Leader vs Manager

Today’s post will be short. It’s about your aspiration.

If you aspire to be a manager, be ready to climb the ladder. It could be a short ladder (if you start with a small company,) but the ladder’s length is proportionate to the size of the organization. Manager is about ranking, and ranking by definition, requires tenure. You put your time and effort in, long enough, hard enough, and hopefully you can become a manager (before the next guy, or better than the next guy, or before a better guy comes along.)

Leader, on the other hand, is instantaneous. The moment you (or really, I) grow a pair of balls and decide to be one, I become a leader. Manager requires permission. Leader requires balls.

Whichever one comes easier for you (and I.)

The (other) reason you went to college

An addendum to my original conclusions of why you (and I) went to college.

If someone told us that instead of going to business school, read these books. As you read these books, start your ventures and connect with people. Get together, start something, tell people about it, fail, do it again. That’s pretty much it. Actually, that’s better than just going to business school alone.

But probably 1% of us would actually succeed this way. The other reason we went to college is because we are terrible at being disciplined on our own. If there isn’t a class at 8:30 on Monday, we would be watching movies/partying on Sunday night. We went to college because we need the environment, we need someone to tell us what to do (textbooks), when to do it (attendance), and how to do it (grades and exams).

Ironically, this is the truth with everything else in life.  Take bodybuiding for example. Someone else has already figured out the way to success in bodybuilding: increase poundage with strict form. The path is simple (but not easy): pick the 5 or 6 best compound exercises, work hard at them with strict form and ever increasing the weights. Eat, sleep, rest plenty. That’s it. Someone figured this out decades ago. Yet, how many more workout programs, diet plans are popping up now and then. How many people actually stick to the simple path themselves, without having to join weight watcher programs, then rejoin and rejoin again?

The extension of lacking discipline is that we don’t tolerate uncertainty very well. We need approval and assurance. The idea of reading some books and trying to start a business right away seem too simple (but not easy.) We need entrepreneurial classes, world-class simulation studies, and Ph.Ds with credentials to judge us. Even more ironic, to be entrepreneurial is to be able to tolerate massive amount of uncertainty.

There you have it: lack of discipline and intolerance of uncertainty.

Running like A Business

If your department tells you that it’s running like a business (I’m talking to you, unionized workplaces), then you should ask your boss the following things:

  • How do we measure success?
  • Who is the highest performer in the department?
  • Who is the lowest performer in the department?
  • Who is the best salesperson? Does this person get more rewards than the less-than-best salesperson?
  • What happens to the lowest performers that don’t improve?
  • What do we do to measure customer satisfaction? (customer can be students, alumni, donors. Anything!)

If your boss can’t answer any of these questions, or gives you a funny answer, the department ISN’T running like a business. Most people think they are productive and have high emotional IQ – even though most of them aren’t. Similarly, some (unionized) workplaces proudly claim that they work like a business, and almost all of them don’t.

The real danger is when a department THINKS it runs like a business but doesn’t actually ACT so.

The place where I used to work: some people had flexible times. They could come in anytime without getting into trouble. But some other people didn’t get flexible times. And the people who got “royal treatment” weren’t the ones performing. Bad morale, and really bad satisfaction. There were no metrics to measure anything: sales, customer counts, customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction and productivity. Nothing. Yet it was running like a business. If it were, it would have been bankrupt long ago…

Presentation Zen Before & After

This is my first presentation ever – for my first college course ever – Bus 100. Introduction to Business. This is the classic death by powerpoint boredom (If I had known back then! I thought it was a pretty good one… NOT!!!)

[scribd id=38289236 key=key-tjqjeti8scnkrrwow53 mode=list]

Then 2 years ago. This was bus 227 – Entrepreneurship. Much much improvements though could use more of visual aids

[scribd id=38290013 key=key-11dnz7r0ryrdy8go1wel mode=list]

And now, not too long ago I wrote a presentation that mirrored the famous “Death by Powerpoint“. Not much of an original, but a lot up to par with what presentations should be like nowadays.

