26 May 2010

Wacky Wednesday: Ups and Downs

Wacky Wednesdays are dedicated to whatever subject, no matter how random, I feel like discussing. Today's theme is ups and downs.

As you may have noticed, I did not post Monday or yesterday. Honestly, on Monday my head was feeling a bit fuzzy and not 100%, and Tuesday turned into an almost all day migraine. Yuck! As such, I could not even look at my computer screen without feeling nauseous and having my brain screaming at me.

I believe that my recent onset of headaches and migraines is caused by a tooth. I have experienced this previously, right before I needed a root canal. It seems absolutely crazy to me that such a small thing like a tooth can cause so much agony. Health is a large contributing factor to these ups and downs. I try to be healthy, but know that it's a far cry from everything I should be doing to optimally maintain myself. Therefore, I made myself a dental appointment to get another crown done next week, perhaps eliminating all of these migraines.

I try to maximize productivity on my good days and minimize the melancholy on my bad days. I have my ebbs and flows, ups and downs, but I try to never let it stop me from accomplishing my goals. If I start making excuses, I will not strive as much as I can. I will falter. But, I am only human and I try not to be too hard on myself when I fall short. It's all about determination and persistence.

I can do it!!! Even if I'm down, I'll be back up soon enough fighting even harder!

22 May 2010

Mise en Place

Mise en place is a term used in kitchens to state that everything is in its proper place. In other words, everything is ready to roll. I find this expression useful in terms of preparing oneself for practically everything. 

When organizing and strategizing long-term it is imperative to have your mise en place. For me, having my mise en place means having proper interview attire and being ready to hop on a plane for an interview (or even to relocate). I have been working on scanning old photos and negatives knowing that I don't want to lug around those boxes if I work overseas again. I am reading books from the FSO (Foreign Service Officer) recommended reading list even if I am unsure that is in fact my calling. 

What do you do to ensure that you have your mise en place? 


21 May 2010

To Do Lists

Friday is Food for Thought day. To do lists are a part of almost everyone's modern day lives. Was it always this way? I'm not sure, but to do lists are so prevalent that it seems strange not to have one without feeling rejected by society. (Or is that just me? I do love a good list.) 

I enjoy a couple of blogs about minimalism. Zen Habits is an excellent blog on this subject. Thinking about how you manage those to do lists that we've been so accustomed to using is an interesting prospect. Kill Your To Do List has a minimalist approach on how to manage those pesky to do lists.

Personally, I have been known to write lists, lists, and more lists. It all started back at Coastal Seafoods where my manager had a list of things we needed to accomplish each day. This was in addition to the usual, everyday things that never changed. I always got such a charge from crossing a task off of the list. It has become rather ingrained in me to have a to do list, even if it only has a couple of things on it.

As for using a personal to do list, I sometimes find it more difficult to manage and even depressing at times. I am very hard on myself and often I feel that I need to cross everything off my list. I like author of Zen Habits Leo Babauta's idea of doing one thing at a time. It puts your mental faculties to use on one thing at a time; therefore, being able to focus and be more mindful. Once done with just the one thing, if you feel it's necessary, put just one more thing on the list. How easy is that? I will have to try this out.

Food for Thought: doing one thing at time and getting 'er done! Sounds great to me!

20 May 2010

Processing Time

It has recently occurred to me that I sometimes need a lot of processing time. Many things "click" logically right away, but there is an emotional lag-time in processing what it impact it will have. Or sometimes things just do not make any sense at all, and then one day, BAM, it is crystal clear. The latter was certainly true of me learning Japanese. Sometimes the light just came on after months and months of heartache. 

I am still processing and understanding my current situation. I have made a next-step life decision, but I do not know what I want for more long-term happiness. That is what I am now in the midst of processing. Sometimes only the next step is clear and two steps away is obscure. I am still in limbo, but moving from that phase into the next. 

Forgive me if I am being vague. Today's point is simply that some decisions take time--processing time. And my RAM seems low lately, but it is slowly coming together. 

19 May 2010

Wacky Wednesday: AWESOME Stuff!!!!

I decided that doing one day being dedicated to things that are of interest to me, but not necessarily related to the business/MBA side of life. Wacky Wednesdays will just be fun!

I haven't picked up a copy yet, but The Book of Awesome is on my radar. I like the blog, 1000 Awesome Things. It is really uplifting and makes me generate thoughts of gratefulness at the details in life. 

