The Dreamer

Valerie Fischer

Valerie Fischer

Dreamer, Storyteller, Marketer

Valerie Fischer is a Neuro Linguistic Programming practitioner with over 20 years of experience in advertising and marketing. She has also co-founded an e-commerce site for locally made products. This combination has fostered a unique process that helps businesses transition and thrive online.

You don’t know what is happening in a person’s life. So always be kind. Be compassionate. And try to listen to what is not being said.

The Snapshots

Valerie giving a heartfelt speech as valedictorian of her high school graduating class.

In this photo, Valerie’s strength shines through on stage. After many hardships, she’s still here standing. 

Show notes


My guest today is Valerie Fischer, a neuro-linguistic programming practitioner with over 20 years of experience in advertising and marketing, who talked about how she used her life story and unique skills to help businesses transition and thrive online. So, Valerie, it’s a pleasure to meet you. Thank you.

VALERIE: Thank you. It’s a pleasure and an honor to be here with you.

ABENA: Um, tell us a bit about yourself. Yes.

VALERIE: In my Instagram account, I tagged myself as a dreamer, a storyteller and a marketer. So, um, I’ve always been a dreamer and I take that with me.

VALERIE: Wherever I go, even when I was a child and then a storyteller, because, um, I create when I was a child. Uh, we would take the jeepney – here in the Philippines, the public transportation is called the jeepney. And in my head, people that I will see that I will see, I will ask myself, like, what are these people’s stories?

VALERIE: What are they, you know, what are they like, how are their lives? Like who they have kids what’s happening? What are they, where are they going or where are they coming from? And then, I also call myself a marketing. Because I actually use those stories now that, you know, uh, in the past, when I was a child, I just concocted in my head, but now I listened to other people’s stories.

VALERIE: I also share my own stories and I use them for marketing. And I use that to also help other people sell their products and their services. So those three, those three words are kind of the words that I describe myself.

ABENA: So, you talk about being a dreamer. And I think that closely aligns with that first photo that you sent, which is you at age 15, you’re wearing a yellow cap and gown and you’re giving an address to the graduating class. So, where was that photo taken? Tell us a bit about that day. Take us back.

VALERIE: Yes. So, um, that photo was taken on our graduation date a few months before that, three or four months before that my mom passed away. Um, she, battled kidney disease for four years when she was actually diagnosed, the doctor said she only had, you know, between three to six months to live, but we fought through it.

VALERIE: We extended her life. The land that we were supposed to inherit, we sold them. We did everything. My dad did everything so that we can extend her life. But, um, you know, after four years she passed away. I was in high school when this was all happening. And when you’re in high school, um, things are happening in your head, in your body and your emotions.

VALERIE: It was really a difficult time for me, but then, you know, ever since I was a child, I remember I was seven years old. I already knew what I wanted. So I did not let them – my mom going through all of these things, the family going through all of these things – to stop me from what I wanted. I would wake up at three in the morning so I could study for an exam, I could study for a quiz and, you know, um, all this, while my mom was going through stuff. And so that by the time that my mom wakes up, you know, I’ll already be there cause we had some medical stuff. So when I graduated that day, people knew – cause I was a first honor all throughout high school  – and they all knew what I was going through at that moment.

VALERIE: So when I finally, uh, went on that stage to do my valedictorian, everyone knew the story behind me being there. I didn’t want to cry because I practiced for days. You know, I had my aunt practice with me. I’m like, I don’t want anyone’s pity, but then at the end, you know, my voice cracked and I rushed out of embarrassment and the principal and the owner stopped me in the middle and hug me.

VALERIE: And, you know, I received a standing ovation. Because of what I said and because, you know, I think it’s also because of the story behind my speech.

ABENA: What was that story behind the speech?

VALERIE: So it’s really, um, telling my classmates, you know, whatever happens in their life, they can really push through anything, that is the operative word.

VALERIE: You have to go through it. And I think that my being there on stage was living proof of that. And then I also thanked my teachers who let me sometimes go home early because I have to take care of my mom. And then at the time that my voice cracked was when I thought of my mother for really believing from the very beginning.

