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Viva Vijay!

"When the guy handing out the Metro was happier than I was, I knew there was something seriously wrong."

When my friend Vijay started his job at one of the top investment banks this summer, I was supportive because he was one of the three undergraduates I'd ever met for whom the finance world seemed to be a good place. The guy eats, sleeps, and breathes finance. During college, he'd regularly spend two hours studying the markets before he trekked to the day's first class meeting.

But he called me last night to tell me that after 4 weeks of training and 3 1/2 weeks on the job, he quit. That's right, he just quit.

I know what you're thinking.

"Nobody does that."

Yeah, that's what his peers said when they heard the news. They were blown away as much as I was. And suddenly, they saw him as their hero as much as I did.

You see, merely two hours after he sent the obligatory "I'm leaving to pursue other opportunities" e-mail to his group, he was out for dinner and drinks with his project team: a VP, an Associate, and two other analysts. And all he heard was their awestruck voices saying...

"Nobody does this."

"Wow. You have balls."

"Good for you."

"I totally understand."

At some point, Vijay politely interjected, attempting to qualify his decision and make clear that it was a decision about himself and not about the people with whom he worked. Something to the effect of...

"Investment banking -- it's just not me. But if that's what you want to do, what you like to do, then great."

He called out a colleague who, on the surface, seemed to be in love with the work and the firm on which he was building his career. "Chris, I mean, you like it, right? You should be doing it then. Totally. Go for it, man."

But in that moment everyone was intoxicated by the honesty and truth and greatness of Vijay's uncommonly bold move. They had escaped from their professional sticks-up-their-butts inhibitions which guide too many decisions of what to do and what to say. And Chris said,...

"Actually, I don't know if I like it. I don't know how much longer I can take it."

Only time will tell whether Chris will be true to what he really wants and believes, whatever that might be. But Vijay, well, he's gone.

"It's just like you say, Ian. Life is too short to do stuff you don't like. Especially if you're lucky enough to have other options."

Wow. That from a guy with long-term political aspirations, who started in I-Banking, thinking that it would be worth it if he made enough money to set the stage for later being able to buy a way into politics. And after just 7 weeks, he says, "I just can't do this every day. Doesn't matter how much they pay."

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No rest for the wicked: On Monday, Vijay starts at a former professor's real estate development firm, a private company that owns some of the most notable buildings in the world. He'll get similar wages, more work that turns him on, and a better chance to be as happy as the Metro guy.

Posted by Ian Ybarra on 27 August 2005 Permalink | Comments (2)

Best thing I do

By day, and by mind, my friend Joe is a high school counselor. It’s clear that he really enjoys helping young people find their way. And the lifestyle’s not bad, either. Set hours five days a week, summer vacations, etc. He’ll tell you the job is swell.

By night, and by heart, he’s a musician. The guy could play his guitar and sing all day and night. He and a friend are Jay & Joe, and besides recently completing their second original album, they most often cover tons of everyone’s favorite music. And they do it pretty well.

A few months ago I went to one of their gigs at bar near Boston, and they had the whole place rocking. Family, friends, girls, and guys dancing and singing, all having a great time. I was fascinated as I am when anyone performs music or does anything else that moves people to forget their day of drudgery at work that was tolerable at best. And boy did Joe have a rush!

One time I interrupted his day job and got him talking about his music. Didn’t take a second for his eyes to light up. He was almost stuttering he was so excited. And then he blurted out something that summed up all the greatness he was failing to describe.

"It’s the best thing I do."

We should all have a "best thing I do." Sadly, it seems like fewer people have one than don’t.

What’s your "best thing I do"? Why don’t you do it more? And if you don’t have one, why don’t you get one?
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Jay & Joe play in Newport next Saturday. If you’ll be there, too, click here for details.

Posted by Ian Ybarra on 15 August 2005 Permalink | Comments (3)

Facebooking IS NOT Networking

I get these messages all the time.

From: thefacebook.com [mailto:confirm@thefacebook.com]
To: Ian
Subject: firstname lastname has listed you as a friend...

Firstname Lastname has requested to add you as a friend, but before we can do that, you must confirm that you are in fact friends with Firstname.

To confirm this request, go to:
http://mit.thefacebook.com/confirminvite.php

Thanks,
thefacebook team.

Who is Firstname Lastname, you ask? Here are just a few examples of people from the past year.

- A girl from my hometown with whom I’ve never had a conversation. In fact, I’m not sure if we’ve ever spoken at all. If we have, it has certainly been over eight years ago. Listed me as a friend but still has never contacted me.

- A girl who, as it turns out, graduated from my high school two years after I did. Her name sounded slightly familiar in the message from thefacebook team, but I had no idea who she was. We had never been in contact before she listed me as a friend, and we haven’t since, either.

- Two people who attended a summer camp with me six years ago. We never spoke at the camp or in the past six years. And we still haven’t–even after I took the initiative to actually write to them after they sent facebook requests.

- A student from MIT who, although being in the same fraternity as me at a different time, has never had a conversation with me. Nothing more than a few “whazzups” and college-guy head nods in the last four years. Got thefacebook request but still haven’t heard from him.

- A guy who was a student in a class I helped teach four years ago. Good guy, but we haven’t spoke since then—even after I wrote to him after he sent the facebook request.

Anyway...I get those messages from thefacebook.com all the time, and they do nothing but puzzle me. What are those messages, really?

I know the messages say that Firstname Lastname “listed me as a friend,” but that can’t be right in cases like these. Of these six people, only one might have been considered a friend at any point. One isn’t even an acquaintance. Clearly, they wouldn’t claim that we’re friends. So what were those messages really for?

