The Quest for Knowledge

It's been a while. I'm going to try to jump start this lovely blog of mine because I need some sort of creative outlet beyond my job. 

So, right now I'm officially a college graduate. And surprisingly I find myself missing college a whole lot more than I thought I would. I miss my having all my close friends all in the same vicinity, I miss the little bubble that goes hand in hand with being in college, and I miss learning in the classroom. (All you college kids out there, cherish your flies!)

So college is over. Now I'm officially a working woman at an awesome agency. I remember when I was still in school, and I always wondered to myself...when will the time come when I feel prepared to start my career? Does this "feeling" suddenly just hit you one day? Well, here I am. I don't think it ever hit me, and I feel as if it never well. I've come to this job with a sense of wonderment and a desire to learn. And I think as long as I feel that way with every opportunity that comes my way...I will never feel 100% prepared to do it all. And to me, that's the beauty of it.

The beauty of choosing your career is that you are learning it as you do it. You can either fall more and more in love with your work, or you can begin to despise it. (And sometimes it can be a mix of both, and that's completely okay too.) I don't ever want to feel stagnant in my quest for knowledge and insight. And with that, comes a need for ambiguity, vulnerability, and must I say it, anxiety.

That's my stream of thoughts for now. Maybe my perspective will change a couple months down the road, we shall see.

Seek and Find Happiness

Another year has flown by, and now we quickly usher in 2013 with all its fresh potential. Reflecting back onto my year, I remember the one and only resolution I made in 2012: be happy. Not to say that I wasn't content with how my life has been, but I knew that there was room to make better choices for my happiness. 

Before I continue, I want to make a side note. For a while I've wondered if this idea of "seeking happiness" was selfish, or "first worldly" even. (Pretty sure I made that word up.) However, a look back into the philosophy courses I've previously taken, I will see that this isn't true at all. It can even be argued that all human decisions are made under the premise that it will eventually bring us this wonderful feeling of happiness. Of course, everyone gets there differently, no way is wrong or right (although I personally think there are better ways than others). And some make goals to reach it, but never do. 

Nonetheless, here are some of the actionable ways I went about to find my happiness. Some may seem simple or obvious even, but it takes time and effort to build such a mentality and actually carry through with it. Hopefully for those of you seeking it, this can help shed a light on how to achieve it for the new year. Enjoy!

1. It is life. Live it.
Most of our lives are spent doing things we should do. But sometimes we need to make decisions based not on what we think we should do or what will further us in our career, but on how happy it can make us. I spent a number of semesters in college literally running from one meeting to another...filling every hour with something to keep me busy and to make me feel more important. However, there is something to be said about making conscious decisions that you know can make you happier. For example, instead of taking an extra class that you dread, register for a class you know you will enjoy. 

2. Make time for yourself.
I always believed that if I was not being productive, I was wasting time. I lived by this notion to a point where I forgot the value of being still and just appreciating down time. I didn't even want to cook my own was too time-consuming. But finding time for yourself to relax is not seeking the easy way out. It is understanding that life should not be all about work. We work so hard only to seek happiness for the future, but why do we overlook the importance of happiness in the now? 

3. Learn to say no. 
Quite self-explanatory. Respect yourself enough to be firm in saying no if it is not something you want to do. Prioritize your happiness high enough to say no to opportunities that will spread yourself too thin. 

4. Be kind to everyone. Show gratitude. 
Show kindness, and you will receive it. Show gratitude, and others will feel it. Both are vicious cycles that can make you and everyone around you feel happier! 

5. Surround yourself with good people. 
I know I've written about this on this blog, here and here. But can't stress enough how important it is to treasure good company. Also to realize that sometimes not all friendships are made to last. It doesn't say anything about the friendship; I believe that it is natural and it is okay (do not wallow in it). 

6. Reward yourself. And don't feel guilty doing so. 
Whether it is a shopping spurge or a needed vacation, you should learn to reward yourself for your hard work. And it's not just about the short term gain of that splurge or vacation but the idea of showing appreciation towards yourself. I mean, when something awesome happens to a friend, you go out of your way to celebrate their accomplishments so why not hold yourself to that same standard? 

7. Give back! 
I know there has been many people in my life who has helped me get to where I am today (whether they intended to or not). So I believe that you should extend a helping hand to others whenever you can or when the opportunity arises. I think some people operate under the belief that if they share their wisdom with someone, a bit is taken away from them. That's not exactly true, and in the long run, that way of thinking only limits your potential. 

