An Encounter with Meyers-Briggs Part I

Had a really interesting class last week in which we discussed the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator. For those who haven’t heard of it before, this is one of the most popular instruments to identify personality. You respond to different prompts and based on those responses you are placed in either of two preferences in four categories leading to classification in one of 16 groups. The four categories are briefly summarized below:*

*For a more in-depth look at the Myers-Briggs and to take your own assessment, check out the official site: Meyers Briggs

Where you focus your attention:

Extroversion v. Introversion
This one is pretty straightforward. Extroverts tend to focus their attention to the outer world of people and things while introverts focus on inner world ideas and impressions.

The way you take in information:

Sensing v. Intuition
Sensing is taking information using the five sense and focusing on facts. Intuition is looking at the big picture and future possibilities.

The way you make decisions:

Thinker v. Feeler
Thinkers tend to make decisions based primarily on logic and on objective analysis. Feelers tend to be irrational and make silly mistakes. Kidding! Feelers focus primarily on values and subjective evaluation which takes into account people concerns.

How you deal with the outer world:

Judging v. Perceiving
It was funny cause when you read the choices in this category, your mind immediately went to your very condescending friend and some obnoxious comment that they made once. It is okay, I did it too.
Judging is used in the older sense of the term and in this definition it means planned and organized. Judgers like order is an easy way to think about it. Perceivers on the other hand tend to like flexibility and spontaneity. Keeping options open if you will.

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So just looking at the categories, you can pretty much feel out which one that you are in each category and when you combine the first letter of those selections, you get your Meyers Briggs type.

For instance, my results came out Introversion/Sensing/Thinking/Judging: ISTJ

From a Meyers Briggs interpretation book:

ISTJ: The theme of ISTJ is inspecting, looking for discrepancies and omissions, and reporting these deviations from the set standards to the appropriate authority. ISTJs want to conserve the resources of the organization, group, family or culture and can be depended upon to persevere toward that goal.

Of course the book goes on to at length to determine general leadership qualities and management styles. A bit heavy but I found to be fairly accurate. The ISTJ group has been labeled by some “The Duty Fullfillers” which I think is a a good way to summarize. I certainly find myself more there than say “The Idealists” (INFP) or “The Visionaries” (ENTP). Now that also isn’t to say that I take 100% stock of this one test that I took one time in 20 minutes. And that was not the intention of the professor giving the test. As with most tools for evaluating and classifying human beings, it is imperfect but useful. Imperfect because everyone does not fit into one of sixteen neatly labeled boxes and one evaluation is not a determination for future actions.*  But useful because there are similar trends with similar type of people.

*Be on the lookout for part 2: Inherent Ability
Understanding different types of people is important at any level. If you know that your boss is bored with data and figures and likes to look at the big picture, you can cater your presentation so that it makes sense to him/her. Or if a coworker is introverted, making sure to pick words carefully, you can take a moment and give them the opportunity to deliver an answer, making sure that they are not drowned out by people who like to talk out their ideas.

Pretend that it is marketing for your life. Arguably the most important part of marketing is identifying the audience. While you may just say “everyone” that presents a difficult task as it is hard to market to everyone at once. It is much easier to segment your market, using demographics or geography, that way you can focus on each group to better communicate your message.** In a similar way, in your workplace or out with friends or at home, you probably already know how to tailor your message for the audience. In some way you have identified certain traits with people and what you can or cannot do or say around that person. Using tools such as the Meyers Briggs not only gives you an opportunity to further unveil the best way to reach someone but more importantly, the way to best exploit that person’s strengths and minimize weaknesses.

**An example close to me right now is mutual funds. Some mutual funds have just finished implementing online resources so that people can check balances, makes purchases and withdrawals. However there still is a tremendous use of paper. Statements have to come out on paper and many changes have to be submitted with proper certification on letterhead or using fund-specific forms. In order to capture the next wave of investors, these old firms must adapt to survive. That means creating a bigger online social presence, generating mobile apps, and changing procedures in order to better accommodate what is becoming an increasing paperless society. 

To me, psychology is a mixed bag. There is a lot of things going on upstairs that I don’t want to know about or frankly care to know about. In most situations I find it unnecessary to find the reason why someone does something or acts a certain way, the act or thought or action is important.  But that ties back to my personality I suppose.

