Break Free by Don Soriano – Why Every Filipino Who Wants to be Financially Free Should Read this Book


I had the privilege of being one of the bloggers Don Soriano personally chose to write a review for his new book (I get to have a copy before it hits the shelves. yey! :D). It’s called “Break Free”. The book discusses eight principles that will help you achieve financial freedom.

I initially had my misgivings, because I was worried I might not like the book at all. I would not want to write anything derogatory about the work of someone who obviously means well, nor would I want to write any dishonest review. Fortunately, save for some sentences I would personally have written differently, I ended up liking the book. As a matter of fact, I am of the contention that ALL Filipinos should read it!



Who is Don Soriano?

Don Soriano is a self-made man who managed to start and grow three multi-million businesses with little to no money. He achieved financial freedom at the young age of 27, barely three years after going bankrupt and finding himself buried in Php 500,000 worth of debt. He is passionate about sharing what he’s learned to as many Filipinos as possible, in the hopes of helping them achieve the same financial freedom he is currently enjoying. He is fueled by the burning desire to spare people the mistakes that wreaked havoc on his business career when he was 24. He aims to do this by providing the mentorship and guidance he himself lacked when he was young. Through the book ‘Break Free’, he hopes to offer this mentorship to as many Filipinos as possible.



Why Filipinos Should Read ‘Break Free’

I find that the book addresses the many factors that keep Filipinos from achieving financial freedom.


  1. External Locus of Control – “And malas ko eh!”

Locus of control refers to the extent to which you believe you have control over what happens in your life. Those with Internal Locus of Control believe that they can influence the course of events in their life. Those with External Locus of Control believe that they do not have much control over what happens, and mostly blame external forces for their circumstances.

Most Filipinos quit after experiencing a business failure or two, mostly because they view business success as a matter of luck. There are also those who just give in to their state of poverty, sometimes because they believe it is the “will of God”, other times because they view themselves as helpless victims of circumstances or of oppressive forces, such as the “exploitative” rich people or the “corrupt” government.

Don Soriano starts his book by telling his story. Three years ago, not only did he go bankrupt but he also found himself deep in debt by Php500,000.

After passing the CPA board exams with flying colors (he made it to the top 7 nationwide), he entered the corporate world with high hopes. Not finding what he was looking for, he decided to quit after only a year of employment. He then ventured into many different types of businesses, from importing electronics to buying and selling practically anything he can get his hands on. His drive and ambition were being fueled by an insecurity that goes way back to his younger days when he was studying as a scholar at Xavier School, an exclusive all-boys school. He was essentially a young boy from a humble background surrounded by rich kids. He watched the privileged kids enjoy a way of life that was different from his own. This led him to equate happiness and self-worth with having money. This later translated to bad business decisions and an unsustainable lifestyle that caused his businesses to go down the drain. He cared so much about appearances that he went as far as to buy a sports car he could not afford.

Instead of throwing the towel and calling it quits, he went through a quest for self-development and gained access to life-changing nuggets of wisdom. The knowledge that he gained and the person that he became helped him take control of his life, and change things for the better. As he puts it, “Don’t be a creature of circumstance, be a creator of circumstance. You have the power to be the architect of your future and be the captain of your ship.” This is something every Filipino can learn from – the value of mustering an internal locus of control. Yes, you can get out of that rut. And no, you must never allow failures to dissuade you. Hindi ka malas. 97% of successful people achieved their success through years of hard work and self-development, not out of sheer luck. You can take control, and determine your own fortune.

Case in point … Jack Ma, the founder and chairman of Alibaba, spent his younger days poor in communist China, grew up to fail his college entrance exam twice and to get rejected at dozens of job applications, one of which was at KFC. But a person of indomitable spirit, he never gave up and eventually rose up to become the richest man in China (he was upended by Wang Jianlin, owner of the real estate company Dalian Wanda Group in China, in 2015 and is now down to the second richest man in China).


