(204.) Food For Thought: When Launching a Business [Series part 2]

Launching a Business : (2) Competition & Positioning |  Ann Ning Learning How

Before you enter the field you want to know who’s already there and if your product/service is good enough to hold its own.  Do your homework!  The internet makes it easy to get a good start – Google, Amazon, etc. will give you an overview.  You should also go to some sites that people interested in your field congregate at and see what they’re talking about – e.g. is there a cool new product Moms are talking about on a popular Mommy blog?  Are tufted fabric headboards popular now, or do people like wooden ones?  How do men carry things when they travel without carrying a purse?  If the messenger bag is a popular solution, what kinds of options are already in the market?

If your offering is a product you could also go to the store and just look at what’s already on the shelves at local big box retailers.  Would yours be a compelling option to a consumer pushing a cart down that aisle?  (We’re suspending reality a moment and pretending you’re so amazingly fortunate as to have your product in a hard-to-break into distribution channel; seriously, though – if you can’t imagine your product being a fantastic option on that shelf you’ll have nothing to say to the stores’ merchandise buyers, so definitely ask yourself this question.

If your offering is a service make sure you know who your competitors are and why you can do the job better than they can.  There could be some debate on this point, but you probably don’t want to alienate your competitors by saying things like, “You are awful at what you do,” or telling prospective customers that everyone else is amazingly incompetent because it’s possible you could need their help in the future, or a collaboration might be in order on a project one day.  So play nice, but position yourself well so you can play hard.    You’re playing for keeps here – this is your livelihood we’re talking about, and you could have a family of people depending on you.

An easy way to visualize the playing field and your position on it is to draw a picture.  I think a concept exists for illustrating several attributes at once (a “spider chart”), but this is too intricate for me to dive into now.  For ease of use and clarity of thought, let’s look at a simple attribute chart.  Pick 2 attributes that are important and draw an x-y axis with negative space so you have quadrants.

To illustrate – let me refresh your memory on Parking 101.  This is not strictly an attribute map of a “playing field,” but I just want to show you what I mean by “negative space” and “quadrants” – sorry, I don’t know how to describe it.

Parking 101 | Ann Ning Learning How

Now put points on your attribute map representing the key players on the field and add one for yourself.  Are you alone?  Are people nearby?   Be able to explain why the attributes you’ve chosen are important, why it’s a good thing that you’re positioned where you are and why the proximity of your competitors is near or far.

Now it’s time for me to self-illustrate with Learning How...  I’m not going to use the names of any other books because I don’t want to pick on anyone and my visual issues have prevented me from doing the thorough reading/research you should do if you’re able – I’ve just skimmed the back of the books and tried to gather the information I could.  So here are my attributes:

I’m defining the field as the near-death/inspirational narrative book genre, and the two attributes I’m dealing with today are:

Attribute Map

1)  Readability:  Quality of the text is important because Learning How… is a book – people will experience it through reading.  There is a lot of good writing out there and a lot of bad writing.  Few people who have a real-life story they want to tell are equipped to write it themselves – many people often use a ghostwriter to help them tell their story since this action will result in a better quality product.  Good move, I think – it is a better decision to work with a professional who has a demonstrable command of the English language than to go it on your own and make your reader suffer through ill-thought out text.  Many people with a story to tell have amazing skills they have cultivated instead of writing, so it makes sense that they would enlist some professional help when the time came to write a book.

Have you ever read bad writing?  I have.  It’s like scraping fingernails on a chalkboard. You are bound to come up against it at work or school – the painfulness of these experiences are proof enough that you do not want to make your reader suffer.

Now I’m going to toot my own horn a bit for the purposes of this illustration:  I know how to write.  A bunch of MCPS Teachers and Professors at Georgetown (COL ’02) made sure of this and I hope that whatever I produce will be a credit to them in terms of the quality of writing.  My writing “voice” is what it sounds like if we were speaking face to face, at least that’s what I’m going for – this, plus occasional brain lapses that may or may not be related to the injury are my excuses for my grammatical errors and colloquialisms.  I told you I’d learn the grammar on Youtube on Monday before teaching it at ESL on Tuesday.  Overall, though, it’s a blessing that I can just talk/write and words come out because my impairments do not allow for a whole lot of revision.  Or any revision, really – so I’ve been told that the chapters of my “Memoirs” are kind of like blog posts.  I figure I’m okay with that since people have short attention spans and I can’t really weave together a cool structure at this point.  It is what it is.  And there’s also the problem of me being asleep for the first few chapters, so they’re necessarily short.  I have, however, addressed this issue by adding in some real-time updates written by Tanpo and Boo Boo (my sister, Ai Ai).

So there’s no ghostwriter here, and (I hope) no bad writing.  You’re getting this from the horse’s mouth.  (Not Ed, but me…it’s just an expression.)  There is no middleman – the thoughts are 100% raw from me to you.