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BUS 6000: Paper #1: Leadership

“You have an extraordinary opportunity, take full advantage of this gift.” That was how my professor closed my very first MBA class. I am provisionally enrolled in the prestigious Helzberg MBA program at Rockhurst University. Provisional pending a moderate score on a graduate level entrance exam. To say I’m excited is a bit of an understatement.*

*I’ve noted more than once before on this blog that higher education is kind of a big scam, especially for business majors. This holds true. I’m fortunate that my graduate program including all fees will amount to just a hair more than my undergraduate program. Still you must consider that the cost is for about 1/4 of the hours for the same price as undergrad. Law school or Med schools cost much more. I’m thankful that business principles apply in my favor in this situation. There is a demand for MBA programs, so there are more developed and the market has to adjust prices to attract students. Diversification is a great strategy in this type of market, if there was something to diversify. Rockhurst prides itself on being the most accredited and most Jesuit program while an institution such as Baker prides itself on flexibility and ease of entry. Still, at the end of the day, there will be far too many MBA graduates than the market needs and while it will help in advancing the career, still gotta put in the sweat like everyone else. Or get lucky.

So my first class is BUS6000: Managerial Communications which serves a dual purpose. 1) To introduce students to how the Helzberg MBA is structured and what to generally expect and 2) To clean up any sort of remaining communication issues in business writing and presenting. We are to write 4 short papers on topics from the 6 learning goals: Leadership, Ethical and Corporate Social Responsibility, Business Skills and Knowledge, International/Global Perspectives, Information Analysis and Education, and Communication. Since these papers are short, I thought I’d share what I wrote and update as the program goes along.

:: Leadership ::

A tenant of the Alpha Kappa Psi business fraternity is the development of principled business leaders. This seems to be a common theme regarding leadership among the business classes or organizations that I have attended. Such fanaticism regarding developing everyone into strong business leaders instills the idea that if you are not going to be a leader, you are not successful. This unrealistic expectation graduates thousands of students every year who expect to be business leaders but find out rather quickly that everyone cannot be a leader and especially not right away. Realistic leadership, I find, derives from a combination of experience, a solid knowledge base, and good followership.

Experience is a pretty scary term for business students as it presents the first major barrier in starting one’s career. Without strong working experience, there is little chance of promotion or raises or the opportunity to pursue certain jobs. Simply put, most everyone needs to put in the time necessary in his particular area, mainly because what is learned in the classroom does not always translate exactly into the future job. In terms of leadership, experience is necessary because co-workers need to have a good sense of an individual’s skills and how they work before they will be comfortable following them.

A solid knowledge base refers not only to the information that a potential leader has in his head, but also to the information regarding the job. This can cover the actual specifics of the position, general industry knowledge, and especially the catalog of resources and skills available from each team member. The latter part is especially helpful in defining roles and exploiting the personal “core competencies” of each team member which helps the group as a whole be more efficient and more focused. While charisma and building relationships with people are strong factors in leadership, without a strong knowledge base, that particular individual has a much lower ability to realize successful leadership.

Good followership is not simply being able to take orders and do your job effectively. It also means supporting the leader in what ways is necessary. While this may seem to be straightforward, the implications are a bit more complex. Being a good follower does not mean being submissive to a leader but rather supporting ideas or decisions when needed and by opposing ideas when it is not the best for the group. In an ideal group, all members are working hard to support the group and all have applicable leadership skills without striving for control or domination. Rather any particular person in that group practicing good followership could be the leader at any given point, a fact that I feel needs to be emphasized more in teaching leadership.

Leadership is not a universal skill and should not be expected from every student that decides to go into business. I believe that confidence, charisma, and talent go a long way in starting a career in business and growing strong leaders. I do not fault organizations in trying to instill this hopeful idea. However, unless the student can combine experience, a strong knowledge base, and good followership, they cannot realistically expect to become great leaders.

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Note that this is following the guidelines established for the paper which included:

5 paragraphs, 1 opening, 3 body, 1 conclusion
“copy and paste” thesis in opening and closing paragraphs
Use exact phrasing from thesis for beginning of each body paragraph (for “imprinting”)
Focus on making the document readable and straightforward

For the record, I really didn’t like this paper at all but given the restrictions (1 page, single spaced) there was not a lot of room to play around with it. I am a bit stronger with a bit of persuasion in my writing. It is an art I think, writing, but I won’t delve too deeply into it in this post, just to say, I am comfortable when I can use a lot of “colors” when I have the time and space to make you see what I want you to see. Business writing isn’t like that, which is why this class may be a bit more refreshing. Gives me an opportunity to practice writing things straight up for a change. We’ll see.

