Thursday, December 3, 2009

Yellow Snow: the story of the boy who did not know any beter

So you may wonder what the heck is up with the post title "yellow snow". We all know the old adage: "never eat yellow snow". But what about those who were left out of this conversation, those who actually ate yellow snow (or those who did what they were told not to). Well, hopefully, they have learned from their life experiences and as a result don't eat yellow snow anymore. I know the metaphor may be a little much but, my point is this: my whole life I have been advised not to compare myself, but I do.

We all compare things. At the grocery store: is this piece of fruit better than that piece?. At home: is this television better than that television? In our lives: is my income better than his/her income?

For simple things, like purchasing groceries or consumer goods, this method of comparison for selecting the "best" works fine. But what about when this selection method insidiously creeps into our daily lives; is it still of any use? From my own experiences in dealing comparing myself to others, it has never benefited me (not in one instance). However, as people, we always fall into this trap. Perhaps it is our nature as humans or maybe a product of culture (a culture built on sorting the worst from the best), but one thing is for sure: it does not help me--ever. Therefore, I propose the question: (1)If it is in our nature, can we learn to circumvent (or at least turn the volume down) this hard-wired need to compare, and (2) if it is a social product, can we choose not to compare ourselves?

The area I am guiltiest of comparison is my career. In the media, I am bombarded with a barrage of messages which I internalize as beliefs and ideas of success. I then benchmark myself against these external expectations, which make me feel inadequate. We all see the world through a different lense. We filter and benchmark ourselves against those individuals which reflect what we want to be (or think we want to be). We seek external feedback and information, in order to create benchmarks (however artificial they are), which inhibits us and boxes us in. We begin to think strictly within the auspices of one paradigm and when we do not meet the artificial benchmarks of success we have created (consciously or unconsciously) we become unhappy and dissatisfied.

If comparing ourselves, makes us miserable then why do we do it. I won't pretend I have the answer (may be the psychologists do). For me, I do because I always have. In my experience, this is not a good reason to do anything. As such, my future success is based on the tenet "do not compare yourself to others".

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Behind the Scenes

For those individuals who feel an entrepreneurial spark or find a moment of clarity and inspiration, we all have ideas which strike us as "ah ha's!": our great idea, the one which will catapult us to the top of our personal Mount Everest. How do those climbers go from inexperienced trekkers to literally climbers who ascend to the summit of their greatest challenge. Well, they simply start climbing whatever they can-a mound, a hill, a mountain, a big mountain, a really big mountain, and so on. So here I am, an inexperienced trekker in the business world looking to ascend my own personal Mount Everest (whatever it may be as sometimes the summit is obscured when viewed from the base camp).

The thought of climbing scares me. I fear the climb. I fear taking the steps up a mountainous terrain which is alien to me. Truly the analogy only goes so far. Put simply, I am scared to death of failure. As people, our identities are entwined without sense of place in the world. I've always needed other people to vindicate my ideas and tell me I am good enough. As such, I compare myself to everyone else. Then I came across one interesting blog post on one of my favorite blogs Get Rich Slowly had a post (here), which struck me as "ah ha!".

"Don’t compare yourself to others....Comparing myself to others is counter-productive. It only makes me feel inadequate. Who cares what other people write, or how well? What’s important is simply producing the best work I can. All I can be is myself."
~J.D. of Get Rich Slowly

So to start climbing, I have decided to give my ideas a space where they can develop, and at some point maybe materialize. So here it is (deep breaths).

Climb 1: Behind the Scenes
I love movies. I love books. I love ideas. Most of all, I love the process of creating ideas. The behind the scenes footage on DVD's, interviews with authors, and basically any creative project captivates me.

My idea is simple: a "behind the scenes" space where creative individuals (and teams) can chronicle the movement of their ideas from wherever ideas come from into the world. Perhaps, a virtual space mixed with different media to create a compelling, immersed experience for anyone interested in the project. Imagine a sticky environment where you can engage your audience or potential collaborators.

Although this idea above is a simple paragraph, it is a powerful concept. Rather than just view/listen to a finished product in any media, the audience almost becomes a collaborator. The audience can immerse themselves as deeply as they like in the process from idea to reality. This involved process is much more personal, and has the potential to change the final product. Content may still be king, but the queen could easily be the process to create the content.

