170. How to Interview Well

This was my after my undergraduate ceremony at Georgetown (COL '02)  V's parents brought us all leis from California.

This was after my undergraduate ceremony at Georgetown (COL ’02). V’s parents brought us all leis from California.

A friend of mine is preparing for her first Business School interview next week. We discussed it in my old life when she first started researching the B-School option, and now she’s going for an interview – yay! So I’ve been thinking about the interview process and things to pay attention to because your interviewer will likely take note of these things. I used to interview for the support staff at my first job (Side note – I loved being part of and working with the support staff at my first job. E.g. Ice cream bars on the roof at 3pm!! Be there or be square…we really did work, too, I promise. Breaks were good for our productivity.), as well as for Georgetown MSB Admissions (MSB = McDonough School of Business). So these tips are pretty universal, whether you’re interviewing for graduate school or a job.

Tips for Interview Success:


  • Wardrobe and Grooming: Dress appropriately – a dark colored suit (a skirt-suit is safest for women depending on how conservative the environment is, but I have never looked askance at a smart-looking pant suit), good shoes (closed-toe for women is safest, please wear neutral hose – going bare-legged, although culturally acceptable, is still a little risky in my mind for interviews), clean hair, teeth, nails – ALL of your body parts should be clean.
  • Breath Courtesy: Eat a breath mint before you go into the interview, but don’t chew gum since it’s likely you’ll forget to spit it out or will have no way to gracefully do so before the interview, and of course, chewing gum during an interview = bad manners.
  • Preparedness: Bring an extra resume. The interviewer will likely have a copy of your resume (s)he is working from, but in case it has been misplaced, it looks good to be prepared as you whip a fresh, crisp, copy out of your portfolio. As you sit down you could even ask if you could give your interviewer a copy of your resume – again, preparedness looks good, and bringing a resume copy signals that you are ready for this – you have done your homework and intend to knock their socks off.
  • First Impression: As you meet and greet for the first time, do so with confidence – look them squarely in the eye and give them a firm handshake. (Not too firm – be conscious of any rings that could cause pain.) Smiling is good – just be confident and friendly – no grinning like a Cheshire cat.
  • Perspective – You’re probably nervous. If you aren’t, you might think that this interview is just for “practice” until you get the interview you really want. But take it seriously anyway. You want to be offered the position even if you don’t ultimately intend to take it. It is immensely confidence-building to have the power of refusal, and you’re not going to capitalize on this “practice” opportunity unless you bring your A-game. That said, if you’re super-nervous, don’t be. You could be interviewed by an HR person, the hiring manager, an Admissions officer, or a potential peer. None of these scenarios should intimidate you. No matter who shows up to interview you remember that they’re just doing their job or trying to help their school while they prepare for their next class, so your best bet for interview success is to make this a pleasant and painless experience for all parties involved. Yes, your interviewer is often the Gatekeeper who must pass you to the next round – but your interviewer is also a person with a multitude of home/work stressors you are not privy to. So if you get the vibe that today is a harried day, don’t sweat it and don’t take it personally – just be the professional, winning, hassle-free person you are and see what happens.

The Interview Itself

  • The Story Package: I almost always led with the question, “Why Georgetown, Why now?” It was the shortest way to ask, Why do you want to do this? Why is this the right time? And why would this school be the right place? If the person could not answer this question there was little hope for the rest of the interview. There are lots of lists you will find online for interviews questions, but if you’re pressed for time – concentrate on the story package. Think of it as a “package” – it’s your story, so you know it well enough to package and present it verbally in a concise (try 2 minutes and under) and attractive way. Short and punchy is good – because you want to make it easy for your interviewer to remember key words and ask follow-up questions. Also, if your story is too long and wandering, you don’t know your story and your interviewer cannot possibly be interested in it, sorry. So brush up on the story package, seriously.
  • Examples of how Amazing You Are: You could be asked a more traditional interview question like, “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” or you could be posed with a behavioral-interview question like, “Tell me about a time when….” Be prepared for both options – know one-word answers to questions like the strengths/weaknesses classic, but file example stories showcasing how amazing you are in your brain to be brought out at the appropriate moment. Topics include, goal setting, how you met the goal, how you lead/follow, how you handled a tough situation at work in the past etc. The interviewer wants to know how you think and handle situations, and the stories give you credibility. Prepare these stories beforehand, and draw the conclusions clearly, e.g. I showed perseverance, discretion, leadership in this situation when…, since you want to make it easy for your interviewer to take away the point you want them to glean from your story. Don’t leave them to their own devices.
  • Thank You: If you’ve prepared for your interview, shined your shoes and reformatted your resume so it’s fabulous, sit back and relax. Once you’ve done the interview there’s little to do but send a thank you note. And yes, please do send a thank you note. Maybe I’m old fashioned, but I think this is a good practice. Nice stationery (e.g. thick card stock, monogram optional) is another way to make a good impression, but I’ve written email thank-yous in more casual settings, and the most important thing is to write some sort of thank you. I’ve received thank you cards on the same day sometimes, which could only mean that the person had stashed some stationery in his/her portfolio and wrote/delivered the card before leaving the building. Preparedness points!

