People only see what they are prepared to see – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Sundays are a nice time for me these days to reflect on all things. In fact, it is a time when I can figure what to write here. Someone asked me how I started writing. I used to keep a travel journal back in my 20s about my travels. I had the chance to visit beautiful places in the world and would sketch them. Eventually I went to business school at the University of Chicago, one of the most quantitative of business schools with 3 Nobel Laureates in economics amongst its faculty. Most graduates from the school are known as quant jocks or spreadsheet jockeys. Combine that with my undergraduate degree from Carnegie Mellon (once voted as the school with the worst social life in the country) and you would see that on paper my resume depicted me as someone who was bright with no social skills.
We are all given preconceived notions about people as soon as we see them. As an Asian kid from two heavy quantitative schools I always had to fight a reputation as a geek even if I was one. Carnegie Mellon incidentally along with Drexel became the first two campuses that required you to puy a computer. At the University of Chicago Business School they recognized the need to develop well-rounded MBAs and wanted to supplement our core curriculum with “soft skills”. Interestingly, enough, soft skills are thought to be taught only through experiential learning and thus you have to go through trial and error to no how to develop and recognize them. Included in our program for the development of soft skills was a booklet that we called our Minitab where we wrote down notes using active terms such as “I feel” or “I think” to describe our non-school thoughts. At that time I was getting ready to get married so I had a lot to write about daily and I continued to do so. Given that the University of Chicago is known for its hard-core finance discipline, teaching soft skills was definitely not something people cared about. I remember recruiters saying, “I want a quant jock, not someone in touch with their inner peace”. Nonetheless I learned a lot about myself.
One of those tools that we used was a Myers-Briggs Personality Test which provides you with a Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) that judges you among four indicator preferences. The four preferences together make up your whole type. There are 16 possible types. MBTI reports tell you your preference for each of four pairs:
- Extraversion or Introversion E or I
- Sensing or Intuition S or N
- Thinking or Feeling T or F
- Judging or Perceiving J or P
Most MBAs, especially those at top business schools are Type A personalities where everything is BIG, and Cut and DRY, thus they are ENTJ. In fact I recall in a group of 48 people in my cohort that almost 80% were ENTJs. When we had to stand up based upon our types, people thought I was kidding when I stood up as an ISFP. My friend Jerry, a blue collar, tough talker who grew up the son of a major auto-executive told me to sit down and stop kidding around. “You? an introvert?”. It is true. you see, many of my classmates rightly saw me as an ENTJ like them, but my inner comfort level was as an ISFP. The (I) introvert in me would get exhausted after a day of interacted with lots of people and I would need to retire to my solitude to recharge my batteries and take personal inventory of my life. There really are two Myers-Briggs outcomes. There is the MBTI you get from your friends and how they perceive your personality to be and then there is the MBTI you get from your own self analysis. You can get your own Myers-Briggs test here.
Today for me was one of those ISFP days. In the Chinese culture we have something called “Ching Ming” (QingMing) which translates to Tomb Sweeping Day and other have translated it to mean the “Clear and Brightness Festival”. It usually occurs around April 5th but this year we celebrated it early to accomodate the busy schedule of our families (cousins, aunts, uncles). On this day we honor our elders who have passed (my Italian wife says it feels similar to Memorial Day). We burn fake money, scrub the tombstone, bow three times in front of the tombstone of my grandparents and then place burning incense and fresh flowers. My grandparents are buried in a Chinese cemetary in Colma which is known for more dead people than alive people (Thousands to one in fact).
When my grandmother died, she left my father as executor of her estate and they did a very unique thing. They gave each of the brothers and sisters a little moneybut also put a little account together and each year at Ching Ming our family gets together for a luncheon. It is a great way to make sure the Usually 60-70 of us. This year my wife helped to arrange the gathering which I’m sure she felt somewhat amused to do. These days I feel she is more appreciative of the Asian culture than me. I guess that is an indication of my wife’s new lease on life these days. She’s opening up to so many challenges and exploring uncharted waters. My perception of her has changed and she is thinking of changing her own self perception.
Tha amusing note of this day was that we play this game in our family when we listen to the radio that you blurt out the name of the singer as soon as a song starts. Suddenly a song came on and I blurted out “Lenny Kravitz”. My kids have no idea who he is, but my wife knows it has a special funny meaning for me. My dad used to listen to music stations when he fixed people’s teeth so he knew his pop music pretty well. The night of my bachelor party was the night of the famous “slow speed chase with OJ Simpson”. My dad took over that night and suddenly this raven haired woman grabbed me to the back room and danced for me to two Lenny Kravitz tunes that my dad requested. I couldn’t believe my dad did this to me. After the dance there stood my dad at the bar surrounded by my buddies with the biggest smile on my face. He patted me on the back and went home early but he had left his mark. Little did he know that 15 years later it would hit me on Ching Ming.
As soon as we heard the song and I blurted out “Lenny Kravitz”, my wife laughed out loud. Yes, she knows all about my bachelor party. We share everything. She knowingly put her hand on my shoulder as I both teared up and smiled at one of my treasured moments that my dad gave me. Yes, all is Clear and Bright to me now.