Posts Tagged ‘opinions’

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. 🙂

No such thing as a weakness

laelene Posted in general blog,Tags: , , , ,
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You know, with all the evaluation I’ve done of myself recently, I kept coming to the topic of strengths and weaknesses. I’ve come to think that there aren’t actually strengths and weaknesses out there. A strength or a weakness tends to be thought of as a trait. But to me, they are skills you are better or worse at. (This is a similar idea to flatsides, as laid out by Wistia.)

“I’m great at communicating,” you might say. Then you have probably spent time working on how you express yourself. If you’re not a strong communicator, you probably haven’t practiced extensively.

You can have skills that are underdeveloped and those that are overdeveloped. Everything ends up being on a sliding scale of more or less. Each person’s interpretation of where the scale tips from good to bad is at a different spot. In addition, regardless of your level of skill at any one thing, it simultaneously means good and bad things. Different people manage to interpret the “goodness” of these skills differently.

For example, let’s say you’re very detail-oriented. As a strength, that’s great when you need to proofread documents or measure things or be accurate in calculations. As a weakness, it may mean you are very nit-picky with people and get caught up in the minutia so you forget to consider the big picture. While some people may admire your ability for precision and accuracy, others might find it tedious to have every little thing critiqued or pointed out.

On the other hand, if you’re not detail-oriented at all, you may well be thinking in a larger scope. You might be the type of person who sees how the pieces connect, or your energy is focused on creating something new without putting a microscope to every idea. Ultimately doesn’t it come down to how far out or in you choose to zoom your focus? Someone more zoomed in may notice minor changes while someone more zoomed out may notice more patterns.

Each skill can be useful in its own place.

I can see pros and cons in just about every scenario: someone who is boisterous can be seen as wonderfully sociable or awfully obnoxious; someone who is often doing things for others might be seen as generous or nosing into others’ business; someone who is empathetic could be seen as kindhearted or overly emotional…

So I believe that weaknesses are merely strengths we haven’t harnessed (or are even a strength in hiding). Each speaks to a skill that you have more or less of. So strengths are really skills that we’ve developed more and weaknesses are skills that we haven’t developed much, if at all. And even strengths are weaknesses from another light, and vice versa. That’s why I imagine skills as a bit of a seesaw, with two traits on either side.

Let’s say there’s a seesaw about the skill “talking,” with loud on one end and quiet on the other. As you move closer towards loud, you get further from quiet. Positive interpretations include things like noticeable and energetic. Negative interpretations include things like rowdy and disruptive. Then as you move closer towards quiet, you see a shift to positive interpretations like pensive and polite, negative interpretations like invisible and unapproachable.

It may be the case that none of these interpretations are true! But that’s how I envision skills. A spectrum where more of something is less of something else and there is no absolute good or bad. You choose where you want to fall along the way, depending on your personality and values. Similarly, that colors how you interpret the very skills of others.

So what this comes down to is the idea that any skill can be developed and the ones you choose to focus on reflect who you are. You might have a so-called weakness, but your strength probably lies elsewhere. If you feel like you should improve the skill involved, work on it! But if you feel like that’s who you want to be, then don’t feel the pressure to change. We won’t all be good at everything and be everything to everyone.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that being authentic to yourself unlocks your potential. It frees you to be the most awesome version of yourself! So don’t worry about “weaknesses” – think about if it’s a skill you want to improve. It may very well be one that doesn’t jive with you and you can embrace that. The beauty of humanity is our variation and our choices to be so, don’t you think?

On not feeling good enough

laelene Posted in general blog,Tags: , , , , ,
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We all get to a point where we feel like a failure. Maybe you haven’t gotten there yet. But the longer you sail through life without smacking into a wall, the harder it will be to adjust and overcome.

That’s a lesson I learned the hard way.

