Category Archives: 20-Something Notes

For the recent graduate: Fire Your Boss

“Do what you love and _____________”. I’m sure you can complete that sentence, even  in your sleep. There is so much talk about Passion and Purpose these days that it’s impossible to have never heard the saying “do what you love and the money will follow”. What if someone told you the exact opposite? What if someone said, “work for the money, and the love will follow”?

That’s the tag line for Stephen Pollan and Mark Levine’s Fire Your Boss.

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It’s career advice your career counselor probably never gave you. What if instead of encouraging you to find a meaningful career, you were encouraged to choose the job that pays the most based on your skill set, and to find meaning in the other parts of your life? The authors invite you to a paradigm shift: one in which you let go of the idea of a career, and instead  you embrace the idea of a job…or rather a string of jobs.

No, it’s not about just finding any job and getting on with it…or about literally firing your boss. It’s about redefining your skill set outside of the boundaries of industryspeak, outside of the borders of your job description and letting go of the idea that your career should be THE thing that brings you satisfaction and meaning.

There are things you will agree with and things you will disagree with. There are concepts that will challenge you and concepts that will wholeheartedly embrace.

It’s different enough to be interesting. It just might change the way you view the world of Work.

P.S. It will probably win as the answer to the question “what’s one book that you should not read at work?”

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That Is So Unlike Me: Leading a trip to New York City

I’m spatially challenged. That’s why I decided to lead a trip to New York City this summer.

No, but seriously.

It only takes hanging around me for at least 12 hours to realize how bad I am with simple directions, or my inability to tell my left from my right instinctively. I once took driving lessons from an older gentleman who was frequently frustrated with me, after discovering this. One day, slightly ticked off that I had once again made a right turn when he told me to turn left, he took a black ribbon and wrapped it around my left wrist. “THAT is your left. THIS is your right.” Yeah, not one of my proudest moments. Coupled with the fact that I am terrible under pressure, I do myself and others the favor of never playing co-pilot on a road trip.

This time, however, I had no choice but to say yes. My aunt had promised a trip to New York City to my cousins visiting from France. This was a dream trip for them and they were looking forward to like little kids look forward to Christmas. However, about a week before the trip, we learned that my grand-mother had passed away unexpectedly. My aunt’s focus had now shifted to preparing for the trip to say good-bye to her mother. Not wanting, however, to renege on her promise to her nephews, she looked to me for help.

I tried to explain my limitations, but alas, the baton was already handed to me  and I had to run with it. Since we  only had a few hours to spend in the city, we narrowed our visit to one location: Times Square, a place in New York City I had only heard of, but never been to. I believe that people fall into 2 categories when facing something they’ve never done before: there are those who get excited at the chance to prove themselves and learn something new, and there are those who hesitate, nervous at the thought of doing something they might potentially fail at doing. I fit into the latter camp.

It would be accurate to say that the “holycrapiveneverdonethisbeforewhatifsomethinggoeswrong” feeling never left me that whole week as I prepared for the day trip, bought tickets, checked maps, NYC tourist apps and talked to anyone who could give me advice.

Two days before the trip, I text-ed a friend who lived just outside of New York City: “I’m on “Mission: Get the French cousins to New York City”. HELP! Which train should we take?” I text-ed her our bus location and told her about some of the things the boys were interested in doing. She text-ed me back with the necessary information, as well as suggestions for places to visit and restaurants to check out.

We finally arrived in New York City on a very rainy day. I randomly picked a direction for us to start walking. Thankfully, the train station was only about half a block away. I made sure to have plenty of $1 bills because it took a while to get everyone train tickets (what are they called?). When we finally got on the train, I looked up and realized that Times Square was only one stop away. Yes!

Though it was raining, we were determined to have fun. We visited stores of interest to teenage boys, took plenty of pictures in the rain and bought souvenirs for friends and family.

The sun came out as we started to leave the city.

Despite the 10-hour bus ride (to and from), it was a great day and an experience that made me more confident in myself and my ability to take on projects.

It was an experiment in label-peeling: The Spatially Challenged leads a trip to the big city.

What else can I do? What else could you do?

That Is So Unlike Me: Joining the Women’s Rugby Team

I’m a pacifist at heart. That’s why I joined the women’s rugby team my first week of college.

No, but seriously.