ABENA: That is so, so wonderful. You know, I’m going to keep going back to that theme of dreamer, because I love that you mentioned that, you know, by the age of seven, you knew what you wanted to do. And so what was that?

VALERIE: Yeah, it’s so funny at that age. So I was seven years old. I wanted to become a lawyer and I knew a lawyer would need to study hard, would need to write a lot, would need to be, you know, strong in her convictions, his or her convictions has to know what she’s talking about. So I tried to live up to that, you know, those ideas or those values that I thought at that time I was seven years.

VALERIE: I don’t know, actually I don’t actually know a lawyer then I just knew I wanted to be, I didn’t have a role model. I didn’t know anyone who was a lawyer. I just knew I wanted somebody to, who will fight for justice, who will fight for other people. So it goes that value of, uh, the conviction and the need to help people, even in my choice, also, when I was in high school, you know, I knew I needed to be brainy and study to get to law school. Even the course – because I finished broadcast communication; here in the Philippines, it’s a pre-law course – so there are credits when you want to become a lawyer. 

ABENA: That’s interesting. Well, that was going to be, my next question. You have this vision as a seven year old of going to law school. And so I think that kind of ties into again, that dreamer. Were there other dreams that you wanted to fulfill?

VALERIE: Now at nine years old. I was a really shy kid. And um, so to kind of counter that, my mom enrolled me in a, what do you call that theater class? A summer theater class. And then from there, I think because of the experience, since we were, you know, we were not rich, so my mom had to earn extra to get me to a, it’s a luxury, it’s an additional expense.

VALERIE: And, you know, I was surrounded by rich kids, kids of politicians, businessmen, and I felt my status in life. I found that I’m there and they’re there, you know what I mean? And so I also felt like someday, you know, someday I will also get there. I’m going to bring us out of here. In the theater, I learned how to be on stage. So my confidence grew. So I think that was a pivotal moment for me because I realized I can do so much more, that I will not let our standing in society stop me from being more or being better.

ABENA: You know, one of the questions I had was, you had these dreams when you were younger; did you always see that as being within your reach or did you see it as something that I dream about doing this, but I don’t know that I’ll ever get there?

VALERIE: When I was in college, my classmates were buying Lonely Planet books, you know, when they were first popular, when they were first popped and they were like buying things and I’m like not going to buy that. Cause I don’t want to treat myself because I don’t think I’ll ever go to the country, so I’m not even going to read them. So that’s a dream that I did not think I will have, but the others, the others, I knew I can get them.

VALERIE: For example, if even right now, if I just decided to go back to school and study law, I know I can do it. It’s just not a priority. You know, things change, life changes. So there are things that I knew I could do, but there were also things I kind of stopped myself from even dreaming about, because I didn’t want to get disappointed, but again, life happens.

VALERIE: Here in our mini library, I have a collection of Lonely Planet books and from places that I have been to. So even at that time when I was in college, I didn’t buy them because I thought they didn’t think I was going to get to those places, that still did not stop me from dreaming about those places.

ABENA: Right. And that’s great that you jumped into it. Cause I was going to ask, did you ever have the opportunity to travel?

VALERIE:  I did. I did my first ever, um, solo trip. Well, okay. So I started with my first job because I know how to do it for myself. And this is what I try to help other people with to manifest, and then do. Cause I think that that’s where people stop. They think that when you try to manifest and dream and vision, that steps there, you have to do. Okay. So my dream was to travel. My very first job allowed me to travel all over the Philippines. And then the second job that I had, I was based in Cambodia.

VALERIE: So I was able to travel to south east Asia. And then another job that I had, I managed the international sales group of real estate company. And that allowed me to travel all over the world. So this is what they need. You have a vision, but you don’t start with that vision. You have to take steps in your life to get you to where you want to be and to get you to not only to do, but to be that person, to be that person who travels to be that person who appreciates cultures from other countries who have, who appreciates tradition and language and the arts from other countries. You have to do. I think that that’s the thing that people have to realize you have to do.