If there is another reason for you to follow up with your interviewer, definitely do so – you want to show that you remembered and are conscientious about these things. Otherwise, leave it alone for a while – you don’t want to appear too antsy or be a nag.

Before you leave the interview, graciously inquire as to when a decision might be made, and say, “I’ll follow up with you [time frame].” This puts the ball in your court so you don’t feel nervous about calling later, (like you’re nagging), and it also gives the interviewer the option to say, Oh, no – don’t worry about it. We’ll call you by XYZ. Either way you’ve done your duty.

In the event that you do not get the job or the admissions slot, it’s okay. Rejection happens. I know it well. And you know what? When you get rejected you focus on the next position on your list and go for it. As my Daddy told me many moons ago when I tried peddling my purses around town (this was before Etsy), but no one wanted any, “Tomorrow, the sun also rises.”

Also of interest:

370. Sizing Up the Competition


Ezra is a fierce competitor.  He loved Joe Joe my "Tackle Buddy" - and you see how that ended.

Ezra is a fierce competitor. He “loved” Joe Joe my Tackle Buddy – and you see how that ended.


As a player in any market you have to know your competitors and their capabilities. As a classy operator you should know how to talk about the competition appropriately. This ability stems from how you speak of others in your larger life – in general the safest rule of thumb is that if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. If you’re selling something you don’t say how bad the other guy’s product is, you say how fantastic yours is. If you speak about rivals in your field, please do so in a way that shows that you’re a professional, not in a way that puffs you up at the expense of others.

204..  (FFT 2) Who are your Competitors and why is your offering superior?

204. (FFT part 2) Who are your Competitors and why is your offering superior?

360.  Postcards

360. Postcards

I’m writing this post bc I have been “phone-screening” candidates for Team Tanimal since I’ve been plotting how to continue my heightened AlterG usage at home. I am extremely happy with my existing members. CMD was so pleased she called Mommy upon receiving my postcard saying I’m doing my duty. I’ve started to notice more pain and some loss of control on my left side so I think it’s time to go back to acupuncture. Trainer D has been busily fabricating reasons to make me go outside since it’s now warm. I’m adamant about staying within a climate-controlled environment but if he is willing to carry my parasol we can talk. Otherwise we’ll see who wins this battle of the wills. I’m looking forward to seeing Coach R again and running on the AlterG there – I have to remember to tell him, though, that if he could just move the practice near my house and purchase a set of parallel bars that would be really great for me.

I’ve been phone-screening candidates since I see Coach R once a week but was hoping to find somewhere else (kind of) closer to home to add to my regimen. I had high hopes for one place that also does sports massage but it didn’t work out. The lady who helped me on the phone, though, was super-nice. Bonus points!! She was willing to work with me and was patient and very accommodating. My speech and hearing deficits are mild enough to often go undetected but they can make administrative phone calls a nightmare. I had to tell her I’ve had hearing loss and ask if she could just give me a Yes or No answer to one question I posed. Sigh. That’s what my life is like now.

Side note: I am not part of the target market this practice has identified as its niche. It’s a pretty safe bet that this lady was not used to interacting with brain injury survivors so her customer service skills must have stemmed from a basic level of human compassion. Sadly, I have discovered that some places with “Neuro” in the clinic’s name can employ people who seem to be surprised that they have to interact with people with brain injuries. Sorry, I’m being facetious. They’re probably not really surprised – they just act like they’re not used to interacting with people with deficits.


147.  Ed's Career Advice

147. Ed’s Career Advice

My interaction with her did not involve any discussion of the competition – I have just learned that the level of consideration she showed is not the norm even though I persist in hoping it is. When I called another place, though, I got an earful of unsolicited advice replete with some colorful commentary on the competition. Mm hmm. FYI I didn’t offer a detailed medical history or anything that would invite deep conversation – I was just looking to get specific questions answered. Thankfully no one has ever said anything about specific people I work with. Comments regarding places are bad enough. I DARE you to say something about a member of Team Tanimal. I will not deal with you myself. Their skills speak for themselves, but for my own amusement I will tell Boo Boo or Timmy and they will call you. Take my word for it. You do not want that to happen.

In a way I proliferated the conversation. I’m just too nice on the phone – although part of it was that I was “yessing” him to death so I could hang up ASAP. I just want to point out, however, that whether or not your opinions of the competition are valid your word choice in sharing these opinions tell me more about the level of professionalism you operate on than the skills of those you are speaking about. If I get a less than stellar impression from your presentation I will assume that the level of service you are capable of providing is similarly uninspiring. This could be a faulty assumption, but I have no desire to see you in person to verify it “live”. You just lost my business.