Olympics

I’ve been sucked in for the last couple of weeks. I don’t believe that the Olympics has ever been quite so compelling for me and I can’t really give a good explanation as to why. As I’ve said before on this blog, I think sports is the great universal language. In any language and in any culture, if you see the 100M dash or the Marathon you can appreciate the speed and the stamina. When you see the emotions after the race or the exhaustion, that raw feeling communicates so much.* My favourite Olympic sports are probably Swimming, track and field, and the Marathon. All sports that can pass the 2nd grader eye test. Where a 2nd grader can predictably tell you who won. Those sports are the best. You’ll notice I didn’t list the sports that I generally talk about the most on the blog, soccer and triathlon. Olympic soccer on the men’s side is not nearly as prestigious as the other major tournaments, World Cup or the FIFA regionals (Euros, CONCACAF, African Cup of Nations, etc). The teams are also comprised of U23 + 3 overage players so it is not generally the established starts who are playing but rather rising stars and youth programs.** The Olympic triathlon is pretty popular (they set the standard ‘Olympic’ distance) but I still think it falls short of other competitions such as Ironman Series. That might be more of a personal note for me, I think that those triathletes are amazing, sure, but the Ironman captures my imagination.

*I don’t think any Olympics post written in the US is complete without a discussion about the broadcasting and coverage provided (at great cost) by NBC. While I generally disagree with the editing and the timing (many of the premiere events were shown during prime time rather than live to ensure that advertisers paid the premium prices) it is hard to argue that NBC got their money’s worth from it. More people tuned in per the ratings this year than ever before and despite all the backlash, I would say a majority of Americans had absolutely no other choice of watching the Olympics. Many people found ways around the blocks and watched the vastly superior BBC streams but you had to have a bit of savvy in order to get it. I followed live blogs from Reuters and the official London Olympics website as much as I could to get the news as it happened. In the end as much complaining as there was, money talks and NBC definitely got their money. Luckily the next Summer Olympics will be in Rio, our time zones match up much better so most of the streams will be live for us then.***

**Women’s Olympic Soccer is completely different. That is a fascinating and exciting tournament and topped off this year by what might be the best match ever played (arguably) between USA and Canada in the semifinals, followed by USA redeeming themselves against the Japanese side who stole the last Women’s World Cup. (Airplane Controversy) I have read on several blogs that women’s international soccer is more popular than MLS. I think that the line is pretty close but yes, its not quite the “Girls of Summer” team with Brandi Chastain and Mia Hamm but Hope Solo, Alex Morgan, and Abby Wambach do make a very watchable team. 

***On a related note, this Olympics also showed the might that was twitter. NBC received a huge backlash for the tape delays because results were already known. Technology has progressed to the point where information can wrap around the world almost instantaneously. So when your phone tells you Usain Bolt broke the Olympic record and defended his 100M title, it takes a little bit away from watching the tape delay later. Still, like I said before, NBC still got paid. 

A great synopsis from my one of the best channels on Youtubes:

And there were some great stories coming out of the Olympics. Definitely gave people in professional and social situations something to talk about that was universally acceptable. Unlike saying “Did you catch Jersey Shore last night?” which could turn out either awesome for you or (in all likelihood) disastrous. I think over the next couple of months as interviews and books are being published about these Olympic games, maybe more stories about who cheated**** and who didn’t will be a fascinating until it inevitably dies out.

****Don’t be fooled, cheating is a as traditional in the Olympics as the torches or the medal ceremonies. Cheating is an art and is as important in the global discussion as the accomplishments of the athletes and the weather in the host country. What was terribly controversial doping debate here in the states was the teen Chinese swimmer who easily destroyed the field in 400 and 200 IM while nary a peep on US coverage regarding the 15 year old US swimmer who easily crushed the field in the 800M Free. You can bet that both swimmers were heavily scrutinized for those unlikely performances. Spirit of competition my butt. Especially in blatant cases such as the boxing match between Japan and Azerbaijan  the IOC would like to forget about such cases but the evidence was everywhere. 

What I will cherish the most about this and really any Olympics is how much you get to see a foreign city. While I might not have been quite so excited with Salt Lake City or Vancouver (actually now that I think back, Winter Olympics don’t seem nearly quite so interesting), I loved Sydney and Beijing and especially London. But I love the British so when Kenneth Branagh  was rolled out at the Opening to the Eric Idle appearance (who sang the song I quoted to close my toast at my sister’s wedding) at the Closing, I was totally geeking out on all things delightfully British.

