the wind, while the Lowly Reed bent this way and that, even with the slightest of breeze. Ultimately, the Oak Tree was toppled in a storm because of its refusal to compromise,

Even IBM has found flexibility to be the key to success, especially in the rapidly changing automotive industry. Responsiveness to change and adaptability to evolving situations allows big automotive companies and small mom-and-pop businesses survive and succeed – to dance with the winds of change. As Elbert Hubbard says, “The world is moving so fast these days that the man who says it can’t be done is generally interrupted by someone doing it.”

So, to my nephew and the rest of the Class of 2012 – Good luck. And here’s to finding your own brand of X.

For Beautiful People Only


For Beautiful People Only
A few years ago, my husband and I were in a club in San Francisco and met a woman who threw parties for a living. But these weren’t your ordinary parties – they were “for beautiful people only,” she said. “We’re very selective, and guests are expected to use discretion when inviting others.”

The Sociaholic: Beauty Poll People

Albeit flattered, we were also taken aback by her candor. A party strictly for the fabulous folk. Huh. Who’d have thought. Have “regular” clubs become the domain of unattractive people? Later, we learned these parties are all over –San Francisco, Miami, Las Vegas, Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles, where beauty reigns supreme. Our new friend added, “Everyone is welcome, but not everyone gets in. Guests are screened based on attractiveness, fitness and fashion sense.”

I put her card in my wallet, feeling both fascination and guilt. What would my role models say about this?

Life is a Popularity Contest
What do Marie Curie, Eleanor Roosevelt, Margaret Mead, Georgia O’Keefe and Maya Angelou have in common?

Besides being successful, strong women, none of them were particularly popular as adolescents, staying separated from their peers not by choice, but because they were rejected. Ironically, this very rejection gave them a protected space in which they could develop their uniqueness.

While life is a popularity contest, in the ‘tweens, teens and twenties it is based largely on superficiality. This, combined with the impatience of youth, has caused a growing number of teens to pursue quick surgical fixes. Leading the list: nose jobs, breast augmentation, and ear operations.

A frightening fact is that a third of teens who opt for cosmetic surgery aren’t being pressured by their peers; but rather, by their parents. Dr. Sam Speron, a plastic surgeon inChicago, divulged that “In many instances, parents will find a flaw with their child’s appearance, even while [their child] is not bothered by it at all.”

Among those with the patience, however, the answer to beauty anxiety is entirely different – the best solution is, quite simply, to age.

Campaign for Real Beauty
Dove has been campaigning for “Real Beauty” since 2003, commissioning a global study on “aging, beauty and well-being” with 3,000 women aged 50-64 in 10 countries. In 2006, they released “The Dove Report: Challenging Beauty,” based on a content analysis of existing research and literature as well as interviews with more than 200 American women, 20 to 65 years old.

While the Asian-American Demographic was not at all represented in the Dove Report (a glaring oversight by the research company), it still yielded interesting findings. For example, the report stated that 79% of those polled wished a “woman could be considered beautiful even if she is not physically perfect.”

And even as Simone de Beauvoir, author of “The Second Sex,” insists that “one must remain the subject of one’s life and resist the cultural pressure to become the object of male experience,” respondents revealed they “feel more beautiful when they are the subject of romantic admiration.”

With age comes wisdom. Nearly half of women surveyed (44%) said they were more comfortable with their looks today than they were 10 years ago. And more women over 40 rated their beauty as “above average” compared to their younger counterpart (22% and 15%, respectively).

My Personal Evolution
In Manila, I was literally raised by a community. My life revolved around school, church and home, surrounded by neighbors, friends, and an endless stream of relatives. Appearance was only one of the dimensions that defined me. I was also the artist, the singer, the bookworm.

Upon moving to the U.S., my identity required redefining. While in college, I lived in Ocean City, Maryland– a beach town with 3,000 permanent locals. Come summer, the population ballooned to over 30,000. It was then that I realized how important looks can be – for gaining access to places, things, and people.

In a city of strangers, appearance was the only dimension available for rapid assessment by others. Beauty became important in defining my value, because it ensured social success. I modeled for fashion shows and photo shoots, hosted a TV dance show on the local club scene, and was popular with the boys.  But as one of “le beau monde,” my other aspects – the artist, the singer, the bookworm – became irrelevant, though they were the parts that made me whole.

Alice Miller, author of “Drama of the Gifted Child,” says that strength of character requires an acknowledgement of all parts of the self, not just the socially acceptable ones. Margaret Mead defines strength as valuing all those parts of the self, whether or not they are valued by the culture. The part that’s a little nerdy, wrinkled, graying, or that goes against culturally imposed gender roles.

I have to admit – it was nice to be invited to the “beautiful party.” And I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t admit I still wonder if people check me out, even while realizing that my world isn’t going to crumble if they aren’t.