Not that my business is some highly sought-after thing you should prize. I’m saying that a potential customer’s business – whether you’re selling widgets or offering physical therapy – is valuable. So if you feel utterly compelled to size up the competition verbally for others, do so in a way that brings you credibility instead of depleting it – and you’d better be able to back up your assertions with mad skills of your own.



352. Ed says, “Well that backfired, didn’t it?”


I’m getting kicked out of Therapy. It’s Trainer D’s fault. I did clarify that “I BLAME YOU” = Thank you,” but this is too important for me to say in any other way than code except this once. That moment has passed and I’m back to feeling happier when I hold him personally responsible for this.

I’ve not been discharged yet. I’m downgraded to 1x/week, and then 2x/month after March, with discharge as the end goal. In Q4 ’13 I told my PT I’d need as much notice as possible pre-separation. At that point her answer was You stay here as long as I say so. And I say so. I’ve avoided writing about PT in order to protect the identities of the innocent – but let me assure you that there is a LOT of laughing and the whole crew produces oodles of entertainment.

Trainer D is also highly entertaining and I have no hesitation when writing about it since he generously gave me free reign here. The reason I know this is his fault is because I actually felt a difference after ~3 months of training. No other variable has changed in my Recovery. This is an example of sensitivity analysis. If you build a model and are considering the impact of a cheaper supplier or a more expensive marketing firm you change one variable at a time. The extent to which your bottom line shifts is traceable to that specific variable.

87.  No Modeling in Public

87. No Modeling in Public

I walked into Rehab one day and my PT called from across the room, You look really good.

So I put Leo the cane down and asked her to watch me for real. K (the Speech Therapist) passed by and saw a difference, too.

Notably, the gait deteriorates with fatigue. I saw M37 that weekend right after church so my walking wasn’t looking that great. Overall, my score on the walking scale is still only a 5-6. I asked R (I’ll introduce you formally tomorrow) last week. It looks like I’ve had a hip replacement or something (per my request this was accompanied by a hysterically apt imitation) but it would be hard to notice if just passing me in public. I’ll take a 5-6. That’s better than the (low) 2-3 C gave me when she did my Planet Rehab eval.

117.  AVM Metrics

117. AVM Metrics

My PT also treated Mommy last year. Helping Baker Smurf is enough to secure my loyalty, but our PT has exceeded my personal expectations. She told Mommy upon discharge, …we’re going to take care of your daughter. Accordingly, she has interrogated me regarding my regimen. When I told her I ran she said, WHO WATCHED YOU? (Subtext: I need names.) So she’s added more accountability to RecoveryLand, where parental vigilance already demands that the people I work with be top notch. (Side note: I originally took the title picture of Ed for a post on transitioning from Physical Therapy to Personal Training. I now understand that Trainer D is not representative of the general Training population, so that post would likely not be helpful. I blame him for this, too.)

CMD also provides accountability, noting changes in the way my body is acting and charging me to make sure other people are watching too. When I met him at the Running Gym R asked me how I like acupuncture. Love it, I answered. She keeps me on a real short leash.

I tried to explain why this is a big deal to Trainer D but he has exhibited zero remorse. ARGH. “Absolutely terrifying” = unambiguous language!! Rehabilitation is the only thing I’ve known since I woke up. There. I said it.

So now I’m facing the prospect of being truly cut loose. I anticipated this, which is why I joined the Gym in the first place. But I didn’t realize it would actually hasten it. Oy. That plan backfired, didn’t it?

298.  Somebody - PLEASE just tell me what to do.

298. Somebody – PLEASE just tell me what to do.

So the way I’ve decided to console myself is to learn how to run, I told Trainer D. And you’re going to help me.

We’re picking up where M37 left off when I had to leave Planet Rehab (sniff) and pursuing Operation Run Forrest Run (ORFR) aggressively. I asked him to think about what he’d be comfortable with (there are no harnesses hanging from the ceiling at The Gym, a non-(neurological) rehab environment)– how I have no interest in creating a liability sort of situation, etc. But his indication of complete comfort with any and all running scenarios was so instantaneously enthusiastic I was like,

Erm…I guess this is the part where I trust you. But we’re going to have to work up to that.

I don’t know if M37 is familiar with the concept of “working up” to something. The second day I saw her she told me we were running, and after she saw me run (it was more like fast shuffling) once in a harness she dispensed with it entirely on land and just stood behind me, holding my belt, when on the treadmill. (Then I favored the Zero G so I wouldn’t elbow her in the stomach.) Confidence begets confidence. She didn’t hesitate so neither did I.

I guess I’m more nervous in a non-rehab environment. That’s why I found the Running Gym and recruited R to help. There are no harnesses there, either, but it’s a sports-rehab sort of place and I can tell R knows what he’s about. So I’m working on running with him every week but I’ll also work on the same type of movements in a “real life” environment at The Gym with Trainer D. So far he’s easing me into treadmill usage in a non-scary way, which is good. This is still in the very early stages so I’m not sure how this is going to pan out, but I’m sure I’ve enlisted the right kind of assistance.


