No Greater Insult


Credit: marcusjb / Flickr

Credit: marcusjb / Flickr

I constantly kick myself for not knowing enough about the world. Every day I learn about a new figure or amazing personality, and as excited as I am to learn something new, I always berate myself for not finding out about it sooner. There are so many things that I should know, but there is a finite amount of time within which to learn it.

My hunger for knowledge overtakes my commute. The two hours that it takes to get to the office (not an exaggeration) is a combination of listening to new albums on Spotify, reading my book on marketing and watching a daily TEDx talk. A lot of people have spoken to me about TED talks and tell me that they fall asleep to them. I don’t know how they do that as I am hooked from the moment the video starts.

On Friday, however, with the onrush of the working day rendering me physically exhausted, I had to retire at home and get my learning fix from elsewhere. I may be overdoing it. Well, I am overdoing it. It often happens that I fall ill have to restore settings to the last time that they worked properly. On instruction from my manager to rest, I chose to watch The Imitation Game, as it was another on the “must-watch” list of films that I haven’t made much of a dent in. You can probably tell I am not the sort to sit still for two hours straight.

However, the entire film engulfed me. Even though the Hollywood interpretation makes Bletchley Park look like a luxury estate, when after seeing it as a high school student it looked more like a dilapidated college, I was taken aback by the work of Alan Turing. I had never really heard of him before. I had seen a poster or two and the name rang a bell, but nothing more than that. It still upsets me now that I did not look into it further.

I could not be typing if it were not for the work of this man and his team. It is incredible to think that the digital civilisation that we find ourselves in now can be traced back to a shelter in the south of England that cracked the most difficult puzzle in the world. My life would be completely different without him, and I didn’t even know his name.

It unsettles me. The idea that a man’s name could be forcibly forgotten because he was gay. One of the most important minds in the history of the world could be so easily tossed aside because of his personal life. He is the reason that 14 million people lived on and that the war finished early. A society that he chose to save gave him no option other than to kill himself. There is no greater insult than that.

And now our personal lives are on show. The secrets that Alan kept and the truths that he cracked are now celebrated (by some). There are other parts of the world where he would still be considered a criminal. It frightens me that you can be imprisoned/killed for something that you can never atone for – a part of your being that is considered fundamentally unlawful. And for goodness sake, your sexuality is not a choice. It cannot be ripped from you.

As soon as we forget our humanity, and we choose not to see it in others, is the day that we ourselves become inhuman. The monsters that we hope to extinguish. The only question is: how many more great minds must we lose before we remember?

There will be more thoughts on this in the future I am sure.

Nine Two Five


Credit: yu7yu / Flickr

Credit: yu7yu / Flickr

Working life is in itself an oxymoron. I have found it very difficult to distinguish between work and my life since I started my internship. The company itself, to its credit, prides itself on finding the right work/life balance and making sure that you have something outside of the job. Yet it is very difficult to find that when you are interning. The idea that you are 5 weeks away from a job that could secure you for the next chapter, makes it difficult to make time to play tennis three times a week.

It is this constant nagging concern that you aren’t doing enough. There is no benchmark for knowing what is going to happen, and so you are working, thinking, doing everything you can to impress. And it’s absolutely exhausting. Looking back after half my time in this job, I have never worked so hard in my life, and I usually work for myself. The ability to prioritise, work at a thousand miles an hour and make sure that I make the 17:36 train to London Waterloo makes it a challenge every day.

I would be lying if I said that I enjoyed every second of it. Everyone who says that is lying. At times, it is incredibly stressful, upsetting and downright frustrating. I am starting to make headway, but it has been a very steep learning curve.

Luckily, I do have a great manager who is incredibly perceptive to the journey that I am on. In a typical 9 to 5, it feels like I am doing 925 hours of work and he is appreciative of that. However, there are plenty I have seen that have killed the motivation of interns they have working for them because they simply don’t have time. It amazes me how managers forget that they started at the bottom rung of the ladder and someone gave them a step up.