So there you have it. This post is me proclaiming to the world that my ideas are worthy of a place in this world, I will try not to be afraid to fail.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Creating Value

Often, I frequently read the blog Get Rich Slowly which offers personal finance advice. As a long time reader, I've come to realize personal finance is about choices-most importantly life choices. One article on Get Rich Slowly, entitled "Giving to Receive: What Legacy Will You Leave?" emphasized a corner stone of long-term sucess:

"the best way for me to get ahead in life — financially or otherwise — is to constantly provide value to others."
~Tyler Tervooren, GRS guest post

Speaking for myself, I am a fairly young professional looking for something worthy of my time and energy. Ideally, something which energizes with an empassioned sense of purpose.

But how to we take the steps away from just having a job for a paycheck and towards making a living (maybe eventually more than a living) while pursuing something which we feel has purpose (if even just for ourselves). Is it naive to think these two seemingly competing needs can synergize into a meaningful career? I think, at first, it only sounds naive, but when carefully considered it is not. When an idea creates value for others and aligns with a passion; perhaps that intersection is the is the best chance of long-term success.

For those with a seemingly incalculable number of ideas, how do we know which ideas to ignore and those to devote our finite time to. When you consider the concept of creating value for others, then the out-of-focus, vague ideas seem to come into focus.

Personally, I love ideas, no matter how simple or complex (simple is often better). I love talking to people about their ideas and my own. Everyday I come up with at least ten different ideas. I would love a career where I could just talk ideas all day. The whole process of bringing those intangible and vague notions into a tangible form is fascinating. I often watch the behind the scenes information on DVDs, read about different entreprenuers and emerging businesses just to feel the excitement around ideas coming into existence. But more importantly who does this passion of mine create value for? Perhaps, the answer is the key which can open doors for an energizing career.

What do you think?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The son of the carpenter who built the ladder climbing the rungs

My father is a carpenter. As a boy, I admired my father’s ingenuity for building marvelous creations from the most ordinary of material—a few boards and some nails. But with patience and a learned degree of skill, he knew the time he invested in his projects yielded something extraordinary from the ordinary. I remember watching him in his shop for hours, rarely stopping for a break. He had no formal education beyond a high school diploma, but for me observing his dedication was an entirely different education. Naturally, my admiration for his craft turned into ambition to follow in his footsteps: to possess his skill and creative talents. However, growing up my father refused to teach me carpentry. Instead of using my brawn on a construction site, he challenged me to work in the classroom.

This example of skill and commitment during my upbringing infused me with an insatiable urge to learn. I felt (and still feel) education was the means to live a dynamic and vibrant life. Over the years, I poured over my studies with the tenacity of a wolverine. I studied and worked for countless hours. I was by no means the smartest, nor am I now, but I was able to stand shoulder to shoulder with the smartest. I was the first in my family to graduate from a four year college. Soon after I took a job with a big four accounting firm where I have began my ascent up the proverbial ladder. And with each rung, my urge to learn and grow swells into a visceral excitement pushing me forward. As such, I feel the need to create my own niche professionally.
In the traditional sense, I have no direct urge for monetary rewards beyond the ability to afford the necessities. I just want to inspire and give back to others the way my father has inspired and nourished me. From where I stand, education is the means to achieve this long-term goal.

Side Note (Food for thought)
I have always wanted to temper my insatiable creative urges with a solid foundation in business. Using both creativity and business acumen; right and left brain; ying and yang--whatever you want to call it. In my film school experiences (when I endulged my creativity) and accounting experiences (when I utilize mostly quantitative methods), the pursuit of a solely quantitative career without creativity (and visa versa) feels void of any real passion. I believe passion is the hallmark of all success (no matter how you define it).

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Setting Goals

So recently I've decided to no longer feel helpless. Since I was young I always had an entrepreneurial spark. I operated under the assumption with enough hard work I could make my dreams true. Then today I realized, no one has dreams just come true, or happen-you earn them. So at this point, the one thought that encourages me is maybe someday I will be at the point in my career where I am self-sufficient, and people seek me out for my ideas. For now all I can do is learn and put myself out there. So I think a short term goal will help me work towards long term goals.

