Posts Tagged ‘future’

Research your dreams

laelene Posted in mba,Tags: , , , , ,
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Do you have a BHAG for your life? Do you know what it will take to get there?

When I was in middle school, around 8th grade, I developed my own BHAG. I can’t remember how it came about, but somehow I recall playing full-contact basketball during lunch break, thinking about my future. I don’t know why I make the association thinking back, but that gym is the first place I can remember deciding that I wanted to get an MBA. I guess it was because I felt that I had three good options for a career: doctor, engineer, or businesswoman. I may have imagined it, but I’m pretty sure my dad told me that at some point.

Whatever the case, I became convinced that business was the way for me. And that led me to this idea of an MBA. As a 13-year-old, that does seem like a BHAG. Ultimately, it has taken me 17 years to realize that dream (and it’ll be 19 before the diploma is in hand). I’ve wanted an MBA for more than half my life now and that goal has sort of defined how I thought of myself. Back then, I hadn’t yet considered what I needed to do to reach my goal.

I started with first things first – in high school, I began to consider what majors I might be interested in. When I was accepted to UCLA, I learned that they had no business undergraduate major, so I had to get creative. I ended up choosing Psych & Econ to get two very different sides to what would be useful business skills. While I am proud of the double major I earned, I wish I had started to understand what it takes to get into b-school at that point. Had I known about the intense competition, I probably would have chosen majors I was most interested in – Gender Studies or Environmental Science, perhaps. Granted, the Environmental Science major was introduced too far into my college career to make a pivot without derailing my graduation timing completely.

What I wish I knew was that getting at least a 3.5 GPA would be extremely helpful towards my b-school applications down the line. Instead, I continued down the path I’d chosen from the get-go and my grades slipped as the work got more challenging, yet often was not as interesting to me. While I am interested in these topics, I do not have a great passion for them the way I do others. Had I researched what top MBA programs are looking for, I would have known to focus more on a major that I could get a high GPA in, one that I had a deep drive to learn and excel in. It’s not that I didn’t know grades would be important, but I figured a 3.0+ would suffice.

I consider my next misstep the choice to work for small companies. While I have enjoyed the experiences, I didn’t feel well-positioned as an applicant because the work I did was on a smaller scale. It’s hard to be responsible for impactful programs if the company is too small to have many of those opportunities. While I certainly took on quite a bit of work and led projects wherever I could, they didn’t sound nearly as impressive. With what I know now, I would have gone for larger organizations with bigger challenges.

But then again, maybe I’m just making excuses for why I didn’t make it into Stanford. Perhaps a higher GPA and different work experience wouldn’t have helped. I do feel proud of what I’ve done and the essays I wrote to convey that, but for all I know, those were not as strong as I feel they were. Ultimately, I would have done things a bit differently if I had looked into the details of what goes into applying for and getting into a program like Stanford GSB’s.

So if you have a BHAG, I encourage you to heavily research it. Learn from others and it will help you better position yourself for achieving that dream. I was fortunate that I was able to realize my dream and I’m thrilled to be attending USC Marshall in the fall. It was difficult though, because I had weaknesses in my application I needed to try to compensate for. I couldn’t go in the past to change what had happened, so I had to find ways to strengthen my application in other areas. I very well might not have been accepted at all. And this is a lesson I’m learning – that a dream worth pursuing is worth the time and effort to prepare for. As soon as you have that goal in mind, start learning everything you can to help you get there!

My next goal is to lead an organization’s Empowerment team (which is an amalgamation of People Operations, Culture, and Internal Operations). HR is a concept that has evolved to take on a negative meaning that people don’t really connect with, so I consider what I do to be the latest evolution of that functional role. I can’t wait to learn from others doing this work and take some classes on these ideas. I’ve been preparing for this for a long time. 🙂

I got my husband back!

laelene Posted in lifestyle glimpses,Tags: , , , ,
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It’s been 5 long weeks since Panda left me and I finally have him back again. I will never agree to such a long work trip again. It was far too much. I managed to stay relatively sane the first three weeks, but the last two have been much harder. I even gave up on eating properly and didn’t feel like anything, so I ended up resorting to instant ramen, mac & cheese, and frozen pizzas.