Biggest highlights for me:
1) Bolt winning back to back titles in 100M and 200M.
2) Women’s 4X100 Medley Relay WR (Rebecca Soni is my Olympic crush)
3) US v Canada Women’s Soccer Semifinal
4)McKayla is Not Impressed meme 
5) Oscar Pistorious historic runs (and the best race ever)
6) Ennis finishes decathlon winning 800M
7) Mo Farrah wins 10K and 5K gold
8) Phelps bounces back and becomes most decorated Olympian ever
9) Opening Ceremonies (Bond and the Queen)
10) Watching random day events (rowing/water polo/trampoline) with my sisters

Let me know what you thought of the Olympics! Favourites? Least Favourites? Love to hear about them.

And to close, British athletes lip syncing Queen:

Link Collection (Blurbs?)

As I have mentioned before,(and will likely mention many times in the future), there is far too much information out there on the internet. And terabytes of info being created and uploaded every day. So while I may see some article or some news story that really catches my eye and want to write about it, let’s be frank, someone else has probably written about it already, made a video, even parodied it before I’ll get a chance to put in my two cents. So generally those fall to the wayside.

But I’ve decided to be a bit more proactive and go ahead and share some stories and things that I found interesting, pass you the link, and maybe there is something that you, dear reader, will get out of it. I think I can make this a regular addition, but we’ll have to see. Every blog of note it seems has a link collection, remember what I told you about media mavens? This is kind of the same idea. Only with things that I find interesting.

You’ve been warned.

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BBC: “Is the social web divided by race?” –

I think a fascinating short clip showing some of the recent numbers released regarding race on a couple of the major social networking sites; Twitter, Pinterest, and Tumblr. I think it is kind of inevitable that these lines are drawn but at the same time, there is a note that “Web 2.0” is about hanging out with people you already know. I haven’t noticed a disparity in the social sites I use but I would wager that is because I don’t tend to stray outside of the people I kind of know already.

 

Kotaku: “The Difference Between a Good Video Game and a Bad One” –
Source Fed News 

As a side note, I think SourceFed is a terrific YouTube Channel. Simple concept, 5 news stories a day under 20 minutes total. Not all news but interesting bits as well as some important things that occur. Run out of the “For Human Peoples” Office with Sxephil, SourceFed is quick and clever and most importantly, makes the viewer feel a little smarter afterwards. Or maybe that is just me.

The article itself is a great read to any video game player and I think it is a good hypothesis to what makes a game good or bad.

 

GamesIndustry International: “Sony has ‘fallen blindly in love with its brand’ says marketing expert” 

Just a quick article with an opinion to as why Sony has not turned a profit in awhile. From a marketing perspective, I see a company that has really tried to cement itself in all sorts of consumer electronics. While it is pretty important from a business perspective to control your suppliers and production and also utilize a strong brand name, I do see Sony stretching a bit thin in places. Have they fallen in love with their own brand or has a rapidly evolving market filled with imitators and spin-offs forced the hand of a major organization?

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Let me know if you like this kind of post and I’ll try to include more of them. Hope you all have a great week!

Tipping: An Overview

A quick thanks to all my fine readers. It has now been just a little over a year since I started this blog and it has been quite an adventure. For those late-comers, I started this blog as part of an assignment for a class on Internet and Direct Marketing. At first I had some reservations due to the general outline of the assignment. We were to start a blog and use some of the tools we had been reading about to amass some subscribers. This would be a pretty cool project over a couple of months (which is a better reflection of properly executed marketing plans) but since it was a summer class, the project itself only lasted a couple of weeks. It essentially boiled down to a popularity contest, especially since the content of the blogs was not considered at all.

To cut to the chase, I did very well for the class and I am pleased that after a year, I still have something to contribute to this project. While I have not had the opportunity to use it in a more professional purpose, nevertheless, I still think I have gained a lot from the upkeep of this blog. Trying to keep up regular writing is important and I think there will be definite upsides in keeping those skills polished (despite having no real critic or grader) I still think I’m developing a voice.

On that line, I wanted to finally divulge my opinion on a topic I place a lot of importance on: Tipping.*

*And it was one of the first topics I really wanted to write about on this blog. I even promised it more than once near the beginning on this blog with no delivery. Until now. Better late than never? Decide for yourself.

