Leaving it behind

The “it” in this title is university, which although might sound negative, is nothing further the truth. It’s really just a reflection and Femi and Amesrecollection of the moments that made university life so frustrating and rewarding at the same time.

Not really knowing too many people at convocation (Hey Amelie!) which seemed to be common chatter for many other people made for an interesting graduation day. None of my university friends were present and I was more likely to notice the random guy in Media Industries than anything else. Furthermore, being one of three grads of the Honours Bachelor of Public Relations, and the FIRST (insert applause) from the Algonquin College to University of Ottawa side of the program, the other two were from La Cite, I was really on my own. But you come for the gown, the cheers from the family, and the poses with a piece of paper that cost way too much money.

As a graduate, the obvious unavoidable question you get repeatedly is what are you doing next. I told those who asked about things that were in the works, such as a start-up offer and an interview at a company, but mainly was thinking about the guidance I got from one of the recent books I read.

Books adding to perspective 

A small book entitled “You are Born an Original don’t die a Copy”. It provided me with a level of comfort and guidance in my approach to what’s next to come in my career.

I’ve always liked being aware of what others around me are doing, but try not to envy. This point is further expanded in the book. The book is divided into sections called “nuggets”. The title of this nugget is “If You’re Ripe With Envy You’re Ripe For Problems”. This book is full of quotable material and two of the many I like in this section are:

Some people seem to know how to live everyone’s lives but their own. Envy is the consuming desire to have everyone else a little successful than you are. Don’t measure your success by what other’s haven’t done. 

and

Don’t envy anybody. Every person possesses something no one else has. Develop that one thing and make it outstanding.

Self-help sounds and feels good. It’s fuzzy and gives us that warm feeling. But this was different because this type of self-help was good in the fact it already reinforced my approach, allowing me to believe in what I felt was a positive approach for myself. Everyone has a unique path and looking around at my peer group, with some people married, in long-term relationships or in South East Asia, you see this. But to reach your potential, you have to do what you do, do it well and follow that path wherever that may take you.

Toronto here I come

After spending my living and schooling years in Ottawa  it’s time to make a move to the big city. It’s funny how some people think I’m from Toronto because how much I talk and visit the city. But it’s a pure career move, as job prospect wise it makes sense. Things at the Government where I have four years experience are not looking good. As well,  I come from the camp where Ottawa and Toronto are both fabulous cities but I’ve been aiming for Toronto for a while, as there is a reason I escaped to TO as often as I did, to destroy my wallet in the process, so hopefully in time I’ll find what I’m looking for to experience more rewarding and undoubtedly, but not hopefully, frustrating times.

Thoughts on Blink, learning from Gladwell

I did it. By finishing the book "Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell yesterday, I am now done all of the Canadian author’s fourblink1 books (The Tipping Point, Outliers, and What the Dog Saw being the others ). All of them were entertaining reads although Blink, the #2 book in the quartet, was probably the least enjoyable of them for me.

Blink’s main message is whether it is better for us to rely on our instincts when making decisions or whether studying a situation for a long time, then making a decision is a better idea. Gladwell, as he does so successfully in all of his books, is able to sway your opinion to the former being true and throughout the book he points to examples as to why this is the case. One striking example in the book Gladwell uses is the real story of a group of 4 police officers in New York City and their misjudgement of a “criminal” who they shot  at 41 times to death. The “criminal” was merely an innocent civilian. Gladwell goes on to argue that if the officers had studied the situation better, particularly his face, which would allow them to read his mind, they would have seen the man as not a threat, and would not have made the decision to kill an unarmed man in cold blood.

This was the most fascinating part of Blink. Some other parts of it gets repetitive at times. Perhaps this is because I was so used to Gladwell’s writing style. Nevertheless Blink sticks true to what is typical of a Gladwell book by being  thoroughly researched, thought provoking, with a great, tight narrative.

So with that said, and now having read all of Gladwell’s books (thus far), what you come away with from this quartet of books is the common themes of very interesting social experiments, stories, and case studies that allows you access into a deeper understanding of the people, situations, and world that we find ourselves in. It is fascinating how oftentimes we tend to view things as completely open and shut, but through Gladwell’s books he continues to refute this notion showing that , in fact, there is really another way(s) of approaching things. For me, who has a strong interest in research, building relationships, and being a part of my community, my interest in the books was constantly piqued. I couldn’t put any of them down while reading them mostly on the commute to work. I’m glad a friend of mine, who was chided by his boss to read more, has taken that challenge and recently started Outliers. He is in for a treat.