  1. Aversion to Difficulties – “Kinukutoban ako eh.”

Filipinos have a tendency to abandon ship when the going gets rough. Mostly because anxiety or misgivings are perceived as a bad omen or masamang kutob. That is the main difference between people who never make it in life and those who go as far as their desire takes them. One thing I often hear from success gurus is this mantra that essentially says, “If it does not generate fear, it is probably not worth it.” It is natural to feel uneasy when you are stepping out of your comfort zone. And stepping out of your comfort zone is the only way you can go places. It is the only way you can make it to the top.

To succeed in life, you must have the guts to embrace and overcome difficulties.


  1. Vulnerability to the Lure of Get-Rich-Quick Schemes

Many a Filipino have fallen victim to get-rich-quick schemes, sometimes losing not only their hard-earned life savings but even their sanity to fraudulent investments. It is easy to fall prey to promises of quick returns when you fail to understand that success takes hard work and time. Don Soriano explains in his book that success is a process. A process that you will need to follow diligently. And it will take hard work, time, and determination. As Steve Jobs put it, “If you really look closely, most overnight successes took a long time.”

Always remember that if it is too good to be true, it probably is. We reap what we sow. You can’t expect massive success without putting in the time and effort, as well as owning up to discomforting feelings of fear and uncertainty.


  1. Problematic Attitude Toward Money

Often, people’s idea of getting rich is earning more money. To a certain extent, this is true of course. But more than just earning more money, gaining financial freedom entails proper management of money. As Parkinson’s Law would have it, expenses will always rise to meet your level of income. The higher your income, the higher your expenses will be as well! If you don’t learn to manage your money, you will always be struggling to make ends meet.

It is not uncommon to hear of a lottery winner who quickly turned from a multi millionnaire into someone who is not only bankrupt but also buried in enormous debt. Moreso, we keep hearing about self-made men who started out with nothing but had managed to rise to the ranks to become one of the richest. One key way these two groups differ is the extent to which they are knowledgeable of proper money management.

As Don Soriano mentions in his book, mismanagement of money is especially noticeable among OFWs. He calls this the OFW syndrome, and this is something we are all too familiar with. They were struggling in the Philippines and were suddenly earning so much abroad. Overwhelmed by the sudden surge in income, they would start leading a lavish lifestyle and would end up squandering their money away. They would spend long and often lonely years abroad away from their family, only to come back home to have little to show for it. Then they would grapple to start a business, only to fail because they weren’t able to develop the proper business and money mindset.

In his book, Don Soriano provides what he calls the “best management system in the world”. He learned the system from T. Harv Eker, one of the self-development and motivational gurus he follows. The system has changed his life immensely, lifting him out of debt and into wealth faster than he could imagine.

If a money management system is to work effectively, it has to be simple enough that we would not get tired of doing it every month. What Don Soriano teaches is so easy, anyone could accomplish it in three minutes. And no, it does not entail jotting down every expense you make down to the last peso, something I personally hate doing and would never be able to diligently follow through. This money management system is definitely something every Filipino ought to learn and live by.


  1. Given to Instant Gratification

Most finance gurus advocate preparing for retirement. This tends to be front and center in their campaign. Such way of thinking often puts Filipinos off, as they are wont to live in the moment. It is one of the defining traits of our race. While it has made us one of the “happiest” of races (at least in appearances), it has also made us one of the poorest. The Filipino-Chinese, who are known to thrive financially in our very same landscape, puts more weight on long-term gratification. They are willing to make sacrifices in the present to make room for a better and more sustainable future. While the Filipino-Chinese is pinching on their pennies and living simply, Filipinos are splurging and amassing loans. The end result, the former eventually builds a fortune while the latter is barely able to get by.

The great thing about what Don Soriano advocates is that it promotes a way of life that will appeal to Filipinos. While he advises money management, he provides leeway for instant gratification. As he puts it, “The key to effective money management is balance.” He stresses that while it is important to save some money for investments, it is just as important to set aside some amount for enjoying oneself. He incorporates a ‘playing plan’ into the formula, in the belief that the only way you could succeed with your saving plan is by keeping yourself continually motivated through things that you truly enjoy. The goal, after all, is to live life to the fullest.