342. Recognition


Last week I tried out a new gym (yes, another one – this one is slanted to Rehab and is attached to an Ortho practice. I went specifically to try out the Alter-G.) It’s taken about 2.5 years but now I know what to do when entering a new environment. I no longer just show up. I’m like a company signaling to the market prior to an IPO. I’m indicating that a major medical event happened and that I mean business when it comes to Recovery – I am willing to work hard and have high standards when it comes to my providers. I sent my Medical Resume ahead of me and dropped some verbal cues so no one would be shocked/appalled by the thing on my neck and my desire to bash around the gym unsupervised.

I got supervision anyway. I thought I could do this independently but when it came to it I needed a little shove to get off the ground. As I was warming up, safely zipped in to the Alter G bubble my New Guy asked me who my PT had been at NRH and I told him about M (37). “I like ‘em crazy,” I added. He smiled in recognition, and I knew he understood that I was using the term “crazy” in the very best way possible. Anyway, takes one to know one.

219.  Operation Hospitality (This is what an Alter G looks like)

219. Operation Hospitality (This is what an Alter G looks like)

I told Trainer D last week that I can smell crazy a mile away – and he has crazy written all over him. The people I’ve worked with carry their crazy in different ways – some wear it on their sleeve while some are closet crazy and just need to get used to me before establishing how we roll. I knew Trainer D’s MO before our first session was over. I’m getting quite good at sizing people up and reading the tea leaves on whether or not they’ll be able to help me progress. I can recognize the signs. Examples:

October 2012 – M(37): Up the middle.
The first time I saw her, M thought it would be appropriate to make me walk the stairs without holding on to anything.

11. Wok Breath

11. Wok Breath

October 2013 – Trainer D: Get up off the table and walk around.
During the initial evaluation Trainer D did the Mr. Miyagi thing on my left hip. Although his air of confidence (he was fully expecting immediate results) was comforting, I wasn’t sure I wanted to participate until 5 minutes later when he told me to get up and walk. (I’ve also interrogated him regarding his credentials a couple of times and am satisfied that he is qualified to do such a thing – otherwise I wouldn’t let him near me.) The limb felt lighter, similar to my early sensation after beginning TCM. It totally weirded me out, but it was a pleasant surprise.

Febrary 2014 – New Guy: Tell me about the atrophy going on with your left leg.
I was just standing there talking to him. I wasn’t even in motion – I was simply illustrating my exceptional standing balance. I had mentioned that my left side was compromised in my resume but I could tell from his body language that his question was based on observation. I did not realize I was being actively evaluated. Sheesh. I thought I looked pretty good, too.

There have been moments in RecoveryLand when I have begun to use the local dialect and I have immediately recognized the signs of understanding in the person I’m conversing with. It is an immensely gratifying thing to be heard and understood.

As I’ve embraced my more public life I’ve met many new friends and started to talk about what happened to strangers. Even though I might not have known them for an hour yet it has been so comforting to see the light of recognition in their eyes when I tell them about how I’ve found grace in the valley. Because of the obvious signs of trauma I carry many feel comfortable sharing their personal struggles. In this amazingly isolating experience, the fact that I can explain why I have hope and see understanding illuminate another person’s face warms me like a roaring fire. Let’s toast some marshmallows. Who’s with me?!?!

143.  How I Know

143. How I Know


(81). Blue Pools of Serenity


Originally posted January 2013

I was lamenting my lack of stamina a couple of weeks ago when we were all gathered at E&R’s house. Ai Ai was washing dishes and she turned around to tell me not to be discouraged. After all, she pointed out, You’ve always been kind of sleepy. It’s part of being a Tan, she continued – sometimes we just need to go lie down.

I had to agree. When Hannah was a toddler and I was supposed to be babysitting I’d invariably fall asleep on the sofa and Hannah would come over and tell me, “Aunty Ning Ning – wake up!” So sleepiness is not unfamiliar territory for me, although I seem to be exploring it at new levels now.

The first speech I gave in my Management Communication class was on how to handle a job fair if you’re an introvert. If you have never been to a job fair, let me explain. They were these crazy events we all felt obliged to attend during Business School if we ever wanted to be employed. A bzillion people would usually be in attendance and I’d stand there, appropriately suited up and with my nametag fastened to my lapel, tentatively handing out cards asking, You wanna give me a job? How ‘bout you? This kind of event was horrifying to me but as I said, I felt obliged to go to job fairs so I could eventually be employed. (Side note: I did get my job through a fair. Intel saw my resume posted on a preview site and they called me before the fair to say “hi.” I dutifully haunted their booth at the fair the next day and met every last one of the staffers there.)

