Wednesday, January 8, 2014

What are your short-term & long-term goals OR can you fabricate a convincing story?

today is gonna be the day that they're gonna throw it back to you…
by now you should've realized what you've got to do…
i don't believe that anybody…
knows what they want to do…
two days from now…
(two days from now) --- echo…

let me explain.

first off, i think its "great" that people ask this question. but i think/feel/believe (for all your MBTI lovers out there trying to analyze my intentions) that there's a much simpler question to ask that demands a much simpler and more real answer. That probably gets to the heart of the driving forces you're interested in learning about when you ask someone to write an essay about aforementioned goals.

before i express that let me add my "caveat"

our's is not a generation governed by habits.
it is governed by disruption.
whether its technology that changes the way we hail cabs.
or ways to share photos, video or other media that go viral instantaneously…

our's is not a generation of very stable, long-term thinkers.

we're constantly seeing the way that changes in our lives need us to adapt.

so while i might have thought my short-term plan was to join a hedge fund before i gained the necessary skills to work my way into management and one day run a venture capital fund based on whatever it is i learned through my amazingly eloquent short term goal -

If i'm not ready to be smacked in the face by change, adapt to it instantaneously and find a way to remain relevant, competitive and also actually interested in what i do, i most probably will not achieve any semblance of a long term goal.

i'm going to make a statement now that i know will get some sort of backlash but its kind of like---- asking an economist about tomorrow.

there's so many VIABLE theories based on the studies of past trends, but in all fairness, there's absolutely no way to actually predict or plan for a packaged, clean version of tomorrow. so what do we do?

we study what we've done. we study how we've done it. and we project based on that, but change those predictions and forecasts as the time passes. economists are great at talking about the trends in history & about helping us UNDERSTAND where/what/how we got to all those beautiful bubbles that burst.

and in that light, I've read so many MBA essays to so many schools out there asking this question with amazing responses but mainly from those who know how to tell a convincing story. Is it a lie? I don't know. But is it what happens 9 times out of 10? I highly doubt it. More often than not you're thrown into a class full of people with all kinds of "standard" short-term & long-term goals engaging each other in ways that have nothing to do with said-goals and end up creating an amazing mixture of conversations and ideas that spin up yet another disruptive technology (at least thats how b-school feels today. a merging of the minds molding new, exciting, fun ideas).

because fortunately or unfortunately i do not believe that anyone in our generation has a good enough sense of a short term & long term goal.

just like an economist might feel like s/he has a good idea of the trends about to take place but can't and won't ever actually stake too much on such postulations - why then is this question asked on ALL MBA applications? or almost all? is it primarily because AdCom is looking for the best story? (and yes, I know ultimately its all about the story you tell and how its consistent and believable) but… I feel like its asking you to write a story.

… or If you know how to write as eloquently as possible and convince us that this short term & long term goal you have is really true. that you already know or believe or worse yet HOPE that things will go EXACTLY the way you plan them and therefore you want to be a consultant upon graduation so you can gain exposure to various industries and understand those sectors and the skills required to be successful in them and advise the CxO on how to do xyz, before taking those skills to a business of your own or another larger company to apply them and be a successful leader..?

Sorry i lost track of myself in that last statement. Because there's no way I am willing to believe that it matters what I say there. Truth is…

We have an idea for what we hope our life turns out to be. Bar any real change. Be it life changing (getting married or having kids, which I know in more ways than one can impact say… "id love to start a company some day" essays). World changing (like a bubble bursting for certain sectors or worse - natural disasters). So many examples.

But the main point I'm trying to get at - as I myself evolve through writing this post and realizing what I'm thinking, how its impacting me, what I would say or ask in this situation is this:

Why not ask applicants about their ideal day/month/year in 5yrs? Why not give them the chance to think about the inevitables and talk about the real life stories and consider their thoughts about where the economy might turn or how their personal lives might impact their decisions to ask them a real question about WHO they are and WHAT they like or WANT or VALUE and asking them straight up - forget the job.

Where do you want to be in 5yrs? (and yes I can see how this might be the same thing as asking them to fabricate a story --- but there's a part of the 5yrs from now that involves actions today leading to things tomorrow but also acknowledging the inevitable and maybe stating the highest priority goals)

Because I find that if/when you ask someone that question (5yrs from now) and you really want them to answer it, they'll actually (or at least in my interactions and in my experience asking this question) ask back - do you mean personally or professionally? Ideally? Or really thinking about how things unfold - UNEXPECTEDLY?

I guess, I just wish short-term & long-term goals were believable in todays world. Anyone whose apps I read or work with/on, I challenge this piece until I am convinced that they are not just convincing themselves (or maybe training them to really be convinced so I'm convinced?!)