  1. Attaching Self-Worth to Material Possessions

A good number of Filipinos feel the need to own the latest mobile phone model, or to sport clothing that openly brandishes their prized brand names. It’s a superficial way of burying insecurities, something Don Soriano knows all too well. He has made the same mistake of living beyond his means, in the hopes of appearing more successful than he was.

It is much better to build yourself up into the kind of person you can truly be proud of. And it is much better if you could afford the fancy things without breaking the bank. His book will teach you to achieve self-development through the proper mindset, and to build wealth so you could truly be in the position to indulge yourself.


  1. Crab Mentality
photo by Nasrul Ekram

Filipinos are also known for their crab mentality, or the need to pull other people down. This is something I personally feel strongly against. It is beyond crazy to encounter people whom you could only please if you are failing, miserable, or ugly! People like this are a disgrace to the human race! A complete let-down. There is too much abundance in this world, that this attitude is just completely unnecessary. And it does nothing to bring our race forward. We should celebrate other people’s success, and allow it to inspire us … to give us something to strive for. The world would just be a much better place if we all had this mindset.

One of the principles Don Soriano advocates in his book is the ‘Law of Association’. That is, who you spend most of your time with affects who you are and who you become. Because of this, he advocates spending time with people who are more successful than you are. He also purports that we essentially become the average of the five people we spend most of our time with. So yes, it would actually serve us to be around people who are rising. Best to lift each other up, and feed on each other’s success (not misery!).

He mentioned how his friends who are employed would quickly shut his business ideas down, suggesting that they are virtually impossible, while his friends who are in business would instead give recommendations and build on the idea. I can personally relate to this. People who are in professions that are IT or software related are more appreciative of my little accomplishments, while my friends who know nothing about the field are the ones who are quick to undermine my efforts. We are often beset with self-doubt when we are trying to create something new or when we are entering unchartered territories. We already have our own evils to deal with, we don’t need naysayers to add to the burden. Best to surround ourselves with the doers and the believers. 

I particularly love how Don Soriano does not advocate a dog eat dog kind of thinking. He promotes achieving success by providing value to other people. And this is what I keep hearing more and more from successful people: Focus on providing value, and the money will come.



Strive for Self-Awareness

The list above does not intend to denigrate Filipinos, nor does it generalize on all members of our race. A good number of Filipinos do not possess the limiting attributes or beliefs mentioned above. Nevertheless, there is no denying that enough Filipinos possess such negative attributes that they are worth tackling and confronting. As Don Soriano mentions in his book, “The first step to change is awareness because you won’t be able to change something if you’re not even aware you need to change it. Self-improvement is impossible without self-awareness.”



Work on Self-Improvement

And self-improvement is the crux of the matter. When you have grown as a person, and have positioned yourself so that you are open to opportunities and are ripe for success, great things are bound to happen to you. And no, it is not about becoming a highly intelligent person. It is a potent combination of amassing the necessary knowledge and the right values and attitude. As Don Soriano puts it, “Who you are, what you know, what your personal philosophies are dictate the maximum level of income you can achieve at the moment. The only way you can increase your income is to add more value to yourself.” He further stresses, “The best investment isn’t business, real estate, or paper assets … The best investment is investing in yourself through continuous self-development.”

Don Soriano further stresses that success is only 20% skill. The key part of the equation is having the right mindset. To be more specific, “Success is only 20% skill and 80% psychology.” And that is exactly what he teaches in his book – the right mindset. He will provide you with a strong foundation for achieving success and building wealth. He will help you break free from the shackles of mediocrity!


… Don Soriano’s portal for ordering the book is still in the works. For now, you may order a copy through his facebook page: @iamdonsoriano.


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Author: Tahna de Veyra

Voracious eater. Coffee dependent. Book sniffer. Music addict. Profound thinker. Certified ambivert. Life-hungry maverick. Nonchalant realist. Hesitant blogger.

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