Adventures and Misadventures

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I’m no Christian but the bible says “Love thy neighbor”. It’s a great lesson to learn, but what if your neighbors are guerilla rebels?

“I sense we will be in Mindanao soon” my intuitive boyfriend, Joemar, told me last year. The very thought gave me a visceral reaction. There was absolutely no way we’d be going there. I had no interest in being in an island they tell you not to go to. “You’ll get kidnapped!” Muslim rebels with the funny MILF acronym that makes me think of something else every time. Terrorist groups. Al-Queda links. With all of the things I’ve heard from other tourists and foreigners, It seemed like a red zone.

I had no idea then, but I would make the decision to move to Mindanao less than 6 months later.

We arrived on the foothills of Mt. Apo with my friend, Julie, and new business partner. In a random twist of events, we had gotten connected online and all of a sudden, impulse or intuition brought her out to see me in the hopes to relocate and become an expat. I recalled my boyfriend’s prophetic insight. We stumbled on a nature co-op and biodynamic farm near the Mindanao jungle that Joemar had already been to and knew the owners well. I already felt like I was home. The tranquil environment felt like a completely safe space.

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But hearing the hushed tones about the rebel army slashing the farm’s banana crop, and bullying them into paying fees had me worried. We went to a beautiful hot springs just minutes away uphill and I tried to brush aside our guide who told us a young local had been killed there by the New People’s Army over a personal vendetta. I was scared to take the leap. Was I really crazy enough to move into a vulnerable area? That night, I had nightmares that we were being ambushed while I hid in the attic. I woke up crying and wished there really was an attic.

Beyond that, everything felt so right and I was certain I had seen the space in my dream. I had been here before. Except that I hadn’t. My soul was aligned here. I could live consciously, meditate daily, and volunteer my tech skills toward the local community. The grade school had 10 computers left untouched because the local teachers had no idea how to make use of it. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to provide a better education and give them more options with their future. I felt like I was being called into my soul mission.

Really, Universe? You’re going to put me here in the middle of guerilla territory?? Intuition tells me this is my next path; the perfect place to contribute and be of service. But intuition scares the shit out of me. Our only respite was the co-op; hidden away like some sanctuary. It couldn’t be that bad, I reasoned. Researching online had me thinking I was relatively safe. The rebels have no history of kidnappings or bothering people. Further west was where the real red zone was, and the warnings were mostly overblown. Mindanao isn’t actually as dangerous as everyone and the media has you to believe, and some parts of Mindanao, particularly where we’d be living, are tame.

No, it couldn’t be that bad, I reassured myself.

I’m at my parents house now, in the US for the summer but come September, I’ll be moving to Mindanao and I’m afraid. Not just the rebels (least of all them), but of what this will mean and how this will shift my entire being. Stepping into your soul purpose is the most radical thing you can do because whatever it is, it’s going to be against status-quo.

Stepping into your purpose, in itself, is an act of rebellion.

It means standing in your power. It means living raw, fiery and BOLD.

For me, that means living simply with a native style hut (solar powered, air conditioned and hot water accessible), co-founding an online-based university with our physical space for workshops and retreats, co-founding an alternative healing magazine, writing my first book, meditating daily, eating self-sustainably, inner-work and yoga, and oh, moving to a nature co-op in the rainforest jungle with some seriously bad neighbors!

No sweat. I can “turn the other cheek.” My biblical lessons will only help to accelerate my path to living with intention. I’ve got the best roommates on board; a black belt Filipino martial artist boyfriend and a retired veteran ex-military friend. We’re in this adventure together.


And I’ll finally train to be an expert Filipino martial artist to cross it off my bucket list. I’ll wield sticks like lightsabers and fulfill my Star Wars fantasies.

Living with intention is going to get a lot more real.

I’ve moved cross-continental, I’ve volunteered in the slums of India, I’ve walked 800km in Palawan island, I’ve started a business, but moving to Mindanao will mark a new chapter of my life filled with renewed creativity and unbridled ambition.

Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage ~Anais Nin

This is my fearful adventure.


