2018 - Lessons I Learned as An Educator, Entrepreneur & Design Thinker

The unexamined life is not worth living. - Socrates

Since 2015, I have made a point to slow down my life significantly in the last week of December to reflect, celebrate the wins, learn from my disappointments and set intentions and goals for the New Year. This often means no travel and minimal social activities (very hard for a gregarious extrovert like me to turn down three house party invites). But I accept this as the necessary action to take as minimizing all the stimuli would shift my monkey mind to a tranquil one, allowing me to restore and for new insights to emerge.

Celebrations & Gratitude

My experience creating and facilitating career and professional workshops for UBC’s MBA students helped me realized how much designing and delivering workshops with content I love brought me joy and fulfillment. Thanks to this, I set a vision in year-end 2017’s vision board party to lead more workshops in 2018. 

That vision was manifested 10x! - 2018 turned out to be a monumental year where my expertise was recognized by 7 invitations to lead and facilitate workshops for the communities I deeply care about and a total of 9 workshops delivered.

In addition, after over 6 months of planning, in February 2018, Bolt Careers officially launched its flagship product, the Career Reinvention Bootcamp and piloted its half-day workshop, Designing Your Career. 

I’m indebted to my UBC colleagues for their understanding of such pursuits outside of my regular responsibilities, and their trust that my playing with state-of-the-art career practices would enhance my contribution to my work back on campus. This was proven successful with us eventually incorporating content I created outside of work into UBC’s student development programming. 

I’m also tremendously grateful for the trust from the event organizers and clients who have invited me, the workshop participants who took a leap of faith and spent an entire day with someone who they had never met, and the feedback I received from everyone, insights I would heed every time I create new content. I also could not have pulled this off without friends who volunteered their time to help me with logistics, and mentors and colleagues who provided me with their advice and helped me promote the workshops.

Although I went in detail above describing my proudest accomplishments this year, I’d be remiss if I don’t mention my gratitude towards having a healthy body, having supportive coaches, friends and family, and hobbies that sustained me. I’ve put my YYoga membership to good use, went on many many coffee and dinner dates with friends, performed in New York as part of an a cappella festival, and sang my heart out quite a few times in local karaoke joints. Having the sanity to deliver so many things in a short time would not have been possible without this foundation!

Lessons from the Wins & Struggles 

Focus, focus, focus

For some people, this is probably a no brainer. For me, whose top Saboteurs are “restless” and “hyper-achiever” (learn more at www.PositiveIntelligence.com), I tend to spread myself thin and suffer from “shiny object syndrome”. 

Although I’ve made progress over the years, the first quarter of 2018 was full of stress: I committed to 4 workshops in a span of 3 months, not to mention trying to figure out how to promote Bolt Careers’ brand new product to the general public. 

All these made the weekly choir practice I used to love become more of a nuisance rather than escape. I tried to get by with minimal practice and didn’t pay as much my attention as I wanted to build relationships with members of my choir.

Thankfully, I caught myself in time early in the year and started to curb my tendency to learn new knowledge outside of my niche (career reinvention using design thinking, the Business Model Canvas, and personal branding), and limit the number of workshop engagements I committed to. For example, I postponed my own Career Reinvention Bootcamp from September to spring of 2019 so that I could focus my energy on the busy fall semester at UBC and a high-stake workshop engagement for a corporate client. This single focus allowed me to dedicate hours each week to to think, research, create and practice: e.g. understanding my clients’ needs, getting feedback, perfecting how the concepts tie together, practicing my delivery and time management with a stop watch repeatedly. My hard work was rewarded by unanimously strong evaluations by the participants. 

A Learner’s Mindset & Moving Away from the Ego

Launching Bolt Careers’ first Bootcamp wasn’t easy at all. At least I didn’t make it easy for myself. I committed to a co-facilitator, booked a room for the entire day, I had a helper, and I thought for best participant experience, I “should” have 10-15 participants. To make it easier for people to try this new product, I set the price low and had numerous giveaways.

Three weeks before the workshop, I only had five people who registered. I started having doubts about my ability to run a business: Should I have blogged more? Should I completely revamp my website copy? Maybe I should wait until I have 100+ people in my Facebook group? I also hated asking friends and colleagues to help me spread the word about the workshop, thinking that I was bothering them.

At this critical juncture, my coach, Carly, came to rescue. She helped illuminate the original goal I set for the first Bootcamp - I was to test out how my way of delivering it worked for my target audience. I was to learn from the experience and iterate on it, not to fill the room with a full class of participants and make a profit. That change in perspective and focus on the right goal completely loosened the workshop’s grip on me. We decided together that no matter how many people signed up, the workshop would be a go. 