Meeting with the DM

Yesterday, I was invited along with a number other students, to meet the Deputy Minister (DM) of my department which I work in, at the government. Should have tweeted it out that I was attending. Got lazy. Anyways, the meeting with the DM was an informal discussion. He was dead panning throughout the one hour chat, sharing with us in broad strokes what the department/government is all about, while we as students brought to him our myriad of concerns, in the form of questions.

Most of the questions posed to the DM were predictable. “What do you think about the Canadian government downsizing the size of the government and its employees?”, “How can we make the federal government more efficient”, and “I was in line for a job and didn’t get it. What’s the best way to force my manager to hire me?”. Ok the last one was a little exaggerated but it was something along those lines. As I sat 4 rows back from the DM, I was thinking of these all valid, thoughtful questions. But here is one statement I would have posted to my fellow colleagues to quell all their fears:

“You have all the skills right now to make yourself a valuable employee to the federal service or anywhere for that matter. Trust in them and grow with them.”

Quite frank, I know, but not totally out of the blue if you care to follow.

When you look at the current trends, high unemployment rates in Canada, U.S. ,and across the world, the rise in term/contract work, apparently in teaching profession in particular, according to the DM, and the desire to hire experienced (I’ve seen a lot of PR postings requiring 5+ years experience in my little job search) your pointed in this direction of the this job reality. Yes, ideally, you want a full-time job in the government or elsewhere. But what happens if it doesn’t come? What happens after your finishing masters program, there isn’t a position? Or after your student contract, they look elsewhere and hire another candidate? Well, what happens is you have fall back on your skills, your area of expertise, probably from your subject of area of study in school, that you’ve invested so much time into, to be your fall-back plan or number one option.

Today’s job market is extremely competitive. I remember being younger and applying to jobs and getting many call-backs. Not anymore. When observing my peers, I don’t run into many of them who aren’t thinking about adding a masters program, MBA, or other courses to push them ahead of the pack. This is the new reality for the next generation of workforce in Canada, both in the government and private sector, where the masters is the minimal requirement. Happy trails Bachelor of Arts!

Does this route guarantee employment right away? Of course not, but it is a trend worth noting so you aren’t caught in an unemployment situation. That is why this blog, as an outlet for my thoughts, ideas, and writing is so important. Prospective employers are always looking to what gives you an edge, and why you as an individual would be an important addition to the team.  For me I think that’s my personality as well as my skills/knowledge I have in my writing, investing, researching in the world around me. Whatever your passion is, putting time into it has the potential to create greater opportunity for yourself down the line. It’s never a waste of time. Something I which is much better than waiting on that job which may or may not come through.

Getting A Little Bit Better Everyday

When watching professional sports there are a variety of feelings that one can see clearly when watching your favourite team throughout the season. They can be simplified in three categories: joy when your team wins, anger when they lose, or pride when they give it their all but come up short. One feeling, a lot subtler than those three, which I love seeing in sports is inspiration. This week I found no better example of inspiration than that from the new coach , Paul MacLean aka the man with the killer moustache , of my hometown NHL team, the Ottawa Senators.

We had a rough season in Ottawa in terms of  Senators hockey. No playoffs. At one point during the 82 game season we were the worst team in the NHL, before coming to a “positive” finish of 5th last in the league. But there’s always another season in pro sports, and with that comes change. We traded a lot of our  veteran players on the team, and fired our head coach. Insert MacLean, to take control of the team. He had this gem of a quote I picked out from his introductory press conference to the media on Tuesday:

paul maclean

“Were just going to get a little bit better each day”

Those words just stuck to me. Yes, it’s a coach saying all the right things to try and get himself acclimatized to a passionate fan base in a highly competitive league. However, it made me look in one area where I strive to get a little better in everyday: reading.

Reading

Everyday, as part of my morning routine, I read the local paper as well as the what is closest to Canada’s national daily (The Globe and Mail) to soak up what’s going on in the local/national environment. As well, I read a book on the commute into work (Malcolm Gladwell’s third book, Outliers is my book of choice right now). Throw in some investing and business reading from online websites, as well as Canadian Business magazine and I’m done in this department. When you break it down that’s a lot of reading and it keeps me learning of what’s going on around me in the world.

As well, reading is something that enhances other areas such as your comprehension skills, vocabulary, and writing one of the key skills in the PR professionals toolbox, and one I’m working hard to develop, both professionally and creatively. Not to mention it’s fun getting lost in another writer’s thoughts, which in turn is usually intellectually stimulating.  Especially on warm summer days.

What do you do to get a little better everyday?