We don't think about working in the same jobs for more than 5yrs. When we hear about someone whose had the same job for 10yrs we applaud them (..or worse judge them). Unless they are on some sort of a partner track. Maybe. We're so… disloyal? but not out of some sort of fault or lack of loyalty but because things are changing and if we don't change with the times and adapt and grow and react, then we're left managing a cd player or a palm pilot in a room full of touch screen tablets. Make sense?

If you're being asked about your short term and long term goals, let me know. I want to ask you that same question right now. I think there's a very different approach to what is being asked. There's something to say about knowing or being able to articulate what you THINK your short term and long term goals are, but the REAL answer will come if/when you truly examine yourself. Your desires. Your goals. Who you are - not just who you want people to think you are.

Let's talk. I'd love to hear about your short term & long term goals :)

No seriously. Please, convince me. Not yourself. Not what you are convinced you want to do or are convincing yourself for what you want in 5yrs. Most of us have no idea (or aren't willing to admit what we truly hope ;). ANd you can't answer I don't know in these apps... so then you fabricate the story of your life. And for those few minutes, it works, but then the next morning does it really stick? But you have to answer something.

Now what?

Monday, December 30, 2013

Poke. Pick. Plug.

this is my motto for proofreading.

this is my favorite process for proofreading, as i'm starting to notice: poke as many holes as possible into an essay so that when its done, if you poured water through the piece of writing, if it were a bucket, you could water plants.

and what i expect from the reader/writer is to go through these holes i have poked to pick the ones that are worth plugging, because in my mind the end goal is to actually water the plants, but not from holes all over the tool. from holes at the right parts where when you pour the water, it flows in a meaningful and desirable and planned manner.

so once you pick these holes i have poked, you go through the writing in a more cohesive manner, making edits to those specific parts. the other reason you have to pick is because once you make an edit to part 1 of the essay, the comments in part 2 may not be very valid at all. in fact they may not make any sense. so you really need to review the poked areas to pick and choose what makes sense.

at this point, as already discussed earlier, you then plug the right holes in a manner that is convincing and flows with who you are and what message you are trying to get across, whether its discussing the religious philosophies of kant, applying to business school, your first cover letter, or an email to a colleague (which actually does take a fair amount of editing when you first start working)...

and boom bada bing, i believe you have a better piece of work! and mind you - i'm not just saying i like to do this. i like it when people take the same approach with what i do. i appreciate the time & effort they put into it (maybe because i equate that with what i would've done and therefore feel a) that i should pay attn to their comments and b) that they have paid attn to my words).

and while we're on the topic... i find that for some reason i end up reading/reviewing a lot of essays, applications, and the like for friends and family. i will be honest about this - i love doing it. i constantly offer my help/guidance in areas where i may bring some sort of expertise. and i am very careful about this. if i dont know the subject then i'll be very honest and only proofread the english/grammar.

and to b honest... whether its knowing that your opinion matters (which is a very selfish feeling of satisfaction) or actually being happy when the applicant makes it through the round (which is a much less seemingly selfish satisfaction), it feels really good to help people. i have no qualms in admitting that i love helping others and that altruism in general is not so selfless. it gives me a high. and most of us do it because it drives a basic need. if we can accept that, then we're more honest with ourselves and will therefore invest even more energy in doing for others - so in turn we end up striving to help others and also, in the process, become better people. i would love to engage anyone on this topic (if you agree or disagree with me) because i really do believe that altruism is not as selfless as people make it sound. that is not to say its bad... no such dichotomy of good vs bad here. at least not insofar as i have experienced it.

So get in touch with me if you're interested in getting your application Poked… Picked at… And then Plugged into your overall story :)

Friday, December 30, 2011


there's a song called aisha (i think) and the lyrics are pretty romantic. this is a bit of a less romantic tone, but to a person who has a similar name :P and to whom i would often ask for advice (hence the pun with ecoute moi :P)

one of a few shoutouts i have yet to write regarding the various people that made INSEAD the ride it ended up being.

as a 'senior' in the program (ie having started in july of the previous year), she was immensely helpful in dispelling any myths i might have about the INSEAD program. FOR EXAMPLE, when i was hardly able to breathe in the midst of P1 core courses, she reminded me that P2 will in fact be much worse, so i should just learn to relax. i won't forget that lesson. initially i thought i would just delete her number from my phone, but i'm glad i forgot to do that :)

other random tidbits i can remember (and some in her own words):

she referred to you as the "nameless, faceless and highly unlikely to skip class to take your wife grocery shopping in the middle of the day" when i informed her that i had to spend time updating the blog where she can read fun updates from throughout the year. i can understand she might've been slightly annoyed given that we were going back and forth on email nonstop during graduation day.

