Thursday, December 28, 2006

A To Do List Before 2007

This is my personal to-do-list before 2007 comes around the corner. Most of them applies to the general public so I am posting them here hoping that you can adopt some of them.

1. Gather bills, receipts, bank statements etc. This will help you with the upcoming tax season. It is more than 3 months before deadline, why should I bother? First reason, it is not as easy task as you think it is. Second reason, your accountant would love you for doing this as early as January. You don't want to compete with your accountant's other clients come tax season rush, right?

2. Clean-up, organize, back-up, run anti-virus and defrag your computer. After all the hard work you have put your computer this year (may it be all the work you have done or the web junks your have downloaded online) your computer needs a little bit of "spring cleaning" if you must. By the way, you follow step two in that order: clean-up (includes deleting / uninstalling program and files), organize (create folders by topic/date or whatever system as long as you don't put all your files into the endless pit of MyDocuments), back-up (either on a separate hard drive or cds/dvds), run anti-virus (of course, update them with the latest version) and defrag your computer (this will take a very long time, but the rewards after is very noticeable).

3. Create a 2007 Goal List. This will be further discussed on my first entry for 2007. For now, list down ten things that you want to have or achieve, regardless of money and time.

4. Get a Credit Report. I personally do this around my birthday time, but moving this to the end/start of the year provides you with peace of mind for both identity theft and FICO score. Also, Federal Law states that you are entitled to one free report every 12 months from either the three reporting agencies. Check out for more information. You may need to pay to see your actual FICO score, but all other information that would pertain to accounts and credit cards are for free.

Tip: You could get all three reports one time, or stagger one report from one agency every 4 months.

5. Update records, journals, address books. This includes analog devices (paper and pen based address books / records) and digital devices (PDA, phones, Outlook etc). You will be could be surprised that a contact who used to live in Chicago might be living in New York or Aunt Rose changed her mobile phone number so she can be part of your network (nobody informed her of number portability since she can't be reached!). Also update your business cards and email signatures, you would not want to miss that opportunity when somebody gets hold of an incorrect number.

6. Create Your 2007 Calendar. Mark off birthdays, holidays, vacations and other planned dates for the year including dates for quarterly tax returns, doctor visits etc. This will make perfect sense when you start working on projects for work that could cause conflict with that HS reunion that you have been preparing for in the gym for months.

7. Clean-up and purge your email and files. I would confess that I have emails from 2002 on my personal email account, I save them since I don't know where to file them, but now that I have this list, I would personally get to them. For everybody else, let’s keep the Outlook Exchange server running smoothly by deleting emails from 1997. Thank you.

By the way, check with your state's statute of limitations on debt collection etc. The IRS has 3 years to audit you, 3 years to claim a tax refund and 10 years to collect tax liabilities. But a good rule of thumb is to keep files within the 7 year period.

8. Start Your New Year with a Financial Checkup and Review. Aside from preparing for your tax returns (where we hope to get a pot full of gold in refunds), assess and review your financial standing. Review credit card debts, outstanding purchases, cash flow, budget etc. You don't want to be living a hermit life nor a life drowning in debt. Be realistic and start saving. A $100 per pay that goes automatically to a savings funds is $2400.00 a year. You may ask about investments and stocks, yes it is a good idea but you should have liquid money first.

Check out and see if their savings solution works for you.

9. Schedule the following important appointments: Physical Check-up, Dental Check-up, Accountant Meeting, Spiritual Retreat and Blood Donation.

There has always been a shortage of good blood.

10. Get up and print this list. It may sound absurd, but by seeing this list on paper (if you want a stronger commitment, write these down on paper!) you are likely to do the things listed rather than procrastinate. Post them around or carry the list with you, I know I would.

Jonathan Louie Ong writes from New York. You may reach him at Expect the weblogs to receive weekly updates in 2007. Cheers to your professional and personal growth in 2007!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Customer Service

I never intend to use this blog to bash people. I have always intended this blog for the advancement of people for personal and work growth.

However, today, I was a victim of bad (worst in my life) customer service. The culprit, Pauline of HSBC's Check Fraud Department. She was rude and very demeaning. She acted as if she's at the zenith of the banking institution. Her first words for me: "You are a security threat to the bank, we are closing your account for depositing a fraudulent check."

I was stunned. Why in the world would you deposit a fraudulent check into your personal account? Even stupid criminals would go the long mile of cashing a fraudulent check in a different state under a different name.