Now that he’s back, things are more lively again and the nights aren’t so lonely. I get to enjoy having food prepared for me and having someone to talk to after work. Even the cats get to have someone else to rub up against and spend time with. It’s nice to settle back into home life for awhile, before everything gets uprooted and I move to wherever I need to for my MBA.

I find it interesting that everyone asks me about my husband moving with me (and no, he won’t be). When I tell them, they are all shocked at how we will pass two years apart. I guess it’s more normal for Asian cultures to handle being apart for long periods of time. My parents do it all the time and much of my childhood was spent away from one or both of them. I wonder how many married MBAs go without their spouse. It seems like I will be the exception.

Anyway, I’m excited for the next couple months, where I’ll have a last chance to live this schedule before being engulfed by school. Soon enough there will be trips, orientation, classes, and so much more. I look forward to the change of pace. Turns out I get bored of a regular work schedule and I crave more unpredictability. Until then, I will appreciate having Panda back at home, being a complete family with our cats. 🙂

The day (I knew) my life changed

laelene Posted in mba,Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
2

I got a call yesterday during dinner, which I forgot about upon getting home. It wasn’t until this morning when I saw the voicemail and decided to listen to it. Imagine my complete surprise when it was Dean of Admissions at Marshall, Evan Bouffides! Can you guess what he said?

I’ve been offered admission!!!

I did not expect a decision until nearly a month from now, so it was really amazing to have a call much earlier than expected. I’ve been going between confident that I must get in because this is my dream and if I feel the win I’ll get it (yeah, not exactly logical) and insecure that I wouldn’t get in because I didn’t apply to enough schools that were within reach and aimed too high. I spent time questioning my choices, wondering how I had presented myself and if it was strong enough. I’d worry about my GPA not being high enough, my story not being strong enough, my future plans and vision not being grand enough, or even my age being a bit too high. You really just don’t know with these things and waiting is the worst part.

Thankfully, just a week after my interview with them, I’ve gotten the fantastic news and now I can breathe a little easier knowing I definitely have a program to join in the fall. I can’t wait to go visit the school during admit weekend! Now I’ll just have to see if any other school offers me admission and see where that leads me. 🙂

Yippee!!!! I’m going to get an MBA!!!

Crunch time

laelene Posted in general blog,Tags: , , , ,
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Yikes, my first b-school applications are due in one week! I’ve spent a TON of time soul-searching, reflecting, reading, listening, and thinking. I hope I’ve been able to distill my essence into a potent little package that will come across well in my essays. I’m trying to wrap those up soon so I can also do a revamp of my resume before uploading that and completing the other aspects of each app. This is really nerve-wracking!! Luckily, I have a five-day weekend to focus and work through many of the details.

I’ll mostly be offline in the coming days, but I should have time to fit in a post or two. After that, I’m thinking of bringing back more of my journaling days. I miss being able to look back on any day in my life and knowing what happened. Panda and I were trying to rehash what we did over the Christmas weekend and things were already a little fuzzy. I don’t like that feeling, so perhaps I’ll incorporate more daily life stuff into my posts here. We’ll see! Right now I’m reserving most brain power for putting my best foot forward in my applications!!

Finding myself

laelene Posted in mba,Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
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As I apply to MBA programs, I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching. All this introspection makes me take time to really consider what it is that matters to me and what sort of person I want to become. It’s a great exercise that I feel like we should all do more often.

So as Stanford GSB asks, what matters to me and why? So many things come to mind: empowerment, collaboration, change, balance, diversity/uniqueness, fulfillment, compassion. Each of these because of how they enable us to improve our lives, to be better versions of ourselves. Ultimately, I think it boils down to empowerment. When people are empowered through education or resources or connections, they can take themselves to a better place bit by bit. And aren’t we all pursuing incremental improvements that will culminate into a life that we can look back on and be pleased with?