I have no idea whether I am going to get this job or not. And now five weeks in, I realise that this is out of my control. What I can control is how I present myself in this environment. Winning means doing the best you can, and if it doesn’t work here, then it will work somewhere else. Effort has never let me down. It has always taught me to be hungry for more.

I am taking this weekend to reflect about how I am really doing. Personally, rather than professionally. I think that is why I am starting by writing down my thoughts here. My development is as important as the bottom line.

The Precipice


"At the edge..." / xMEGALOPOLISx / deviantart

“At the edge…” / xMEGALOPOLISx / deviantart

Well, I failed. My 30-day blogging challenge that started off with a shot of adrenaline managed a pitiful 8 posts in 9 days before the stress of exams finally caused me to put it on hold. I am quite disappointed in myself, but then again, choosing to write 500 words a day for 30 days in the midst of cramming thousands of words in revision was probably not a good shout. However, the one thing that was encouraging was the amount of people that engaged with them, at a time when they were definitely too busy or stressed out. So, rather than killing myself putting these thoughts down with a 24-hour time bomb waiting to drop, I thought this one would just allow me to de-stress before tomorrow.

I read an article yesterday, yes it was the Tab, sharing techniques on how to de-stress when you feel like the sky might be falling. One of those was blogging, and I have written about it before, so I am not going to repeat myself, nor paraphrase the words of thousands of people on this. Yet I can stand testament to the fact that doing something different and allowing yourself to be expressive in the face of public ridicule prepares you for something that examination questions just can’t tackle.

But I still have to do exams which count. And this is the penultimate year of my education. I am feeling fairly okay about it for the first time ever!

It feels strange, that after all of this time, you would think that I would have learnt how to prepare better by now. For those of you reading this in the library, you will probably let out a small grin, knowing that everyone puts themselves in the same boat. They leave it to the last possible minute and then a rush of energy hits you (hopefully) which pushes you over the line. It is like standing on the precipice of a cliff, looking at the fall you need to take, and feeling the tips of your fingers tremble as the nervous energy starts to set in, before your feet throw you over the edge.

The reason I am feeling fairly relaxed is that I know that I don’t measure my worth or success by exam results anymore. I don’t tell myself how good I am based on the hour that it took me to cram in as much information as possible so I could to secure the grade I needed. This time, I actually enjoyed learning it – I felt like I got some of the value back from my investment. I finally felt less out of place in this environment, and I tried to put the work in. Obviously if this doesn’t translate into decent results, then I will have to reflect on it – but it is more about technique, than actual skill. Play the game. Please the examiners for the 45 minutes that they need you to and then go home and find pleasure in something else.

All I wanted to do was to wish you the best of luck with the upcoming exams, but I know most of you will do well. As much as anyone tries to convince you, you can’t blag a university exam – trust me, I have tried (and failed). You don’t need to – it is there within you – because you are already successful in most of the things that you do, as well as being healthy, loved and supported by the people around you. Numbers and statistics will try to define you, as much as people will look at what you are wearing and make their impression, but it is those that see behind that who will last.

The sceptical, stressed-out version of you will think this is flowery bullshit. And that this isn’t what you need right now. You need a 2.1. And don’t get me wrong, you do, but you also need to be a human being too, not a drone. If you don’t believe me, read this. Now jump.

Opt In


Credit: European Parliament / Flickr

Credit: European Parliament / Flickr

It was a bit of anti-climax. It isn’t the same putting your vote in the post, amongst those who are making their way to the polling stations now, huddled into those familiar wooden booths. It is a technological vaccuum where even the advances in everything electronic won’t stop you from taking a black pen and putting a black ‘x’ in the designated box. And it is totally yours to choose.

The beauty of voting in a General Election for the very first time is that it is like crossing the threshold. A threshold that has very rarely changed in the last few hundred years, that has built the nation and brought it to its knees. And it all invariably starts with you walking into that familiar wooden booth, and marking your choice. It was a very exciting moment for me personally, having been heavily interested in politics since I can remember.