Academically, life was pretty much a breeze up until high school. It got a bit tougher then, but I still graduated in the top 10% of the class (or was it 5%?). I got into a respectable college – UCLA – and began my undergraduate career. The first year, things were pretty good. I managed to get over a 3.5 GPA so I made the Dean’s Honor List and joined ALD/PES (the National Honor Societies). My second year, the grades slipped a bit. Perhaps I was distracted by pledging for my fraternity, AKPsi. My third year, I studied abroad in the UK and my grades kept going down. I figured that the different grading system and structure might have contributed. When I came back for my fourth year, the trend only continued. At this point I might have begun to realize that as classes got progressively harder, I wasn’t adapting.

It took me a long time to figure out what was happening. The lesson I learned about myself is that all those years of doing it on my own and having learning come easily did not prepare me to know how to handle adversity. In one of my last classes before graduating, I was actually afraid of failing the class. An absolutely scary prospect for someone who spent most of her education getting A’s. So in desperation, I asked my roommate for some help. She was also in the class and got the concepts way better than me. And you know what? She was able to explain things to me in a way that really helped my understanding! It was amazing.

Ironically, when I was younger, I tutored and mentored children. I did not realize the impact that could have had on them. I figured I was just helping out, spending some time with them and sharing some knowledge. It wasn’t until I was on the other side of the table that I learned the power of extra help. I’ve never been tutored in my life. I’ve never gone to the teacher for help. I can’t really remember truly engaging in a study group either. I thought study groups were for people to sit in the same area and do their own work. After over 15 years of schooling, I finally began to see the impact of having support.

It’s not like I didn’t know about support being out there. I just never associated it with myself. I had never learned how to reach out and use the resources out there. I hadn’t known to ask for help.

Is that strange? Am I alone in this? Or perhaps it is more commonly an Asian thing?

Whatever the case, looking back at my college track record makes me feel pretty awful. Had I known how to empower myself with better learning, what would I have gotten? Could I have graduated with honors, with distinction? Panda’s college story tells almost the exact opposite story. He started off a little lower than me, but as he got into the upper division courses, he got better. He was hitting his stride with classes in his major that was really fit for him. I wasn’t finding the joy in diving deeper into my chosen majors. Maybe I should have double majored in something else. Maybe I should have majored and minored instead. But maybe it was that one factor all along, that I just didn’t know how to ask for help or how to identify when I needed it in the first place.

I’ve learned since then and I hope it’s not too late to apply that to my next academic pursuit. I still find it hard to reflect on how I’m doing and get help when I need it. Being aware of the issue is only half the battle. It takes a conscious effort to continually address it so it’s not neglected.

Now I certainly hope that you don’t have to face extreme adversity in your life. Yet by experiencing that low in life, you learn a lot and you grow from that. So in a way, I hope that you do face challenges, so you can build up your resiliency.

In fact, that reminds me of when Panda failed for the first time. It was a training program and he made a mistake that meant he didn’t pass the course. He had to do the whole program over again at a later date. I remember he called me sounding so dejected. He did not handle it well. The amount of stress and worry was far more than necessary, but I think because he hadn’t really experienced failure before that, he didn’t know how to deal with it. It just made him feel like he couldn’t do it at all. Luckily, we talked through it, did not let it get out of proportion, and built up his confidence again so he could pass the next time. It really takes experience to go through something like that and learn the hard-won lessons of how to be better.

So if you ever feel like you’re a failure or you’re not good enough, remind yourself of what you can learn by pushing through it and growing with it. The lessons from the experience will be more valuable than the ultimate outcome. That’s what I’m doing now as I apply for b-schools. It’s tough but it will be worth it!

How to discern a person’s character

laelene Posted in general blog,Tags: , , , ,
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I’ve found that one of the easiest ways to tell someone’s character is by how they treat those they don’t particularly like and don’t (think they’ll) need.

So often, people focus their attention on those they want or need something from and neglect all others. They may be nice to their family because of the intrinsic tie, to bosses because of their influence, or simply to people they like because they enjoy the company. But it’s easy to be good when you want to get something out of it.

