Jul 3, 2008

on Graduation, Next Steps, and Anxiety

So I just left the INSEAD graduation a few minutes ago. There is further celebrating to be done tonight at our last party, followed by the long journey home to NYC tomorrow morning from Orly Airport. What a journey it has been over the last year... I truly am a changed man, different in several key ways from when I left last June for Tel Aviv. I am now a well-travelled young person, who can converse in basic Mandarin, has friends on every continent, with a new home in nearly every major city across the globe, and a great job beginning in September in NYC, then Hertziliya.

And yet, its hard to walk away... I guess I suffer from some form of anxiety whenever I have accomplished something and am in transition before the next big thing. What should I do now? Where can I go? What should I read? Who should I meet? What have I done that I should think about more deeply?

The graduation ceremony, for what its worth, was quite lovely. I have been quick to criticize INSEAD for the shortcomings I perceived in the program, wherever they might have been. Part of that comes from my absolute adoration for Cornell, my undergrad institution. Part of it comes from the importance I place on good customer service, particularly on my largest personal investment to date ($50k Euros has that effect on people). However, the ceremony reminded me of the great parts of INSEAD, and particularly, the potential the institution possesses. One alum, who chairs the board of directors, spoke quite graciously about his time at INSEAD back in 1967, and gave a few words of advice - pick a job that makes you happy and helps you go down the road you want to be on, not the job that gives you the best financial reward.

Ultimately, he felt that there were three stages/elements to life that must be focused on and nourished:
1) Learn - Ensure you have gained practical knowledge that can be used to succeed in your line of work.
2) Do - Work as hard/smart as you can, letting nothing stand in your way.
3) Return - Give back to the community in some shape or form

Fairly simple, but strong argument. I was quite impressed.

The rest of the ceremony was quite nice, including a speech by a colleague, Anil, which was quite entertaining. Then, they handed out the diplomas, and took individual photos with each recipient and the 2 deans (INSEAD Dean Frank Brown, and INSEAD MBA Dean Antonio Fatas). This process took quite a while for the 400+ students who graduated in Fonty. The tent where the event was held was also quite packed and led to hot temperatures, which did not help things...

Following the ceremony, there were drinks and light refreshments as we all said hello to family and friends of our colleagues - nice, until it started to rain, and our dinner plans began to 'call'.

So now, I sit on my couch in Moret Sur Loing, France, an hour south of Paris, awaiting the return of my roommate and his wife, whom I'll be eating dinner with. Its a bit of an interesting scene: I'm sitting on a white couch in front of a fireplace in an old-school french house, easily 100 years old... I'm feeling a bit uneasy about a few things in my life, namely:

1) Where will I live in NYC? Should I go back to living at home for a few months? Can I stomach it? What will it be like to be back in my old stomping grounds? What has changed (has anything stayed the same)?
2) How should I prioritize my Hebrew and Chinese learning? What else can I do to stay away from absolute boredem? I think I want to take a Chinese calligraphy course? Maybe get back into painting as well...
3) What will it be like to go to Israel? How much do I need to organize in the next few weeks? How can I best transition?
4) My personal life is at a weird point right now. I've got to move on from my Singapore girlfriend (2 months already, pretty much), but its always hard. We had a long discussion the other day, following several weeks of no communication, then too much communication, in which she shared a fairly disturbing view on our relationship - what I viewed as serious and potentially meaningful was not that way at all. In fact, she was not willing to open herself to that possibility, due to several reasons that frankly, I have little to do with. Needless to say, tt was hard to take, but made sense as she explained it. There's nothing worse than being told that you've been 'used' - it actually taints all the memories that I hold and cherish from our time together. Regardless of how reasonable the reasoning, its a hard pill to swallow. However, it does provide excellent closure ;-) So what now? (I left that one deliberately wide open...)

Time to go... Off to dinner, party and the flight home... Drop me a line, if you've got any thoughts...

Jun 24, 2008

on Attention Deficit Disorder

Ok, the last post was just published, but I figured i'd give y'all a double whammy. To be fair, it took me some time to finish the last one, since its a tough topic to write about...

Ah, ADD. This is a funny one for me, because I have never been diagnosed with ADD. However, I can definitely tell you I have ADD. How do I know? Well, at this very moment, I am carrying on 4 IM conversations, reading e-mails, listening to the new Coldplay Album. I cannot fall asleep without the TV on, even if its the same Seinfeld episode I watched last night. I physically cannot handle sitting still for much time at all (I hate sitting on the beach, or sitting in "the park" for this exact reason). I don't have a blackberry anymore, but it would be nearly impossible for many of my colleagues to know, since I have a serious level of internet addiction (when you click Send/Receive within Microsoft Outlook, even when its set to check every minute, you know you have a problem). I subscribe (RSS Feed) to over 25 blogs, of which I respond/comment regularly on 5. I like being busy, to a fault.

Is this a bad thing? Most scientists and nearly every professor at INSEAD thinks so... One professor even suggested that we are much more likely to suffer from stress-induced heart-attacks than our parents - hence the new workout routine. Its a scary world we live in, where information is at our fingertips and overload is inevitable. I find those random moments, when I do not have access to the internet or my phone (for example, when my home, in Montigny Sur Loing, internet goes down, I am out of communication options, since there is no reception in the forest) to be at first quite anxiety driven, then often calming. There is nothing like reading a book in an obscure old house outside Fontainbleau, France, to soothe the mind and keep sanity in this hyper-stressful world.

One interesting thought comes to mind. When I was in high school, when you dated a girl, you spoke over the phone and went out on dates. Today, there are new parts that have been adding to the complexity of dating, namely "Facebook profiles", "Web Blogs", text messaging and IM chats, to name a few. Do you have your girfriend listed as such on Facebook? Did you write about something you two did or experienced together on your blog? Is she at her computer and deliberately not IMing me? This makes the entire process all the more intense and stressful, as communication frequency is artificially increased and made more complex.

The same is true in work, where a blackberry puts nearly everyone "on call" 24 hrs/day anywhere around the globe. You can no longer hide, relax and take it easy, while still feeling in relative control of your life. Its a bit of a sad existence.

I am not sure how or when, but at some point I will give up on needing to know everything at all times. The human mind cannot take it all in, and is likely to get confused more often in this new world. We'll all eventually need to slow down. Simplicity in this complex world seems to be valued greatly. No longer are the coolest hi-tech gadgets valued on their complexity alone, but on their simplicity in operation, and how they eliminate our clutter-filled lives. Hence, the iPhone excited folks who can now get rid of 2+ devices (phone, iPod, camera, PDA) and replace it with one simple gadget.

Needless to say, we live in a world where everyone has (some form of) ADD, and the "here and now" is more critical than ever. Classes and lectures will likely need to be scaled down and focused on key soundbites. The media will continue to share more sucinct news segments that can keep our attention. And our friends in the ad business will need to work even harder to keep our minds on Coca Cola and Budweiser... Welcome to the new world...