That's all -- but remember, everything is in moderation. I am a firm believe in hard work, ambition, and giving something all that you've got. So when I say relax, I am not saying, be a bum. I am saying when you've done your homework and you've put in your effort towards something, it is okay to just be and to embrace the present. And when I say splurge, do it responsibly. Also I can't brag to be an expert on the idea of happiness, I am merely sharing my experience and takeaways from this year. Thanks for reading! 

"Do your best until you know better. Then when you know better, do better."


Three Buckets of Brand Planning

Given that I haven't posted since the beginning of the semester, I can't believe that it's almost the end. It's so scary but exciting to know that very soon my college career will be ending.

This semester I've had the opportunity to intern at Hill Holliday, and it's been a great learning experience. I think it is so important to find a company whose culture fits your own values. Everyone that I've met so far at Hill are talented and nice people who are willing to have a conversation with you if you take the initiative to ask! But there is one specific story I took away that stuck and I keep going back to my moleskin to read. It is the three buckets of brand planning.

There are three things that a brand/account planner must be in order to succeed. (For background on what a brand planner does -- read this GREAT piece of work by Mark Pollard.) With most things in life, they are a simple three: be a sponge, a filter, and a megaphone. 

A brand planner must be immersed in culture and trends. I think one of the reasons why I'm drawn to planning is that a prerequisite to the job is to be curious, to question, and to expose yourself to different environments. To be able to draw inspiration from your everyday life and apply them to your job is something that most people don't have the privilege to do.

When you act as a sponge, you will be inundated with a ton of information. To be successful, a planner must be able to know how to filter. Understand the idea and derive consumer insights from all the noise. Hone in on what the human truth is and be able to tell a story that connects the brand with the consumer.

What is a great idea if not heard or understood? A brand planner must be able to sell the idea to the creative and account team, and of course, to the client. They must be able to shape the insight in a way that can inspire the creativity juices to flow.

Hope that was helpful and informative! Enjoy the very last month of 2012.


Perception = Reality

Today in my market research class, we were discussing the idea of perception versus reality, and how the two many not always align. A brand may be successful or a failure because society perceives it a certain way -- whether it may be true or not. My professor then reinforced the idea that in marketing, perception is reality. It doesn't matter what is true or false because the average consumer will always act on what they've been influenced to think. And it shouldn't matter because the goal of a company is to win. And to win, you need to profit.

And sitting in that classroom, I was just imaginatively hit across the head. I have this beautiful image of what marketing and brands can be, but at the end of the is all just a facade? And to a certain extent, I know it is not because there are companies where perception really is the reality. But I also know that there are a lot of companies that skew information, that manipulate people's insecurities and needs. And it makes me question whether this is really the industry where I can be happy to work in.

I just hope to see some more genuine brands out there that can inspire and make people want to be better, while still making the profits in a ethical way. Because I think that we all deserve better. Not in a high-horse for humanity kind of way but in a way where people should treat people with respect and morals. Because yes, companies are run by people and driven by people.


How to Manage Your Own Expectations

I remember in high school, I was on the train ride back home with a good friend of mine. He was all excited to show me this new "theory" that he came up with. It basically went like this: expectation and happiness have a strange relationship. The greater your expectation, the more extreme your happiness/disappointment is with the result. And likewise, the lower your expectation, the less you will be moved by reality. Through some logic and "math," he concluded that it was in our best interest to never have high expectations but to level them off in order to protect ourselves from these roller coaster emotions.

I replied with, "if two people are in a relationship without any expectations of each other...the relationship will eventually go nowhere. Expectations are necessary risks to make for that potential of happiness." And with that, our conversation ended.

But even after that, I always battled with myself to maintain that perfect balance of expectations. When to hold back, and when to pursue more. It was a very delicate balance and often times, in relationships or in career directions, I would be left disappointed and unhappy. I never thought that there could be another way to view this idea of expectations and reality. But then I realized that at the core of it...disappointment stems from when our reality doesn't meet our expectations. So maybe the issue isn't about our expectations but our perception of reality.

The other day I was reading a book called "Emotional Equations," that talked about just that. We think that reality is set and it's not something that we can change. However, if we think about it, our perception of reality really skews everything for us -- even whether we will feel happy or upset over a situation. For example, let's take the Olympics, most bronze winners are happier than silver medalists. But both athletes expected and worked to win gold so their expectations were the exact same. The paradox lies in the idea of counter factual thinking. Silvers measure themselves upwards and compare themselves to the golds, while bronzes measures downwards to those who win no medal at all. So interestingly, "It's not our expectations that we need to curb; it's out sense of entitlement that leads is to be bitterly disappointed."