Some AWESOME stuff I realized:

  • My AWESOME new office chair. I've been having back and shoulder issues lately, so I the chair will help me feel better. 
  • Writing in my journal is AWESOME. I love putting the pen to the paper and just rambling to myself. 
  • Having an AWESOME new profile picture. When it's great, it's fabulous! 
  • Having AWESOME friends. The type of people who go out of their way for you and you for them. I love my friends dearly, they are another kind of family to me. 
The list goes on and on. 

What do you think is AWESOME? It's good to be thankful in your life. It can always be worse, there is always somebody with less than you. 

18 May 2010

Off the Deep End

I spoke yet again at my local chapter of Toastmasters, but I was actually on the schedule this time and not filling in for an absentee speaker. 

Project #5 "Your Body Speaks" has a goal of getting the speaker to incorporate gestures into the presentation. I remembered my mentor's advice from last week about ditching my notes, memorizing the beginning and the ending and just having a feel for the middle parts. I had my topic about scuba diving in mind for quite sometime, but I wasn't sure how to organize it exactly. In fact, that was something my evaluator commented upon. I had "stage 1" through "stage 3," but it would have been more properly organized had I used more stages as "stage 2" was really long and the finale was too short. Good tip. I had only thought of adding those indicators last night around 1 am. (>.<) 

Essentially, I did not have this speech memorized, so the written version is not exactly what I said. I also used a ton of gestures, made the scuba/Darth Vader-esque breathing throughout, and pretended that I was underwater. This is of course more difficult to put into the notes.

Again, I won without voting for myself. This time I thought I would certainly lose as the other speaker was AWESOME. I am 5 for 5 on the wins! Not bad.

Here is the speech, comments to follow:

Off the Deep End

(Sound of Darth Vader like breathing) There I was, on a tiny swaying boat off the coast of Bali, Indonesia. I was in full scuba regalia—immense fins made it impossible to maneuver forward out of water, the mask was clear as I had just cleaned it with my own spit and sea water, the wet suit clung to me perfectly, while the air tanks were heavy, my weight belt coming in at around 13 pounds, my BCD vest slightly inflated and pressing against my chest, and, of course my regulator. Was I really going to literally going off the deep end? Did I really need to find Nemo?

Stage 1 fear. I seemed ready to confront it. My instructor did all of my checks. For example, my air was on, my BCD could inflate, I knew the hand signals.  But, I suddenly found myself embarking on confronting one of my greatest fears—drowning. Now, the thing is not that I’m actually afraid to be UNDER water, but rather I hate holding my breath, swallowing water, and having water in my eyes. In scuba diving, these things don’t really happen all that often. You NEVER should hold your breath. It’s dangerous. Generally, you don’t swallow water as you are breathing through your mouth. And, in order to get your PADI Open Water license, you are taught how to deal with water in your mask. In the pool, we practiced having our masks partially flooded, fully flooded, and then taking your mask off, putting it back on, and then clearing the water. Essentially, I was more-or-less golden. Well, except waves makes me a bit nervous too because I’m not a great swimmer. Sigh.

But, there I was. There were two other students, a couple from Minnesota. Both, I should mention, out swam me in the pool. But my Norwegian instructor thought I should dive in first. Did I seem more fearless than the other two people? I certainly didn’t think so. My stomach was already queasy from being in the boat and being anxious. My heart was galloping at full speed.

But, there I was. I was trying not to use up all of my air above water. I was poised to go, on the ledge of the boat. I was to do a back roll into the great unknown. (Showing audience how to keep mask and regulator in tact as I pretend to roll into the water.)

Stage 2, confronting my fear. The air tank pulled me backwards. I was actually in the water!!!! The bubbles were rising to the surface, I was breathing, I could see so clearly. And, as is standard, I returned to the surface of the water and signaled that I was okay. My classmates and instructor slowly descended into the ocean. I let air out of my BCD as to sink down to the benthos. My eyes at the surface, now underneath, sinking so gently down, down, down. All I could hear was my own, rapid breathing and the water around me. I maintained eye contact with my buddy, the instructor, and followed his lead.

We went 11 meters under to do part of the scuba training, flooding and taking off your mask as to prove that you can clear the water out effectively. Upon completing that task, we swam on. We were able to see clown fish (hey, I found Nemo!!!), sea slugs, brain coral, spotted sweetlips, and a wrase. It was amazing to be underwater—I felt like Superman flying underwater, except I had trouble controlling my buoyancy and sometimes would start floating away to the surface.

