Zukunft is the German word for future. It is a concatenation of the root words “zu” meaning “to” and “kunft” which comes from the German word “Kommen” meaning “to come”. Hence it literally means what is still to come.
This week, 2014 ends and 2015 begins. It is a time for reunions and also a time for New Year’s resolutions.
It seems an appropriate juxtaposition. Reunions are a time for reconnecting, a time for rediscovering what we truly value. Spending time with those we love helps us remember what is important. This is precisely what we need to keep in mind when we think about the future and the paths we wish to take.
Goals and challenges
New Year’s resolutions tend to fall into a few key categories: (a) health, which includes resolutions concerning healthier diets, exercise, quitting smoking, limiting alcohol intake and losing weight being most common; (b) relationships, which typically include spending more time with family and friends, settling down and falling in love; (c) work and education, including learning new things and getting a better job; (d) money, typically involving getting out of debt, spending less and saving more; (e) lifestyle changes, such as traveling more; and (f) getting organized.
The list is unsurprising. These are the things we all think about as ingredients to a comfortable, enjoyable life: friends and family, good health, work that is meaningful, activities we enjoy, financial resources. However, it is that final item of getting organized that is the most interesting. Getting organized can run the gamut from something as trivial as cleaning home and work spaces to the major effort of reviewing and amending life choices.
As we begin the new year, that is potentially the most important resolution of all: getting organized. This is perhaps the best way to prepare for “zukunft”, to adopt the positive German traits of discipline and organization.
When I think of getting organized, I think of three things: first, setting and prioritizing goals; second, acquiring the resources and skills in order to achieve goals; and finally, slotting everything into a schedule.
Clearly, everything begins with setting goals. The key to achieving goals lies in the last two items: making the time to achieve the goal and having the resources and skills.
In the job market, three types of assessments are made: cognitive skills, specific job knowledge or skills and personality traits. General cognitive skills include logical, intuitive and critical thinking skills; problem solving skills; verbal ability; and numeracy. Specific job knowledge or skills might include knowledge of specific programming languages, ability to work with specific equipment, or understanding of a particular industry or locality. Professional accreditation or licenses might also be needed for certain jobs (e.g. for doctors, accountants, lawyers). Traits that are relevant in the job market involve the Big 5: extraversion, conscientiousness, openness, agreeability and emotional stability. Additionally, companies look for results-orientation, persistence, creativity, and trustworthiness.
In making career choices, the first rule is know thyself. There are a few things that tend to be immutable—e.g. level of extraversion. We need to craft our career choices around these. There are, however, factors we can change. This could include, for example, learning a new programming language. These we monitor so that we can continue to make ourselves relevant.
Interestingly, we most often concentrate on job-specific skills and forget about the more important skills, the ones that not only apply across most jobs, but actually are useful also for personal matters.
These general skills fall into a few general categories: (a) communication including interpersonal relationship skills; (b) critical thinking and decision making including research; (c) numeracy and money management; and (d) self management including self discipline, relaxation and managing difficult situations.
Managing money involves at least three things: (a) managing expenses; (b) managing debt; and (c) managing and investing savings.
Investing has been a particular challenge in the last few years. As the Philippine economy has improved, interest rates have gone down—good news for borrowers but bad news for investing in fixed-income vehicles. Simply putting your money in time deposits and bonds is simply not enough anymore.
For your investments, this year, I reproduce stock tips from PhilInvestor. PhilInvestor recommends key holdings in: Belle Resources (BEL); Cebu Pacific (CEB); First Gen (FGEN); First Philippine Holdings (FPH); and LT Group (LTG). PhilInvestor also recommends the following as speculative picks: Alson Consolidated (ACR); Lepanto Consolidated (LC); Mabuhay Holdings (MHC); Phinma (PHN); and TransAsia (TA). PhilInvestor’s 2014 key holdings posted a return of 39 percent (versus the PSEI’s 22.8 percent), and his speculative picks yielded 17.5 percent.
Finally, there are general life skills. They are the ones that help make life easier and those you need in an emergency. These are things like knowing how to drive, or cook an egg, or administer CPR.
This list may seem trivial but it is the little things that often make the difference between misery and happiness. I remember seeing a post about a happy marriage that explained that a happy marriage is not about a few romantic moments, it is about happy mundane Wednesdays.
May you have a full year of happy mundane Wednesdays!
For many years now, this column has traditionally ended with a brief recap of the year and the column title Zeitgeist, which is German for the spirit of the times. I thought it would be nice to use a similar recurring title for the beginning of year column. Imagine my surprise when I found that the German word for future also starts with the letter Z. What a great new tradition! Prosit Neujahr!
Want to check your general life skills? Try this test: http://www.buzzfeed.com/leonoraepstein/how-many-basic-skills-do-you-have#.ax02qMWgL
To take note of the share price at the time PhilInvestor recommended the stocks mentioned here, please look for PhilInvestor’s Corner on Facebook.
You can email Maya at email@example.com. Please like the Integrations Manila Facebook page or visit her archives at manilastandardtoday.com/author/maya-baltazar-herrera/ or integrations.tumblr.com or www.mayaherrera.aim.edu.