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This isn’t really meant to be a large scale debate about the validity of tips in your international country. Just kind of an overview and my opinions regarding being a good tipper. As a side note I’m writing from a perspective of a service worker and I know that is a little biased. Okay a lot biased. But still it doesn’t make what I say incorrect.

A quick synopsis thanks to Reservoir Dogs (Caution NSFW language):

A couple of points to consider before we discuss further:

In the United States, employees who are tipped can be (and frequently are) paid less than minimum wage. When you go out to a restaurant, it is basically social obligation to tip. (The amount is a point of contention but we’ll get to that here in a moment.)

There are such things as good servers and bad servers. And if you’ve read my previous post (Garcon), you know that the job is being made increasingly redundant so it is easier to pass on these so called “unskilled labor” positions to a new workforce due to the relatively high turnover in the industry. There are also many things that are not in the control of the server. They act as the liaison between the customer (you) and the establishment (kitchen).* Throughout this constant interaction, this play back and forth, they have to strive to strike a remarkable balance of friendliness, time management, efficiency, and accuracy. It doesn’t always go as planned. (Team efforts and all that.)

*I really didn’t think about this before but maybe that is why I have felt pretty comfortable in my new position. My job is generally to act as the intermediary between the company’s requirements and what is provided by the end customer. Going a step further, my position also lies somewhere in the middle of the different departments (inbound, correspondence, processing, client facing) having a good amount of interaction with each, attempting to satisfy the requirements of one or the other and helping route items to where they need to go. On an even larger picture, the company I work for is a transfer agency that serves the mutual fund companies acting as the intermediary between the customers (you and me) and the establishment (bank and company). What is the term when you have just blown your own mind? “Cobain-ed?” **

There are also such things as good and bad customers (that is you). Customer moods can be dependent on a lot of things and some of those things are in the control of the restaurant. For example, I would wager you see a lot fewer drunk people falling asleep over their food at Morton’s Steakhouse than say, Waffle House. That is in the control of the restaurant, Morton’s isn’t open 24 hours a day and given the price range and locales (generally in downtown upscale urban locations) they can have a bit of say about what customers walk through the door. Other things are directly under the control of the customer. Maybe you’re in a bad mood. Maybe you’re celebrating a crowning achievement or trying to impress a date.*** Maybe you’re out to ruin someone else’s day because you have led a miserable life and your husband drinks a lot and hits on the chesty bartender and your kids are spoiled and your dog is overweight and when the server tells you they are out of the fish for one reason or another, you are so ready to snap and you lay into him thick.****

**That is a really terrible joke and I apologize.

***Let us make a pact, not to date people who are mean to servers. Especially on a first date. Something tells me that isn’t going to go well in the long run.

****Country Clubs are fun places to work.

A sidenote about tipshare:
Tipshare is also known as pooling tips. This refers to what happens to the tips at the end of the shift. Places that pool tips put all the tips gained into the middle and parse it out from there. Then there are places that place a certain amount out to the people that help out the server (10% bussers, 15% bartender, 10% hostess, etc). Finally there are places that don’t tipshare at all, where everything that you pick up is your own. This is an establishment by establishment policy that generally is not explicitly stated. It can also be a reflection of the culture of that restaurant and depends on the size of the staff and how the shifts are sorted. Obviously larger places generally have some sort of tipshare, (team efforts and all that.)  Those little diners where the server is doing pretty much everything, they generally keep all the tips.

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Okay, I’m going to give it to you straight up, no chaser*. I start at 20% of the total bill when tipping and use that as the line.

-If the server is great, my needs were met and you were courteous and professional, you will bump up from there. (Ceiling is 30%)
-If the server is was unavailable, unprofessional, or rude/discourteous, it obviously scales down. (Floor is 10%)
-If just drinking, $1 a drink straight up, bonus if I’m treated like a human being.**

*Also the name of a rather successful a capella ensemble. Check them out here. And my favourite song (not particularly in season but still: Christmas Can Can)

**If you’ve ever been to a bar or a nightclub when it is busy you know what I mean. Bartender is under a lot of stress and there are many people to his/her one person. Professional tip? Cash or Card in hand (preferrably cash), look directly at the bartender until you catch his/her eye (don’t look away/frustrated). Lean in a bit and speak clearly when ordering and know what your drink is before you order. Don’t expect a timely second round if you get the bartender’s attention and then spend the next three minutes discussing with your buddy what kind of wicked shots you want or what options are on your margartia/martini.***

***Does not apply if you’re drinking scotch. Cause apparently anyone discussing/drinking scotch is either classy as hell or a horrendous hipster of the highest order. I wouldn’t know much about either.

