More than a year ago, a fellow Troublemaker, shared with me the story of her wonderful professor in college who quit his job as an auditor in one of the Big Four firms to pursue his calling—teaching. A year passed and I still hadn't contacted him. In a funny twist of fate, Sir JJ, as his students would call him, facilitated our group's team building. "A Certified Public Accountant by profession, a teacher by passion" was how he introduced himself. I suddenly remembered my friend's story. When he told us the he was teaching in the same school my friend graduated from, I realized that our facilitator and her teacher were one and the same inspiring person! I approached him after our team building and, now, I'm really honored to share with you Sir JJ's story of courage, taking the leap, making a difference, pursuing your passion, and doing work that matters. This story is for the professional feeling lost in his or her career, for the student who still doesn't know what to do after college, and for the remarkable person looking to do work that matters.
Tell us about what you do
Just like how I normally introduce myself, I’m a Certified Public Accountant by profession but a teacher by passion. But now, I’m also a professional teacher. What I do? I’m just living the life I was given and sharing the things I believe in with my students and friends. I just do what I love to do - being a teacher, speaker, coach, counselor, and facilitator - and try to be in the moment as often as I can.
How do you achieve freedom doing this?
Well, you don’t make as much money being a teacher. But, for me, it’s not always about money. If you can limit your desires and be easily content and grateful with the little that you have, then you are free. For me, it’s about having purpose and doing what you really love to do. It’s about making a difference in the lives of people. It’s about making your life count. It’s about serving others. It’s about using your gifts for the greater good. It’s about doing what will really, really make you happy. Freedom is knowing yourself.
How do you change the world doing this?
Wow! I really don’t know and wouldn’t know if the world is becoming a better place by me doing what I love to do. I don’t know if the lives of my students are changed by my example because I cannot force them to change. All I know is that I can only change myself and do my best to be a good person – a person of good character. But, probably, people draw inspiration from my stories and principles. And what happens is that they are becoming aware of what it means to live a full life. A life full of love. A life without fear. They are liberated from their ignorance and thus realize freedom.
What did you do before this?
I’m a CPA. I used to be an achiever: someone who represented his school in competitions, someone who was career-oriented, and someone whose path was already laid and was ready to live the American dream. Well, I thought so.
After passing the board exam in 2005, I immediately worked at SGV & Co. It was the expected route of a CPA. You stay in an auditing firm for a number of years, then leave to seek greener pasture – either you go abroad or join a private company. I thought that I would follow the same journey.
During the first two years, I was excited and happy because I was learning a lot of things and seeing a lot of chicks. You know, these women were my primary source of motivation. I was so eager to work because of them. Note: Even passing the board exam, I offered it to a girl! Haha! I went to work; was never late; stayed in the office until the wee hours; made mistakes left and right; complained about how overworked and underpaid we were; dated, dined, partied, got broken-hearted; got drunk! All of the experiences of a prototype CPA, I experienced full hand.
But during my third year, something inside me was questioning the sense of it all. There was something in me that begged to be heard. A voice within was telling me, “What am I doing here?” Then I read a book entitled, “Now, Discover Your Strengths” by Marcus Buckingham. In that book, there was a question. It asked, “Does this job give you the opportunity to do what you do best everyday?” And, being honest to myself, I knew that the answer was a clear NO! It’s like there were two voices in my head. One was rationalizing, defending, and being tolerant of my situation and the other one was just being brutally honest, knocking, and rocking my whole being with a clear message, “JJ, YOU ARE NOT FIT HERE!” Quarter-life crisis at its finest!
I didn’t know what to do anymore. I knew the consequence of both staying and leaving my job. Staying means dragging myself to work and living a miserable life. Leaving is just as worrisome because of the uncertainties that come with it. Then I read an article, the commencement speech of Steve Jobs at Stanford University. He said, “The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all the matters of the heart, you’ll know it when you found it.” It was like a revelation to me that made me ask God and the universe to show me my purpose. I knew I wasn’t happy with my work anymore. Something’s gotta give.
Then I was given the chance to facilitate the trainings and seminars for new and first-year staff. The first time I held the microphone in my hand and shared the valuable lessons I believe in, I knew that was what I love to do. I love to teach people. I love to motivate people. I love to bring out the best in people. Eureka! It was an AHA! moment for me. So it’s true. The universe conspires to help the dreamer!
After that, I decided to resign and pursue my mission as a teacher at DLSU-Dasmariñas.
How did know about this opportunity?
Being a graduate of DLSU-D, it was an easy transition for me. I knew the people and the culture. There was a need for new teachers and I grabbed it.
What made you decide to finally take the leap?
The Steve Jobs quote I mentioned earlier.
What was the most difficult challenge you faced when you were starting out?
Financial! Haha! I was used to receiving a higher pay in my previous work as an auditor as compared to being a part-time teacher. So I really had to budget my money to make ends meet.
How are you coping up with your challenges?
Gotta live within my means. Thankfully, I'm learning how to properly manage my cash. I became financially literate a little bit too late. Haha!
What was the biggest lesson you learned from doing this?
There are a lot of things that I learned and realized from this leap of faith. I’m going to narrow them to just three lessons:
1. Do what you love to do. Make your passion your profession. We’ve been raised to give so much importance on being successful even wrongfully equating it with the amount of money and material wealth we accumulate in life. But, being successful is just really doing what makes you happy. Life is too short to be spent on something else. Just like what Alan Watts said, “Better a short life full of what you like doing than a long life spent in a miserable way.” You gotta be true to yourself. Your life has to have a purpose and you have to do everything in your power to make sure that you fulfill it. When you do what you love to do, then you won’t complain about work-life balance. Because your work becomes your life. Work will not seem like work anymore. It becomes play. With this, you enjoy and live life to the fullest.
2. Make a difference in the lives of people by serving them. “Real living is living for others.” These are the immortal words of Bruce Lee. Close your eyes. Really! As in now. Close your eyes. Then open it and look around you. Question, do you see yourself? Of course not! What do you see? You see others! And this means that our lives are not created for ourselves. It’s meant to be lived to serve other people. To bring smile. To lend a helping hand. To listen and say kind words. To just be there. To love fully, deeply, unconditionally. To realize that we are one and what we do for others, we do for ourselves. Life comes full circle when you live it for others.
3. There’s no accident in this world. This is all about trusting that God does not play dice in the universe. That everything that is happening to us, it happens for a reason and it will always serve our purpose. Steve Jobs said that you can only connect the dots looking backward and if we’re going to do just that then we’ll be at awe at how our lives have unfolded since our birth up to this point. We have survived 100% of our days. We are champions and there’s no accident to that. So whatever happens, just believe, be still, have faith. Take it easy and enjoy the ride!
Has the journey been worth it?
What's next for you?
I don’t know. I’m just trying to live in the moment. Right now, I registered my own business, the SPERMAN Enterprise. It’s the legal entity when I conduct my speaking engagements and team building activities. You can just contact me if ever you need a resource speaker in life management or a facilitator in your team building activities. Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Your advice to aspiring World Changers
You want to change the world? Well, you can’t! You can only change yourself. This starts by knowing yourself. Know your purpose and your life’s task. Then, do everything in your power to live it everyday of your life.
How can they reach you or how can they join your revolution?
You can add me as your friend in facebook. It’s JJ Villanueva (The Sperman Logo is my DP). Like my facebook pages: (1) www.facebook.com/spermanenterprise , and (2) www.facebook.com/sirjjshemmy. You may also want to follow me at twitter and instagram, it’s @sirjjshemmy. And finally, you can just email me at email@example.com. Hope to hear from you all.