Health really is wealth — I mean REALLY. I was one of the millions of people who got infected with the virus. Before I got sick, I prided myself on having a really disciplined lifestyle as far as health is concerned. I exercised regularly. I ate healthily. I made sure I always had enough sleep. I was in good shape. But despite my healthy lifestyle, I still got infected and I got really scared. I came to the point that each breathy was a hard-fought battle. Fortunately, I pulled through and I’m now healthy as ever. Many have not been as fortunate. Looking back, I strongly believe that had I not been in pretty good shape when I got infected, I would not have been as lucky. So word of advice: Exercise. Eat healthy. Sleep well. Be healthy. You’ll live longer.
With the success of the vaccines, we are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel of this difficult period in our history. But before we jump back into the routine of the normal life that we lived in 2019, it would be a shame not to pause to reflect on what we have learned during this time. The social isolation caused by the pandemic really was an opportunity for a collective pause, and a global self-assessment about who we really are, and what we really want in life.
As a part of this series called “5 Things I Learned From The Social Isolation of the COVID19 Pandemic”, I had the pleasure to interviewPhillip Lew.
Phillip Lew is the founder and CEO of C9 Staff. His company helps investors, business owners, executives, and agencies all around the world leverage the power of overseas staffing in order to save up to 70% on their monthly payroll while expanding their operational capabilities.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers like to get an idea of who you are and where you came from. Can you tell us a bit about your background? Where do you come from? What are the life experiences that most shaped your current self?
My name is Phillip Lew and I am the founder and CEO of C9Staff.com. I have a degree in business from Boston University. I’m originally from Los Angeles but I have had the privilege of traveling around the world, working on various businesses and enterprises of some of my friends. And in the process, I have built my own company that has allowed me to move forward with this lifestyle and work setup.
I think there were three important events in my life that shaped present-day Phillip Lew.
First, growing up without a father figure. My parents divorced when I was seven years old. I had to discover how to be a man by myself. I had to piece together my own idea of masculinity in the context of modern society. Looking back, I guess that was advantageous for me because I was able to build my own personality and identity from scratch instead of having it modeled after someone else.
Secondly, growing up in poverty. We were really poor when I was young we were actually homeless and had to live in a shelter for a while. I believe that motivated from a young age to become successful.
Lastly, my Mom introducing me to the Law of Attraction when I was 12 years old. Ever since that day, the Law of Attraction has become my obsession. If I were a computer, the Law of Attraction will be part of my Operating System.
Are you currently working from home? If so, what has been the biggest adjustment from your previous workplace? Can you please share a story or example?
I’ve always worked from home. I have deliberately structured my business in such a way that everyone in my team can work in the comfort of their homes. In fact, right now, I’m backpacking across South America while still actively running my company and working with my team.
What do you miss most about your pre-COVID lifestyle?
I miss being able to socialize. I miss going to bars and clubs, spending time with friends, meeting new people, and just having fun in the company of others. I also miss the fact that traveling to other countries (or to anywhere, for that matter) was easier before the pandemic.
The pandemic was really a time for collective self-reflection. What social changes would you like to see as a result of the COVID pandemic?
As a result of this pandemic, I want people to realize how important health is. Before Covid-19, I was already exercising regularly and eating healthily. Despite that, I got infected with the virus and it came to a point where every breath was a life or death battle. I knew if I wasn’t in good shape when I got infected to start with, I wouldn’t have survived. So I really want people to take their health seriously. I want to see more people exercising regularly and paying attention to the food they eat.
Work-wise, I want to see more companies become more open to the idea of work-from-home arrangements for their employees. I believe companies now we’re able to realize that they can still remain productive and profitable even with most (if not all) of their people working from home. They can actually save a lot of money once they decide to adopt even a hybrid model where some employees still work in offices but the bulk of the workforce work remotely. They can let go of 80% of their physical offices and use those savings for other growth initiatives.
What if anything, do you think are the unexpected positives of the COVID response? We’d love to hear some stories or examples.
One positive thing that came out of the pandemic is the realization that the physical office is obsolete. Companies don’t really need multiple building floors or even entire buildings in order to operate productively and profitably. There’s a big opportunity in remote work not only for companies but for employees too.
We’ve had some recruits recently who wouldn’t have given freelancing a second thought before the pandemic. But after they got let go by their companies, they had no choice but to start doing freelance work just to generate income. Right now, they’re working with multiple freelance contracts with multiple clients.
When asked if they’d want to go back to the way it was where they’d only be working for one company in an office for 8 hours every day, the answer is a unanimous, “NO WAY!”
I think another positive thing that came out of the pandemic is that people got to spend more time with their families. A lot of people started realizing the importance of human relationships.
Lastly, I think a big positive that resulted from the pandemic was that we were able to give Mother Nature a much-needed reprieve and rest. Carbon dioxide emissions dropped because people had nowhere to go so they aren’t driving. One of my team members in the Philippines even said that air quality in Metro Manila (which was really quite bad) actually improved by as much as 40%.
How did you deal with the tedium of being locked up indefinitely during the pandemic? Can you share with us a few things you have done to keep your mood up?