I began my speech by identifying the problem: energy depletion. My class was populated by a mix of personality types so I explained what it’s like to be an introvert so we were all on the same page. I showed them my faux “graph” (see picture above) and told them to imagine that I went to the Winter Formal and one of our classmates (a known extrovert who obligingly let me use him as an example) attended the same event. We both arrived at 8pm (time is on the x-axis) but whereas my classmate’s energy levels grew throughout the evening as he interacted with others, mine declined. By 9pm my contacts would have dried out and by midnight it would be time for me to turn into a pumpkin.

Now the timeline has moved up by about 3-5 hours, but the problem is largely the same. So is the solution:


I asked my classmates to imagine that they now had to attend a Career Fair that started at 8am. The key was to carve out times in your schedule where you could go “hide” from the public and recharge. I told them to think of those big blue arrows as “blue pools of serenity.” I was completely serious. That’s exactly what I used to do – take a time out in the coffee shop, go wash my hands in the Ladies’, look out the window in a quiet hallway – anything for a few minutes of solitude. My friend E|B, who “drove” my slides for me that day, once caught me hiding in the computer lab during a networking event. We both laughed hard at catching each other trying to do the same thing.

These days I’ve been trying to protect my energy even more fiercely than before. The problem is that my desire to be laughing/eating/talking with my friends is also stronger than ever. For instance, today is a special day – J==> is holding a housewarming party. I was so pleased to learn of this gathering but decided that the prudent thing to do was to spend a quiet day at home. I have found that if I have too much fun on Friday or Saturday then Sunday is really hard. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to be there. Instead of sending George, my social proxy, I’ve asked K to keep her sense of good décor on alert so she can help me choose something appropriate to make J==>’s house into a home.

Update: I based the ideas for my introvert at a job fair presentation on a book introduced to me by my career advisor. (The faux graphs are originals by me from my school archive.) It’s called The Introvert Advantage by Marti Olsen Laney. I recalled this after some people told me that those concepts resonated with them. It feels like I’ve thought like this all along since I read the book a few years ago and immediately recognized how I’m wired in its pages. I remembered, though, that those ideas were actually external so I wanted to acknowledge that.

(14.) The Class Cream puff | Intro to Negotiation

Exhibit A

Originally posted 10.16.12.  The passage of time did not bring an improvement in my negotiating skills.  But this remains one of my favorite posts.

Cream puff: “will make concessions and be conciliatory regardless of what the other [person] does”  see exhibit A

p. 141, The Heart and Mind of a Negotiator, Thompson, Pearson/Prentice Hall 2005 (I added the exhibit A Part)

This is an excerpt from the textbook we used in my “Intro to Negotiation” class in B-school.  This was the most difficult class for me, including that horrifying macro-econ experience.  What was really horrible was that there was a role-play negotiation scenario pretty much every class, and at the end everyone’s results were listed on the board.  My friends would see my name inevitably on the bottom of the board (again), shake their heads and ask “What happened?”

My reputation as the class cream puff was established early on.  The first exercise we negotiated was to buy/sell a gas station.  I was the current owner who was trying to sell.  My friend MT (hi, MT!!)told me his fictional wife was sick and we eventually bottomed out somewhere in the vicinity of me offering to pay him to take the gas station off of my hands.  So my career as a bad negotiator was born.

I don’t know how this happened.  My family members know how to negotiate, but the gene must have skipped me.  Mom and I went shopping this weekend and I marched vigorously around Marshalls, and then was so tired I had to rest a while in the only seat I could find, which was in the shoe department.  I sat for a while and laughed to myself at the last time I had been in the shoe department at Marshalls.  I was in OR, talking on the phone to my sister, telling her she was a real “hustler,” which was good since her little sister is a total cream puff.  It was during the period when Tim&Ai Ai were finishing their house and due to complications, they learned to wear a general contractor’s hat and work with all the vendors directly.

I remember thinking in the hospital that “Mommy is a hustler.”  She told me afterwards that she had seen other patients in a state of disarray (not neglected, mind you, just a little disheveled or something), and had decided to ratchet up her advocacy for me since at that point I couldn’t talk.  It did not occur to me that not talking was a problem until one night, one of my favorite CNAs clipped my call button to my sheet near my hand and told me to press it if I needed anything.  Even when they didn’t hear any sound, she assured me, someone would come right away.

When we got home I realized that Tanpo is a hustler, too.  He might be the original hustler, actually.  I understood this since Tanpo has a penchant for the speaker-phone and I used to lie in bed downstairs, near his desk.  I’d hear him doing battle with the wheelchair company or any number of organizations whose systems showed I owed them money.  Tanpo wasn’t having any of it, though, so I lay in bed while Dad sorted things out.  As the Class Cream Puff it is SO nice to have people do what I can’t do for myself.

I John 2.1 …And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.  

PS.  Remember my friend “Magic B”?  I call him “Magic” bc he is an excellent negotiator.  Click on the image below – seriously, my texting skills are worth it for the laugh.

PPS.  Let me remind you that I have a major brain injury.