Love with a Chance of Drowning – A Memoir by Torre DeRocheThis post is part of the My Fearful Adventure series, which is celebrating the launch of Torre DeRoche’s debut book Love with a Chance of Drowning, a true adventure story about one girl’s leap into the deep end of her fears.

"Wow, what a book. Exciting. Dramatic. Honest. Torre DeRoche is an author to follow." Australian Associated Press

"… a story about conquering the fears that keep you from living your dreams." Nomadicmatt.com

"In her debut, DeRoche has penned such a beautiful, thrilling story you’ll have to remind yourself it’s not fiction." Courier Mail

Find out more…


Janet Brent

Janet is a graphic/web designer for indies in the holistic and creative arts. She is passionate about working with creative world changers and showing people how to march to their own beats. You can email her at janet@byjanet.net to introduce yourself or work with her. If you enjoyed this, sign up for more updates. TwitterFacebookGoogle Plus

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Bitch, Please. Outsourcing Sucks and You Should Hate it Too

wtfI was browsing the twitterverse, which is where I get most my information, and came across this doozy from my homeboy, Nick, at WTF Marketing (Nick is the co-host of Prosperity’s Kitchen, the online edutainment challenge I’m a part of). It’s all about the elephant in the room when it comes to designers: pay us what we’re worth.

If you don’t know the premise, there’s the age long defense that design contests to win a cash prize (!) AKA thinly veiled spec work is unethical and that companies should pay a designer what they’re worth from the get go.

There are popular sites like 99Designs (not worth an external link, I’m too lazy; so lazy I’d rather type a longer sentence than the URL and html code to recognize such a fine place on the web) who have built a successful company on the premise of spec. Designers clamor for a companies’ attention and respect; to get their designs picked and to become the cream of the crop for the cash reward.

There are pros and cons to this.

PRO: It can give ample playing field for students or hobbyists to improve their skills and gain confidence. But that’s just it.

Expect to get student or hobbyist work and not professional work when going through these design content mills.

Sure, you might get a bigger pool of concepts to choose from, but do you really need 50 mediocre design concepts to mud up your choices or would you rather get 3, succinct, design concepts from a professional designer that deliver dead on?

The argument against sites like 99Designs and design contests in general is that it undermines the design profession. On one hand, it’s nice to have an outlet where being a hobbyist or student just starting out levels the playing field, but on the other hand, hello standards and integrity?

Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. What ever happened to process?

It gets even uglier when we consider the outsourcing business model.

I’ve struggled with this love/hate for outsourcing because on one hand, it brings more jobs to third world countries, like the Philippines, and boosts their economy.

On the other hand, it brings more jobs to third world countries. And takes jobs away from the US.

Should I feel good about Filipinos getting more job opportunities through outsourcing or should I feel bad that skilled Americans are losing jobs?

The verdict: it’s a shit storm out there.

It’s undermining the industry and companies are learning how to be assholes (or they already were) by bartering for the cheapest quote to improve their bottom line.

In the trenches, it’s not any better for the lucky outsourcer. They have to deal with the stress of bad clients, over demanding work load, and a general lack of awareness when it comes to working together.

Trust me, I’ve been in the trenches. I’ve been around the “water cooler” (the self-employed equivalent) and it’s stress and negativity; a fate mirrored by the business model of doom.

I’ve seen India and I’ve seen the Philippines. Their web is about 5-10 years behind than actual current trends. Most designers just aren’t as skilled or know how to put strategy behind a design.

When you pay peanuts, you get monkeys. That’s what one of my virtual assistant friends said.

Another developer friend I know is adamant about only working with US contractors. They’ve always got that extra nuance to make a project more effective. Code is cleaner, more beautiful, streamlined.

But beware of hiring a US team who outsources your project to the Philippines and then charges you double or even triple what they paid for. That’s called white labeling.

It’s not that the Philippines doesn’t have talent. Indeed, there are a plethora of talented creatives much better than myself. My goal is to pick the cream of the crop exceptional talent and form my team of high paid designers from the Philippines. No more $300/month. That’s bull shit. No more “On the Job training” for cheap labor that can’t get it right the 5th time.