ABENA: So what would you say then to someone who – because it does get very easy to get stuck, right? I can make a million lists of all the things I dream of doing and not take out. And so what would you suggest to someone to prompt them to take action?

VALERIE: Number one, I was just actually reading about procrastination this morning. There are many, many, many different ways. It’s not about willpower. It’s not about, you know, kicking yourself or punching yourself or, you know, telling yourself. Bad stuff that you’re lazy. You’re an idiot. You’re stupid because you haven’t done these things. It’s not about the willpower. It’s I think about motivation.

VALERIE: You have to imagine that’s where, you know, that’s where the vision incomes in. You have to imagine being there, seeing the things. In NLP, neuro-linguistic programming, we call it modalities and we call it future pacing. So it’s a combination. What do you see? Who’s with you? If you want to travel, what does Alaska feels like? Cold? How cold? How many coats are you wearing?

VALERIE: How did you get there? Who are the people with you? What do you smell? Does it smell of the sea? Does it smell of…you know, what does it taste like? So it’s, it’s that, and then also to get there, how do you do impossible things? You take little simple, possible steps every day, because that’s how you do the impossible, you know, you take it past.

VALERIE: Yep. So let, for example, you want to travel. What is the first possible step that you can take? Say maybe in the Philippines, you know, we save, I dunno, like $5, $10 everyday. You won’t feel like it’s impossible right now, but when you combine all of that money, it becomes possible. And then also you celebrate the little wins.

VALERIE: So if, for example, after six months or after a year, you’ve already saved a little amount and you can say, oh, this is already enough for a trip, you know, for a, for an airfare, you think yourself. Because when you thank yourself, that’s when you know, um, oxytocin and dopamine come out, the neurotransmitters in the brain, and it makes you feel good. And when you feel good about it, it motivates you again to take the next possible step towards your impossible dream.

ABENA: I like that idea of rewarding along the way, rather than waiting. And seeing that trip, for example, the ultimate trip being the reward. And then if you never get there, then you haven’t actually celebrated those little possible wins along the way.

ABENA: So, yeah, I love that. It’s interesting when you talked about being on stage and you’re the valedictorian and your speech was met with applause, and I sort of saw that applause is a bit of foreshadowing for how your life would progress. Right.

VALERIE: Yes. Yeah.

ABENA: I know that you had dreams and you seemed like you were incredibly convicted, uh, at that young age at any point. Did you feel, do you feel any fear? 

VALERIE: Yes. Yes. You know, courage is not the absence of fear. It is knowing full well, all of your fears, but still going through and getting what you want anyway, knowing all of that, you know, I quit my job in 28. It was a job that they let me travel all over the world. You know, people would kill for that job.

VALERIE: But, um, back in 2015, 2016, I read a book by Simon Sinek, “Start with Why”, and then I also did an assessment of Gallup Strengths Finder. So around that time I was thinking, you know, I have been so blessed with this job that lets me travel all over the world. I am, uh, you know, one of the youngest, you know, uh, assistant vice president in marketing of the biggest real estate company in the Philippines.

VALERIE: It’s huge, but why am I not happy? Why, why am I not feeling it? I wondered what else is out there, because I’m a dreamer. I want to see other things. So I quit my job and that was scary. That was scary. I have to admit that I would have probably thought about it several times, but it would not have been that possible if I did not have my husband. I knew that somebody, if I fell, if I, you know, made a mistake, I knew I was going to back there again, but it will be easier because I have my husband, but I was scared. I was scared at that time. So that was when that was the first. And then the second one was last year when I lost my job. I mean, I can name many, many other instances where I was scared, but last year, last year was really.

ABENA: In what ways would you say that, that it was more difficult last year than when you lost your job in 2018?

VALERIE: So when I lost my job in 2018, I saved up for it. I prepared for it, but then last year when I lost that job, I was only three months into the new role. I was a chief marketing officer, and then it was the third. It was April sixth. And I wasn’t prepared. I had some savings. Yes. But in 2018, when I quit my first job, I started my first business. So my money actually went there. Right. So I wasn’t prepared that I was going to lose this new job.

ABENA: And so how did you manage?