The 30 minutes swiftly went by. It seemed sudden when my instructor indicated we needed to ascend, with a 5 minute safety stop. When we bouncing on top of the water, we each had to climb into the boat. Handing each fin over and the weight belt to the boat men. Being back on the bouncy boat, I made it to step 3, amazement and empowerment. I did it!!! I went off the deep end and managed to survive.


  • "Nice speech. Reminded me of my PADI class years ago. You seem relaxed and confident."
  • "Very visual, felt like I could feel & see the experience you were in."
  • "Excellent job. Great efforts--organization good. You really captured your audience's attention."
  • "Great job. You made it very realistic. I felt like I was right there with you."
  • "Great gestures! Anyone that has been scuba diving or taken a class could relate well. Good job describing the events including what you saw. Watch 'Oh God.'"
  • "Great job removing the lectern & no notes! I enjoyed your speech & could see the view underwater. Great speech!"
  • "Well don. No notes! Your comfort level is much improved! Loved your speech. Very informative. Much entertaining involved."
  • "Excellent job. Great vocal variety, expressions & actions. I felt as though I was there with you--excellent. To conquer your fear & go for the plunge. You are improving every time."
  • "Excellent job! Your gestures were fantastic which made me feel like I was right there with you. And no notes! I love the fact that you stepped out from behind the lectern." 
Ahh...shucks!!! (*^.^*) 

I just need to keep focusing on content and organization, plus I was a bit nervous about keeping within the time limits. 

17 May 2010

Skype Discovery Revealed!

Okay, it was revealed to me at least. When on a Skype video chat, I noticed to the right of the video button a box labeled "share." If you click on it you can either choose to share a part or your entire screen with the person on the other end of your conference. How cool is that? If you have something you want to show your counterpart, you don't have to send a file, you can just simply share your desktop. If, for example, you have a computer problem, you can have your wonderful nerdy friend look at what's going on and have him/her direct you as to what to do. Very convenient. 

This Jetson's stuff just keeps getting better and better. 

15 May 2010

Organizing Tips from Penelope Loves Lists & David Allen

I recently stumbled onto Penelope Loves Lists, and this article in particular. David Allen's Getting Things Done  has been on my radar for awhile now. I recommend watching the video if you are into organizing and maximizing productivity. I know that I can always use help on those fronts! (Despite the fact that I am almost OCD when it comes to organizing.)

Great stuff! As a testament to my organizational adeptness (or nuttiness), I spent about 8-9 hours today scanning old photos and labeling them. It's my goal to have all of my old photos scanned, labeled, and organized. I have a couple of projects that I want to do with them when I am finished too!

Well, I am off to find the rest of these videos in hopes of being more productive and/or more efficient. Have a good rest of the weekend. 

P.S. This is the smallest I could get the video to embed. And I don't know why it doesn't offer a "popout" option. Can anyone tell me why? Or how I can accomplish this? Thanks!

14 May 2010

Food for Thought Friday: Too Much on my Plate?

Good evening. I had a rough go of it today with a nasty migraine. I don't do well just lying around, so I thought a lot about my current situation and reflected on understanding what I really want out of life. I created a mind map. Here is my assorted food for thought today. I feel like I have too much to think about, but I'm making progress!!!

Job Mind Map

I need to consider the end result as well as the short term gains. Time to strategize and focus on what I really want!!!!

13 May 2010

Plan Z????

As I am seeking employment, it is always a good idea to have a backup plan. I must admit that at this juncture, I know that I am beyond Plan B and probably onto about Plan E or even F. I am trying to prioritize what I really, REALLY want into a definite order. 

Plan A was to get a job doing management consulting in London. It turns out that it is no easy task for an American to get a U.K. work permit, at least not for me personally. Also, I have not gotten any interest from any management consulting firm yet. That certainly means that Plan A is pretty much dead. 

I am keeping this brief as my shoulder has been acting up, therefore I haven't been getting enough sleep, and I am etching out Plan E, is it? I hope that I do not end up at Plan Z. Please send good vibes my way. 

12 May 2010

Your Opinion Counts

I would love to do a photo shoot soon, but I am scratching my head to think of any near-by volunteers to help me out. With that being said, I got my camera, tripod, and remote out and did some self-portraits. I think this one is alright, but am not entirely convinced that I like it better than the other one I was using. 

I have only asked one, dear friend about this new profile picture. She liked it and thinks it is better than the previous photo. Your opinion counts. Do you like this photo? And is it better than the last one? Please let me know your thoughts. Thank you in advance.  