[scribd id=38290193 key=key-2g948hmyigxcmqpcfmmq mode=list]

What’s next? Watch for my first Prezi presentation soon.

BASA Nominations Fall 2010

My favourite on-campus association, BASA is open for nominations. It’s an all brand new, risen from ash come-back. And it’s driven to make a difference. I’m thrilled because I believe that it has found the right people and doing things for the right reasons. Check out the details of the nominations here: http://ufvbasa.com/2010/09/basa-nominations-fall-2010/

It’s certainly not for everyone. It is for you, if you bring fresh ideas and an open mind. It isn’t, if you think in terms of what’s not possible.

Take your side. Even then, you can always choose to be open-minded right?

Asian Kids and the Confidence Factor

I’m letting out a secret today. Some people will hate me for this. Some will take the opposite position and defend it to death,  while others will say I am stereotyping. Maybe. I don’t have the stats on this (do you know where I can find it? If not, they seriously should conduct a study!)

Generally speaking, Asian kids have less confidence in themselves. We feel inferior, a lot! There, I said it. I’m fully prepared to take your criticisms as well as constructive comments :)

I should clarify though. I don’t mean all Asian kids. If you are of Asian descendance but born in Canada, US or Europe, then I don’t mean you (and hopefully I’m right). I meant kids like myself who grew up in Asia (like Vietnam.) There are exceptions of course. Broadly speaking though, I’m willing to bet that statistically, Asian kids have lower confidence scores than our counterparts. Here are some reasons I think causing this:

1. Cultural Belief. We are raised under the understanding that the world is a dangerous and cruel place where everyone will take advantage of you if it’s beneficial to them. Therefore, our parents do their best to tell us that we don’t know how evil the world is, that we need to be cautious with everyone and that every good opportunity is likely a trap, that every step we take forward can be wrong and detrimental.In short, we don’t know anything about anything. This ties into no. 2

2. Education. What our teachers teach us are mighty and must be true. One of my teachers used to say: if we took a different approach to a problem, even if it came to the right answer, it still deserved a zero. We go home and our parents say: Listen to your teachers and don’t talk back. Always. Even if we knew they are wrong, accept it anyway! So what’s the result? We take in information, memorize it and agonize not to forget. Because if we do forget, then we have to come up with our own thinking, which may not be the same with that we are taught. Which is wrong.

3. Social Comparison. There is immense pressure upon us from our parents, relatives, neighbours to succeed. We are constantly bombarded with news about this kid down the block just scored a prestigious job at a prominent bank, or that kid next door who just got a all-expenses-paid scholarship to the-big-college. And our closest people say to us “be that guy. Study harder. Do more”. And when we don’t… In short, we can’t fail. In fact, sometimes, it’s better that we don’t succeed as opposed to risk failing.

I know this first hand. I’ve been converted (somewhat) though. More confident than before definitely. And now, seeing the new students coming from Vietnam, I can see myself 5 years ago through them. An invisible voice in their head just keeps telling them that they are “not good enough.”

What’s funny is that, the only way to fix this is to be more confident.

The Net is Still About Them. But That’s About to Change

Here’s one of my “daydream” moments. It’s about the internet and how we use it.

The internet is fantastic. I say it is the most important invention of mankind. It has changed lives (and will continue to), it is attracting billions of dollars in investments (ask Tim Ferriss, Guy Kawasaki, Seth Godin, or any tech savvy entrepreneur and investor.) It’s social, it’s connecting people and everything. But it’s still about “them”. It’s still about the CREATORS of the internet, and not (yet) about the USERS of the internet.

Imagine this. You want to get onto Facebook, because your college friends all use it to share drunk pictures. Unfortunately, you are from Vietnam (like me) and the government blocks Facebook. So all your Vietnamese friends spend their time on Yahoo Pulse (god I’m so grateful that my Canadian friends don’t use Yahoo Pulse, it would be a painful switch!) But I digressed. So your Vietnamese friends use Yahoo Pulse, so you create another account with Yahoo Pulse. And then your other friends use Friendster, Hi5, etc. In the end though, it is YOU that your friends want to connect with. Why can’t there be 1 social network (aka Facebook) that everyone use? We have got only 1 Earth to share. Why not share 1 social network?

