Setting the Table: My Takeaways from 2017

A quarter-life breakthrough

Filipino Kamayan Feast / Photo by mfkaysee

2017 has been the most transformational year of my life. Unlike my 2016, this year has been more about internal growth instead of external lessons and accomplishments. I finished zero books. I never left the country. My mentorship game has been at an all-time low. And I haven’t secured a full-time job.

But through it all — I am more at peace with myself than I have ever been in my entire life.

In my previous post, I wrote about how I spent half the year hunting for a product design job in Silicon Valley. What I failed to share was that although I did get a contract job in the hip industry of tech, I lost my power.

Sure, those six months were pretty painful getting rejected over and over again by startups and tech giants. But through that process I’ve learned that I was a square peg forcing my way through a round hole. I stopped listening to my heart — I became this version of myself that was inauthentic and arrogant which showed up during interviews (and to people who knew me at the surface level). My passion for design never really shined through because I was more obsessed with and overanalyzing how I could fit company requirements. Moreover, I had no clear mission or vision other than wanting a full-time job in tech to pay my bills and give me skills to build my own products. I had no conviction towards company missions and it was clear that I was only in service to myself and nothing else. As a mission-driven person, this was very unusual for me and I was blinded by the desire to finally have a fancy, new job in tech.

The point I am making here is that I’ve spent almost a year forcing myself to fit a mold that was inauthentic to me and my unique gifts. Since moving to San Francisco, I’ve let imposter syndrome get the best of me. I became stoic. I began to play small. Felt unworthy because I didn’t go to Cal or Stanford like everyone around me. I convinced myself that I needed to learn to be an individual contributor first before even thinking about stepping up to be a leader. I began to get wrapped up in my own thoughts. I became over-analytical. I blamed everything on the lack of diversity. I blamed it on my upbringing. I blamed it on my circumstances.

I lost my power.

A couple of weeks ago before Thanksgiving, I attended a leadership training seminar in Los Angeles recommended to me by a friend. At first I was resistant to the program because I was already heavily involved with Startingbloc which I felt already gave me all the tools and community I needed to make my impact in the world. Still high off the love and support from the Startingbloc Chicago event in September, I finally accepted her recommendation to attend the leadership training program.

Fast forward to November and the leadership training program in Los Angeles was nothing like I expected. After a series of emotional intelligence workshops and exercises, I discovered how dormant I’ve become since shifting my gears into the technology sector. Without going into the details, the program helped me realize that I’ve been side tracked from my authentic vision and mission for the world — and that I blamed a lot of my shortcomings in life on my family, background, and upbringing. And that I was indeed acting like a victim to my circumstances.

Some of the areas that unraveled for me were:

  • the fear of loving wholeheartedly in my family and intimate relationships
  • playing small with my dreams and professional life
  • letting people walk all over me instead of creating win-win situations

Beyond this tough year, it became clear to me that I had deep wounds to heal that were holding me back from my full potential. At the end of the training, I committed to making amends to my relationship with my family. I finally said I love you to my mother, father, and sister after 19 years and that I was sorry for showing up the way I did since my adolescent years. Rebellious, stubborn, and angry.

This one breakthrough made me wonder why I’ve held back for so long when in most cases, there are only positive outcomes on the other side of these acts of bravery. After seeing the positive impacts of this first step, I decided to move through the upcoming year with courage. In the following weeks, I moved quickly on dissolving all negative relationships/emotions in my life that I avoided confronting for a long time — and I was able to reconcile with my best friend after 2 years.

A month later, I hopped in on the second part of the leadership program which was 20x more intense and pressed ALL of my buttons so that I could give them room to heal. I was stretched and pulled in all directions that ripped me out of my comfort zone so I could surface all my barriers. For five days straight I looked into the mirror of my soul and came to terms with who I’ve become. I peeled the layers one by one until I could feel and remember who the authentic me was.

Are you willing to give up what you want to become to be who you are?

And the real me surfaced:

Like step four of the 12 steps, I took inventory of how I was showing up in the world and how that was lining up with who I authentically am. I never realized how misaligned I allowed myself to become. I was showing up as this person who was: arrogant, selfish, victim, plays small, fraud, coward, doormat, ego-driven, and judging.

You can’t heal something you’re not aware of.

Coming from a place of love, my tribe gave me this honest feedback but also supported me in revealing who I really am. And who I am is: loving, genuine, powerful, honest, a family-man, confident, joyful, outrageous, visionary, talented, full of light, and mission-driven.

With integrity and self-respect, I’ve committed to living my life to my highest self. I signed a contract to myself to be a POWERFUL, HONEST, LOVING man — to unapologetically be me and to stop hiding my light from the world.

I’m excited for the upcoming year. I’ve already knocked down a handful of barriers and will continue forging the path towards my authentic self and vision.

General Updates

Things I’ve done from July to the end of December~

SB Unplugged Chicago ‘17

In September, I headed off to Chicago for the first time to attend a fellows-organized StartingBloc event. Chicago was beautiful and I was happy I got to explore the city with some of my favorite people in the world. In Geronimo fashion I facilitated my Design your Life workshop for the attendees. Some critical feedback I got from the group was that the exercises were indeed helpful, but that “you need to own your shit.” My loss of power and low energy had leaked through my ability to lead. At that time I didn’t think too much of it but had feelings of doubt and feeling like a fraud.