VALERIE: Like what I said in my valedictorian speech, you have to go through it. You have to really feel and let the emotions flow through you. I was scared. I was, you know, everything was so uncertain. I wasn’t sure where we were going to go. I was also ashamed. I was so ashamed, embarrassed to say I lost my job, being the achiever that I am. I couldn’t tell people I was so embarrassed, but part of the healing was I told myself eventually, when things worked out, that that rejection was a redirection. Losing my job actually became a relevant part of my brand story that became the foundation of how people relate to me, because I, you know, I went through that at the start of the pandemic and a lot of people just in the Philippines alone, 5 million people lost their jobs.

ABENA: I love how you claimed it. Right. And as you said, went through it, you grieved as we all do, but you’ve seized it as well. You actually mentioned this phrase, which I thought was great. And I don’t know if you noticed, I smiled immediately because in putting this together, I labeled the photos. So the first photo I labeled at graduation, and you used the phrase of your life being onstage.

ABENA: And I actually called that photo. The second one that you sent, I called it onstage. So that’s, that’s kinda cool. It’s a photo of you posing confidently, where you look very radiant. Very self-assured. So can you tell me a bit more about that picture?

VALERIE: I think that being on stage does not necessarily mean being on the physical stage, especially in the world that we have right now. It can also be, when you say you’re on stage, you’re on people’s radar. You are an influencer. You are able to persuade people because that’s what people on stage do. Whether you are an artist, whether you are, you know, a theater actor or a motivational speaker, or even a lecturer or a priest.

VALERIE: So going back to Simon Sinek and that book. It took me two years to finally get this, I was so serious about finding it, that when I finally got it two years after, I tried to live my life that way, and my way is to inspire courage, to create change and being on stage right now. Um, whether it is an actual stage, virtual stage, even pages.

VALERIE: When you write, it’s also a stage for you to share your voice. It is now to live up that why of inspiring courage, create change. The onstage one is really to share that message. You know, even without realizing it, that’s how I’ve been living my life from when I was young, what people kept for me, because I inspired courage now that I teach and train new, online business owners that they can transition their businesses online.

VALERIE: It’s also inspiring courage when I speak on the NLP stage. I’m one of the speakers of the NLP. That’s also, you know, inspiring courage. The NLP master summit, which is happening right now, at least while we’re recording, it is a summit of the best of the best neuro linguistic programming trainers all over the world.

VALERIE: When I saw that ad – because it’s a Facebook ad – I did not stop there. I emailed the organizer. I said, I know this is a long shot, but if you are still looking for speakers for the summit, I think I’m a good fit. I emailed the organizer and three days a week passed and he replied, he said, “I love long shots. Are you available to record your topic on this day?” So I’m now part of that, that’s great because I didn’t stop myself. I didn’t stop myself from doing it. I’ve only been an NLP practitioner for three or four years, and they’ve been, you know, 30 years in the business, 20 years training, but I knew I had something to share.

ABENA: So you had also briefly touched on a number of life experiences that have occurred between that first photo and the second photo. And it’s entirely up to you how much you want to speak about them, but they’re life experiences that are, they’re life altering. How did those experiences shape you?

VALERIE: Um, number one is when I worked in Cambodia for a year, I knew no one. I was here working for a mall, um, a mall company in a Coliseum at the time. And I just emailed my boss, I’m going to Thailand for whatever, if we can grab a drink. And he said, hi, how are you? Um, are you happy with your job now?

VALERIE: Cause we have an opening, other office, uh, you know, if you’re going to Thailand. The general manager can meet you there cause he’s already there. Anyway, I went and I met with a general manager and got the deal cause he was also the owner. I arrived in Cambodia knowing nobody. So that one, that experience that one year experience taught me that I can do things on my own. I can really rely on myself. I can. I mean, there are people I can ask for help, but I can, I can do it myself now. That’s one.

VALERIE: The second one was, um, I had an American boyfriend from 2010 until 2012, but he was murdered in a robbery, in a convenience store. He was buying cigarettes and he, you know, give you money and he refused to give the money and he was shot four times.