I get it.
There will always be the other side of the industry where penny pinching is a business strategy and where people are delighted to earn $300/month. But I’m on the other end and think it’s an abusive boyfriend you want to dump but are too afraid to. It’s the reason why most third world jobs suck. Of course, they do it too.

Because everything is industry substandard.

Including that fly in my drink and cockroach in the kitchen.
(These restaurants would definitely be shut down if they were in the US)

I dream of a Philippines that will raise its prices and standards to show those shitty clients who’s boss. Because the dominant/servant model is so passé.

I dream of a Philippines that knows its integrity and isn’t willing to back down.

I dream of a Philippines that truly enters the international playing field by raising prices to fit industry standards rather than undermining and degrading industry standards.

I dream of a world where shitty clients don’t exist (ok, that’s wishful thinking, but most of them hang out at the bottom of this cesspool AKA outsourcing).

I dream of a world where artists fucking THRIVE. Because starving artists aren’t sexy.

This is the true level playing field.

NOT this $2/hr. slave wage bull shit.

NOT this “just a graphic designer” mentality.

NOT this contest.

I’ve got REAL value and talent. Not just some hobby that anyone with Photoshop can do.

So lets ALL stop being pussies (myself included). And show some little respect.

Bitch, please.

Janet Brent

Janet is a graphic/web designer for indies in the holistic and creative arts. She is passionate about working with creative world changers and showing people how to march to their own beats. You can email her at janet@byjanet.net to introduce yourself or work with her. If you enjoyed this, sign up for more updates. TwitterFacebookGoogle Plus

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Why I Am Not a Perfect Filipina

I have never felt so discriminated against or judged by my ethnicity until I moved to the Philippines. I grew up “white”, in Portland, Oregon suburbia where color wasn’t an issue. And maybe the subtleties of racism were still there, but I didn’t pick up on it or I didn’t care.

Racial identity is a tough subject and I’ve deliberately separated myself from anything “Pinoy” or “Filipino” because of it. I grew up “white”. I simply do not relate to being “Filipino” because I don’t think of myself in colors. I am probably as Anti-American as they come, dissenting to the current injustices that pass as justice (although dissent is the highest form of patriotism, as Thomas Jefferson once said). I still think of myself as American.

I relate more to being a third culture kid than I do to being Filipino. And as much as the global citizen in me would like to believe in oneness, inherent to us all, as humans, there are still many rifts and divides.

I’ve felt a separateness as divided as the 1,700+ islands that make up the Philippines.

I’m used to it, though. I’ve come to accept that I’ll never truly be accepted amongst ‘my people’. That there will always be the Filipino crab mentality to bring you down. That there will always be pettiness and grievances and family feuds.

I’m not racist just because I don’t relate to being Filipino. I am the exact opposite. How could I be racist if I don’t relate to color? To my Filipino-ness? I’m not Anti-Filipino. I don’t deny my ethnicity or who I am. But I don’t make a point to pinpoint who I am by my nationality, either.

nitanegritaI get upset by such socially moronic TV shows like Nita Negrita, a Filipino TV drama that is all about a black girl– painted in black to make the Asian actresses’ skin appear African, but looking more like a botched grease job–who can’t accept who she is and wants to be white while all her peers tease her. What socially unconscious racist garbage!

I’m upset by all the skin whitening products too. Asians want to be white and caucasians want to be dark. No one can accept themselves.

I’m not perfect. But I love my country. I like it even more than America, these days, despite the poverty. It’s a beautiful country, rich with many natural treasures. I wish more foreigners would visit because it IS more fun in the Philippines.

Whenever I meet other Americans and foreigners, they always tell me how Filipinos are the nicest group of people they’ve met. What does that mean? Do I want to be “nice”? The most generic word, and one where we are taught a negative connotation, where “nice guys finish last”. What does it even mean?

I love Filipino resiliency and people. I love this part of me and am glad to have this culture in my background, as part of who I am.

Stereotyping the Filipina as housemaids and mail order brides is not uncommon. We are taught to be subservient. We are viewed as the trophy; the hot Asian beside the balding white guy in his midlife.

Lets dig deeper into the Elephant in the room.