160.  Welcome to my world

160. Welcome to my world

Snow Day


Monday is a Snow Day in RecoveryLand.  There is no checking the radio/tv, calling a hotline or monitoring a website – I just get to decide bc this is my world and I’m in charge.  Mwa ha ha ha ha! (maniacal laughter).  (That’s actually a quote from Dr. M – I think I read it on his old xanga a decade ago and thought it was funny.)

The picture above is an old one – it snowed a LOT the year Ezra was born.  (2004, I think), and in the pics Ruthie is pregnant, Mrs. B (her mom) is visiting, and Ernie is shoveling snow.  I posted this picture because Karine is really young and the snow is so tall in comparison!

I’m looking forward to a quiet day tomorrow.  I’m going to need some hot cocoa.  And marshmallows.  And donuts.  I’ll have to talk to Ed about that – I don’t think Mommy is going to go for that idea.  Plus I’ll need to scurry around (digitally) so I can get more ducks in a row so Learning How can start sales tomorrow.  Thank you for praying – the articles of incorporation, bank account etc. have come through (thanks, Tanpo!) and now I’m just flip-flopping in my brain and getting distracted by the contrast between what I want to do and what I’m physically able to do.

Pre-AVM I would just push through and get whatever I needed done.  I never pulled an all-nighter in college but when I got my MBA I pulled a couple and I was like, ummm…I’m not even really “old,” but I think my body is protesting over this.  I used to try and dream of case studies in the event that I did sleep.  I would get into bed but often woke up in the wee hours with a case in my left hand and a pencil in my right.  Or a highlighter – in which case there would be highlighter marks on my sheets.  Oops.

That sort of plowing through is no longer an option.   For example, this post was supposed to be something else – that project I mentioned to you a couple of weeks ago.  But I ascertained that my imperfect reading and retention skills gave me a faulty understanding of the timeline so it’s not happening.  I’m pretty sure I’m the only one concerned about this kind of thing.  In OT I used to be timed while picking up buttons etc. with my left hand and putting them in a jar.  If I dropped one S (OT6) would tell me not to pick it up – to just move on quickly – but I never could.  I always had to retrieve the renegade item and put it away (unless it rolled across the floor).  This is representative of this entire experience.  I know what I want things (piano playing, books, etc.) to be like, but it’s not what happens.  I struggle to remember that I’m the only one thinking the old standards still apply.  It’s like how I still think it’s 2011.  I forget. Plus, I’m super tired.  I haven’t been feeling great this week, but I’ve gotten better this weekend (yay!), but I still think I could use a Snow Day.  So I declared one.  That prerogative is one of the perks of RecoveryLand.


(228.) Food For Thought: When Launching a Business – 4. Customers

Food For Thought: When Launching a Business 4/4 Customers | Ann Ning Learning How

You thought I had forgotten about this series, didn’t you? Well, I didn’t. Actually, I wrote last week’s post, “Classic,” in preparation for today. I wanted to put a little context around the idea of friendship and how I operate in the “normal” world now that I have to actually concentrate on regaining ADL’s (Activities of Daily Living). I also corresponded with the Marketing Ninja, Professor Homa – the one who taught us to “Skate where the puck is going,” – and asked if I could reference him and his material in this post. He very graciously consented. Remember, if you can’t BE the ninja, KNOW the ninja.

As I rummaged around homafiles.com, though, I remembered just how limited I am in that I am unable to do all the things I would have liked to have done, and am also constricted in that I cannot influence the trajectory of my recovery to make it more marketable. I’ve said it before – this isn’t a product, it’s my life. And of course I’m doing everything I can to set the stage for a rock star recovery, but my body doesn’t always cooperate, regression happens, and it’s a pretty accepted fact that the most astounding gains happen the first year after the injury. After that…it’s. kind. of. boring.

Well, it can be kind of exciting, too, but that’s because I make the conscious decision to celebrate the small stuff – which brings me to the “customer” discussion. “Customers” are the people who will actually buy your product or service. Usually you do not want to be all things to all people because you want to be able to target your marketing – you have a limited amount you can spend on marketing, and it will be more effective this way. You want to be able to take a larger portion of a segment of the pie rather than get a few crumbs from the whole pie. So you have to decide how to segment the pie (market). There are lots of methods of segmentation, e.g. physical factors like age and psychological factors like comfort level with technology. The point is that you want to 1) be able to verbalize WHO your target market is – they should have distinct characteristics from other people and a certain kind of buying behavior you can put your finger on. 2) know if your target is winnable – do you know how to reach this target market and influence the people who will be making the actual purchase decision? You want to be able to pick a target you will actually have access to via your well-crafted marketing efforts.