The call came in at 10:25AM. She was rude and adamant about giving any details or explanation. She kept on reiterating that my account would be closed since I am a security threat. I went on posing questions to draw out the bottom line issues to the problem. Before the call ended, I had to stop her and tell her that she crossed the boundary of just being rude and her customer service is all out of place. I even mentioned that the someone in the branch could vouch for my character since they know how I handle my business with the bank.

Apparently she called the bank after that first call. At 10:41AM, she calls me and tells me that she would be giving me a week to talk with whomever to ratify the situation. She hangs up, with no remorse for her earlier attitude with me.

At 10:52AM, she calls back to tell me that everything has been resolved that she called up the issuer of the check to verify its validity that everything will be reinstated in five minutes. Again, with no apologies.

My question is: could you have called the issuer before you called me at 10:25AM and ruined my entire day?

So Pauline from HSBC's Check Fraud Department who could be reached at (716) 841-1184, brush up on your customer service skills. You may be a supervisor for a big department, but that doesn't give you the right to talk rude to your customers.

By the way, the branch that I deal with, HSBC's Chelsea Branch is the total opposite of Pauline. The people at the branch are very courteous. I even see managers get out of their cubicles to help out with deposits when lines starts to get long. Kudos to the branch. A big thumbs down to corporate.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

You Get What You Pay For

A lot of people would come up to me and ask for a website to be made for them. I give them a price and they back off. They would always tell me that its too expensive that in fact the website would be easy to do anyways.

Well, if it was that easy why can't you make it yourself. For a surgeon, brain surgery is easy but painting the Sistine Chapel would be a great feat!

Usually (and I am being fairly optimistic), you get what you pay for. Quality comes hand in hand with price. You shouldn't expect a pair of jeans to last a year if you paid $10 for it (but I'm still against overpriced jeans of more than $100).

So the next time you want a website made, should you ask those students to do it for you or for a professional who knows their stuff.

PS: Same goes with computer networking, ask me to setup your network or ask the kid next door set it up for you. You pay the price, you pay for the headaches as well.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Harvard Business Review

It has been a business know-how that the Harvard Business Review is a great resource for anything "business". I knew this long before but never really took time to even browse to this magazine.

During my recent trip back home, I helped out my sister with her research work for her MBA. We went back to my college Alma Mater and headed straight to the periodicals sections. That's where I discovered how great the articles are in HBR both for work and personal growth.

If you got that extra cash lying aroung, better subcribe now.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

5 Things I Like About PDF's

I was first introduced to making PDF's on my last year in college. My thesis adviser required us to submit PDF's of our thesis document and technical manuals. During those days, I just thought of it as an additional requirement for us to get out of college.

As I started working on more on training materials for work and financial documents for a job, I came to appreciate the beauty of PDF's. The industry standard of Portable Document Formats, Adobe created numerous tools that allows you to work with them, some of which I just got "introduced" recently. These things made me like PDF's a lot.

1. Security. You can set passwords in all different levels. Passwords for opening the document, passwords for printing it, passwords extracting data, passwords for setting passwords! Not only can you post your PDF files online, but you can have them accessible only through PDF embedded passwords, such as one of my current projects,

2. Portability. You can literally send the PDF file to any computer and any OS and you could be 99% sure that it can be viewed. The 1% is if the computer has no PDF reader installed and have no access to the free download on Adobe's website. If you find your station sans the program, go online and download various free PDF readers available. Head to to get the industry standard in free PDF readers.

3. Perfect Document Layout Everytime. I am the kind of person who is very particular about minute details in document formatting such as margins, text size, picture layout etc. Once laid out in your typical word processors or text layout programs, PDF's preserve the layout without anybody tinkering with your layout preferences. Common users cannot only destroy your precious layout but they can not change information in them. I would stress common users since there would always be ways to alter information on a PDF's.

4. File Size. There are times that you find your PDF's too big of a file. That is because it keeps all document details in the file to preserve your layout, these things range from fonts to pictures. But if you look closely on the software, you have the option to "Reduce File", changing most options to basic options that makes it compatible to previous simpler Adobe PDF versions.

5. Printing options. Not only does PDF preserve your document layout, but it can preserve the layout while changing page sizes. It has various printing options that it even allows you to zoom in to a particular portion and print your "Current View".

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Plan! Plan! Plan! Visualize!

Friends and colleagues often wonder how I can even keep up with myself. From their perspective, I do tons of stuff, travel to a thousand places and still be sane. However I do not feel that I have done tons of stuff nor traveled to a thousand places. OK, taken that I act like the normal person next to you on the train I am still not superman.