What would you do when you ran into someone you did not get along with? Would you duck your head and go another way? Would you grit your teeth and try to be cordial? Would you sneer a bit and let them know how you feel? Or would you attempt to make a friend or at least acquaintance of them?

I’ve met some people who really rubbed me the wrong way. I remember one girl who had a good heart, but she was just so needy with attention that she went out of her way to get it. She’d bake you a cake or buy you something to try to win your affection. Some people were wooed by that, but it grated on me because it felt so fake. I mostly tolerated her, but every now and then when it got extremely excessive, I honestly shared my opinions with her. Admittedly, I’m not a very patient person and if our social lives did not intersect, I would have steered clear. I find it better to avoid conflict like that.

A few folks I’ve known weren’t quite so nice. There was one girl who would target me whenever she had a complaint about my friends and I, as if I was the only person causing the problem. I think it was because I was the only name she knew. I found it very rude the way that she haughtily came to ask us to change our behavior, like she’d never had a day of fun in her whole life. In fact, I’m not sure she ever smiled and she had the worst resting face I’ve seen. It always looked like she was fuming or glaring at you. When she finally moved on to somewhere else, she never even told any of us that she was leaving. You can tell she didn’t bother with making any friends there.

Another one in particular was rude, disrespectful, and outright mean at times. I don’t know where all that hate came from, but I can’t stand that sort of thing. What really bothered me was the fact that she was two-faced, putting on a smile for people she liked, respected, or needed to get along with. Me? I had no impact on her life and she did not like me, so she held little back. Normally I’d keep my distance as much as possible and not waste time thinking about her awful personality, but sometimes our paths inevitably intersect and I can’t help but wish that more people would see through her facade.

This then begs the question: would you rather be ignored and not noticed or ridiculed when noticed? Which is the lesser evil here? In a sense, if you’re being bullied, you’re being noticed. What if you mattered so little to people that they didn’t even pay attention to your existence? What scenario would make you feel more inferior?

I personally would prefer to be ignored. At least then you’re not subjected to cruelty. It may make you feel small to not be noticed at all, but it’s easier to deal with. With bullying, try as you might to convince yourself that you’re being targeted because of an innate security from the bully, or even jealousy, it’s hard to accept that mindset. What do you think?

I’m trying hard to not let negativity like that into my life. It’s sad that they are so lacking in positive emotions and healthy relationships, but I can’t help but mull over it more than I ever should. I always wonder if there’s something I could do to make things different. Ultimately, it’s up to them to stop perpetuating that negativity and it’s up to me to keep those influences out. If I have to, I might need to remove myself from the situation that keeps me tied to these poisonous people. I’d rather be happier somewhere else.

If the world could be like us

laelene Posted in general blog,Tags: , , ,
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There’d be less judgment.

We’d get to do what we want, without sideways glances or raised eyebrows.

Openmindedness would fuel our way of life.

We wouldn’t constrict ourselves to “acceptable” standards to avoid scrutiny.

Empathy would drive our understanding and decision-making.

We’d be comfortable expressing ourselves as is.

Assumptions would not be made.

We could each thrive in what makes us feel happy – in what feels right.

Shrieking kids in public

laelene Posted in general blog,Tags: , , , ,
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What are your thoughts on children who are playing in a restaurant, running amok and hollering at the top of their high-pitched lungs?

That’s what a good fifteen minutes of dinner was like for me last night. Exacerbating the fact was my exhaustion and stress over everything I needed to do after getting home. I already have no patience for children as it is, and I was not pleased that neither the parents nor the waitstaff said a thing. My friend and looked at each with eyebrows raised, cringing with each piercing shriek that filled the otherwise empty room. A boy of about eight was chasing around a boy of about three and the young one was having a grand old time challenging our eardrums.