11 May 2010

Toastmasters: Singing the J-Way

Today was another round of Toastmasters. Apparently, upon speaking to a friend, I had not made it clear what is the purpose of the club. The idea is to become a better public speaker. Every week, members are assigned different roles. There is a grammarian, an MC (called the Toastmaster), a timer, speakers, and evaluators of the speakers. There are other roles, but that is the gist. Lately, our club has not had enough members attending, so often we do double duty. (For example, today I gave a speech and I evaluated the other speaker. Often, the timer will also be the grammarian.) 

I was somewhat ready to speak today in that I had a speech written, but it was not as well-rehersed as I would have liked. I was not on the schedule to speak, but I think it is great practice and have resolved to be ready in case a speaker cannot attend. Today, unfortunately, I woke up with a mini-migraine, which made it difficult to memorize my speech. (Perhaps you will recall that last week I mentioned that I have difficultly memorizing speeches. It is something I am aware of and trying to improve upon.)

This week's project, #4, was "How To Say It." The objective of this presentation is to "use clear, accurate, descriptive and short words that best communicate your ideas and arrange them effectively and correctly." You should not use jargon or those big, "college" type of words. The idea is good, punchy content. 

I tied for best speech evaluator, and I won for best speaker. Yay! As a note, I do not vote for myself. I abstained from voting for both the speeches and the evaluations. I find it so interesting that I keep getting voted best speaker. (Yeah, I know it's only out of two, but still, it's a great feeling and very encouraging.) Thus, I am four for four. 

Here is my speech with comments from fellow members to follow:

Singing the J-Way

I’m sure you’ve all heard of those wacky, drunk Japanese business men getting crazy and crooning away the wee hours of twilight after some big pow-wow at the office. Ties around their heads, getting naked, and pounding the sake away as if they would never have to see their colleagues ever again…well, not until tomorrow at 8 am at least. Yep, you guessed it. It’s karaoke.

Some of us would probably rather commit “harry-carry”(that’s 腹切りin Japanese) over karaoke any day of the week. Even us Toastmasters. But, the difference in American style karaoke and the J-way is vast.

As you already know, the American version of karaoke is a rather humbling, or even humiliating, experience. Generally, you sing in a bar comprised of a motley audience, mostly strangers. If you aren’t the next Beyoncé, chances are nobody will appreciate your (coughing) lack of talent. If you don’t know the song well, aren’t well practiced, you’re probably going to have a very traumatizing realization the next day in the midst of your bottle flu episode.

In Japan, there are chain stores that are dedicated to Japan’s national past time of chanting J-pop tunes, aka places like Jumbo Karaoke or Jan-Kara for short. Upon entering your local Jan-Kara enterprise, you will be greeted with the cutest little Japanese girls that are eager to help you get sorted. First, you must choose between Drink Menu A and Drink Menu B. Essentially, one is non-alcoholic and the other is well loaded with choice beverages such as barley soda, bottom-shelf whiskey, chu-hai, and sho-chu, which is a hard liquor that comes in varying degrees of quality.

After you and your troop has decided upon what drink to be served first, you are given a basket usually containing a tambourine, an electronic remote to select your songs, and, if you’re lucky, an English song book. You are then shuffled along a narrow hallway and shown where you’ll be getting trashed for the evening. Always note your room number, unless you don’t mind stumbling into a room full of naked business men.

Your room will vary in size with in terms of your group. The one thing, at Jan-Kara, however that seems to remain constant is the décor. The walls are inevitably plastered with plastic-y, 70’s-esque wallpaper. There is a built-in air conditioning/heating unit. There are bench seats upholstered in industrial strength, never-gonna-die vinyl. Near the door is a telephone as to order more intoxicating refreshments. Libations, as it is well known, must be paid to the all-powerful karaoke god. The table will become littered with dead soldiers, possibly cigarette butts, half-eaten portions of smiling fried potatoes, various menus, and, if nobody is looking or to drunk to remember, one or even both of the devices used to choose the songs will be laying in front you so you can choose another song.
The tv’s are Jan-Kara are not top of the line like at some more up-scale karaoke lounge, the microphones have cords, and the newest English songs usually date back five or so years, but it’s cheap. It’s hard to argue with all-you-can-drink liquor, singing 80’s songs, and even getting a slight physical workout. At the end of each song, the screen shows how many calories you just bellowed off, but it doesn’t include how much you danced during your solo.