Book Review: The Tipping Point + Why I love Malcolm Gladwell

I just recently devoured author Malcolm Gladwell’s first book “The Tipping Point” (2000) and now I am one third of thetipping_point way through his latest book “What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures” (2009), leaving his two other books, untouched for now, and noticed we have 3 things in common. Firstly, we are both Canadian. Secondly, we both have Nigerian roots. Thirdly, but hardly the least most important is we are both writers. Me on this blog and an possible e-book (if I can get off my butt and make it happen) and him and his aforementioned 4 books, as well as a distinguished career as a journalist at The New Yorker. That’s a lot to like, but I rather just say love, because after reading The Tipping Point, you can’t come away not loving the book, as well as Gladwell. He is an amazing writer.

Whether you have heard of the term “tipping point” before or not it doesn’t matter. Gladwell explains the concept really simply, something that he is able to do with everything we encounter in The Tipping Point. What Gladwell looks at are social epidemics are things which start off small and but spread extremely quickly, through word of mouth, that they “tip”. Examples of social epidemics that Gladwell references in the book, are Paul Revere and his midnight ride to warn Americans of the incoming British invasion in the late 18th century (American Revolution), the rise of Hush Puppies as a fashion trend, and the spread of sexual transmitted diseases in Colorado Springs.

Gladwell continues by pointing us in the direction of three special personality types he wishes to highlight: “Connectors”, “Salespeople”, and “Mavens” and their influence in making social epidemics tip. These people are elite activists in what their name description implies, really exceptional people (as you will read in the book), that are able to help social epidemics reach the masses as well as direct people to information. Gladwell also talks about “The Stickiness Factor” which helps to show why Sesame Street was so successful. In the case of Sesame Street, Gladwell talks of the way in which in the early days of the show, the 1960s, the creators tested children’s attention spans. What they did was have a slide show which ran random slides such as a rainbow  or a leaf floating through ripples of water, every 7 seconds. Then, children would be brought into a viewing room, in pairs, to watching an episode of Sesame with the slide show running as well. The creators then would take note of when the children looked at the slides or Sesame. Every time the slide changed, the staff would make a notation. From this information, they would have a very detailed account of what shows held the attention spans of children, The Stickiness Factor, thus allowing them to create shows that would capture children’s hearts for decades.

In addition to having Connectors, Mavens, and Salespeople and The Stickiness Factor, the final thing which aids social epidemics in tipping is what Gladwell says is “The Power of Context”. Gladwell describes this as being the how our surroundings, shape the lens in which we view the world, and how they may actually have more impact than our individual personality traits and dispositions. This is the whole nature/nurture debate and Gladwell expertly dances us through this idea using case studies, which are very gripping and perhaps some of the most interesting parts of the book. For example how an murder on a subway in New York City in the 1980s started a crime revolution in the city and the reason why children are increasingly smoking cigarettes.

Add all these concepts together and this is the essence of what the The Tipping Point is all about. Gladwell is able to shed light onto why things happen in this world, that things are not merely of random coincidence, and how small things lead to big changes or social epidemics. What you take away from reading the Tipping Point, is you become more aware of the world around you, as perhaps the numerous preconceived notions you may have had on things are broken down by Gladwell’s logical analysis and interaction with experts in a variety of fields.

Gladwell is able to weave all these pieces together so well, which makes reading the Tipping Point a breeze. His storytelling, without unnecessary words or jargon, is one I can appreciate, with every sentence making a point and leaving you eager to read the next. In my eyes, Gladwell’s agenda is a simple one. By sharing The Tipping Point, he is able to empower you with knowledge of the world around us, an extremely valuable resource in our ever increasingly complicated and interconnected world.

My First Year at University

My first year at university is over. Finished my last exam yesterday. Finally. What a whacky exam schedule I had. No exams the first 2 weeks. Then one. Then 2 in one day. universityThen one so late, the one yesterday. Annoying. But the same can not be said of my first year at university. It was…well just read the following to find out.

The opening scene

Firstly, I always wanted to go to the university I currently attend. Maybe because of the fact my two older sisters went there, but probably also because I thought it was the better school when comparing it to the other university it town, except for a few programs. So there was a little prestige factor here and getting into where I always wanted to go pumped me up, so I looked at being a big positive.

With that in mind, I went to campus with my smile plastered across my face as usual, ready to meet people. So off to class I went, diving headfirst into the university environment.

The classes

I had to take a lot of first year courses this year (to get them outta the way) and a couple compulsory courses. Let’s just say I’m glad I’m not 18 anymore. University would be too crazy for me and I definitely would flunk. There are some people who obviously shouldn’t be there. But this isn’t about them it’s mine, so I digress.