On a scale of 1 to Aggressive, I’m at around -17. As a kid, I used to either burst into tears whenever conflict arose or I’d be the one hiding in a corner, with both hands covering my ears. I was more likely to join the Peace/Social Justice club throughout my school days than any contact sports team. I was part of the Peer Conflict Resolution group in high school. If two friends were fighting, I was the one to sit them down and have them talk things through till they were patched. I’d say “Unity” is one of  my favorite words in the dictionary.  Yet, during the first week in college, I walked by the Student Activities table and was handed a small pink flyer. Not wanting to offend, I took it from the overly enthusiastic girl in gym shorts. She asked if I had ever played rugby. I shook my head no, but she reassured me that newcomers were welcome and that it was easy to pick up.

I must have been feeling pretty bold. It was college after all. New beginnings, new me. I signed my name, gave my e-mail address and told her I’d be looking forward to hearing from them. It felt good. Like I just signed up for an epic journey. Plus, it was a great story to tell my new dorm-mates and friends. Guess what, I just signed up for the Women’s Rugby Team! Killer, right?

The meeting date finally came. They picked us up in front of our dorm and took us to their training field, which seemed like an hour away. I stood shoulder to shoulder with other freshmen girls, many whom were tinier than I was. Was this real? The team captain started to coach us. We were instructed on how to catch and hold on to the ball, how to tackle people and how to fall without breaking our ribs.

Breaking ribs? Really? It was at this point that they passed out the mouth guards. So that, you know, we can protect our teeth. Wait, this is getting real now.

It was at this point that some of the veterans came to check out the rookies. A few of them were on crutches. Huh? I didn’t have time to wonder why they were hobbling around. Someone had taken me down. Someone half my size. It actually…felt great.

I was in pain when I stumbled into my dorm room that evening, but I was so excited. I couldn’t wait to tell anyone who would listen that there is a proper way to fall without risking grave injury.

Anyone who knew me could tell me, mostly non-verbally through quick smiles and head shakes: That is so unlike you! The Pacifist Turned Contact Sport Player. The most exciting part of the whole thing resided in that one word: Turned. I like stories of Turnover, of “label peeling” and “stereotype-defying”.

Despite my excitement, this Turnover story was only a partial one. I only lasted a day in the Women’s Rugby Team. Looking at the mouth guard that night, remember the crutches and realizing that I’d have to wake up way before the sun to practice, I declined from going further.

Yet, that love of Turnover stories hasn’t left me. I look forward to living out more Turnover stories, more than partial, hopefully, this time around.

Photo courtesy of  TheBIGlife

5 Things I (already) learned in my Twenties

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The 3 things I wanted to cover on this blog are books, music and all things, 20-Something. So, this is my first post explicitly related to 20-Something stuff. Even though I’m almost halfway through my twenties, I often still feel like I’m just getting into the twenties. I have the privilege of working with people a few decades ahead of me and have benefited greatly from their mentoring. I didn’t realize how much what I was  learning was impacting my life, until I started getting asked to mentor high school girls.

Asked to give younger girls advice, here are 5 things I’d share:

1. People will say you are what they see you do 

I was actually surprised at how true this actually is. The statement “We behave differently around different people.” would not be shocking to anyone. However, we often don’t realize how much people build a holistic view of us based on a partial analysis of us. You could be the messiest person at home, but if your cubicle and project folders are always neat and tidy, your performance review will read “organized”. You could have great ideas, but if you don’t follow through well, people who have interacted with you in cases where this has happened will label you “unreliable”…even if you are reliable in all other areas of your life. In short, your image is malleable. The good news is,you can re-start anytime.

2. You will never be less busier than you are now 

For the longest time, I’ve put off things for when I’m less busy. No more. As I realized that as we get older, we get more responsibilities and more responsibilities mean being busier, I’m procrastinating less and less and being in the moment more and more.

3. You will never have it all figured it out…once and for all 

You will always be learning, discovering and reshaping your path. There will always be new challenges. The good news? You can apply principles you learned while figuring out one part of your life to another part.

4. There’s no such thing as “having made it”

I’m starting to believe that there is NO peak. No one ever just makes it. You just get to a higher level. In short, I think of life stages more as platforms or levels, not peaks. So, stop the “when I…, then I’ll happy” game. 

5. Fear and Insecurity never disappear 

This was a tough one to learn. As I started to talk to people 2 or 3 decades older, I started to realize that they also have fears. With new situations, comes Insecurity. The only thing to do is to act, despite it. As one of my favorite quotes says, “Walk through fear”. 

Bonus: 6. Everything that you don’t know now, you can learn 

I’m convinced that the thing we most underestimate is our ability to adapt.

That’s it. Those are my 5 (+1) lessons to share with younger people. I’m still learning and re-learning these, everyday.

What have your twenties taught you, so far? If you’re no longer in your twenties, what do you know now that you wish you’d known then?