1. Finish the book The long Tail
2. Prepare a short presentation
3. Present it at Ithaca College (my old college) to student who can learn from my experiences

This post is random (I know no one is reading however), so it's fine.

I read in one book today "Ignore Everybody" two quote which resonated with me: (1)"
Never com­pare your inside with some­body else’s outside" and (2) "When your dreams become rea­lity, they are no lon­ger your dreams".

Think about it....

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Following my dream

Recently, I've felt more proactive in the pursuit of an expertise which could help me find a niche in a job I am truly interested in. I find entrepreneurship and the media industry two area which captivate my attention. Below is a brief discussion as to my interests and reasons for wanting to enter this industry.

2 years of film school:
During my freshman and sophomore years of college, I attended Ithaca College in the film program. We had classes which range from film production to analyzing the aesthetics of good film in the classroom setting. While I enjoyed the classes, one thought constantly bothered me: what am I going to do for work when I graduate with this degree? For several reasons this bothered me (1) we were using film when video was the new stranded, (2) I was talented but by no measure the best, (3) the excess of labor supply as compared to the demand (i.e., more film students than jobs), and (4) relatively inconsistent/low pay as most of my classmates who went into production now work as freelancers. With these thoughts in mind, I concluded to best serve my long-term career I needed business knowledge, which at the time was more than limited, so I enrolled in our business school dual majoring in accounting and finance.

2 years in business school:
My time in business school was very interesting as I felt as though I were taking the right steps towards long-term success because the accounting and business knowledge could be broadly applied to most industries. The one I wanted to use my knowledge in was film. I reached the conclusion to enter the film industry through a more nontraditional role (the finance side) rather than straight through a production oriented career path.

When I started to look for a job, I wanted to work for a big four accounting firm to realize the benefits of working on a large media and entertainment client to (1) learn all I could about the business and (2) evaluate the different career paths ahead of me. I interviewed and landed a summer internship and was able to internally navigate my way onto a media and entertainment client (many, many emails).

Change in perspective:
Now having some experience under my belt (1.5 years), I've been able to see the inner workings of large media and entertainment companies (from operations, finance, production, etc.). If I have learned one valuable lesson about the M&E industry, it is that the business model is drastically changing-a sort of destructive chaos is occurring where the more traditional career paths (moving up within a company) are less frequent because of the migration of content (movies, shows, etc) to the Internet. The Internet has change the fundamental economics of the industry in a fascinating manner which has emerged because of the consumers almost unlimited choice of what content they want to view and in what manner. Because of this change, large media companies are grappling with the need adapt their dated business models to capitalize on the new economic model. And this is the nexus which leaves me uniquely positioned to create a career which helps these companies do just that. At this point, I am not sure how but I am sure the need will soon need to be filled.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Follow your dreams

For the past year and a half I have worked for one of the big four accounting firms with the mentality from the bottom to the top. However, I have felt a tension between the ubiquitous ambition to move up in the organization (as I am sure all entry-level employees feel at larger companies) and my own personal sense of direction (both professionally and personally).

I have suffered from "when I grow up syndrome", which translates to putting off the things we want to accomplish for the more practical day-to-day responsibilities. When we think someday I will be smart enough or rich enough, its easy to deffer dreams until tomorrow. Lately, one thought has stayed with me, however disturbing--what if we'll never be better than we are today. Not in the sense of a moral or smart person, but more in the sense of being prepared or up to whatever challenges await us. I work for a large company who "makes markets" based upon the work done by people exactly like me. Maybe its time to stop doubting and start believing.

I am not saying to quite your job and move to a studio in Soho to sell stick figure paintings in the name of passion. No, I mean maybe we do not have to settle, working day in and day out without passion or energy. Perhaps, we can only be truly successful (however YOU define success) if we are energized/inspired by our jobs.

In the short-term, the reality is we most likely will not have the jobs we want; in fact, they could be down right monotonous (**cough cough**). But in the distance, if we work towards our passions and have a bit a patience, maybe we can reach beyond our grasp to touch the spark which drives us.