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Category Archive for 'Personal development'

Published! A story I wrote about my personal experience with cancer was published in a cancer newsletter, What Makes You Stronger. The full version is below for your eyes only:

I remember it well. It was the 10th day of work at my new job at one of the US’ top 10, fast-paced public relations agency. It was late Friday afternoon. I was engrossed in developing a new business proposal when the phone rang. The voice was that of my breast specialist.

“Sharon, I didn’t want to let the weekend come without calling you first,” she said. “The core biopsy shows that you have cancer. My advice is for us to remove the tumor as soon as possible.”

That fateful day. That fateful phone call. I was 33. I had breast cancer.

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This is a guest post by Jarie Bolander, Author of Frustration Free Technical Management.

Innovation and creativity are wrought with setbacks, stumbles and failure. All creative endeavors have that one point where all you want to do is stop. Stop working. Stop thinking. Stop worrying about the project. This place comes by many names – the wall, the edge or the brink….

Teetering on the Edge

The brink is that defining moment where all hope is lost. Whatever you are working on is just not converging. It’s the point of exhaustion where going on seems impossible. This spot is the single most frustrating point in your life where you question everything. It’s a nasty cocktail of melancholy mixed with terror that feels like your whole world is collapsing in on itself. At this point, where all hope, dreams, desires and ego are on the brink of collapse, will be your most creative moment if you let it…

Embracing the Brink

Creative people need to embrace the brink and the defining moments it creates. The clarity that brink moments can bring is truly astonishing. The brink is the culmination of your creative process. It’s that last little push to finish your blog post, the marathon session to release your software or the one defining experiment that proves your invention. When you feel yourself teetering on the brink, wanting to give up, try these techniques to push past it:

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All things exist independently, yet interdependently.

Time – while the present exists in the here and the now, we can’t dismiss the shaping forces of our past, the consequences of our tomorrows.

Words – while letters are strung together to form words and sentences, they really come to life when you engage in the ideas and concepts conveyed.

Relationships – while two people in a marriage exist as two distinct individuals, these two persons will also become one.

Learning about independence and interdependence teaches me a few things:

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his is a guest post by Chade-Meng Tan, Jolly Good Fellow (kid you not, this is his official title) at Google Inc.

Over the years, I’ve developed a 4-step plan to deal with my distress. I hope this would be helpful to you too.

My 4 steps are:
1. Know when you’re not in pain.
2. Do not feel bad about feeling bad.
3. Do not feed the monsters.
4. Start every thought with kindness and humor.

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During another downturn several years back, I learned a new definition of success.

It was a time not unlike these times. Many companies have folded. Many people have been laid off.

In the eyes of the world, these companies would forever be tossed in the “failure” category. After all, didn’t they run their companies to the ground?

I was, at that time, the owner of a public relations agency struggling to keep my clients and my employees. While I was discouraged, I wasn’t defeated. But for sure, I didn’t feel like “success” either, until I met professor Erickson from the City College of San Francisco, where I had signed up for a complimentary small business management class.

Professor, how do you define success?” A dark-haired middle-aged woman at the front of the classroom raised her hand.

The grey-haired balding professor in a navy suit looked up from his lecture notes and turned in the direction of my classmate.

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I was in a fancy Chinese restaurant in the Lion City, sitting across from Christina C., a dynamo of a woman and the new Singapore leader of our international public relations agency. We were deep in conversation as the waiter filled our cups with Puér tea and served us plates of steamed sea bass.

I would soon wrap up a two-week business trip. My life in San Francisco seemed so far away. Well, literally 8,500 miles away. Yet my mind was a whirlwind of thoughts, whirling about everything I needed to do before I left, and everything that awaited me when I got back.

“How am I going to find the time to do everything?” I said as I wolfed down the sea bass and emptied the tea cup. “Within the next week, I’ll be making five presentations. Two here, and three back in San Francisco.”

Christina looked at me through her stern, maternal eyes.

“Slow down, Sharon. Don’t you know that time is elastic?”

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I will never forget him. He was a senior executive at Dell Computers. A former Longhorn, he had come to speak to our group of wide-eyed college seniors at the University of Texas at Austin, about our future careers, of course.

A tentative voice at the back of the room posed a question. “I…, I know internships are very important, and I’m an intern now. But I don’t think I’m learning anything because they just have me doing little things, like faxing, copying, filing and other menial tasks.”

I will never forget what this professional said in response as his gaze fixed on the intern. “If you remember nothing else from my speech tonight, remember this, “Nothing is beneath you.”

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Have you ever sat alone at a cafe, stared out the window and pondered this question:

“What do I wish my life to look like?”

One day, I did sit at a cafe. I saw the cars and people passing by, and did ask this very question. I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I wanted to build a company filled with happy people and clients. I wanted to do good work that has impact and makes a difference in the lives of others.

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There are untold sufferers and suffering amongst us. Just two days ago, our nation remembered and mourned those who lost their lives during the September 11 attacks. All of us, at some time or other, would come face-to-face with pain, illness and death (ours or our loved ones).

Sometimes, in our despair, we may ask, “What is the point of all of this? What is the point of living?”

While we probably ask these questions at the lowest points of our lives, I believe that if we prod ourselves at these critical moments to find the answers to our questions, these low points could become the seeds toward a purposeful and meaningful life.

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This poem is dedicated to my wonderful friend, Leslie Shen, who taught me how to take time out to “smell the roses.”

Simply Time for Me

Simply time for me,

Simply time to be.

Time to take a walk and deeply breathe,

Time to calm the mind and hear the rustling leaves,

Time to slow the heart,

Say “bye bye” harried day.

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