One of my favorite aspects to Jan-Kara is the shoddy karaoke videos that accompany each song. If you were to sing a Japanese song, it is very likely that you would also get to watch the real music video that the artist produced. That is certainly not the case, however, with the English tracks. After viewing hours of shaky, low budget cinematography, sometimes bordering on soft-porn, you really probably need to ply yourself with more of those liquory libations. The karaoke god can be very demanding on his followers. I try to take it in stride as I belt out with my amigos some Guns-n-Roses as the night wears thin.

And suddenly in the middle of your duo of “A Whole New World” from the Disney soundtrack, everybody swaying in time and singing along with you and Aladdin, the phone rings. Nobody wants to answer it for 3 reasons. #1 the front desk person will be speaking in Japanese #2 even if your Japanese was decent, it’s impossible to hear over Jasmine’s shreaky, drunk voice #3 they will be asking if you want to stay or go. (Imitating the Clash) Should I stay or should I go now???? If I go there will be trouble, and if I stay it will be double.

Stumbling home after a rousing round of J-style karaoke makes you never want to return to the American style. You bonded with friends over drinks, bad singing, possibly even nudity, and won’t probably have a remorseful hangover of how stupid you looked or sounded. The J-singing-way reigns supreme even at your local, ghetto Jan-Kara. Jan-Kara, 行きましょうか?Let’s go to Jan-Kara!!!!

  • "Excellent, well done, amazing for a new Toastmaster. Keep up the good work."
  • "Loved how you opened and gave us the difference between karaoke in the U.S. & Japan. Enjoyed your pronunciation of Japanese words. Great descriptions of atmosphere, vocal variety, eye contact, & gestures. Great close!"
  • "Good job, Beckie. Great adjectives (I) can totally see the rooms....Good job moving from the podium. Excellent job!"
  • "No um's or ah's. Nice job. I like your descriptions, your pace, and your vocal tone was great."
  • "I liked her flow. I thought she moved about a little too much."
  • "Did a great job to keep attention to the audience. Fun topic to hear about."
Essentially, as pointed out in my evaluation, I need to ditch any use of notes. I did move away from the podium, but still looked at my notes. I probably moved too much, as one person stated. My mentor told me after the meeting that I should try to memorize the beginning and the conclusion. As for the middle, just get a feeling for the time, which will take away my crutch use of notes and the podium. 

Honestly, I am never sure about where to stand or how much to move. During the MBA, we told by our instructors from the Dale Carnegie institute not to move. At Toastmasters I am told to move, but apparently should not move too much. I need to find a balance...and, well, stop using notes and probably ditch the podium. 

Onwards and upwards! Oh, and next week I am scheduled to speak. I am working on project #5 already. Whew!

10 May 2010

Organize & Track Your Job Hunt

Every Monday is Tip Day. The tips can be general for helping in general with business concepts, job hunting, or anything that seems within the scope of this blog.

Today's tip: use a spreadsheet while job hunting.

I have found out (the hard way) that using Excel is almost a necessity for tracking your job search progress. It helps because:

  • You do not want to duplicate your job applications within the same company. (This can result in your application essentially being disregarded as it will be seen that you are incompetent and do not pay attention to detail.)
  • Often the company's website makes it difficult to keep track of what jobs are of interest (even with the job cart) and actually some firms duplicate their own postings. (See above that you do not want to apply twice to the same posting.) 
  • You are able to see how many jobs you applied for, when you applied, and the results. If you are the analytical, geeky type, you can even graph or make reports to understand your progress. (Again the MBA creed holds true: "You cannot manage what you do not measure.")
Here is a sample spreadsheet:

You may also want to keep track of your contacts in a similar way. I suggest noting who gave you the contact, where the contact works, any of the contact's information (e-mail address, phone number, etc.), notes (detailing your conversations with dates), and when you sent your contact a thank you note. It could look something like this:

Screen shot 2010-05-10 at 2.02.58 PM

I hope that this tip helps you. I have been learning by trial and error, but the spreadsheets really help keep everything organized. I feel more in control and less overwhelmed. 

P.S. Sorry that the spreadsheets are appearing in the article so small. I cannot seem to get them to fit properly after much heart ache. I recommend enlarger your browser's window to see the detail better. Or, I can always e-mail it to you if you let me know. 

09 May 2010

Happy Blog-aversary

I just wanted to note that today marks the 1st anniversary of this blog. I wanted to say "thank you" to all of my friends and family that have been so supportive of me writing. There has been a lot of feedback that has not been on the blog, but just rather told to me or in an e-mail. Thank you so much!!!

P.S. Also a Happy Mother's Day out there to all of you awesome moms that I know!!!!