This is why I’ve been dragging my feet on writing this one – I’m busy celebrating the small stuff, and I’m grateful for the people who are willing to celebrate along with me – everyone’s welcome, so I’ve kind of thrown out the idea of market segmentation. (Gasp! Did I just say that out loud? )

It comes down to what my goal is: when I was first thinking about Learning How… my brother helped me sift this matter through, and JPAS also helped ask probing questions. It took me a while to decide this but my goal is NOT to make money for myself or for a good cause – my goal is to tell as many people as possible how I found grace in the valley. I will not segment the market since the miracle of joy I’ve found is relevant to everyone and I have been delighted in the past to see how it cuts across all types of social/economic/age backgrounds etc.

I’ve continued to see how people from all walks of life want to know how to find grace in the valley – maybe it’s different here in the South (we’re not even THAT South, and the Washington, D.C. area is already considered “South” but it’s different there), but all sorts of people talk to me in public here. Yes, I have been approached in public in the DC metro area, but it happens more often here, and people say more. It’s amazing – I have enjoyed meeting people all over town, when I’m exercising, grocery shopping, lunching with my sisters – everywhere! I think people see the thing in my neck and they observe my gait as I walk down the aisle in a store or maneuver myself behind a table in a restaurant, and something resonates with them. They think of their daughters, or a young friend who had a bad injury, and it makes them want to say something. You’d be surprised to learn how many people are hurting or have loved ones who are hurting – I know I am. You never know the stories people are carrying around with them.

So since my goal is not to dominate a market (segment) the marketing roadmap for success doesn’t really apply here. Yes, I have thought about the concepts I’ve espoused in Parts 1-3 of this series (see below for links), and I think the self-illustration is hysterically funny. But I’m realizing that it might not be as funny as I think it is since people will often get kind of doe-eyed and sympathetic when I’m telling them a story that’s supposed to make them laugh. I’m like, C’mon, people toughen up!! Just kidding. I’m not really that mean – it’s just that I’ve had more time to get used to This Disabled Life, and if I don’t laugh at it, what am I going to laugh at? So please, I give you full permission – laugh with me.

Plus I’m limited physically, so I went with the easiest self-publishing option I found online – Amazon’s Createspace. So eventually, my books will be available on Amazon – which I thought was great since so many people rely on Amazon – it’s a great distribution channel. Plus, they take care of all the inventory – I never have to touch a book – technology has advanced to the point where this is a print-on-demand model – someone orders a book, they print it, and send it. Yay for me! The only drawback I’m realizing now is that my ability to fiddle with pricing (e.g. bundling, volume tiers) is limited. :/. So I’ll apologize in advance for that. But the advantages of me never having to touch a book and being available on Amazon outweigh the other stuff, and since my entire reason for writing rests on the notion that this isn’t “my story” the weight of responsibility isn’t on my shoulders so it’s easier to “let it ride“.

One last thing – yes, I had an AVM Rupture and a massive stroke, yes, I am a full-time Recovery Enthusiast now, but Recovery isn’t the only thing I write about. I write about all of my attempts to get back to “normal” life, hence all the recipes and crafts – naturally, all my efforts at functioning in the home occur with Recovery Land as the backdrop, but I’m hoping that the breadth of my interests might match some of yours, and the extreme circumstances I’ve been given feel more relatable as you witness my efforts at cooking etc. That’s what I mean about celebrating the small things – Who’s excited about coconut flour banana bread? Apparently, a lot of you are – I get several search engine referrals for this post daily.

Coconut Flour Banana Bread [Grain Free, No Sugar Added] || Ann Ning Learning How

But there are also people searching for “how to learn to walk again.” If that’s you – you’ve come to the right place. And while you’re reading about my ambulatory efforts please stick around since I don’t just write about how I’m learning to walk, I write about how I’m learning to live.

10 Tips for Learning How to Walk Again || Ann Ning Learning How

P.S. I picked the title picture because it is SO typical and makes me laugh and laugh. Remember, sharing is caring! There are sharing buttons at the bottom of every post

P.P.S. Special thanks to Professor K. E. Homa – I have drawn heavily on my recollection of 3 Business School courses with him, but of course anything I have mentioned is only the tip of the iceberg. If you want the real deal go to homafiles.com. On the right bar there’s a link to the “homafiles information site” – click on that. The original link might take you to the blog. I’ve especially found the following interesting: homafiles information site ==> Point and click Maps ==> click on “People” ==>scroll to the bottom and click on Marketing 6P’s ASQs. (ASQ = Analysis Starter Question.) (You thought there were 4P’s, didn’t you? Think again!)

Food For Thought When Launching a Business Series | Ann Ning Learning How

1) What is your Elevator Pitch?

2) Who are your competitors and why is your offering superior?

3) How are you going to approach finances?

4) Who are your customers and how are you going to reach them?

(209.) Food for Thought: When Launching a Business (Series Part 3) – Finances

Food For Thought (3) When Launching a Business - Finances | Ann Ning Learning How

Many people are artists, inventors, designers, visionaries and want to leave “bean-counting” to someone else with a fancy looking calculator and a pocket protector.  Incidentally, I endured much good-natured ribbing since I used to carry around my old high-school graphing calculator. My colleagues joked that it had nuclear code capability. I was attached to it, though, since I was used to the buttons and knew where they were without looking.  My other favorite device in B-school was my handy number pad (the USB kind you plug into your laptop).  I got made fun of for using that, too, but I stick by my assertion that it makes number entry SO much faster.