If my point is still not clear, I hope this will do the job.

Picture this. You are browsing through cute cats and funny babies videos on YouTube. You see a funny video and “favorite” it. Then your friend email you a link to another video. Unfortunately, this friend is tech savvy enough that he uses Vimeo. You see the video and like it so much that you also “favorite” it. Your other friend is on DailyMotion, your grandmother is on Yahoo Video (man isn’t she behind the pace of the web?!)

Over the years, you will have accumulated a list of “favorite” videos on each of these video sharing sites and here’s the question:

Today, you are so bored after reading my blog post that you just want to watch a “favorite” video of yours. You don’t care which website, you just want a list of ALL videos you have “favorite” over the years…

It’s impossible. As of now!

In the end, the net has to be about ME. I don’t care which networks I am on. I want to be able to see ALL of my friends in the world. I wanna listen to my favorite music regardless of which music streaming sites I am on. For now though, I have to keep a playlist at each site!

This is why switching cost is so high. You have to rebuild your playlist (the songs may not even be available on some sites), you have to rebuild your contact lists (from your old email address), etc. If any industry should have little or no switching cost, it has to be the internet. But the switching cost is still high as hell. Too much in the case of my Facebook profile. And yours too I’m guessing.

There are development that are helping with this though. Yahoo Pulse lets you log in using your Facebook credential. Or Blogger lets you use Google account to log in. OpenID attempts to create 1 address for you, so you can sign in to different websites with 1 address.

Even though it is still relatively unknown because each website has to adopt the OpenID technology for it to work, it should be the way the internet works.

Google Ranking Anyone?

I admit it. I google my name once in a while. My Facebook profile used to come up one the first page. Now? My Twitter profile. Fourth on the list :) Who said Twitter is useless? Now what that means is that I’d better revamp the Twitter page for my job search, as it would be the first thing potential employers see. Hmm. Who would have thought even 2 years ago?

Happy tweeting!

The Push and Pull Ways of Education

Do you know the meaning of the term “rote”? Me neither. Last week, Andy told me about it. I have done it for about… 11 years but never knew the proper term for it. It’s “learning by memorization.” Ahhh, I used to be so good at this (now, I can still get by, but I’m getting rusty!)

It makes me think about the ways of the Education. To use a technology term, there are the “Push” and the “Pull” ways of learning.

“Rote” learning is Push. Gobs of information are stuffed into students’ heads and the only way to get a decent mark is to memorize it. Lessons are pushed down. And you guessed it, Asian countries (like mine) are known for learning by memorization. I did it for 11 years, sloppily though. I barely remember much now. Everything just blurred together. When I hear of something these days, I have a feeling that I MIGHT have learned it before but simply can’t recall if I have. This is the mechanical way of learning. The rather not so creative. Facts, figures, stuff like that. If you asked an Asian kid when World War II broke out, if he’s been studious (which is very likely) he can probably tell you. But if you asked him WHY World War II, he wouldn’t have a clue – I still don’t – Wikipedia it.

And then there is the Pull. This is more associated with Western education. In the Pull education, students are encouraged to reach out and grab the information that they need and make critical thinking. That’s why I call it “Pull” education. It’s creativity, problem-solving and thinking outside the box. It’s what Sir Ken Robinson’s advocating for. His speech at TED about how School Kills Creativity is fantastic by the way.

We’re facing with quite some issues lately. The Oil Spills (yep, more than 1 actually – which is surprisingly getting away from media attention,) US spiraling state of economy, natural disasters, and then people die from just plain silly competitions.

Can these problems be solved with the “What I tell you is true and all you can (and should) do is just to remember what I say” way of learning?

Sir Ken Robinson said in his video that 60 years from now, no one will know what the future looks like. The truth is, we have no idea how any of these issues will impact us tomorrow, not to mention 60 years on. But he does have the solution that I agree with. We need more of the right brain thinking to save the world. Not just for the creativity, but we need “emotional right brain thinking” to be more humane in our quest of making money and corporate profiting to save us.