The trick to juggling family, work and fun is as simple as planning. We use our day timers, Franklin Covey systems and even DIY planners, but one trick in planning is visualization.

When you plan and visualize your environment where you would be performing, the things that you will do, the stuff that you will use, once you actually get to that point of execution it becomes natural and effort-less.

For example, when I learned that I would need to find a new apartment, I would plan on my mind the things that needs to be done, stuff that needed to be taken cared of, down to the boxes that I would be using. Two nights ago, I went to Staples and bought home boxes. In one night, I
was able to contain all the binders, papers and reference materials in my room. Ready to be carried out to my next apartment, in like two months.

There have been studies that show how visualization creates a great impact on almost everybody. The team that practiced every night, the team that visualized their game plan and the team that did nothing. The team that visualized might not have the same outcome than those that practiced but it sure is better than doing nothing.

My only problem with planning / visualization, my mind sometimes becomes to active that I have a hard time turning it off. Anyhows, I'll try to tackle that on my next article.

Happy visualizing!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Simplicity by Bo Sanchez

I was talking about "simplifying" in my previous entry, I stumbled upon this email sent by my cousin from the Philippines. I guess this tells all of what I it means about simplicity.


My parents breathed simplicity. Oxygen too, but that's pretty obvious.
Dad was an assistant vice president for a humongous company, yet I didn't "feel" like I was a rich man's kid because my parents made it a rule to live below their means.

A millionaire's son rode a sleek Benz; I rode our sixteen-year old Toyota that sounded more like a drum and bugle band, with its cacophony of bangs, rattles, and whams.

An heir of the moneyed class was chauffeured to school, but as early as Grade III, I was taking the public jeepney-- sitting, standing, or swinging from its handrails like a flapping flag.

The wealthy dined on gourmet meals every day. But the culinary highlight of my whole week was when Mom bought Coke for our Sunday lunch-- the only time we tasted the stuff. I'm not kidding.

Rich kids wore outfits from America, England, and Paris. I wore clothes from Avenida, Escolta, and Pasay.

The mansions of the rich and famous are veritable furniture showcases, complete with sixteen Egyptian jars from the Nefertiti era. I learned that one of those monstrous flower vases was equal to the price of our entire house. But naturally, we too, had our own flower vases. If my archaeological knowledge serves me right, they came from the Nescafe era.

Their estates have playrooms with life-size Barbie's and Power Rangers. But the way I played with expensive toys was admiring them from the store shelf and using my imagination to the hilt. That way, I owned all the toys in the world.

You'll be shocked by what I'm going to tell you, but through all this, I recall never feeling deprived in any way.Let me tell you why.

I remember my father coming home every night and we'd go jogging together--around our old car parked in the garage. (Dad says he wasn't vying for the Olympics anyway.) Then I'd sit on his lap and we'd talk about how to solve the problems of the universe.

After dinner, we'd read the comic pages together. Tarzan was my favorite, until I reached puberty. From then on, it became Jane.

Almost every Saturday afternoon, it was father and son time. We'd walk to the shopping center and Dad would buy me a hotdog. Then we'd walk back home, bringing a little something for Mom, usually a chocolate bar. To add sentimental value to our token, I forced myself to take a few bites from it.

I guess being with Dad and Mom was all that my little boy's heart ever wanted. And I got it, every single day.

I believe that God chose to write the "map of happiness" on the ordinary parchment of simplicity-- like a treasure map written on recycled brown paper.

Consequently, many people ignore that map, and are attracted instead to the more glossy, loud, shiny maps around. But when they follow these others maps,they end up tired as a dog chasing its own tail.

I have a radical suggestion........Simplify. Simplify because you want to discover the depths of your soul. Simplify because you want to start living deliberately.Simplify because you want to love from an uncluttered heart.

Remember that simplicity is only the first step of the journey. Holding the treasure map, memorizing it, photocopying it a thousand times, and keeping it safe in a vault won't make you claim the gold. You actually need to sail through oceans, climb peaks, cross valleys, and explore caves.

Simplicity will point to you where and what and who the gold is in your life.Once you know your gold, the game has just begun.Will you treasure your gold?

My parents knew their gold:
1. Each other,
2. Their six children, and
3. Their faith.

They tried to live uncluttered lives so that they could have time for what was most important.

They didn't busy themselves buying a bigger house, because that would mean working harder to pay the monthly amortization, doing overtime work or taking a second job. Who would then go jogging with little Bo every night?