As an American expat who blends in in SE Asia, I am subjected to local treatment. While someone of Caucasian color can command an expat salary that rivals his western country, I get peanuts like the rest of the Filipinos (it’s one of my secrets to why Entrepreneurism is the only option for me; I make more money on my own terms than any Filipino company would be willing to pay me).

In my desperate times, I accepted a $400/month full-time job (“full-time” 50 hour weeks) and quickly found out it wasn’t for me. I quit less than two months in.

I’ve had to learn many lessons about valuing myself. And I have to learn it over and over until it sticks. I’m still learning…

While someone of Caucasian color can walk into the bank and get special treatment and a checking account (because white=money, obviously, and Filipino=poor?), I have to wait 6 months of maintaining an “ATM cash card” like the rest of the Filipinos.

White privilege does exist, especially outside of the US.

I’ve come to realize I’m not an expat here. I’m a local.

But when I speak in my “slang” American accent, I lose my cover. I’m a foreigner.

I’ve gotten a lot more sensitive about the dynamics of Filipina women and Caucasian men. I’ve always been aware of “Asianphiles”, and up until now, I had only dated white men but now I’m hyper attuned to the subservient expectations.

Doing Business as a Minority

I have never felt the reality of my Asian female minority status more strongly than when I became part of the majority in the Philippines.

When potential clients want to do business with me, some of them want to do outsourcing. All of the outsourcing types are men and the subservient/dominant relationship is back in place. It’s why I feel safer with women clients and feminine energy. I quote something for the US/international market and men want something 1/3 of the price or less (generally, I’ve encountered less problems with women devaluing my work).

In my desperate times, I’ve done it. I’ve accepted less than I’m worth over and over and price my work for less over and over and feel worst for it; definitely worse off. My American student loans are still the bane of my existence after all (I hate Sallie-Mae) and I’m going to have to think of a better strategy than oblige to these Colonialistic men.

And this is my real-world lesson of the importance of finding your ideal client and rejecting the rest. It can really make you feel like shit balls, especially when wrapped around racial identity and woman empowerment (or lack thereof). I’ve been called racist just for knowing that my ideal client isn’t other Filipinos either, who would also command the local price for 1/3 less. Is knowing what you want and need racist? Please.

I’ve heard it all before. They say they’re a “start-up” which is veiled language for “I’m on a low budget”. They can’t pay a lot even with their Western salary and presidential suite condo; toting Asian girlfriend that looks half their age in arm like a longterm prostitute, milking him for the latest trends in fashion and technology. Money can buy you love.

I’ll never be the perfect Filipina. I don’t want to be “nice”. And just because I live in the Philippines and happen to be born Filipino doesn’t mean you can outsource me (a Caucasian expat would never have this problem).

I’ll speak my mind (in writing, if not in speech). I say no to opportunistic potential clients more often now, because I can and because I’m not desperate. I won’t play that subservient game. In relationship or in business.

In the Philippines, the word for love has double meaning.

Mahal, or love, is also used to mean “expensive price”.

When you have healthy self-worth and self-love, you’ll know how to price yourself.

Price what you’re worth. Know your worth. Because you are valuable.

Don’t settle for less.

Janet Brent

Janet is a graphic/web designer for indies in the holistic and creative arts. She is passionate about working with creative world changers and showing people how to march to their own beats. You can email her at janet@byjanet.net to introduce yourself or work with her. If you enjoyed this, sign up for more updates. TwitterFacebookGoogle Plus

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Screw Blogging For Biz, Blog For Pleasure

I recently made a blogging content strategy for the rest of the year for Prosperity’s Kitchen, a marketing online game show I’m a contestant in. I planned out my monthly themes, committed myself to writing 1x a week, and even wrote out the blog titles and topics for this month.

But let me tell you a little secret.

I love blogging but hate “blogging for business”. It feels too stale.

I’m a graphic/web designer. I “know” I should be blogging about design and branding and web to become an ‘authority’ and show my expertise. Why should I have to prove anything? To optimize for search engines. To get more clients. To share my gifts.

You want to know another secret?

I hate writing about design. I want to write about other things. To show my multi-faceted multi-passionate side. I want to write about personal development and lifestyle and culture and the path to being self-employed, maybe. But not about design.