Things that you should not discount the tip for:
-It is super busy and your food took a long time to get to you.
-Your food not being made to order.
-You are having a crappy day.
-You have no more money (In this situation, do not go out to eat/drink. You are a terrible person for doing so. Get $5 off the dollar menu at your favourite fast food joint and eat it at home where you pat yourself on the back for how awesome you are for not being a total asshole and not tipping a server at some restaurant.)

Things that you should discount for:
-The waiter gives you incorrect information regarding the menu (i.e. “Yeah we can totally add grilled jalepenos to your teriyaki salmon and then put it all on top of a side of mac and cheese for no additional cost” and then 5 minutes later “Yeaaaaah, we can’t really do any of that and we’re out of cheese”.)
-You are given something you didn’t order.****
-The server didn’t come by to ask if you need anything else/refill your drinks (3 is the magic number for drink refill requests)
****Okay there is a line here between this and the second item on the first list “Your food not being made to order”. In the first situation, the food was ordered correctly and given to the kitchen who messed it up. The server apologizes and asks to fix it for you (and maybe brings you a scoop of ice cream on the house). In the second scenario, you ordered a medium rare and the server places it front of you saying, here is your well done steak. This is the error of the server and he/she should be held accountable. 
Also note that you should also leave a tip for your hotel housekeepers. Not a whole lot, a couple of bucks a day unless you made a huge mess/pissed your sheets (Jared) then a five spot is appropriate. This helps ensure your room gets an extra touch. But remember to leave a note and make it clear you are leaving a tip, otherwise, the housekeepers are legally required to leave it alone.

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In closing, I do agree with Mr. Pink in the above clip. I would fully support any measure that would bring servers’ wages to meet the minimum wage. I think this will bring more labor in the industry which should improve the overall skill and general experience when working at a restaurant. While I do believe that money is a terrific incentive and that trying to earn the highest amount of tips based on good work ethic, skill, and personality is a noble cause*, not enough people in the industry are striving for that level of excellence and instead are relying on social obligation to help them pay their bills. Until something is done, however, I’m going to stick with my rule and that way I can sleep more comfortably at night.

*Shout out to David Hayden, author of Tips2: Tips for Improving Your Tips. He is a terrific server, really knows his stuff. For those up and coming waiters, this is not a bad resource to improve your skills, especially if you plan on being a lifer in the industry.

Thanks to Cracked.com for the assist on this post. Read one my sources here and check out this handy infographic on treating waiters like human beings. Alright, now you should be able to go out and act like a decent human being yourself.

Thanks so much again for following along for my first year. I will work to deliver more content to you here in the coming months, again I hope you’ll tell your friends, share a post if you like it, comment if you feel like it. Until next time, space cowboys.

In Training

I have been very fortunate to complete another half marathon just a couple of weekends ago. The Hospital Hill Half Marathon went very well, the weather in particular was very cooperative, cool and dry all morning. I was only a couple of minutes off my personal best and given the course (very hilly) I think it was one of the better races that I have ever run. Now before you nod your head gravely and say “I could never do that”, know that you can.* Also I didn’t train quite so vigorously for this race as for previous races just due to general apathy and a bit of exhaustion due to the busy race schedule I set for myself. It does bring up an interesting point on training, however.

Finish Line with PJ @ Hospital Hill

*And I think everyone should complete a half marathon**. One of those “accomplish able goals that will still change your life” type things. If you really think about it, the race isn’t really about the distance as much as the mentality. What better encapsulation of the human spirit that the drive to will yourself through? 

**In a similar vein, everyone should spend a couple of months in the service industry and/or retail. This one is a general one, so people stop being horrible to those respective industries. I mean really. It is not easy. Call centers on the other hand, I don’t wish that upon many people at all. 

Running much more than other things that I have participated in makes very clear the distinction between those who have trained and those who have not. For me it very clearly draws the line when it comes down to a race. I’ll be laboring 7 or 8 miles into the race and wishing I had done a better job preparing myself. Like a test. Unfortunately I’ve found in the corporate world, every day there may be a pop test. But fortunately my current employer is stunningly forgiving and very willing to invest in its assets (like yours truly).