anyhow, this is just one of the ways in which INSEAD creates the kind of network that you keep for life. before even meeting her, we were friends (this is partially due to a previous connection by way of a friend from high school) - but the ease with which we embarked on the friendship is really reminiscent of so many relationships developed throughout the year.

we realize quickly that there's very little time to really fuss about too much about anything. so what we do, quite simply, is that we make the effort and if reciprocated, then we solidify friendships that seem to have lasted for years.

so to make a long story short: thank you! for the advice on purchasing a blackberry, even though i ended up needing an iphone, for reminding me that INSEAD just keeps getting busier and more intense when i thought i was drowning, and for taking my better half to a grocery store in the middle of the day (i didnt know you had to skip class)! good times ahead.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

I figured it out!

so THIS is why the caged bird... oh no, not that.

I meant to say - THIS is why INSEAD breeds (such great) consultants!

Let me explain myself. I was at the airport today to check my dad into a flight to India (for a family function). He excused himself to the restroom and while standing there waiting, I (for a moment) just closed my eyes (early morning grab a moment of shut-eye kinda feeling) and suddenly I was transported back to the Camembert/Kheria...

Opening my eyes I realized why... I was in an airport. In the international terminal. Families together, speaking in their native tongue, wearing their most comfortable clothes, walking around in their most comfortable strides - just being themselves. After all - when you fly, you generally want to worry the least about anything apart from your passport...

And it hit me. This is why INSEAD breeds consultants. It is our withdrawal program. Some take a year to get over it. Some 2+... others, well that's why we have partners ;)

After spending a year in a climate so diverse that you wonder if you can ever replicate it, you are attracted to the simpler methods of your addiction. For us, it is the consultant's lifestyle. The hours at the airport in transit. The reminiscence not just of our travels with our friends, but also of our classrooms. If I could pass everyone a laminated green card (no, not a work permit although that would be nice too): BUT the nametags we (and our dear professors) oh so dearly came to love for P1 & P2, I would be in a hallway on the way to class. That is Fontainebleau. That is Singapore. That is the INSEAD campus. A terminal in an airport, guiding souls from various destinations during their transit time to find the right exit gate... some of us are still in the transit area, hopefully upgraded to sit in one of those business class lounges, sipping on cappuccino or eating the cakes they provide, wondering if we should board the next flight or head back to the check-in gate to purchase a ticket for a "better" destination.

Now back at the airport... we are at the point in our lives where we can actually choose where we want to go. Our credit cards have just enough of a limit to afford us a one way ticket to pretty much any destination. How we decide to use those funds (be it on a new flight or on duty free shopping) is completely up to us.

For some, it is more travel (yes, the consultants in case i have not driven that point home deeply enough). We are happy to be in the terminal and not ready to leave these familiar moments.

For others, it is the management office within the airport - we travel quite a bit, but we're not necessarily jumping between flights as much...

Others are exiting the airport directly to go to the head office to speak to CFOs on why almost every airline has been bankrupt at some point. Yes, I'm talking about the bankers...

Some might even go the route of betting where the heck others will travel and accordingly hedging their risks (and their clients') to switch up their credit card limits in anticipation of purchasing the BEST possible flight out of the airport at some point. Yes iBankers, that's my short analogy for you.

And of course there's those of us that will fly directly into the eye of several different storms to pursue the non profit route, the startups, the new ventures... supporting those low cost airlines (but remember never to run out of ca$h fools! :)

OK so now the analogy is starting to get really drawn out but I'm trying hard not to miss one of your decisions - I think however, you already know where you fall in this airport/terminal analogy so I invite you to comment (should you choose to) on where/how you would land. Janitorial staff? Check-in? Security? Taxis? All viable options :)

Either way, I guess I want to say I miss you guys... oh 11D. I have spent more time on Facebook & Google+ keeping up with your status updates in the past week than I'd normally like to admit. But today's run-in with the airport made me feel just a little better. I guess that's why they say that the best way to deal with an addiction (at times) is with the hair of the dog that killed you? or bit you? something. Not sure why you'd want the hair of any dog (speaking from experience with a shih-tzu sitting next to me as I type this).

Safe Travels. In the case of emergencies, remain calm and proceed to the nearest exit. Although knowing you crazies, we'd probably take charge and get creative with some new exits into.... the Blue Ocean! HAHA! Sorry, I just absolutely had to take that inadvertent shout out. Cheap shot? I don't think so. Maybe slightly. Yes, pun intended.

See you around!

11D boarding flight to Sri Lanka for Grad Trip on Dec 14, 2011. Thai, Japanese. Canadian, Honduran, Chinese, American. Indian. Taiwanese. Swiss. Brazilian. Colombian. German. African. British. Lebanese... ok you get it.

Oh - and Happy Holidays - Xmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, etc... :)