The mother quietly spoke in Vietnamese as the other two adults ignored the situation. Perhaps they were used to this behavior, or perhaps they were mildly deaf (they did seem rather elderly). The kids paid no attention to whatever the mom said and that was that. Meanwhile the staff (only two were out) looked on and stood awkwardly with no sign of at least attempting to create a more pleasant dining experience for my friend and me.

I don’t know if it was because the place was Asian or maybe they knew the family, but I’m pretty sure a Western restaurant would have said something. I kept looking at the adults and the staff until I got tired of waiting. Then I resorted to my usual tactic: I stared solemnly at the children. Whenever kids are acting up in public, making a scene where it is disruptive to others (at least when I feel that way), I stare them down. If they catch my eye, they generally stop. Sometimes they might just be startled to realize someone is looking. Sometimes they figure out that they are being annoying. Whatever the case, it tends to be effective in getting them to stop yelling.

This time, the older child noticed me and then began to tell his brother to quiet down. They happened to be leaving at that point anyway, but I was glad for the noise reduction even before they made it out the door. Too bad the one causing a ruckus never saw me staring. Maybe then he’d learn to keep his play to louder environments or to more appropriate situations.

Would you ever be like I am and look at kids until they stopped screaming or crying? Or would you be even more straightforward and go speak to them or their parents? Maybe you’re like most others who sit and bear it with teeth gritted?

When the weather is dreary…

laelene Posted in general blog,Tags: , , , ,
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We are so listless

We are so down

Lethargy is tangible in the air and conversations consist of how icky it is outside, how tired we are, how awful it all is…

All I want to do is drink cozy hot drinks like apple cider, hot chocolate, and tea. I want a fireplace to sit near, a soft comfy couch. I don’t want to have to think too hard. I don’t want to go outside.

My coworkers feel it too. We commiserate over the lack of light, lack of energy, and short days. Was it this bad last year? I suppose it was, but at least we had a room where we could close the door and turn up the music. This time around we barely see each other. I’m often off in a room or a corner, conducting a demo or webinar. When I’m at my desk, our faces are all buried in our computer screens. The day drags, yet the time still flies. The longest week manages to be the shortest and the weekends never last. Soon enough, we’re at it again. It gets darker earlier and earlier. Oftentimes it’s raining, cold. There’s no hope of getting home when it’s still light out. Oh how I miss the fairer seasons.

Yet, I get home and after dinner the night zooms past. Too soon, I need to rest but my body and mind aren’t ready to. If only there were more hours in the day, right? So then I succumb, finally. Rest is a wonderful thing. While it may be gloomy outside and totally zapping my motivation to move, at least it’s warm in here. If only I could sleep in a little more and just enjoy it.

The death of email

laelene Posted in general blog,Tags: , , , ,
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I hate email. I think it’s one of the most inefficient things out there. I mean, just look at how hard it is to maintain your inbox and keep everything organized. Sure, you can leave messages for all sorts of people, from those you actually know to those you want to. But the way that technology has evolved, there should be a better way. If we could only throw off the shackles of our habits and start anew, our interactions on the internet would be nothing like email as we know it.

Here’s how I envision it: we have what you can still consider an inbox. People can send messages to it and you can reply, but there is no need for including their original message. Everything is threaded in a flow like instant messaging. You can scroll through the entire conversation and collapse it for easy navigation. When you want to create a different string of conversation, you just click new and choose who to message and what to say. When you want to attach a file, it’s loaded for easy previewing and downloading right in a sidebar. No need to search through which email actually contained the attachment. If you want to loop someone in, you just add them to the conversation. They can scroll back to see what had already happened in the conversation. If you don’t want them to see that part, start a new conversation by copying the current one and choosing what to exclude.

For organization purposes, as you view these, you can choose to file them into folders of your choosing, give them tags for keywords that weren’t explicitly mentioned in the conversation, or archive them (like in Gmail). Of course you can also create filters to put certain messages into the baskets you like. You can search for anything within a conversation, file name, or person’s name. If you’re on a group email (such as “support@yoursite.com”) and multiple recipients get the message but only one needs to reply, you can easily choose ownership of one to indicate to others that you’ve got it. No need to reply all just to let them know NOT to reply as well. Ownership can be changed at any time and your copy gets archived away. Replies can also be public, if someone else may need to reply to the thread to help out the person next time (much like those support tickets work).