So as the buzz and bustle of tax season rolls into the lull of summer and many financial representatives sneak off for a couple of weeks, it gives our business some moments to reassess assets and evaluate skills. For my corporation, it lends an opportunity to rearrange management and provide annual reviews. Given this general “less than hellishly-busy” schedule, I have been given instructions to bone up on some auxiliary skills that will help me move forward both personally and professionally. We have a rather robust learning management system with classes that appear to be bought from some outside vendor. Classic titles such as:

Taking a Leadership Role: Gaining and Using Influence
Communicating with Tact and Diplomacy
Financial Markets: An Overview

I think it is important to have a set plan for downtime in the workplace. People are generally not going to pay you on the clock to watch silly youtube videos or update your facebook profile.*** So I’ve had the opportunity to take these classes, all structured very similarly, to try to pick up tips and expand on a transcript that will eventually help me move forward (I hope). Would imagine that this sort of secondary training is probably a million dollar industry in itself. Just getting through bullpen would cost the company several thousand dollars I’m sure, but as these other online classes (in tidy 1-4 hour increments) are made available company-wide would imagine that figure ballooning to something around a million dollars or so. In most of these cases, I think it is clear that certain traits can be practiced but there is such thing as a natural speaker or a natural leader. In the corporate environment (as far I have experienced and studied) these natural advantages mean a lot more. More simply put “it is not what you know, it is who you know” and in many cases, it is how well you know yourself.

***Or following European Championships. Where the English national team may surprisingly sneak into the semi-finals under the least expectations in decades. Also I think all outside observers and neutral fans hope to see a rematch of the Euro 2008 final between Germany and Spain. I actually think everyone would enjoy that match. The Spanish riding out a terrific golden age hoping to add another trophy to the collection and a young and very fun German side that looks set to dominate the next decade in international soccer. Not that I’m following the tournament at work too closely…

This is where I’m trying to find my footing. Due to a strong start with my team, I received a very nice “annual” review but ultimately led to the question: “what do you see yourself doing later on in your career/for this company?” And I was (surprisingly for some) left without a good reply. I am quite sure the next step is to take advantage of company incentives for continuing education (MBA) and then figure out how to leverage that degree and the accumulating experience to springboard into…

…something I suppose. There are a myriad of opportunities not only within my own company but with the ties with our parent company as well. And while it may seem increasingly unlikely I will land that fantasy job**** there still is a strong possibility to land a dream job if I could settle on what exactly it is I want to do.

****test subject in a study of the ability for mid-20 Asian-American males to count tourists on the beaches of Australia whilst intoxicated.

On a more casual note, I am also going to take advantage of a respite in my racing schedule (maybe for the rest of the year) to level up on some video games. Though of a more immediate nature, I will actually be taking a little time off for vacation. Think it is going to be brilliant as it has been a decade since I’ve been to California.

I’ll leave you with a really fun commercial I saw recently for Nike running, see you later, space cowboys.

Why I Love the Theater

At the beginning of the month was a pretty special movie day on May 4th. Happy Star Wars Day!! May the 4th Be With You! I was a huge Star Wars fan for a long time, though now that I think back to it, I’m not sure who it was that first showed it to me. I think I have the original trilogy on VHS somewhere.* Though I was enamored for what I would say is the better part of two decades. One very distinct memories I have was once I found a Yoda action figure which was super rare in my eyes and couldn’t decide for the longest time whether to borrow money to buy it or not (ended up getting it of course). And many, many hours reading all sorts of Star Wars novels (to this day my favourites were the Thrawn trilogy, Tales of the Mos Eisley Cantina, and Tales of the Bounty Hunters. I think it generally gave me an appreciation for storytelling and fantasy and lightsabers. Then the prequels came out…

As a fun aside, I pulled this from a friend’s facebook wall, about what order to watch all the movies in case you felt like having a Star Wars marathon. Star Wars Suggested Viewing Order. It is fantastic minus the author’s hatred for podracing. I really enjoyed podracing.

*For the children, VHS is to DVD, what cassettes are to CDs, what CDs are to iPods.

In honor of  such a special occasion, I would like to take a moment and tell you why I love movies.

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Let’s start with the basics. There is an inherent beauty in storytelling. It is central to the formation of culture and the preservation of ideals. It allows us to pass down our morals and values to future generations and pass them down in a way that is largely entertaining. Why early cultures began drawing to leave a history, then the development of pictures (which was awesome) and then finally with moving pictures(also awesome). Combine a rich oral history with moving pictures to help illustrate a story or an idea and BAM! movie.