08 May 2010

The Financial Collapse: Revealed?

I am a bit behind in listening to "This American Life," which I subscribe to as a podcast. I just listened to episode #405: Inside Job, it is about 39 minutes long. (There may be a way to listen to it for free, as I said, I received it as a podcast.) Truly fascinating.

Essentially, Magnetar Capital is a hedge fund that decided to buy up the lowest tranche that comprises collateralized debt obligations (CDO's), also know as collateralized mortgage obligations (CMO's) or residential mortgage back securities (RMBS's). According to the National Public Radio and ProPublica reports, Magnetar was extremely aggressive in the amounts of which it bought the "equity" (lowest) tranche and hedged against the CDO which housed their investments. If the any part of the CDO's were to fail, Magnetar would gain more money than if the CDO were to actually succeed.

The interesting ethical dilemma is that Magentar's fiduciary responsibility is with its investors. In other words, it seeks to make money for its investors regardless of any consequences it may cause. Magnetar seized a loop-hole and ran with it, to the benefit of its investors. But, at what cost? 

Not to defend Wall Street, but there are other factors that allowed a company such as Magnetar Capital to create insanely risky equity tranches also played a hand in the "financial collapse." 

  1. There was a change in policy during the Clinton administration that allowed less equity requirements when people bought homes. Thus allowing for people getting in over their head in mortgage debt. (My friend's mother is a bookkeeper and told me that pre-Clinton, a home owner needed 20% equity before purchasing a home. That requirement dropped considerably during the Clinton administration. Unfortunately, I looked for documentation on the internet, but did not find it.)
  2. Because of the dot com bubble, the Federal Reserve dropped interest rates to new lows, again allowing for people to buy real estate that perhaps was not in his/her best interest. This, coupled with lowered equity requirements, drove a housing boom. 
    1. "Yale economist Robert Shiller said in 2005, “Once stocks fell, real estate became the primary outlet for the speculative frenzy that the stock market had unleashed. Where else could plungers apply their newly acquired trading talents?”" (Wikipedia.org).
  3. Where is the personal accountability in each home owner that knew s/he could not afford such homes? If it were only a few people, they would have ultimately only screwed themselves, so to speak, and it would not have led to any pandemic financial downfall. I know people don't like to ever blame themselves, but I feel that it is not just the system at fault. People on "Main Street" are just as greedy as those on Wall Street. 
  4. It seems obvious that if there is a weakness in the system, somebody (usually in Wall Street) will find and exploit it. That is not to say that I agree with the morality of being some sort of financial shark, but if it is legal, it will be done. 
  5. How bankers are compensated is also an issue. Many put together these low-quality CDO deals knowing that personally they would be paid bonuses based on fees that were generated just by putting together CDO's. If the CDO were to fail, the bankers had already been paid. There were no consequences if CDO's succeeded or floundered. The banks that put together were saddled in bad investments while the responsible parties had already received handsome bonuses. 
  6. I am wondering, where was the SEC during all of this? Shouldn't the agency have been a watchdog? I'm not sure, but I just wanted to mention it as something to consider.
All of this essentially led to the financial collapse. It really reminds me of Long-Term Capital Management (LTCM). In the west, we really did not feel the effects of the disintegration of LTCM, but it certainly sparked The Asian Crisis. There is a definite domino effect if you care to look for it. Wall Street is not completely to blame, but it certainly played a huge hand. The U.S. government (often times the Fed) also plays its hand in a major way with its policies and agendas. 

To me, the real question becomes how to prevent all these ricochets? One or two businesses takes down a financial system, the Fed reacts, other problems are caused. What due diligence does Wall Street really have? What personal accountability does each of us have? When should the government step into our "free" markets? I am not making any moral judgements here, but I think that it is important to understand the situation. It is complicated, and I have over-simplified it. 

The "financial collapse" continues to impact people around the globe. U.S. taxpayers are on the hook for bailing out many banks. Just consider: who is ultimately accountable? It is not a straight-forward answer, but worth contemplating. 

07 May 2010

Food for Thought Friday

Every Friday, I will give you food for thought.

5 Ways to Market Yourself During a Recession is a good read. I found that tip #5,"embark on a major personal project," is something that I have been trying to work on, and I am not referring to this blog.

In order to try to maintain my happiness and sanity whilst unemployed, I decided several months ago that I needed to accomplish personal projects. As such, I am scanning in all of my old 35 mm negatives and photographs, organizing, and labeling them. I am close to finishing, but the computer I have been using for the project has not been cooperating lately, a situation that I am in the midst of resolving. 