However, I can’t help feeling like the tokenism behind voting should have more value than it does. Amongst many of us, it is as much about telling people that you are going to vote, as well as actually doing it. An exercise in democratic responsibility, as well as a vanity project. It is a curious juxtaposition between generations that have kept their political views to themselves, and many of us who are bold enough to post our explicit political views all over our social media profiles. It is a positive notion, I must admit, that so many people want to be more involved, but I am worried that we sometimes don’t see how important this actually is.

I know there is no need to point fingers at the engaged, when there are many others that have no interest or time for the way in which this race pans out. It isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Also, there is no right or wrong reason to vote – it is a very personal dimension and there are a plethora of reasons why an individual might choose one box over another. Yet, do we take the time to understand who and what we are voting for? Can we ever consider the implications of such a decision on one ballot paper on one day?

It sometimes makes me feel like it is an ‘opt in’. You tick a box (or rather cross) and suddenly you align with a certain viewpoint, a major issue or a charismatic leader. You endorse the way that they work, who they believe in and you give them the right to decide a part of your future for five years. It is the terms and conditions at the bottom that we miss – the small print that surfaces months after the wooden booths are taken down, and the pollsters go home – the devil, as someone said to me today, is in the details.

So cross that box. Smile at the fact that you made a little piece of history. But realise that this is just the beginning, and that it is time to start holding those to account after the banners have been taken down. It will be a very exhausting night. And for a few groups of people, it will be a celebration amongst all the chaos…but the real winner should be you.

Because this should never just be an ‘opt in’ – this is a statement of intent. This generation will not be deceived again, not this time.

 

Undergraduate of the Year


photo (1)

Some of the goodies provided by Mars

 

The last few days have pushed me back on the 30 day challenge, which is a bit disappointing, but I’d rather take the time to do it properly than rush it through. The title of this post is not some thinly veiled attempt at self-indulgence (I mean, that is what this blog is for) but actually a real thing. I was nominated this year for the TARGETjobs Undergraduate of the Year awards. Believe me, I was as surprised as you are.

The whole process was gruelling. Having to go through various assessments and questions, identifying this competency or that one, but this time it wasn’t just to be satisfy a graduate recruiter. I could actually talk about what I love doing: innovating. I love the process of creation. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was my favourite film as a boy, and Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka still makes me stare at the screen like a schoolkid. The sense of imagination and excitement from completely impossible things made me realise then that just because something doesn’t look normal, does not mean that it isn’t brilliant.

Although as you get older, fear creeps in. The drop to failure gets higher and higher, as does the height of responsibility. You start to overthink things. And I guess this last week has made me realise how much of my own stress is self-made. However, yesterday it was nice to put on a new suit and talk to people about the things I was interested in, the companies I have founded and what my ideas are for the future.

I wasn’t grovelling to employees at a firm I wanted to work for, but I was being asked about my thoughts on things – and this time it wasn’t being marked out of 10 on a clip board. There was a mutual respect. And the calibre of talent was staggering. One guy who won one of the awards was so good that he got invited to Obama’s second inauguration ceremony…I mean, my jaw literally hit the floor.

And no, I didn’t win. I was nominated for Future Business Leader by Mars Global and the girl next to me won. Initially I was disappointed, but when I looked at the sheer delight on her face, I was happy to see it go to someone who wanted it so much. For me, just being nominated was a token of how far I had come. After seeing things go my way (and not on some occasions) it felt calming to be given recognition for just being me.

I am forever grateful and humbled by the opportunities and achievements that have already come in abundance in my life so far. It is a culmination of my parent’s backbreaking efforts, my long suffering friends, colleagues that I have learnt so much from and strangers that challenge me every day. I never forget how lucky I am, and you can’t always win them all.

Although I did win, in my own little way

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