(This article originally appeared in Filipinas Magazine March 2007 issue)

Seven Kinds of Smarts


I’m not the smartest. I scored a mere 430 on my GMAT (the worldwide average is 570). As far as grad schools were concerned, I was an “average” student.  In my defense, attending business school wasn’t a deep, burning desire — it just seemed like the next logical thing to do.  I applied to a single university where it wasn’t necessary to land in the top percentile.

Christina Dunham | 7 Kinds of Smarts Which isn’t to say I don’t I think I’m a relatively smart gal. When I was in grade school, I brought home my share of “gold eagles” in my report card, the eagle being Colegio San Agustin’s (CSA) school mascot and its symbol of academic achievement. CSA uses a 100 point grading system, where a gold eagle represents a grade of 90% or higher, a red eagle was 85-89%, and a blue eagle was 80-84%. But when the grade school IQ test was administered, I must not have scored too high, because I certainly was not singled out as part of the super-smart set.

My youngest brother, Jinx, was an average student at school. My dad once asked him why he didn’t have any eagles in his report card, and his response was, “They flew away.” He didn’t graduate with honors, and was considered by many of the teachers as a rather mischievous and troublesome kid, labeled as very makulit (stubborn) and malikot (hyper). But he played a mean game of chess (representing his high school in regional competitions), was a competitive soccer player throughout elementary and high school, and a brilliant artist. He’s now a highly sought-after UI/UX designer working on projects for companies like Google.

7 Kinds of Smarts

My husband Jack, on the other hand, is a human computer and walking encyclopedia. A true information maven. I’m always amazed at how he can remember lessons from science class from the fifth grade, or explain complicated mathematical formulas in great detail. He is, by academic standards, a genius.

As far as I’m concerned, both Jinx and Jack smart cookies. Unfortunately, standard IQ tests and college admissions exams, used to predict educational achievement, typically only measure Jack’s type of intelligence – verbal ability and mathematic reasoning. Critics, like Professor Linda Siegal from the Universityof British Columbia, argue that most IQ tests only measure what students have learned and remembered, not what they are capable of doing in the future.

About fifteen years ago, I came across a book entitled “7 Kinds of Smart,” by Thomas Armstrong. Back then, I was dating a guy who went to M.I.T. and Stanford – a certifiable genius, in fact. Despite my MBA, I felt a little, well, dumb, around him. Desiring in part to validate my own intelligence, I decided to read up on the subject.

Based on Harvard professor Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences developed in 1983, the book proposes seven different kinds of intelligences that encompass the wide variety of skills and talents human beings are capable of exhibiting. The original theory defined seven core intelligences: linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, and intrapersonal. (In 1997, an eighth type, “naturalistic intelligence,” was added.)

According toGardner, the seven types of smarts are:

  1. Linguistic (word smart) – writing, speaking, learning new languages, interpretation and explanation of ideas and information
  2. Logical-mathematical (number smart) – scientific reasoning and deduction, performing mathematical calculations, detecting and analyzing logical patterns
  3. Spatial-visual (picture smart) – interpretation and creation of visual images through drawing, painting, sculpting, and designing; understanding relationships between images and meanings, between space and effect
  4. Bodily-Kinesthetic (body smart) – manual dexterity, physical agility and balance, bodily control and hand-eye coordination as exhibited by dancers, athletes, actors, and craftsmen
  5. Musical (music smart) – recognition of tonal and rhythmic patterns, awareness and use of music and sound, as expressed by singers, musicians, composers and DJs
  6. Interpersonal (people smart) – involves social skills, empathy and understanding; ability to read people’s emotions and interpret behavior, and respond to them accordingly
  7. Intrapersonal (self smart) – requires knowledge and mastery of oneself, as well as personal objectivity and awareness of one’s own potential and limitations – it is a prerequisite for discipline and self-improvement

According to the theory, all human beings inherently possess all seven, and many activities require a combination of these intelligences. For example, actors require intrapersonal/bodily-kinesthetic/linguistic intelligence to deliver a convincing performance.

Christina Dunham | 7 Kinds of Smarts Besides identifying types of aptitude, the theory of multiple intelligences also recognizes people’s preferred modes of learning. In Kindergarten, we typically partake in activities that touch on all these areas, but as we move further along our academic life, more emphasis is placed on linguistic and logical-mathematical skills.

Ideally, those who favor one or two intelligences over the rest are able develop these abilities further. We’re not talking about prodigies or autistic savants who display extraordinary talents, like Mozart or Dustin Hoffman’s character in “Rain Man” – these are by far the exception to the rule.  Rather, we’re referring to people who seem to really excel at their chosen roles and professions, ostensibly because they have developed these abilities and channeled them into activities to which they’re ideally suited.

The more I read about the subject, the better I felt about my own brand of brilliance. Encouraged to pursue my various interests and develop my seven kinds of smarts, I started signing up for classes and participating in a variety of activities.

Today, I indulge my linguistic smarts through language courses and writing; the logical-analytical through my work as marketing strategist; the spatial-visual through painting and gardening; the bodily-kinesthetic through martial arts and dancing; and the musical smarts by singing in a band. Those who know me would agree that I practice my interpersonal skills quite often, and meditation and self-reflection allow me to harness my intrapersonal skills. Rather than focus on a specific type of intelligence, I have chosen to dabble in all of them. Variety, after all, is the spice of life.