Who would read Tarzan for him? They didn't burden themselves buying a BMW because that would mean laboring and worrying about installment bills. Besides, walking to the shopping center every Saturday afternoon with his son gave my dad his needed exercise, and made little Bo feel special.

One of the delights of my heart was seeing Dad and Mom in their bedroom at night, after our nightly family prayer. The lights were turned off, and I'd see the silhouette of my father seated on his old chair and mom standing behind him, gently massaging his shoulders. I'd hear them talk about what transpired during the day. Even as a child, I sensed their quiet pleasure at being together.

My question today: Could they have done this rich ritual each night and nourished their marriage if they had been busy paying for designer outfits for themselves or their kids, or if they had been worrying about monthly bills for new hi-tech appliances?

I don't think so.

And I've made the choice: I don't want that kind of life either.

Monday, August 21, 2006


After one "lazy" weekend and a Sunday's Dimsum with family (thus missing my 9AM Mass), I decided to trek my way to St. Paul the Apostle Church in Manhattan. Usually, I would go to Queens of Angels a few blocks away from the house, this time, I had to take the 7 train / N train to Columbus Circle.

It was well worth the trip.

I realized that my being there and participating in the Lord's Eucharist was all about intentions. Doing things not because your body has been programmed to do them, but because you intend to do them.

Especially here in NY, people would rise and shine, grab a cup of joe, bite into their bagels, rush to the train and find themselves doing the thing over and over. We hustle and hustle and when we look up, we are astonished as to what amount of time has passed by.

I have been working on a new route to work for the past couple of weeks. Instead of the regular 7 train to Times Square and the transfer of 1 train downtown I would switch around and take the 7 train Flushing bound (opposite of the usual) and find a transfer of either the F or the E to Manhattan. When I take the F train, I would either go across 23rd Street then 7th Ave or through 6th Ave then 25th St. to 7th Ave.

Why do I do this? To get out of the everyday redundancy. I go to work with intentions. I will definitely live my life with intentions as well!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Parable of the Cracked Pot

As I was doing my regular run and listening to's Podcast episode 61, I can't help but feel so positive with Father Walsh's Day by Day. I went online and found a copy of the parable. Read on.

A water bearer in India had two large pots, each hung on each end of a pole which he carried across his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it, and while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water at the end of the long walk from the stream to the master's house, the cracked pot arrived only half full.

For a full two years this went on daily, with the bearer delivering only one and a half pots full of water to his master's house. Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, perfect to the end for which it was made. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do. After two years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, it spoke to the water bearer one day by the stream.

"I am ashamed of myself, and I want to apologize to you."

"Why?" asked the bearer. "What are you ashamed of?"

"I have been able, for these past two years, to deliver only half my load because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your master's house. Because of my flaws, you have to do all of this work, and you don't get full value from your efforts," the pot said.

The water bearer felt sorry for the old cracked pot, and in his compassion he said, "As we return to the master's house, I want you to notice the beautiful flowers along the path."
Indeed, as they went up the hill, the old cracked pot took notice of the sun warming the beautiful wild flowers on the other side of the path, and this cheered it some. But at the end of the trail, it still felt bad because it had leaked out half its load, and so again it apologized to the bearer for its failure.

The bearer said to the pot, "Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of your path, but not on the other pot's side?"

“That's because I have always known about your flaw, and I took advantage of it. I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back from the stream, you've watered them.”

“For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate my master's table. Without you being just the way you are, he would not have this beauty to grace his house."
Each of us has our own unique flaws. We're all cracked pots. But if we allow it, the Lord will use our flaws to grace His Father's table.

In God's economy, nothing goes to waste.

So as we seek to minister together, and as God leads you to the tasks He has appointed for you, don't be afraid of your flaws.

Acknowledge them, and allow Him to take advantage of them, and you, too, can be the cause of beauty in His pathway.

Go out boldly, knowing that in our weakness we find His strength, and that "In Him every one of God's promises is a Yes."

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Managing Your Finance

One of the best things that I have experienced here in the US is the ability to borrow money. At age 20, I had my first credit card from this prominent store at 34th Street. They gave me a whopping $100.00 credit line. For a kid who never experienced credit, this was great. People giving me credit for the mere fact that applied for it.

Credit cards can be good if you know how to use them. It would be great if we can live without the plastic, but why suppress convenience if we can master that art of credit cards?

Since my first job as a training consultant back in 2001, my accountant gave me this great tip, in order for you not to worry about receipts, charge it all to you credit card but always keep a separate card for "work" and for "business". Ever since, I would charge my travel tickets to lunches to sometimes my latte at Starbucks. This worked for me since I pay off my bills that end of every billing cycle. Viola, no finance charges.