For years, I’ve yearned to find my calling. I’d watch shows, read articles, and hear interviews of successful people following their passion as if answering a calling. Many of them spoke about how they’ve always felt the deep desire to (fill in the blank). Meanwhile, I searched and searched for my calling. Was it animals? Nature? Photography? Travel? Blogging? Entrepreneurism? So many options seemed compelling, but no single one stood out to me above the others. I was trying so hard to get a little bit of everything I wanted.

Recently, in writing my essays for my MBA applications, I’ve finally figured it out. What is it that I can spend hours reading about, thinking about, talking about? Sure I love animals and I volunteer with insects, I take photos all the time and love getting that amazing shot, and I have been blogging for years… but I don’t engross myself in science articles or photo editing or blogging tips the way I do business articles and interviews.

When it comes to business – in particular, management principles, hiring practices, and above all – culture, I am obsessed. For me, culture drives everything. Culture determines the type of people you attract, the way they behave (and therefore the output they’ll create), the effectiveness of your brand, etc. etc. etc. I literally devour everything I find mentioning anything related to company culture, hiring, and training. I could sit (or stand, or walk) and talk about ideas around these concepts for days. I constantly have new thoughts that I add to my every-growing ideas document.

While I often get distracted by the many other things I am passionate for, I don’t spend nearly as much time and energy on any of those topics. This is how I know that the thing I would get up in the morning for above all else is the opportunity to cultivate an amazing and likely unconventional culture. To do that, I want my vehicle of change to be empowerment. By creating mechanisms through which people are empowered with the knowledge or resources or contacts they need, I can help them become better people. Better people thrive and feed into a culture that is supportive, collaborative, and empowering. And thus the cycle goes, building upon itself and sustaining itself even as it grows.

I’m still finding myself, but this time spent being self-reflective has given me a lot of insight into who I am and who I aspire to be. I’m starting to notice the patterns in my life that draw from an underlying current that I hadn’t observed before. All these seemingly disparate choices have come together to paint a clearer picture of what motivates me. I have gained confidence in what I should do with my life because I can now see the forces that have been there all along, creating the themes that define me. Now I just hope I can clearly articulate to the admissions committee!

In search

laelene Posted in general blog,Tags: , , , ,
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I’ve been watching a bunch of YouTube videos for the past couple of weeks (yeah, I’m only like 10 years late to the game). While much of what I’ve seen is inspirational and/or thought-provoking, it’s actually made me rather sad. So many people talk about doing what you love, being passionate… and they seem to have it figured out. They’ve been driven to do the things they do from something deep inside. They know what they just can’t live without. They know their passion and they embrace it.

Meanwhile, I have struggled. There are plenty of things I am passionate about: business culture, sustainability, animals, technology. I’ve considered career paths in each, but I struggle with seeing myself completely devoting my life to any one of those. So perhaps I’m not approaching it correctly; perhaps I should be considering how I can balance the many passions I have. That’s not easy though, since if you want to excel at something, you really need to dedicate a lot of time and energy to it. And then I get caught up in the little details, like how I want to avoid working in an office because I love being outside or how I want a somewhat predictable yet flexible schedule so I have more control over when I work. Am I asking for too much?

I guess I’ve been stumped all this time because there might not be something out there that is consistently outdoors at least 20-40% of the time, doesn’t generally require early mornings (or any mornings), allows for and might even require periodic travel, and is pretty stable. The criteria for a job that would be ideal might not be attainable. Then again, I’m probably focusing on the wrong things. After all, when you’re passionate about something, all those other details seem to fall away.

So there it is again, that idea that you need to figure out the passion of your life and do it. If only it were so easy for me to decide what that passion would be. Others make it seem effortless. It’s the thing that they’ve loved since childhood. They don’t even need to think about it. They just start talking about it and their eyes light up, they smile broadly, and they could go on for ages. When I think about what my passion might be, the ones I’ve thought of never hit me like a lightning bolt of inspiration. I haven’t thought, “I must do that. My soul needs that.” That’s sort of the moment of enlightenment I’ve been hoping for.