Rooted Table

At the end of September, I volunteered to help out with the Real Food Real Stories Benefit Slam. RFRS has been one of the more influential organizations that I got involved with in the past year that really nudged me to go after my vision for Rooted Table. After listening to the stories of some of my food heroes: Laurence Jossel of Nopa, Keba Konte of Red Bay Coffee, Dilsa Lugo of Los Cilantros, Nik Sharma of A Brown Table & A Brown Kitchen, and Pim Techamuanvivit of Kin Khao Thai Eatery — I knew that creating economic opportunity and breaking down barriers through immigrant culture food was my purpose, it always has been. That evening, I made the choice to intentionally build Rooted Table.

TEDx Oakland ‘17

Left: volunteers & core team. Right: volunteer leads + momma (hospitality lead)

In October, I helped organize and lead ~70 volunteers for the first ever TEDx Oakland. Thanks to the incredible Chris Ategeka and a wonderful team of friends, we produced a successful event for the Oakland community. Our speakers and audience were hella diverse and the feedback we got from the crowd was pure gratitude. For about five months, we would meet every Saturday morning for two hours to organize the event. Running around in a high pressure operations role but able to stay grounded and effective reminded me that I thrive in people management roles.

Rooted Table Progress

Shortly after TEDx Oakland, I completed my first prototype experience of Rooted Table. The aim for this was to learn how we could best format immigrant food learning experiences and, in general, just have a good time. My mom cooked up some Filipino food, explained the ingredients, and how our food was a toss up of Spanish and Chinese influences.

Soon after, my mom completed another homecooked Filipino food experience for my housemates that tested her abilities in creating a vegan meal. The objective here was to test whether we could still have a real immigrant culture learning experience while removing some essential ingredients.

Fitness Game

If there had to be one external accomplishment I’m proud of this year, it would be my consistent commitment to fitness. This past year I worked out at least 5x a week and joined in on BounceSF workouts every Saturday when it didn’t overlap with my TEDx meetings. Overall my health and body composition have improved. My fitness commitments for the next year include adding dance classes and obstacle course races to the mix.

Tradecraft Taco Tuesdays

My cravings for tacos and community resulted in the building of TC Taco Tuesdays with the awesome Paige Sandhu. With the constant hustle and bustle of all my friends’ tech careers, we rarely take the time to slow down and connect with each other in person anymore. This is an awesome get together that I aspire to grow into the new year as a regular tradition.

My top takeaways from 2017

  • Learn to love yourself. Self-love is a topic we hear a lot more about these days. But do we actually know what it means? I believe it’s a skill we need to practice now more than ever given social media and Instagram likes. The constant judgment and comparisons we have against others is really a reflection of how we perceive ourselves. When you are experiencing feelings of shame about your body, actions, image — you need to realize that nobody is judging you harder than you. People are much more busy being self-conscious about themselves. So what can you do about it? LOVE YOURSELF. Realize that you are enough and worthy. There is only one you and you must acknowledge and accept your unique gifts as an individual. You have one life and you have EVERY reason to focus on your strengths and not your shortcomings. Choosing to share your gifts to the world is honoring your very own existence. Silence your inner critic and become your own best cheer leader.
  • What you focus on expands. If you’ve ever studied the ‘greats’ or ‘successful + happy’ people, two things they have in common is an insurmountable capacity for positive thinking and vision. Despite all tragedies, traumas, and failures in life — these people have channeled those energies into accomplishments and lessons that inspire. Realize that YOU are responsible over your own thoughts, actions, and energy. And if you feel like you aren’t, that means you are giving your power away to someone or something that hurt you personally. Given this, your best bet is to always assume positive intent and outcomes. When you do this, you feel more energized and output that energy that will attract those outcomes. Moreover, when you have a clear vision of what you want in different areas of your life (relationships, professional, health, etc.) and you focus on it — you are more likely to output that energy that will attract those outcomes as well.
  • Strive for win-win situations. If you are a giver or empath like me, you can easily fall in the trap of putting yourself last and placing yourself in situations of self-sacrifice. Often times this is a false sense of reward and can stifle your growth as an individual. Learn to negotiate to make it a win-win situation for you and your organizations/relationships. Compromise and create boundaries. Figure out what works for both you and the other party. But first you must recognize your self-worth.
  • Develop your self-worth. This has been the biggest lesson for me in 2017. Along with learning to love yourself, it’s important for you to recognize your own value in the world and in relationships. Like any muscle, developing your self-worth takes practice. You can start by taking inventory of your successes — what are things that you’ve accomplished that you are proud of? Simply list out 5 things. The more you value you, the more your self worth goes up. Honoring your agreements is another way that builds your self-worth. Nothing undermines your self-worth more than breaking your agreements, especially to yourself. Keep your word to people and acknowledge when you break those agreements. If you break your word, how are you going to clean it up? Practicing integrity builds credibility so people can trust you and more importantly so you can trust yourself.
  • Live your purpose. It’s easy for me to say this and I feel privileged to know exactly what my mission is: to create economic opportunity and break down barriers through immigrant culture food. Since I was a child, I was always fascinated by food and watched the Food Network over the Disney channel any day. When ever my mom cooked I’d run to the kitchen to help out with food prep. Growing up in LA, I was exposed to an abundance of diversity and food was the avenue to connect to other cultures. What ever form the model takes, the time to manifest my mission is NOW. I can’t wait around preparing to learn the right skills or waiting for enough resources to start working towards the vision of Rooted Table. Once you figure out what you are meant to do, I hope you have the courage to pursue it with everything you’ve got — because once you pursue it with all of your conviction and energy, you will attract all the resources and support you need to make it reality. Dream it, declare it, and the universe will deliver it!

I love you all and thanks for reading along! I believe in all of you and know you have the strength to rise up.

What are some things you’ve learned so far this year?

Tweet me and follow me on Instagram at @geronimocramos!