After moving to a new apartment in 2004, there is no way that you can't charge stuff on your card. From the new shelves to groceries swiping that card is fast yet scary. But I am happy to report that as of February 2006, I am down to two credit cards. I don't owe to much money, but I am targeting that by the end of the year, I would be debt free. This is good, especially since I am saving money for future investments.

So what is the trick that I used? First understand how your credit cards work. Does it employ Average Daily Balance or the Two Cycle Average Daily Balance. Check out the simplest explanation I found online at Second, pay off more than the minimum. You can't just be paying for interest right? Third, minimize the use of the plastic. You know those change that you accumulate in your glass jar at home? Use them for your morning coffee or your afternoon pick me up soda (better yet, make use of the free coffee at work!).

It is not easy, but the rewards for diligence and smart moves will definitely pay off.

Monday, July 31, 2006


Simplify. That has been the focus for the past few months for the company.

The website is being re-hauled and simplified. The process is undertaking some modifications as well.

The Marketing Division has been phased out and has been merged with the Consulting Division.

Services under the Consulting Division has been narrowed down to Project Management, Business Consulting (accounting, bookkeeping and payroll services) and IT Management.

The Training division will also focus on Computer training, Time Management, Effective Communication and Team building / Teamwork Seminars.

Don't hesitate to contact us at Big Projects, Inc. We might just be the answer to your organizational needs.

Friday, July 28, 2006


An article in one of the local free newspapers this week spoke about the rising of foreign trained doctors in the current health care system. It goes on further discussing the implications of language and accents with regards to doctor-patient communication. I agree with the article on every regards. However, this post will discuss the other side of the story.

Living in NYC have exponentially increased my cultural experience; from my usual contact with Asian cultures of Japan, China, Thailand, Philippines and Vietnam to a deeper understanding of Brazil, Argentina and of Europe. In all of these, I have learned to listen with an open mind. From political / cultural views, to religious beliefs, movies and my ever so favorite topic, food.

Whenever people converse, emotion plays an important part on both the speaker and the listener. Language aside, people tend to listen only to what they want to hear. If they feel that they are not hearing what they want to hear, they block you out. When they don't agree with your point of view, they block you out. When they don't feel like you are smart enough to talk to them, they block you out. This is not the art of listening at all.

When you listen, you listen with an open and quiet mind. You may not agree with what is being said, but you can definitely be courteous enough to listen. Who knows, you just might learn something.

Monday, July 10, 2006


100% at work means showing up everyday. This may be good, however, it creates a flat line.

One of my indications whether an individual gives 110% is based on his or her documents and reports. If one uses the default Times New Roman, size 12 and flushed left settings on all their documents with little or erroneous spacing, a big neon sign lights up and says individual did not
even bother. Don't get me started with indents and misspellings.

When I started writing reports, letters and various documents, I had to learn all the proper ways with the old reliable Underwood Typewriter with its black and red ink! If people didn't even try to use the built in templates that Microsoft Word provides, what other help could we give them?

When I was in college, before I could even start to write an outline for a report or for my thesis, I had to outline first all my document styles. Title in Arial, bold, size 16, flushed to the left, subheading in Arial, bold-italics, size 14, flushed to the left and so on. Not only did it give me a consistent report, but writing it was a lot easier.

When you type your next letter to your boss, at least format the inside address to be in bold.

That's the 10% that matters.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Blogging Via Email

As this website is for news and updates about the company's undertakings. I will also use this space to give tips and ideas on how to make life easier and simplier.

People write blogs because: 1. They have all the time in the world, 2. people need to say things out loud (or in this case write out loud) and 3. it becomes an outlet to make a difference. As much as I want to make a difference in the world, I can only do as much as time permits. If you are into blogging and would like to venture into it, I have found two things that could make things easier, email-to-blog and Picasa.

The first one is fairly easy, you set up an email address that your blog server accepts and it gets published into your blog instantly. The second one involves a program that you can download at called Picasa. Picasa is not only a great image / picture management program, but is a great tool to publish a picture into your blog.

My own personal blog ( where I share pictures and thoughts to my family all over the world is primarily updated using Picasa.

To those blogger out there, good luck and happy writing.

First Blog

Big Projects have evolved in many ways for the past year. With its one year of existece, the organization has grown to be very mature and very pliable.

As the organization ventures into formidable challenges, Big Projects will only be strengthend with years to come.

Watch out as Big Projects, Inc. will become a name-sake in training, consulting and marketing.