One of the videos I watched today mentioned the things that come naturally. Everyone has talents where things appear effortless. Mine include being cheerful, sharing, noticing details, and (over)thinking. If you count those as talents. They are certainly the traits I have that come naturally, without a conscious effort. I wish I had a more concrete talent like being artistic or being athletic. Those are easily translated into some type of work that you can pursue. But how does something like ‘being cheerful’ tie in to work? I can apply my skills to any job I have, but are any of them something I can do in and of themselves? Not really.

I envy the people in the world who just know what they want. They may not have had an easy time pursuing their deepest heart’s desire, but they had a goal and direction. I feel like I’m in the center of a glob, with too many spokes leading me outward toward the edge. Which one do I choose to go with?

 

Have you had this sort of challenge as well? What do you think would help?

The name game

laelene Posted in general blog,Tags: , , , , , , ,
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With our civil ceremony fast approaching, Panda and I are preparing to jump through the legal hoops. One of these items is the marriage license application, with which I will need to indicate how (or if) I will change my name. The only thing we’ve agreed is not necessary is for him to change his name. But when it comes to mine, I was all for adding his name as a second last name, ie, Qin Bear (assuming his full name is Panda Bear, you see). I remember reading about a blogger who had done this and claimed to be able to use Qin or Bear or Qin Bear. That’s exactly what I’d like – a tie to his family name without actually really changing my identity. On the day-to-day, I’d still be Mary Qin. When it came to anything related to him, I could be Mrs. Bear. If it was something related to the kids (who I plan on naming with his family name), I’d be Mary Bear to match their surname.

However, I’ve been digging in to it and it seems things might be more complex than that. Technically adding the extra last name is changing mine, which means I’d still have to go through the annoying process of updating all my records (no thank you). Then there’s the question of whether two last names (NOT hypenated) is truly acceptable and whether the two can sort of be used interchangeably. If I indicate my new name is Mary Qin Bear, would a check written to me as Mary Qin be just as valid? I haven’t a clue… [any lawyers in CA please feel free to chime in!]

We were talking about this last night and he sees no need for me to change my name. I’ve built an identity around it and it’s a strong name. I actually have far less of a connection with my first name than my last. Perhaps I should drop it and make my name Qin Bear! You may call me Qin from now on. 😉 I did want to add his to have that connection to his family roots and also share part of my last name with the kids. To some extent, I didn’t want complications because my surname didn’t match theirs, but Panda makes a valid point that our mothers raised us with their own last names and never had an issue. So should I just keep my name entirely? Seems a little lacking, after all this time that I was planning on adding a name.

And then of course I have intense debates with myself in terms of what the social influences are that are playing into my decision. Am I being too deferent to tradition by including his name? Am I being too headstrong by not? What is actually making me choose the way I am and does it make sense with my values? I’m thoroughly confused. Is it legal to list Mary Qin Bear on the marriage certificate but not update all my legal documents so I continue to use Mary Qin but have Bear floating in there on the marriage license? I think I might go with that.

Thinking of all this last name drama reminds me of an amusing fact: all three of my cats have different last names. Molly was given my mom’s last name, Missy was given my last name, and Smokey was given Panda’s last name. I sure hope it’s less confusing with the real kids. 😛

Why I no longer want to be an entrepreneur

laelene Posted in general blog,Tags: , , , , , , ,
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Every now and then, it seems like the world is beating me up. These are the best times for growth, but boy are they challenging. I’d been feeling rather downtrodden for the past week or two – a combination of illness and challenges with work were making me feel less than adequate. I was weak, always exhausted, and not nearly as productive as I wanted to be (and thought I could be). A looming sense of failure followed me around and made me question myself. It reminded me a lot of why I decided that being an entrepreneur might not be for me after all.

Back in early 2012, I had reached a point professionally and personally that gave me the courage to quit my job and start my own ventures. A year later, I had learned a lot and decided that the lifestyle wasn’t what I was looking for. I found that I couldn’t shut off from work and the stress of it followed me at all times of the day. I like more balance in my life, but it was hard to justify not taking care of work whenever it came up. I’d feel guilty if I didn’t handle things right away. It began to take over my life, even as I was seeking more control over it.