Not here.

Maybe elsewhere, when it fits. But not now.

I’m resistent to turning Purple Panda into a blogging for biz machine. It feels like cranking old gears trying to churn in dollar bills. It feels like ‘selling out’ when an indie band you like signed to a big label.

Truth be told, when it comes to marketing strategies, I pick and choose the things I like and take out the rest. It’s a bento box with chopsticks.

Don’t get me wrong. All of the assignments have been helpful. They help me become more intentional with my business and I have already seen a transformation. But some assignments I implement more than others. And some are just an attempt to get weekly credits. It’s kind of like being back in highschool or college, when you got good at learning how to get good grades because you learned what teachers looked for to score an A.

And so, when I say I’m going to blog four times a month, I’d rather join the Ultimate Blog Challenge and try to blog daily (I already skipped April fools so I start with an imperfect record) for one month. And when I say I’m going to blog ‘daily’, it won’t have to be about business and design and branding, although it might be, just to confuse the search engines.

I’ve been blogging for over a decade. I’ve watched blogging grow from infant to adult, literally. When blogging used to be sweet and innocent and you wrote about your day and how you were feeling, and then it turned into this serious adult business-y thing with internet marketing and sales funnels and lead generation. Or this mommy thing with giveaways and product promotions and social media contests.

The atmosphere has changed.

I’d like to see blogging in its old age. What will it be like?

I miss the sweet innocence. I welcome the return of innocence with the growth and wisdom of old age.

So blog for pleasure. Blog what you desire.

What moves you? What makes you feel alive?

Awesome your life. Live worth writing about.

And write about it.

The best content strategy is a life strategy. How are you living with intention, attention and grace?

Janet Brent

Janet is a graphic/web designer for indies in the holistic and creative arts. She is passionate about working with creative world changers and showing people how to march to their own beats. You can email her at janet@byjanet.net to introduce yourself or work with her. If you enjoyed this, sign up for more updates. TwitterFacebookGoogle Plus

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lessons from
the trenches: What’s Your
Sob Story?

My corner of the slum, squinting from the morning sun.

My corner of the slum, squinting from the morning sun.

I have a challenge for you. What’s your sob story? Come up with the best sob story you can muster and try to top my failure! I got this idea from a Firepole Marketing post entitled Engage Readers By Revealing Royal Screw-Ups. And since I am royally ace at failing, I thought I’d play along with another rant.

Failing is probably the best thing I’m good at. In life, there is never “right” or “wrong”. Those are just value judgments (opinions) that people give. But there are ways to do things more efficiently and I am probably the most inefficient, lazy person out there.

Why yes, I LOVE bragging about how much of a loser I am!

My #1 failure still remains that I live in the Philippine slums. It’s not the worst slum. Not the kind that’s near dirty water sources that make it vulnerable to flooding. Not the kind that’s built on wood scraps and stilts and other odds and ends but something sturdier and more concrete. Like concrete. And not even the kind with drugs and violence because it’s safe and besides a group of shop lifters and hackers, virtually low crime.

It’s the kind of slum where neighbors have yelling matches at 3am in the morning. Or the kind where your cat catches three cockroaches around the house and plays with it until it dies. The kind where I have the most classiest open-air balcony bathroom. The kind where people use fire and charcoal in a kind of urban campout. Where Gangnam Style plays 24/7 on New Years Eve and dodging shit and flies and stink is an every day fare.

I’ve lived here for almost two years.

It’s taken almost two years for me to realize where I’m at, get over the shock, disbelief and denial and do something about it.

In the denial phase, there have been many nights curled up in a ball and sobbing on the floor (because I didn’t have a bed) crying myself a river. During those times, there was always a glimmer of hope to give me a sign that would test my most Buddhist sentiments of impermanence. This too shall pass.

Many rounds of questioning my faith and testing my faith and ultimately, having faith.

One night, I was literally crying about my pathetic situation in the most pathetic stupor and wishing I had money in my $0 bank account. I made some emotional tweets (in my earlier days, my moniker was TheEmoEmu, after all) that had nothing to do with my financial situation and all of a sudden a random twitter reader I had never interacted with before just decided to gift me $50. A small but amazing gesture with impeccable timing that made me believe God/the Universe really does talk to me through technology.