I have always held the belief that your attitude and mindset influence your reality. So when the whole world practically got locked down, I immediately asked myself, “How can I turn this into an advantage?”
And so, I decided to work more seriously on my fitness. I took my exercise routine to a whole new level. Then I also spent more time in self-reflection and meditation. This really helped me keep all the negativity out and just concentrate on things that will give me a positive mood.
I also took this as an opportunity to grow my company. In fact, we have grown faster during the pandemic than in any other time in our short history. We’re actually poised to finish this year with 7 figures.
Aside from what we said above, what has been the source of your greatest pain, discomfort, or suffering during this time? How did you cope with it?
Perhaps the biggest challenge I had to handle during this time was being alone when I got infected with Covid. I was living alone in Seattle at the time. My family was in Los Angeles. My girlfriend was in the Philippines.
I would admit that there was a brief period there where I was really struggling to breathe and I was thinking, “Is this the way I’m going to die? Alone. Gasping for air. Fighting for my every breath not knowing whether I’m drawing my last one…”
But I didn’t give in. I knew I wasn’t alone because I’m a terrible person. I was alone because people aren’t allowed to travel. I knew that my family and friends will choose to be by my side at that moment if they could. And that gave me strength. So I took it literally one breath at a time. As soon as I was able to, I Facetimed my mother and girlfriend every chance I could. And that’s how I survived.
Ok wonderful. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Learned From The Social Isolation of the COVID19 Pandemic? (Please share a story or example for each.)
The pandemic has truly put a lot of things into perspective for many of us. Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a student, a parent, an employee, a public servant, or anything else in between, I am almost 100% sure that Covid-19 has made an impact in your life and in your mindset, one way or another.
Here are the 5 things I learned from the social isolation of the pandemic:
- Health really is wealth — I mean REALLY. I was one of the millions of people who got infected with the virus. Before I got sick, I prided myself on having a really disciplined lifestyle as far as health is concerned. I exercised regularly. I ate healthily. I made sure I always had enough sleep. I was in good shape. But despite my healthy lifestyle, I still got infected and I got really scared. I came to the point that each breathy was a hard-fought battle. Fortunately, I pulled through and I’m now healthy as ever. Many have not been as fortunate. Looking back, I strongly believe that had I not been in pretty good shape when I got infected, I would not have been as lucky. So word of advice: Exercise. Eat healthy. Sleep well. Be healthy. You’ll live longer.
- When everyone else leaves, your family will always be there. As soon as the lockdowns were announced, there was very little that people could really do. Thank God for technology and the internet, I was able to keep in touch with my friends and family. During the lockdown, I developed a deeper appreciation for family. I was living in Seattle and my family was in Los Angeles and regardless of the time of day, when I phoned home, someone was always available to answer. I am lucky that I already have a pretty good relationship with my family to start with. But I also believe that even if you don’t, even if you think you have a dysfunctional family, even if you think all you do in your family is fight and yell at each other when all cards are on the table, your family will still be the first ones to get on your side.
- Work to live. Don’t live to work. This is advice I was really glad I was given and that I followed. I built my business around my lifestyle instead of building my lifestyle around my business. This has allowed me to be flexible with my time and not be at the mercy of work stuff. This is also the reason my business has not really been affected that much by the pandemic.
- Choose your people well. As a business owner, I was so lucky that when Covid knocked me off the board, my people were quick to step up and fill in the void. They were able to pick up the slack quickly and thus, my business didn’t get impacted as much. In fact, we grew faster during the pandemic than in any other period ever since the company started.
- The physical office is obsolete. If there’s one positive thing that the pandemic has unexpectedly taught us, it’s that the physical office is obsolete. Remote work, work-from-home, home-based employment, and variations of the same are the new norm in the workforce and manpower. And forward-thinking businesses who take advantage of this right now for their own organizations will definitely see the most exponential growth as we enter this new era of business operations.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you during the pandemic?
The most important Life Lesson Quote for me during the pandemic is, “If you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong.”
It was really difficult to keep a positive headspace with all the people getting sick and some even dying around you. I have stopped watching TV altogether because the news has become so depressing. The problem is, I can still see the same news on social media.
At first, I really had to consciously remind myself, “If you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong.” So when I exercise, I consciously choose to make it fun. When I meditate, I consciously choose to make it fun. When I talk to my team about business, I consciously choose to make it fun. Until after a few days, it became automatic.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
I would say I’d like to have even just coffee with my hero, Elon Musk. We’d talk about the technological singularity that’s coming (I’m really into that stuff!). I’ll pick his brain about his thoughts on biohacking, digital transformation, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, augmented reality, sustainable technology, and all that. Then we’ll probably talk about startup opportunities for entrepreneurs who are looking into technologies geared towards creating a better world.
We’d probably end up with more than just a cup of coffee each but I imagine we’ll be so worked up by all that caffeine we’ll both be exploding with ideas. Hahaha!
How can our readers further follow your work online?
They can also follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn at https://www.facebook.com/phillipalew, https://twitter.com/phillipalew, and https://www.linkedin.com/in/phillipalew respectively. They can also follow my company Facebook and LinkedIn at https://www.facebook.com/C9Staff and https://www.linkedin.com/company/c9-staff.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this. We wish you continued success and good health.