Today I came across an article on Inc.com that rang so true to me. It’s about the psychological price of entrepreneurship and talks about how taxing it is to manage your own business. When you pour your heart and soul into working on something, it can really drain you. If it doesn’t work out the way you had hoped, it’s easy to take that as a personal failure. That certainly does a number on your confidence. When you decide to pursue entrepreneurship, you better be ready for a crazy rollercoaster. And for me, it’s just not worth the stress. I don’t crave the recognition or attention at that scale, nor do I want to pursue that sort of money. So why would I put my health, my relationships, and my mental state at jeopardy to chase after that dream?

two kittens cuddling and sleeping together

If I could, I’d play with cats all day. So cute!!

And going back to my recent low, the article explained that some people experience strong emotions on both ends of the spectrum. You get really excited about things, but you also get really depressed about others. I may not be as bad as some people who are extreme to the point of manic, but I do think I feel emotions more strongly than many. It’s a double-edged sword, where I find myself easily joyful, but at the same time I can fall to deep sadness quickly. It may prevent me from taking greater risks for immense rewards, but those “rewards” are something I didn’t want anyway. Instead of money or power, I want to enjoy my life with Panda. I want time to hang out with him, to go to yoga classes, to have peaceful moments with my cats, to cook together, to enjoy trips… so really something more stable is suitable for my goals.

Once I’m done with my 365great series, I’ll start up a weekly series related to that, sharing ideas and tips for how to enjoy life more and stress less. Our culture is so caught up in accomplishments that we often forget the value of the richer experiences in life that may not produce an award or a higher paycheck or other recognition.

Pre-drywall walk-through

laelene Posted in lifestyle glimpses,Tags: , , , , ,
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Panda and I had our pre-drywall walk-through at the condo this week, where we got to check out the general frame and make sure we were getting outlets, cables, and ceiling rough-ins where we needed them. It was cool to be able to see the place in this unfinished condition right before they get the drywall installed and the interior starts looking like a home.

view upwards of wood beams supporting interior of condo frame mid-construction

There’s a whole lot of wooden beams!

colored stickers on window indicating approvals for construction of new condo

Got all the approvals in order for gas, plumbing, wiring, etc.

unfinished porch with single wooden support post

The porch is still in the works.

new condos construction site

The next building is already well underway.

pile of white panels laying on ground by construction site of new condos

Outside there are a ton of materials still to be used.

wooden beams for framework of walls and ceiling of condo under construction

This is where our sales guy explained to Panda how I get the walk-in closet. 🙂

bathtub sitting in wooden framework of new condo being built

Can’t wait to make good use of our new tub.

open hvac box with wiring and piping

All kinds of HVAC stuff going on in here.

wooden framework of stairs and walls

One last chance to see the stairs from this side before the walls get in the way.

large blocks of insulation sitting on wooden beams for future ceiling

There are random chunks of insulation everywhere.

trees and shrubs laying on ground getting ready to be planted on new condo lots

Many more trees to be planted between us and the single family homes we face in the back.

365great Day 142: future plans

laelene Posted in 365great,Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
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Learn more about 365great here.

365great challenge day 142: future plansAh, the anticipation of what’s to come! It gives you something to dream about, to hope for, and to think about. One of the main things on my mind these days is that ever-enticing move-in date, when Panda and I will have our brand new condo to call home! Here I took a picture of some construction plans for the site, which has yet to be built but today I saw they started the initial stages of laying the foundation; so exciting!! When you make plans, it gives you something to make decisions around and it often triggers tasks you can do, like buying or selling things, arranging and rearranging your schedule, and perhaps preparing to usher out the old to make way for the new. Sometimes it’s just another part of your day, but sometimes it’s a life-changing event. Whatever the case, our ability to think to the future and run scenarios in our imaginations is a pretty unique skill. So here’s to the future! Let’s make it great.

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