Other projects I'd like to tackle:
  • Understand my digital SLR better. It is much different than my old 35 mm and more complicated.
  • Learn Photoshop. I would like to find a local class to attend, but I have not located one near me as of yet.
  • Write a book. I still do not feel ready to take this on yet, but I am mulling it over. 
Are there any projects that you would like to work on? If so, what? Can I help you?

P.S. In case you wondered why the format often seems different, I am not sure why I always seem to fight with the font style and size EVERY time I post. 

06 May 2010

The Strength of Weak Ties

"Each contact with a human being is so rare, so precious, one should preserve it."-- Anais Nin.


"The strength of weak ties" is a concept that started from the research from Mark Granovetter that was originally published in book entitled Getting a Job but is also wonderfully illustrated in Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Pointwhich I am currently reading. The idea is that your close friends and family know roughly the same information as you do, but the further out of the circle you go, the more you are likely to encounter new information. This is clearly an important principle when networking and, by extension, job hunting. 

If you just think about "Six Degrees from Kevin Bacon," you can really begin to understand how powerful weak ties become. In my MBA class, we were asked how many steps away from the Dali Lama we were. For me, it was 2 steps. I knew somebody that worked as a server at a fund raiser attended by the Dali Lama. He blessed and kissed my friend. 

The key is to really amplify the weak ties effect. In order to do so, you must face your fears of communicating with "strangers." It can be done in person, through a friend of a friend, by LinkedIn, or many other ways. Another thing to keep in mind when using this as a tool for job searching is that it is impossible to know where the link to success will come from. Opportunities come from unlikely sources, thus it is imperative to keep an open mind and an open heart. 

05 May 2010

Book Review: "Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking"

In this so-called "information age," we are continually inundated with overwhelming amounts of facts and data. According to Malcolm Gladwell in his book "Blink," the problem is that we have too much information to make a proper decision. Essentially, we continually suffer information overload.

Gladwell claims that rather than seeking out more information to make an informed decision, we need less, but more pertinent information. With the correct type of data, we can "thin slice" a situation to make a decision based on the most important criteria.

The book strives to illustrate how “gut instinct” works. “The part of our brain that leaps to conclusions…is called the adaptive unconscious…This notion of the adaptive unconscious is thought of, instead (of the unconscious Sigmund Freud described), as a kind of giant computer that quickly and quietly processes a lot of the data we need in order to keep functioning as human beings,” (page 13).

I feel that it is important to understand the concept of thin slicing. We often become immobilized to overcome the deluge of information we supposedly need to have in order to come to a “good” decision. “I think we are innately suspicious of this kind of rapid cognition. We live in a world that assumes that the quality of a decision is directly related to the time and effort that went into making it….We believe that we are always better off gathering as much information as possible and spending as much time as possible in deliberation. We really only trust conscious decision making….The first task of Blink is to convince you of a simple fact: decisions made very quickly can be every bit as good as decisions made cautiously and deliberately,” (pages 13-14).

If you are interested in the decision making process, this is a worthwhile read. Gladwell has excellent examples backed with interesting facts on the process of thin slicing and how our adaptive unconscious works. As it is very interesting and pertinent, I recommend this book. 

04 May 2010

Toastmasters: Learning Another Language

I filled in for an absent speaker and gave my 3rd speech. The goal of project 3 is to "get to the point." Essentially, the objective is to have a purpose such as to inform, to persuade, to entertain, or to inspire. 

Here is my speech, with some comments by my fellow Toastmasters to follow. Please also note that in today's vote for best speech, I won against our club's president. How exciting!

Learn Another Language

日本語分かりますか。Parlez-vous français? Sprechen Sie Deutsch? ¿Habla usted español? Speaking more than my native English has changed the way I see and think about, well, everything. Learning a second, third, or even fourth language gives new perspective on life, especially in terms of language as it is its own limiting paradigm. Everyone should learn at least one other language.

There are many benefits to learning another language. In the U.S., I feel that it is important to empathize with immigrants. It can be a difficult process learning English for non-native speakers as would be for us to learn something even as similar as Spanish. In some locations, there are many chances to speak to others in their native tongue. It puts you closer to the pulse of how America was founded—by immigrants. It also puts you in the shoes of understanding how difficult it can be to make yourself understood by others, especially in another language.