In another scenario: normally, we would be happy if we've gotten a 5% raise but if we find that our co-workers received 10%, our happiness for our accomplishment is decreased. Now it's clear that it's not about lowering expectations but about controlling our perception. To me, this leads back to the idea of gratitude. Always be grateful and appreciative to the opportunities and people that we are blessed with. This doesn't mean we need to live a stagnant life where we no longer seek more and more. We should continuously try to better ourselves, but it's just as important to be happy with who we are in the now.


Two things I learned from my summer internship

As promised, I'm going to dedicate a post to talk about my internship this past summer at Tribal DDB. I did something a little similar last summer when I wrote about my experience at a start-up company.

I think what really defined my internship this summer were the people. I know it's a little generic to say people, but after being here I've learned that there are two things that make a workplace worth committing to: good people and good work. Actually I can't take credit for this point. When I was speaking to one of people in the senior level at my company he told me that if you have 2 out of 3 things at your future job, it is worth staying at. The last thing was money. (I'm still struggling to find how important money will factor into my career.)

But let me continue about good people and good work. Good work is defined by responsibilities that will challenge me to think and to want to learn. Good work pushes me to be a better professional. I can't imagine working on a project that makes me feel lifeless and boring. So to me, good work is challenging but necessary.

Onto my second point: your co-workers can change the entire environment and your whole experience at a workplace. I never expected to build such strong relationships with my fellow interns -- to the point that I feel like I'll be missing something in my life now that I won't see them every single day. And if given the opportunity, I know I will love working with them in the future (even though we are all going our separate career paths..for now). They reminded me of the ambition and drive necessary on the road to success. And then the empathy and positive attitude that will get me there. It's not about stepping on other people to get to the top, it's about being genuine and personable.

Overall, I had a wonderful experience this summer. I've learned a lot about what I want (or don't want), and I'm excited for next semester to see where life takes me next!


Marketing Talks

If you personally know me, you will know how excited and hooked I get when someone talks about marketing and ads. Last week in my marketing class, my professor showed a documentary which basically asked the question -- where do you draw the line between branding and the actual product?

An example of successful inner branding in my opinion is the BMW and its awesome ads. BMW is not just a car, it is so much more --  "At BMW we don't make cars, we make Joy." Cheesy? Yes. Or maybe even Burt's Bee's new line of product named GΓΌd who embraces the idea that women are not happy because they're beautiful, but that they're beautiful because they are happy. Simple? Absolutely. But most importantly, it works. Other companies that successful used this concept of love marks are Cheerios and Coca-cola. These ideas strike right back to the essence of human emotions and even being.

However, it is argued that at the end of the day, the product is just a product. The branding is only an idea. It's only a laptop (Apple), and it's a only a pair of running shoe (Nike). And it's only detergent (Tide) -- as long as it can make your clothes clean, that's all that should matter. And to back this argument, the documentary showed the process of how Song was created by Delta to compete with Jetblue. One of the co-founder of Kate Spade worked with Song's marketing team to artistically brand Song with the idea of leisure, hip, and entertainment. On the other hand, investors of Song wanted advertisements to focus mainly on their low-cost position. In the end, Song failed.

So do ideas sell? Or will creativity and out of the box ideas take you so far? I believe that a successful product is when the brand and the benefits or features of the brand are seen as inseparable to the consumer. Personally, I fall easily in love with ideas. But there is an important lesson I took away from this documentary: have your head in the sky while keeping your feet grounded.


Finance Talks

Today in my finance class, my professor was trying to explain to us the difference between passive and active investing in the market. Listening to him talk about the subject reminds me why I choose to pursue business back in high school. It was interesting, captivating and so human. As I grow older it seems that greed and corporate culture is what plagues Wall Street, but it doesn't have to be that way. If we go back to the fundamentals, it becomes very relevant to the way we live. And it becomes obvious to me through this very simple point:

Competition drives efficiency in the market. Competition is created by active investors who all always searching for trading data and information that will give them a return that is greater than the average. However, when efficiency is actually achieved, the passive strategy becomes the best strategy. Then the circle continues, and irony sets in. And at that point, it's not about data or analyzing the fundamentals of a company, it's just luck.

But to think of the wealth that 1% of luck can bring. That's crazy. The emphasis is not so much on the wealth but on the idea and concept behind the market and what keeps it going forward.

Attitude is so important.

Frankly, I don't care what your GPA is. I don't care how many awards you've received or how successful your "fill in the blank" is. How much money you can make, if you have this or know who.

What matters to me is your attitude. I don't want to interact with someone who gives a backhand apology and sits on a pedestal. You will only get so far with your chin that high.

This applies in personal relationships and in the professional world. So before you go and try to have a conversation with someone, reexamine yourself and remember you are just human. You are here to learn and to give.