Letting go of the need to look good also allowed me to be vulnerable to my participants and asked them to help me bring in more people who could benefit from it. It worked. We ended up having a class of 10. I am forever indebted to this first group of participants’ full engagement in the workshop and their thoughtful feedback.

First class of Career Reinvention Bootcamp participants

First class of Career Reinvention Bootcamp participants

When promoting the June Bootcamp, the (self-imposed) stress from filling the class came back. At the urge of my dear friend and coach at the time, Megan, I reconnect to my “why” behind launching Bolt Careers - I struggled with finding the right career before and I’d seen many others struggle, especially immigrants. I had been searching for a good framework to guide this exploratory process and I found it. I believe in using the Business Model Canvas tool and using other design thinking approach for career innovation.  That’s why I founded Bolt Career to spread awareness of these tools and create a community where people thrive in their career pursuits and make a meaningful difference for society.

Putting my struggle in that larger context liberated me again. A mentor of mine once said, “When stuck, focus outward.” I started trusting that the Bootcamp will take place the way it should with the right participants. I also stopped using the word “bug” when I asked people to help me share the Bootcamp. Those who believe in my cause happily obliged. One of the shares even led to my most significant teaching engagement to date. On June 9, 15 participants showed up. Again another group of kind, loving, talented people who are dedicated to living lives and careers that matter.

Having a curious learner’s mind and systems thinking are core concepts in design thinking. Teaching how to use the Business Model Canvas and design thinking to reinvent one’s career is a great gift founding Bolt Careers has given me - It changed my relationship with myself, with failures, and with asking for help. I have Tim Clark and his co-authors to thank, for writing such a practical and profound book, Business Model You, that inspired me to embark on this journey.

Abundance mindset

Trusting that there is an abundance of opportunities out there is the foundation I found I need to stay focused and be patient enough to learn. The downside of those with a curious mind is that we get inundated by new opportunities and information everyday. Should I skip my reading tonight and go to that networking event? Should I keep the workshop as two people said they were interested already even though I don’t have the bandwidth to make it great? Should I go after that opportunity that I’m not too keen on just to prove to myself that I’m making progress?

These are all questions I often ask myself. Constantly reminding myself of the abundance mindset relaxes me. It allows me time and permission to take care of myself, connect with people fully present and give to their lives, and build mastery in the field I’m passionate about. When things don’t go the way that I wanted (e.g. I was too distracted to properly work on something and it didn’t pan out), it doesn’t faze me as I know that there is always time for another try, or maybe it’s not meant to be and another door would open.

The abundance mindset is such a transcendental and liberating principle that I won’t do it justice without sharing this awesome article, 10 Steps to Develop an Abundance Mindset by the Chopra Centre.

Intentions for 2019

Focus & Abundance 

Since learning an important lesson on focus and the abundance mindset in 2018, I resolve to continue this theme in 2019 to make it a habit:

    • Something new I’m trying is to plan my 2019 in a rough quarterly basis with each one having a theme and “rise and fall” in level of intensity so I can take regular breaks:

      • Jan-March: Rise in creative work: I’ve been reading quite a few books on positive psychology and are applying for part-time graduate studies in this realm. My Q1 intellectual activities would be on learning and creating content within this field and launching another Bootcamp.

      • April-July: Slow down, reflect, re-strategize and phase in more play: Having a mid-year review on how things are going is important. Having a big trip at least once every two years is also very important to me. I am thinking Morocco! 

      • August-October: Ramp up in creative work: This is the busiest time at UBC with a new school year and new cohort of students joining us. This is also where I apply all the learnings from earlier in the year in my work with our students. 

      • November-December: Slow down, reflect, re-strategize, connect and play: This is again the time to enjoy the “dolce far niente” (“the sweetness of doing nothing” in Italian) and allow myself to relax and prepare for another new year.

    • I will remain flexible when new opportunities arise, but whenever I take on something new, something on my plate has to go.

A few simple tools I’m using to help me stay on track:

  • A paper planner to help me plan my monthly and daily priorities. The daily goal is to accomplish no more than 3 things and to make sure that they have a theme so I don’t lose momentum.

  • A 90-day accountability partner and habit changing program offered by the Personal Success Institute starting the first weekend of January, to gain support on achieving 4 dimensions of my goals: spiritual, mental, physical and emotional. To be honest, I’m quite scared about it but am embracing the challenge head on!

  • The Moment app to track my cell phone screen time as I do have the bad habit of checking my phone a bit too often.

  • Daily meditation in the morning and journaling before bed.

How about You?

What’s worth celebrating and feeling grateful for your in 2018? Any worries that turned out to be unnecessary? What are your intentions for 2019?

Join me in your New Year reflection and reinvention by downloading this free workbook and let me know if you have any questions or comments!

Have a happy, fulfilling and healthy 2019, everyone!