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By Stella A. Estremera

Spider’s web

Sunday, August 10, 2014

PART of the job is being invited to lecture on writing. People seem to find it fascinating to learn how to write, they’d love to learn the basics, the rules.

Except that the word ‘rules’ is among the few words I have a natural dislike of, like boxes and leashes and locks… if you get my drift.

Thus, while expecting to learn rules, those lucky enough to share my time get to work their brains instead. Make your own rules, but make sure you know the rules set so you will know what to break and make as your own.


For people like us, who lecture basic skills, we get to meet two general classifications of participants – formal school students (both young and old with ages ranging from a seven-year-old kid to a 50-plus years old teacher) and the employed (all above 20). The students, most of the time are very attentive, since they would be the campus journalists or the communication arts students, those who chose to write. Sharing their avid interest are teachers, maybe because their vocation is teaching and they know they have to learn more to teach better.

Of course, there will always be the sleepy ones. We can never do without them in any school setting. I don’t take offense, really, because I was once among the most audacious sleeper in class. Bore me, I sleep. Torture me with too much information, I sleep. Keep me up all night, I sleep. Thus, today, when faced with a student ready to doze off, I just take it as a challenge of keeping them awake, or at least letting them off with something added in between their ears that will hopefully stay there for years to come long after they have dozed off or awakened from another nap.

Now the employed are something else. Somewhere among the crowd will be someone who’s there to trip you up. They don’t intend to learn, they’re just there because they were told to be there, and they will be the ones who will be asking the most inane and insane questions; they’d usually look around after asking yet another question as if goading the other participants to laugh with him.

Again, I don’t mind. It’s their loss not mine. People like these already believe they know everything and so they are stuck where they have allowed themselves to be stuck. I move on, skip on, even fly on. I don’t let anyone’s decision to get stuck make me get stuck as well. Your call, your choice, not mine.

I’d smile and give the best answer, never mind if I know I’m being heckled because deep inside I know the others are not stupid and are themselves making their own bad judgment not of me, but of the heckler.

That’s how it is with hecklers and those stuck in the mud; the more they open their mouth, the more they expose the emptiness within.

Plod on, continue with the discussion. Nothing can be earned by heckling a heckler.

That’s how it is when your intention is to share whatever it is you already know. There will always be those who will be so willing to listen up and learn, and there will be those who will question your authority, your intention, or your person, just because. Dig deeper, and you will see fear: The fear of the new; the fear of being chucked out of the comfortable status quo of things.

Focus on those who are willing to learn and do not waste emotions on those who don’t. From experience there can only be at most two in a crowd. There can never ever be more than the number of people waiting to hear what you have to teach them. See the difference?

“If not enough people doubt you, you’re not making a difference,” wrote Seth Godin in his book “The Icarus Deception”.

We don’t have to take Godin’s words just because he wrote it, but we can ponder on the thought. This is the part of the book when he discussed the concept of the Japanese word Kamizawa – the godly skill.

“Kamiwaza involves removing artifice and defense and poses from our work and boiling it down to the true essence, performing it in a way that eliminates hiding places and excuses. … Which makes us extraordinarily vulnerable,” he continued.

“Fear of shame is a powerful tool to modify behavior, and those in power have been using it for years. They want to be able to change us by delivering shame, and we’ve been taught to listen to it, believe it, and swallow it,” reads another part of the chapter.

“It’s fine to acknowledge that there are those who will seek to shame you, but that doesn’t mean you have to accept what’s given. We don’t work for the applause, and we’d be foolish to read the anonymous comments on Amazon or the tweets coming from the back of the room. When your restaurant gets a lousy review on Yelp or a stranger yells something out the window, that attempt to get you to quiet down and conform doesn’t belong to you unless you want it to.”

The question then is: Do you want it to? I don’t know your answer, but I know mine: No.



Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on August 10, 2014.


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