If you fall into the category of person who would be amused by my calculator and number pad the important thing for you to do in answering Question 3 (“How do I approach finances?”) is to start approaching finances somehow.  I’m not going to be picky here – just buckle down and start thinking about it.  Don’t be scared.  You HAVE to do this in order to sustain the creative activity you are made for, so just start and you’ll feel so much better – when you have addressed finances you’ll feel free to attend to your core business.

So these thoughts are just starting points to help you not feel overwhelmed if you’ve decided to get a grip on your business’s finances and are not sure where to start.  Let me break this into two goals:

  • Goal 1 (past-oriented records):  Keep your books clean so your accountant can work with them easily (I can’t help you here bc I always confuse debits and credits – accounting is not my forte).  Communicate with your accountant so you know what (s)he needs.  If you do not have a good accountant, make it a priority to get one – you need to be square with the government. Note:  If you cannot BE the ninja, KNOW the ninja.
  • Goal 2 (future-looking projections):  Get a good idea of your revenue and expenses so you know if you’re going to make money in the future or not, and what you have to do to turn a profit.
    • Expense Categories:  Decide on categories that encompass all of your expenses. This will allow you to track them accurately as you sort every dollar that goes out the door into piles, and then size the piles so you know how much it costs to keep your venture running.  Examples:  Travel & Entertainment, Continuing Education/Licensing, Materials, Office Space Rental, Office Supplies, etc.
    • Revenue Unit:  What is a good “unit” to work with?  Depending on the business it could be a burrito, a book, or the hourly rate for an evening of babysitting.
    • What are the costs attached to each unit?  What is your pricing scheme?  Per room, a % of costs, etc.?

 A note on Pricing:  Do your homework and know what the market value of your product/service.  What are your competitors charging?  If you charge above this you should be able to clearly point to the extra value your business provides – the surcharge is simply the monetization of that extra value.  If you are charging below market value you must make sure that a) this price cut is NOT perceived by your customers as a discount for a product or service of inferior quality, and b) you can make up the deficit by the increased volume of sales you’ll see because of your low price strategy.

The goal is not to break even – it’s to turn a profit.  But it might take a while for this to happen, and it would be good theoretically to know how many sales you must make to break even since it’s a good mental milestone.  You just want to make sure you’re not throwing money at a losing proposition for X years while your family goes hungry because you’re busy pursuing your dream but have counted the cost ineptly.  If your dependents are extremely supportive of your dream and are okay with making some sacrifices in order to see it become a reality, that’s wonderful – but you still want to have some sort of idea of how long they are going to have to tighten their belts so you can make an informed decision regarding whether or not to take the plunge.

49. Did she really just say that?

It’s time for me to self-illustrate, but I can’t this time because 100% of the profits from Learning How… (in any format or language) will go to a good cause.  I am not sure of the language to use – I mean to say that they will go to a government-recognized organization that is non-profit or not-for-profit.  The funds will not be going to the Charity of Me.  Although I’ve heard of many people who, when faced with unexpected illness, accept donations for their medical/living expenses – and this is a good thing since if you can’t work bc you’re injured/sick, where are you and your family supposed to get money from?  If I were in this kind of situation I’d tell you.  But I have been blessed to be in a situation that does not necessitate fundraising (at present). Instead, I’ll offer you a product (my “Memoirs”) in return for a price – it’s your decision whether or not to purchase.  As I’ve said before, there’s actually very little overlap between this blog and my “Memoirs” – I know, you’re like, Seriously?  What else could she possibly have to say?  Answer:  Many, many things.

To be clear, Ed Goes to D.C. and anything else I come up with are not part of my “Memoirs”  (right now I’ve got Volume 1 written, and am waiting for more stuff to happen so I can write Volume 2). All revenue will be categorized and recognized appropriately – don’t worry, Tanpo is going to help me.  One more thing – I mentioned different formats/languages in the paragraph above.  I have enlisted some multilingual friends who will graciously translate Learning How… into Mandarin and Spanish.  I also researched options for a low-tech audio book and figured it would be a good use for my voice if I did it myself, plus I’d love to offer an accessible option like this…but given my upcoming vocal cord intervention I’m having second thoughts.

Don’t you love how I’m referring to it as “intervention” and not “surgery”?  Aaah – the soothing use of euphemisms helps me face the reality that I’m going back to the hospital without really facing it.  But this is exactly what I’m telling you NOT to do – don’t practice avoidance like I do – just jump into the financial pool.  The shock of the water might take an adjustment but you’ll feel more comfortable once you just climb in.  Don’t just get your toes wet, either – do a cannonball.  Better you than me.  🙂