“Maybe they’re just trying to contact you.” Naw. Can’t be. My e-mail address is right on my profile on thefacebook.com, so if they wanted to contact me, they could write to me. But they didn’t. They just told a computer that I was their friend. They didn’t contact me before doing that. They didn’t contact me afterward either, even, in some cases, when I actually wrote directly to them.

“Maybe they’re trying to build their networks.” No way. If they wanted to count me as part of their network, they’d definitely start by contacting me. Perhaps they’d even try to get to know me and befriend me. You...just...never...know.

With no more ideas about what my facebook stalkers could have possibly been doing by telling thefacebook.com that I was their friend, I turned to a new word to describe their acts as part of a larger disease.

FACEBOOKING, anyone?

I honestly don’t know claim to know what all Facebooking can be, but I do know what it isn’t. Facebooking IS NOT Networking.

When I first said that, some of my friends asked why I had formed such a harsh opinion. But it really isn’t so much an opinion as a self-evident truth drawn from how people use thefacebook.com.

Facebooking seems to be some combination of (A) collecting the faces and profiles of as many people as possible in hopes of preparing for a day when there will be facebook fights, much like AIM fights, only different in that they might reward the winners with prizes rivaling those of the World Series of Poker; (B) wasting time by checking the recently updated profiles of your friends and your non-friends for really important information like the movie Reservoir Dogs being demoted from second to fourth position on someone’s favorite movies list; and (C) doing anything else that might support your success in the aforementioned pursuits (A) and (B), like skipping class or asking thefacebook.com to confirm that people you haven’t met before are, in fact, your friends.

That’s still not to say that thefacebook.com can't be a useful tool in my networking efforts. I actually joined for exactly that reason. Thefacebook.com serves as another directory, like other school alumni directories, from which I can pull contact information of my friends when needed. It’s great for finding additional people—as well as telling me whether I have friends who can introduce me—when I need to find people to ask for their advice, to invite them to participate in an activities, or even to offer them jobs. And it's also a way other people can find me for those purposes. All three cyber-functions are great enablers for me to connect with old friends or complete strangers in real life. Believe it or not, I have actually heard of other people successfully using thefacebook.com for exactly these purposes. But it’s rare.

The core use of thefacebook.com still baffles me. Consider this instance.

- A girl with whom the only contact I’d ever had was during a 2-hour boardgame when she was dating one of my friends two years ago. Also, unbeknownst to me, she had since severely mistreated my friend and their relationship had ended.

She had thefacebook.com ask me to confirm that I was her friend. Of course, I never have been, and I had even less reason to be now. So much less reason, in fact, that I didn’t immediately recognize her name in thefacebook message. On a whim, I decided to ask her to clarify my confusion about those mystery messages I’m constantly receiving.

I wrote:

Got a facebook invitation from you, but I didn't receive any contact from you, so I'm a bit confused. How do we know each other?

She wrote:

You would know me as the former girlfriend of your girlfriend’s friend Firstname. Since I hear that you're all about networking, I didn't think you'd find it too weird that I invite you as a friend.

Actually, if I’m “all about networking,” don’t you think she’d have to assume that one thing I would indeed find to be pretty weird is someone who’s quite obviously not my friend telling a website to tell me that she says I’m her friend and then not contacting me in any way on her own until after I prompt her?

I’ll say it again. Facebooking IS NOT Networking. And people like this guy keep reinforcing that truth.

From:Charlie
To:Ian
Subject:hey
Message:Hi, my name is Charlie. Im not some lonely freak trying to make friends on thefacebook, but im just trying to see how many people i can be connected to on thefacebook in the shortest amount of time (and perhaps break the world record... right). So far Ive got 50,000 friends in 2 weeks. I started by sending everyone a friend request, but apparently theres a limit on many friend requests you can have, so if you could please add me as a friend that would be cool. If not, then whatever. sall good. To add me as a friend just goto [some URL here].

So remember: Facebooking is NOT Networking.

And if you want to learn the real art of networking, of building REAL RELATIONSHIPS to be more successful in your career and have more fun in your life, read NEVER EAT ALONE -- and make all your friends read it, too, so they'll stop sending me messages like the ones above.

Posted by Ian Ybarra on 15 August 2005 Permalink | Comments (1)

What are you waiting for?

Great lines from Paul Graham's new essay "What Business Can Learn From Open Source." (Thanks to Javy for the link.)

I think the most important of the new principles business has to learn is that people work a lot harder on stuff they like....[Microsoft] can't pay people enough to build something better than a group of inspired hackers will build for free...

The average office is a miserable place to get work done. And a lot of what makes offices bad are the very qualities we associate with professionalism. The sterility of offices is supposed to suggest efficiency. But suggesting efficiency is a different thing from actually being efficient.

Genius. We work harder and happier on stuff they like than on stuff they don't. And we work harder and happier where we want to be than where we don't.

If you're not doing what you want to, where you want to, what are you waiting for?

Posted by Ian Ybarra on 6 August 2005 Permalink

Escaping Adulthood

If you do one thing today, read the Escape Adulthood manifesto by Jason Kotecki, a collection of excerpts from Jason's new book Escape Adulthood: 8 Secrets from Childhood for the Stressed-Out Grown-Up. (My favorite "secrets," of course, are 2.DREAM BIG and 3.GET CURIOUS.)

Download the Escape Adulthood manifesto at
http://www.changethis.com/16.escapeadulthood

And be wowed by the Kotecki Web presence at
http://escapeadulthood.com/

Posted by Ian Ybarra on 6 August 2005 Permalink