Okay bad news first. We have so many movies now. Technology has made it very, very easy to make a movie. Anyone can do it. And we all waste a lot of time on movies. Far too much time. There is a multi-billion dollar industry that supports the creation and sale of movies. Whole careers are made for appearing in movies, writing scripts, or holding a boom microphone.** There are a lot of movies out there that don’t tell a significant story. Just garbage. Then there are movies that tell a good story badly. A lot of pressure apparently in making and editing movies. Even a whole dirty system around rating movies. We also place far too much importance on the actors and actresses and directors. That in itself created a multimillion dollar industry of media coverage and random photographers and reporters following these people every which way and even more that are set up as “legitimate” that are used to leverage these faces to push movies out to you.

**And good for them. There are something like 7 billion people in the world and there aren’t enough jobs out there. Even critics.***

On the good side, movies can tell a wonderful story, wonderfully. They can be timeless. Every time I watch Casablanca, Bergman and Bogart never grow older. The piano sounds the same, cigarettes are still smoked in that careless manner every single time, every blink and line captured and delivered as it was when made and always will be. And there is comfort to that familiarity. Like how if given a choice, students who pick their seats will likely sit in the same seat every single day of that semester. Along with that familiarity there is that tie in, that any generation, at any time of day will see the exact same thing that you see. Experience will be different obviously, but the elements will be the same, every time. It is something almost magical in quality that you can share over and over with all sorts of people.

***Okay here is my “little” rant on critics. There is too much information out there. No one person will ever know everything about everything. With the internet and various ways in which we can almost instantaneously generate information or find information or get  bombarded by information, it is no wonder we can get a bit lost when deciding on a restaurant or a movie or a pair of underpants. So we have “media mavens” people who we follow who help dictate where we shop, what we eat, and generally how we go about our lives. The important part to note is that advertisers put these people in the spotlight for us to follow. Take someone who is successful or beautiful and put them in the spotlight to push your hair product or skin product. For every different group, a host of different mavens to cater for one product or another.

Then there are critics. These people write reviews of different things so that we get an idea of them without having to actually experience them or give a general synopsis to help us, the other consumers, make a more educated decision. Now ideologically, I despise critics. Their jobs do have the ability to create an industry and launch a brand or destroy a reputation with just a couple of keystrokes. That in itself is alright if it was all in good intention and people are fairly judged. Critics are people like you or I and as such they are extremely vulnerable to bias and bribery. Many are drunk on this perverted sort of power and have some sort of ideal of self worth that comes generally with little actual information about creation themselves. My advice? Find your niche critics and use them to help you determine what to watch or eat. You should not ask an equestrian about glue the same way you should not ask Robert Butler about “big Hollywood turkeys”  the same way you would not ask a teenage girl about anything (really). I feel like inherently, you know what you’re going to like, so seek out the “mavens” and critics that cater to those ideals and you’re all set. Best summed up this way:

 

I love movies because movies can take you somewhere you have never been. Somewhere that never exists and probably will never exist. Movies will show you something unlikely, improbable, or impossible. For just a little while, anywhere from half an hour to three hours a story, you can be whisked away to someplace magical, join some wild adventure, or fall in love. If you go to the theater and you’re sitting in a packed house and the lights dim and the screen lights up with the opening credits and the hush falls over the crowd, that moment is truly special. You are all about to go on this little journey together, for better or worse.**** I even appreciate the box office. Well that’s not 100% accurate. I don’t like the sweaty teenagers or slightly older, generally more jaded employees who man the booth. I like the process, standing in a queue, looking up at the board with all the movies and corresponding times, I like the little machine that spits out tickets. I like speaking to a person through glass that is likely not a criminal. All very nice.

****With popcorn! Movie theater popcorn is one of the best foods ever. Salty and part soft, part crunchy, buttery. It is simply an indulgence, a luxury that is not quite replicated anywhere else.  

In conclusion:

So there is a big row between Big Hollywood and the Internet, ticket prices are only going up and so are concessions. Millions of dollars are lost due to pirating and illegal distribution. At the same time, box office records are falling left and right. Creative people are everywhere expressing stories in a multitude of ways using all the different mediums we have available. As for me, there are few things quite so indulgent as a couple of hours spent at the movies. We know the stories by now, we want to see actors and actresses show us something we’ve seen before performed in a way that we have never even imagined. Whether your taste in genre be different from mine or you fancy political documentaries or you frequent small art house theaters, I think collectively we can agree, the shows will go on.