VALERIE: So when that happened, I realized once again, how life was really short. It was, um, an eye opener. Again, this, I lost my mum before; maybe I forgot how life was short. And then here we go again, the world reminding me that life was really short, you know, he would, he just came back from my apartment. I was calling him and he didn’t reach home. My friend was actually the one who found out about his death because he was on the news on Twitter. He was an American living here and he was on the news and she’s, she was like, um, what’s your boyfriend’s name again? I said this and that. And he’s like, I think you should read Twitter and read the news and watch the news.

VALERIE: And that’s how I found out. So that moment, you know, uh, of course, again, you go through it, you grieve, you remember you let yourself more and you cry. You let yourself be, you know, I dunno, floating for a few months, but. When that happened, you know, I told myself life is really short and so I should start living my dream and getting going after my, going after my dreams, that led to my actually my dream trip.

VALERIE: I went to Paris on my own because I, you know, I wanted to travel to the world and the really, again, at the back of my head going to just save Paris for when I have a boyfriend, again, I’m going to, save Paris for my honeymoon, I’m going to do some various thing, but I’m like, why not now? Why not? And so that’s what I did.

VALERIE: I went to Istanbul and then Paris and then Belgium and then Amsterdam, but then made sure Paris…I was in Paris, December 25, Christmas day. I was in the Notre Dame praying for the life that I was given and really just thinking, you know, thanking the universe, thanking the Lord for being there at that moment. So those two, those two, uh, pivotal moments in my life.

ABENA: I  always am very curious, you know, your thoughts on how you think you would be different if you hadn’t gone through those experience. 

VALERIE: Well, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but most of our conversation, I always tell stories. You know, it’s really based on stories. So when I was young, younger in college, I said, you know, I’m going to live as if in a way that my grandchildren will be very proud of me, except I didn’t have, I don’t have children. So I won’t have grandchildren, you know, but my niece’s kids will say, “Oh, she’s a cool grandma. Cause she’s done that. She’s been there. She’s accomplished all of these things”. And I will have stories. I believe that the best people are those, the ones with the best stories to tell, and they will only be able to do that if they went through a lot of difficulties, a lot of triumphs, a lot, the victories.

ABENA: I love it.

ABENA: This one question, I have to ask, was one piece of advice for those who are listening. You mentioned that your advice came from your mom who said that quote, “We all have different stories to tell. You don’t know what is happening in a person’s life. So always be kind, be compassionate and try to listen to what is not being said”. So how would you say that this has guided your life?

VALERIE: My mom worked in a parole and probation part of the department of justice. She was a corporate nurse of the parole and probation. So the prisoners would go through them, the nurse, the psychologist, or psychiatrist – there’s a group of them – to make sure that they get parole, if they’re mentally and emotionally stable enough.

VALERIE: And if they’re not going to do anything wrong when they’re let out. And so they would hear the prisoners’ stories – why they were put into prison in the first place, the difficult stuff, the things that are happening with their families, some of them are even innocent or still claim to be innocent. And some of them promise to be good while they’re out, et cetera, et cetera. And so that’s, I think, why it was so important for my mom to tell us that, because these are prisoners, these are supposed to be hard core criminals, right? So they have their own stories. We don’t know what led them to that. I’m not saying that they shouldn’t be punished, but they have stories. They have stories and we have. Always understand that they might be coming from a different place. We don’t know that. 

VALERIE: And so try to be compassionate, try to be kind. Um, my husband ordered a salad the other day and he’s like, this person forgot about this, et cetera, et cetera. You know, I asked for two pieces of whatever. You know that this pandemic is difficult for a lot of us. Right. I tried to remind him, I, you know, I even, I complained, I remind myself, they’re having a difficult time. They are, you know, there’s lack of manpower; they’re undermanned. They’re probably getting only 30% of their salary.

VALERIE: All of these. And we don’t know if this is a working mom, you know, she has a sick child at home or her parents are sick of COVID at the moment. We don’t know. So it’s all trying to be kind and compassionate and listen to the words that are not being said.

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Music: Been and Gone by The Permanent Residents (Duncan Findlay, Adam Carter) ℗ 2016. Used with permission from the artists.

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