Tag Archives: travel

A Mentor Like Mine

mentors sometimes come to us individually only once in a blue moon. not just authority figures, but people that we learn from, that we bond with, that help us grow into the people we either never thought we could be, or that we always wanted to become..these people have an innate ability to sense potential and push us to act on it to blossom into the best versions of ourselves. these people take chances on you when no one else will. they trust their intuition, and their show you love through their belief in you.

exactly 1 year ago i had an interview with my current mentor for the job of my dreams. a few weeks later he called me right as i was getting on the boltbus back from nyc to head home, and he said, “get ready and embrace the ride you’re about to go on.” i remember not knowing what to say because as bad as i wanted it, i knew who i was competing against and thought i had no real chance of getting the job. the fact that i’ve worked since i was 9 years old, got good grades in school, was an athlete and creative person — (all the things that nova kids cry and sweat over all their adolescent lives) — didn’t really mean much in the scheme of things. my mentor said he hired me for one reason: my potential.

over the past year, i’ve had plenty of room to make mistakes, but my mentor has given me even more room to grow. i’ve gotten to travel to remote areas of the world, meet snazzy ceo’s and figureheads of major foundations and corporations, and i’ve been given the opportunity to exercise my own hidden talents through photography and videography. I feel more like me because my mentor saw possibility all along.

today, my mentor stepped down from his position as my boss, and he is moving back to philly full time to be closer to his wife and kids. it would be selfish of me to not wish him all the best and good luck, but i can’t help but think over and over again: i wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for him. it really is a tough loss when you have to let go of an organic bond with a person that has proved to be stronger than most of your adolescent friendships. it sucks..but our COO reminded me today to cherish the opportunity that has been granted to me, and the opportunities that are to soon follow…since i will now have bigger, more senior shoes to fill.

(sigh) a lot of emotions — happy and sad. just wish everyone could have a mentor like mine at some point in their life.

Gladwell’s Ethnic Theory Proven by SF Plane Crash?

The San Francisco plane crash that happened this past weekend was extremely unfortunate. It was also very surprising given how rarely plane crashes occur each year, but it does provoke some interesting points that Malcolm Gladwell made in his novel, Outliers, that perhaps should be taken into serious consideration.

According to Gladwell, a large percentage of the plane crashes that do occur are a direct result of miscommunication and language issues —  either among pilots in the cockpit and between air traffic controllers and pilots.  He even goes so far as to propose an “Ethnic Theory of Plane Crashes” which suggests that how good of a pilot you are has a lot to do with which culture you were raised in. Gladwell compares Asian airlines to American ones, and explained in a Q&A with Fortune Magazine:

Korean Air had more plane crashes than almost any other airline in the world for a period at the end of the 1990s. When we think of airline crashes, we think, Oh, they must have had old planes. They must have had badly trained pilots. No. What they were struggling with was a cultural legacy, that Korean culture is hierarchical. You are obliged to be deferential toward your elders and superiors in a way that would be unimaginable in the U.S.

But Boeing (BAFortune 500) and Airbus design modern, complex airplanes to be flown by two equals. That works beautifully in low-power-distance cultures [like the U.S., where hierarchies aren’t as relevant]. But in cultures that have high power distance, it’s very difficult.

I use the case study of a very famous plane crash in Guam of Korean Air. They’re flying along, and they run into a little bit of trouble, the weather’s bad. The pilot makes an error, and the co-pilot doesn’t correct him. But once Korean Air figured out that their problem was cultural, they fixed it.

Gladwell’s attributes pilot error, particularly on Korean airlines, to the country’s authoritarian culture, which has the tendency to negatively effect the pilot teamwork “needed to fly Western-built jets” because co-captains are too afraid to speak up and tell their superiors when they are making a mistake. This makes it extremely difficult and dangerous when dealing with an emergency.

In Outliers, Gladwell also discusses the 10-thousand-hour-rule, which you can hear him talk about in his interview with CNN. The idea behind this rule is: you’d have to essentially be an apprentice and work on your craft for approximately 10 thousand hours in order to be considered great at what you do. Interestingly, the pilot in the SF plane crash, identified as Lee Kang-kook, had nearly 10,000 hours of experience flying planes; however, only 43 of those hours were spent flying the 777 model (ABC).

In the effort to minimize crashes, Airlines across the globe have been working to improve pilot-co-pilot teamwork efforts. It is becoming more and more common for co-pilots to address superiors by first name, and airilnes are teaching them how to be more assertive and get more comfortable with pushing back, particularly in emergency situations. In turn, head pilots are learning to work collaboratively aboard their planes by operating as organizers, negotiators and facilitators, rather than as dominant commanders. The goal is to make it easier for first officers to speak up in order to correct any mistakes caused by the main pilot.

Interviews with the 4 pilots on the Asiana plane are currently still being decrypted from Korean to English. It will be very telling when those interviews are released what happened — whether or not there was some sort of miscommunication or a last second decision that was made in error — that led to the crash (2 deaths and 183 injured).

I really think that Gladwell’s theory has some validity to it, which is unfortunate because the aim is not to strengthen ethnic divides; however, the positive outlook on this is that we can continue to learn and correct our mistakes no matter what ethnic group we are a part of.

 

Wordle Me.

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I took some of the most recent pieces that I wrote and put them into a Wordle..

The words that appear to be the biggest were the words that I used most prominently throughout my writing — more often than not to describe myself, my experiences, and my surroundings. The words that appear in a smaller font were used less frequently when talking about these same (physical and figurative) objects. When I did this, it was interesting to me that the bigger words all seemed optimistic and accurate precursors to the next chapter of my life; the smaller words were more pessimistic and sort of stuck in the past. This little exercise made me smile. It made me feel at peace with what I have walked away from, and excited to embrace the new experiences that are awaiting. I am going…to keep writing my story. This feels good..

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Perspective

Perspective is everything.

Are things exactly as we see them? Have they always been this way, or do they change as we do? Sometimes it’s good to revisit the places that we seem to take for granted..appreciate what we have grown up with and how it has shaped us. And yet, remain open minded, willing to learn from another perspective when appropriate.

6:21 pm on 4/18/13, at Rockefeller Center:

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This is where people come to fulfill their dream. Where they thrive…or get chewed up and spit out. Bumping shoulders, avoiding eye contact, exchanging brash words; racing to get from point A to point B, C, D…Z. The city is moving…so fast that we sometimes tend to become nearsighted. Work and money draw a heavy focus here.

8:12pm on 4/18/13, at Rockefeller Center:

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A thick layer of fog has descended on the city, creeping along eerily…calming the energy outside. The city’s people, they are still pacing. But the city, it is illuminating. Focus relaxes and grows increasingly farsighted — on the bridges stretching across East River, the skyline reflecting on water,  the lights on the Empire State Building as they sequentially alternate colors, and the sea of orange-yellow trying to navigate through every crevice of the city. There is a new appreciation at night because we survived another day to look at all of this.