You will also get a better understanding of English if you choose to pursue another language. In particular, if you choose a European language, you would understand your own English better in terms of vocabulary and grammar. English is comprised of 30% of words that come from French, but has its grammatical roots in German.  If you understand one romantic language, it is easy to pick up on other romantic languages. Romantic meaning that it is a Latin based language. It is much easier to understand the etymology of words if you have a good Latin base, therefore increasing your own English lexicon.

Learning Spanish as an American will allow you to speak with a whole other subculture of those living here. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, by 2050 the population of the U.S. will be about 24% Hispanic. The implication being that the U.S. may shift from an English-dominant nation to one of Spanish. Spanish also has the 2nd most amount of native speakers. Mandarin Chinese is 1st and English ranks 3rd. Imagine being able to speak and connect with so many other people.

Another benefit to learning a foreign language is it also allows you to see the world with another pair of cultural goggles. European languages are fun in that they are more akin to English in general, but Asian languages are more interesting in that they do not use the same alphabet. Japanese has 2 syllabaries and another system based on Chinese characters, also known as kanji.

Through kanji, the etymology of each word becomes quite clear. When translating from English into Japanese, the feeling of each word seems to change shape and the overall meaning also fluctuates. For example, in English, we often say “I miss you.” To me, the feeling is that part of me or my heart or even my soul seems to be missing. But, it Japanese, no such sentiment exists. In Japanese, 会いたい、literally means “I want to see you.” To me, this is not the same feeling as “I miss you.” Another case in point is the Japanese term frequently used, 頑張って。If you were to analyze the 2 characters that comprise the word, you would find the first character means “stubborn” or “obstinate.” The second kanji means to “stretch” or “spread.” Together the word “頑張って” means “good luck” or “I’ll try my best.” It seems to have more depth in Japanese than in English. If you take all of these little differences or nuances and add them together, it becomes more obvious how the Japanese culture and our culture was shaped. Language is a paradigm into which we are born. It defines our reality. By learning another language, you learn another perspective that would not be possible otherwise.

I think it’s important to learn another tongue. It will allow you to empathize with other people from different cultures more readily. Additionally, you can gain further insight into your own English language. And perhaps most importantly, you will realize how trapped you become by language. You will be able to embrace life in a whole new way by learning a different cultural understanding by using another language. Please consider the benefits of learning another language by signing up for a class, talking to a Spanish-speaking neighbor, or even by traveling to another non-English speaking country. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised when you do.

Comments by fellow Toastmasters:
  • "Great topic....You are a great speaker."
  • "Very enjoyable speech. Your topic was relevant to (the) audience especially as the world is today. Your speech was very well organized and I especially liked your opening--you definitely grabbed my attention....My one suggestion would be to add more vocal variety to your speeches. You are not monotone, but let your voice tell the story too."
  • "...Encouraging and motivating."
  • "Great opening...."
  • "Great information! Good motivation to follow up on those languages I have touched in the past. Good eye contact and vocal variety. Looking forward to more!"
Essentially, it went well. As my evaluator mentioned, I need to memorize my speeches better and use less notes. If I can do that, I won't be glued to the lectern as I am now. (I already knew this about myself. I've always had difficulty with memorizing speeches in English, and for some reason I find it easier to do in other languages. It's just something to work on.)

3 down, 7 speeches to go to earn my "Competent Communicator" award. 

03 May 2010

Creating Boundaries

Every Monday is Tip Day. The tips can be general for helping in general with business concepts, job hunting, or anything that seems within the scope of this blog.

Today's tip: you need to create boundaries.

What I am referring to specifically is that when job hunting, it is all too easy to become overwhelmed with not actually having any free time. This sounds contradictory to what you may think or feel, but it is necessary to actually take breaks and make time for fun. Often I find myself fretting about my job hunt when I need to relax after a full day of dedicating myself to my next career move. 

It is important to take time to relax and enjoy life. If you become overwhelmed and tired, your energy level for your search will also dissipate. Take time off, re-fuel, and you will be refreshed to take on the toll of the hunt once again. 

01 May 2010

Cool Business Plan

Like most people, I think "wouldn't it be cool if...." I am hoping to move to a large metropolitan area, but I don't have a car and nor do I really want to buy a car. Well, here's the best of both worlds. The Zip Car. 

The Zip Car fills a need that I have certainly thought about in my own life. "Wouldn't it be cool to just have a car for the day? Then I could get major purchases at places like Target and Ikea taken care of without any worries." And boom, here it is. As an MBA, I feel like it's a great business plan. There is a need for people like me and this business model fills the gap. 

Is anyone out there a member? If so, please do give feedback. I'm certainly interested in what people have to say about the idea.