So if you didn’t score 140 on your IQ test or a 720 on your GMAT, don’t sweat it. Success doesn’t always require knowledge of the formula for Phi.

What are your thoughts?

Girlfriend Getaways


One Spring Break, while I was in college, my girlfriends and I drove from Salisbury, Maryland to Key West, Florida in a cramped, borrowed white van. It took us over two days and more than 1200 miles to get to this 2 by 4 mile island, taking turns at the wheel. You see, we were quite determined to savor a sip of the world famous Frozen Daiquiri-Brain Freeze drinks at Fat Tuesday.

The drive down was just as memorable as the final destination. Along the way, we sunned ourselves on the sugar-sand beaches of Daytona, Orlando and Miami, explored “the World in a day” at Epcot Center, and danced our little hearts out at Pleasure Island. The highlight of the trip was sleeping under the stars at various campsites en route to save money. It was definitely low budget, but high impact, and one of the best trips of my life.

HawaiiWhen I moved to California in 1992, I found another group of girlfriends that I immediately bonded, and traveled, with. Every year around the end of May, five of us would hop on a plane and head off to heavenly Honolulu. We’d spend most of the day lounging on the beach, chatting up a storm. Sunsets were for sipping cocktails, and midnight meant miniskirts and club-hopping. Albeit short, our four-day holidays proved plenty — for recharging our batteries and reconnecting with each other.

The annual trips became more difficult to plan when, one by one, we started getting hitched, and feelings of guilt for leaving the significant others behind began to surface. So we created shorter – and more frequent – getaways, like wine-tasting and day spa retreats inNapa, holiday shopping trips to Gilroy, and all-girl TV Nights.

After a rare weekend “girls only” trip to Vegas three years ago, we pinky-sweared to celebrate an annual “Girlfriend Anniversary,” no matter what. The exact date didn’t matter – it was like a floating holiday, celebrated with another extravagant trip like this, or a simple dinner commemorating our friendship.

All-girl getaways were simply unheard of twenty years ago. Lourdes Uy, a grandmother fromLas Vegas, says that, “It was considered inappropriate and inconsiderate for a married woman with kids to vacation on their own. Filipina women, especially, were expected to take care of their home and children first.”

But women today are different, with female baby boomers leading the pack. In general, baby boomers (those born from 1946 to 1964) have a higher divorce rate and a higher percentage that has never married compared to previous generations. An abstract on indicates that “single boomer women comprise a highly active sub-population of travelers, willing to spend on high-end services, spas, resorts and tours [and] turning to agencies that specialize in women-only travel. Over the next 10-20 years, the women of the Baby Boom Generation will likely reshape the market for older single travelers”

Women also tend to outlive men in the United States. According to the 2006 CIA World Factbook, among those 65 year and older, the ratio of males to females in the 0.72:1.00 – that’s 1.38 females for every male (compare this to the grim 2.84:1.00 ratio of males to females in Qatar). The 2005 US Census indicates that 51 percent of women said they were living without a spouse, up from 35 percent in 1950 and 49 percent in 2000.

This means there are more self-sufficient women, with disposable incomes and adventurous spirits, who choose to chill out with their chums. A 2005 study conducted by Impulse Research which found that of 1,500 women surveyed, 50% indicated they had taken an all-female trip in the last three years and that 88% were planning to go on a women’s only vacation. According to the Travel Institute of America, all-girl getaways have gained popularity in the last decade, with 98 million American women going on adventure travel trips in the last five years. As a result, women-only travel companies have seen great demand, increasing in number by 230% in the past six years.

Chelsea (a.k.a Shellsea) Huntley, founder of Surf Goddess Retreats in Bali,Indonesia, started her company in 2003 to cater to “professional women who have an adventurous streak and are looking for an active holiday.” She says that 80 percent of her guests are solo travelers from the United States, Europe, Asia andAustralia. “There are a few reasons why Surf Goddess Retreats is so successful. First, we cater to what women want on a holiday, that it isn’t a single focus retreat. Women are multi-taskers and love layers of experience. We give them that,” she adds. Jocelyn Formento, a surfer fromSan Mateo,Californiawho participated in the retreat three year ago, says that the all-female surfing getaway was “a great way to be amongst womankind who have diverse backgrounds but are there for the same reason as you.”

For last year’s “Girlfriend Anniversary,” my friends and I spent four hours frolicking at the SupperClub in San Francisco, where you get to wine and dine in an expansive communal all-white bed strewn about with corresponding fluffy white pillows. With the wine flowing, and the conversation going, we reminisced, we mused over the future, and we once again bonded. The whole experience reminded me of a quote by Elizabeth Lucas: “Sisters are born to each other, or happen through friendships by fate. But however it happens or when, nature has given a gift that is great.”