The classes were good, some could have gone better and there were some 1st year ones which completed blowed. For example, in 1st year business class where I took the leadership role (organizing group meetings, dividing the work, helping other group members with their parts) for our major project, it ended up blowing up in my face. People missed deadlines and work was handed in that wasn’t good enough.  Wish I could have had more help. Hopefully next year, I’ll be more energized and be in classes a little more relevant (although interpersonal communication and learning how to break up with a girl truly helped —> sarcasm) so that I’m more focused.

The fun

I’m probably weird in saying this but I love commuting. There is something about the commute to work or school  which I enjoy getting up for (very early for work I might add) everyday. So the ride downtown to campus was always a blast. When you get to campus it is even better. A population of students has to be one of the funner environments you can enter. There are all different types of people, some fulfilling stereotypes some not, which makes for great people watching, as well as interacting with them, fun. Other than the people you see though it’s also the people you meet that make the sometimes long days of school enjoyable.

I met one of my Nigerian brothers, C, we’ll call him, and we started going to the gym together. We both have older brothers and it  was funny because he said he wanted to bigger than his. Me and my brother always say the same thing and strive in the summer to out gym each other. I barely win, he usually does. So me and C went to the gym together, had classes together, and hung out. Good guy.

During the year there were a few girls that were in most of my classes and we worked together on a number of projects. Although nice, I had minor issues with a few of them re: communication. Overall, we formed good working relationships and did well on the projects we worked on though I wish (as I always do because of procrastination)  we could have had more time to perfect them. Stupid deadlines.

Lastly, I  was able to volunteer at school, something which I wanted to do from the start. At first, I applied to be a part of a special committee for students at school but didn’t make the cut. Too cool apparently. So I found a sports announcing position with the school, doing play by play for the  woman’s basketball team in second semester. It was awesome…my dream job, as I’ve wanted to do sports broadcasting since I was a little kid. I should have that gig for next year so I’m pumped to get back into it. Had great partners for the games and we always kept it light on the air. Looking forward to more next year.

Till next year

University is a different world than college. It’s bigger, as expected, and there is a lot more to get into, with all the clubs, societies, sports, and volunteer opportunities..Announcing the women’s basketball games made me feel I was really part of the school, which was different than my 2 years in college.

Also I feel like university is more about the professor, while in college it feels like it is more about the courses. The prof’s style has a huge impact on your learning experience while in college this is less pronounced.

I tend to agree with the idea of university being more theory based learning  vs. practical based learning of college but that doesn’t mean the two camps are that distinctly defined. My English class in 1st year university was my favourite class, due to the fact it had a good blend of both. Let’s hope that next year there will be new exciting classes, more fun, and lot’s of interesting people to meet as the finish line to my university career I can see up ahead…

What I learned in January

At the end of every month, I’ll highlight things I learned or discovered that made the month memorable. So here I go with January 2011, the start of a new decade which is also the best time to shop, and a good time to start.

Best time to shop

For some it may sound trival, shopping as one of the best things I learned this month. For others who shop everyday or every week, shopping is a constant passion. For me, I am neither wealthy enough or like spending that much time in malls to favour your lifestyle choice. Rather I prefer shopping in bulk and January presents the best time to do this.

Without a doubt, January is the best time to buy practically everything. My new collection of wardrobe items is an example of this. I was able to get 11 new items of clothing for around 260 bucks (taxes in). This new wardrobe ranges from pants, t-shirts, dress shirts, and some nice v-neck (my favourite style of shirt) sweaters.

But January is not just a good time to buy clothes, but also a good time to make purchases categories such as technology, furniture, and mattresses, which I had to hold off as I had spent too much in the aforementioned categories. Definitely I am missing other things which make January a good time to buy but you can get the point. January is a good time to buy, but spend responsibly so you don’t end up with lots of bills for your credit card coming in February.

A good time to start

January also proves to be a good time to start. This blog is an one example of that. There are other things though that I have started in January though.

Volunteering

I started volunteering with school, providing colour commentary on women’s basketball games. This has been a great experience. I’ll have more in a separate blog as I have a huge passion for sports and being a sports commentator has been one of my dreams for a very long time.

Another exciting volunteer opportunity has come with working with Odyssey Showcase, a charity that promotes the history of Canada through music. Again it is too much to write in this space and I will have separate blog(s) on that as well.

Gym

January is a great time to start going to the gym. I haven’t started. I hope to get going in February.

January went by quick. It really felt like I was running around all month, juggling responsibilities. Looks like February will be much of the same. Let’s hope it will be a lot warmer weather though.