I think if you combine the best of email, messaging, and support ticket management services, you could have an awesome tool. Each on its own is rather lacking in a variety of departments and it makes me not want to use any of them. Where’s the consolidated place I can manage all the digital correspondence in my life? Why do I need to mash together texts and emails and what have you to try to have a conversation? I was really hopeful back when Google Wave was launched. I thought it could be a much better replacement for email, but it just didn’t take off. I’m still searching for that awesome new thing that will upturn our interactions on the web. Until then, I’ll keep on racking up thousands of unread emails in my personal inbox, just because it’s so cumbersome to use emails. The world may be willing to work in such an inefficient manner, but I’m not going to waste my time with that.

Billionaire lessons

laelene Posted in general blog,Tags: , , ,
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Today I watched a show about billionaires that was quite interesting. I particularly liked the guy who told his children not to chase after making big bucks, but aim for impacting more people’s lives instead. Now there’s a good goal to go after, and a far better approach than just trying to make a ton of money. Funny enough, when these billionaires went after what they liked to do (and worked hard at it), they made their fortunes. If only we all were more motivated to pursue our passions and interests more than riches, power, or fame. Alas, we live in a world where passion feeds the soul but not the belly and greed is laser-focused on money and possessions.

What I thought was cool about these billionaires is that they don’t just sit back on their heels, which isn’t surprising given the work ethic it took to make it to their position. With the personality types to achieve that sort of financial status, I don’t think they could “retire and live a good life” – their inner drive would go insane without being pushed a million miles an hour. A lot of people talk about how great it would be to not have to work another day, but what they don’t seem to consider is the fact that they need something to occupy their time and attention. Generally, the relaxed life of leisure gets boring after awhile. I know I can get listless with too much free time.

So what I took away from the show was that we may think billionaires have it easy, but really they work harder than most of us. They’re just the type of people to dream big and shoot for even greater goals when they have all that extra loot. Whether it’s space travel, advances in science, or improvements to health, there’s still plenty to be worked on in this world. The pursuit of money for the sake of having more of it isn’t a worthy cause and that approach won’t get you nearly as far as working on something that makes you light up when you talk about it. Find that and you know you’re on the right track. Whether you make millions or just make a living, you’ll certainly be richer either way. I’m still searching for which of my many passions are ones I can sustain. With so many directions I want to go, it’s hard finding the path forward. I’m sure there will be plenty of trial and error!

One rotten apple…

laelene Posted in general blog,Tags: , , ,
1

She’s a poison coursing through my veins. Each interaction injects me with more venom, until I can hardly take it anymore. My mind fights the toxins but my body is weak… and all too easily I become consumed. This negativity must stop.

When I look at her (if I have to) I see ugliness. If I stare too long, the snaking tendrils of Medusa’s serpents take hold. Oh, but she’s a multi-faced chameleon. She’ll do what suits her best and get everything to her benefit. She’ll play you if she can. It’s a mirage though, and the moment you lose usefulness, she’ll throw you aside. Another carcass on the road.

Careful to avoid those eyes. Those dark, black, soulless eyes. If you don’t get lost in the abyss and turn to stone, you’ll become one of her kind. Who needs a vampire’s bite when you have piercing eyes of fury? Eyes that haunt me in my sleep, thrust me awake from their cruelty.

They say that one rotten apple ruins the bunch (and it’s true). Indeed, I can see the disease spreading. It’s not crippling, but the limping it causes is certainly not ideal. How much struggling can you handle before you break entirely? Make this rotting stop, before all is lost. Let’s cut out all the browning bits of apple and remind ourselves of the beauty of a fresh, ripe fruit. Don’t allow that one to ruin the bunch irreparably.

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