Despite my circumstances I am happy and blessed. Hardly poor at all.

Within these last two years I have grown proud of where I’m from. Yes, proud that a Western Filipino-American could endure a cultural immersion that not even the most elite Filipino would dare experience.

Which goes to say that I know the Philippines underbelly in an intimate way and I jump from social class and distinction; from upper-class to lower-class whenever I go meet a potential client or go to a free surf retreat I won or go to some Facebook event.

Poverty is my friend. The kind of friend that invites you to a gathering and then pretends you don’t exist when you show up late. The kind of friend who ditches you and tells you you’re a stupid airhead and then gets everyone to gang up on you and agree, even though they don’t know you at all.

Which is to say, poverty is a fall out.

I’ve manifested this. These fall outs keep repeating. I’m resting in my fall out shelter. I’ve known pain in an intimate way in many forms. But in that pain, always a glimmer of hope. Always faith that you will overcome and do something better.

There’s a certain kind of pride for enduring pain, like a badge of honor. Courage.

I am the underdog and I will do all it takes to prove myself, for the sake of proving myself. There’s meaning in pain. At least, the meaning that you assign.

Everything is meaningless, the existentialists would say. We choose the meaning we choose to interpret. (I got the crash course to Existentialism 101 not in college, but through dating.)

This is my meaning.

Poverty consumes me more than most, to the point of physical example. I’ve spent years thinking about how I can help. I’ve considered joining Peace Corps and then got shot down by a then-boyfriend who wouldn’t let me go, not knowing I could make my own mind, and no one was stopping me but me. To culminate my last goodbye when I left Portland, Oregon in 2010, I watched a movie called The End of Poverty. I was sickened and angered and deeply touched. Then silently vowed to myself that I would figure out a way to do something. I would make it my mission.

Two years later, I’m still here, in my fall out, waiting to assign meaning in this conscious choice to “do something”.

Being here is a humble lesson. I can look at it as a dumb decision, one of complete broke despair. I wanted to make a life in Manila growing a freelance business without friends or family and was willing to do “anything”. The universe gave me a slum and a native boyfriend. When you’re not specific with your intentions, you may be in for a few surprises.

This is a test. The very issue I wanted to help solve is staring me in the face every day. Its in my own backyard. The meaning I’ve subscribed to this is that it’s my chance to help. Keep on digging and eventually I’ll dig myself out and help people along the way.

This is my Peace Corps. This is the Western Woman changing the world, as Dalai Lama recently mentioned.

This is my mission.

Doing my own social outreach by teaching creativity workshops, personal development and mentorship programs for kids in poverty has been calling me for two years. Now it’s time to do something about it. I won the $100 Change scholarship and was awarded $500 to help implement an idea in the next 90 days that will be life changing. I will launch an e-shop with my own stationery designs, inspirational prints, greeting cards, etc. and use a percentage of the sales to go towards my social outreach initiatives.

With my graphic design and web design tech skills, I can literally create change.

Life is meaningless until you subscribe meaning. It doesn’t have to be perfect. But you’ve got to make a decision. This is part of it.

Dealing With Doubt

I’ve dealt with doubt all my life. Who am I to make a change? I’m not perfect. I don’t even like kids. I’m not even sure if I’m into it. Why does my heart want things my mind doesn’t want to do?

What else would I do? How else am I going to make a change?

So the next time you feel worthless, give yourself worth. You are the only person that has the incredible power to do something and be something.

Turn your worst failure into the best success. It’s possible!

Do you have a start-up or a screw-up? Care to share your sob story? I dare you to top mine. Bonus points if you literally end up sobbing like I did as I was writing this. What are you waiting for? If someone like me can find meaning in failures, screw-ups and pain and learn to overcome it then you can too.

Janet Brent

Janet is a graphic/web designer for indies in the holistic and creative arts. She is passionate about working with creative world changers and showing people how to march to their own beats. You can email her at janet@byjanet.net to introduce yourself or work with her. If you enjoyed this, sign up for more updates. TwitterFacebookGoogle Plus

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