2)  Palatability

By “palatability” I mean to what extent does a book appeal to general tastes.  The inspirational genre I’ve parked myself in often smiles on uplifting stories that make you feel good by illustrating the triumph of the human spirit.

I’m conflicted over this one.  In a way, Learning How… is extremely unpalatable – I mean how instead of sending me to the mission field God put me in a wheelchair.  (I usually do not verbalize this part of my medical history to providers since it’s rather a downer.)   But on the upside, being unpalatable puts Learning How… in a quadrant with few if any competitors.  This goes back to the “badness” concept.  In a certain way, I’m depending on people’s instinctive desire to rubberneck to drum up some interest.  So yeah – it looked really bad to me.  Before I woke up I mouthed the word “Why” a lot and for a few days I was thrashing about in my bed, clearly extremely agitated and kicking my legs since that was the only thing I could do.

That’s when Timmy told Ai Ai he thought she should go out to OR to be with me and support our parents, and she flew to PDX, expecting me to still be closed-eyed and upset.  But she was in for a SURPRISE!  Because I woke up the day before her arrival and when she walked in to my room at Vibra (2nd hospital) I was in the middle of PT and was able to give her a hug.  I was so loopy I thought I was dreaming so I just talked (very softly and laboriously) and laughed with her – business as usual!

So the part where I surprise my sister and we laugh like hyenas for 3 straight days is actually very palatable, but she had been steeling herself to be an emotional bolster for our family in a very unpalatable situation.

Upon reflection, my whole refusal to believe what happened is kind of sad (and unpalatable).  People told Mommy that they were deeply touched when Daddy wrote that email saying I had asked Mommy in the garden if we were dealing in reality and not a dream, and she told me it was for real.  In hindsight it is a little heartbreaking.  I honestly didn’t know and asked Mommy to tell me the truth.  I only half believed her, though – I decided later that if we were all in my dream of course she’d say this was reality.

So why read Learning How…?  Not to torture yourself because it’s like a wreck you can’t look away from.  Yes, this is one of those cases in which truth is stranger than fiction – but this really happened (wanna see Tanpo’s video montages?) and I’m just recording the events that unfolded.  So you’re in for the voyeurism/entertainment value occasioned by the severity of my illness and my refusal to believe what happened once I woke up and entered the Rehabilitation Process (and might have given a lot of people a (mildly) hard time).  Let me say again, this is not a feel-good story about the triumph of the human spirit.  It’s about how God took away my old life, eliminated the possibility of giving me the life I wanted, and how He gave me a heart transplant so I can look to the future with hope, not because of some promise of future good He communicated to me supernaturally before I woke up, but based on all of the publicly-available information I knew about in my old life and that was motivating me to go to Africa.

Pfewf – that was a long sentence, but I had to get that off my chest.  A few paragraphs ago I said I was “conflicted” over the attribute of “palatability.”  I’ve tried to explain above that Learning How… is, in a way, extremely unpalatable in that if you just look at what happened before Decision Day (when God answered all my questions on July 24, 2011), you’d have the script for a movie about why NOT to trust Him.  But if you follow the story a little longer you’ll understand why I think He was saying I did not forget you.  I did this on purpose.  You can trust Me. 

Still, the story is kind of…extreme.  I mean, if people read inspirational fare they want to feel good so they have more energy to face daily life– how will they relate to such a downer and such a statistically unlikely event? I’ll go into this more in a later post re. “Who are your customers?” but let me tell you why I’m taking this very unpalatable experience and saying it’s relatable: All the skills that help me cope in RecoveryLand I used daily to cope with school, work etc. in my old life.  There is no new knowledge here, nor was any “special” knowledge communicated to me in the Valley of the Shadow.  More to come!!

PS.  If you’re wondering when Learning How… will be publicly available, I’m aiming for Thanksgiving…(but that’s what I said last year, too)…I move kind of slowly now, but I’m trying, I really am.  xoxo

Part 1:  What is your elevator pitch?

Launching a Business : (1) Elevator Pitch |  Ann Ning Learning How

(200.) Food For Thought : When Launching a Business (Series Part 1)

Launching a Business : (1) Elevator Pitch |  Ann Ning Learning How

A friend of mine is coming over today to talk with me about the numbers for his business. I emailed him saying something like, Talking with me is a very low risk scenario. If anything it will give you greater confidence (and a little shove) to go talk to a real professional.

Technically, I’m a professional. Or at least I used to be. I was an English major as an undergraduate and then I got an MBA and became a financial analyst. It was a huge relief to have some sort of profession to hang my hat on. Don’t get me wrong – I loved being an English major, and the ability to write serves you well in every context and differentiates you from your peers (that’s right, stay in school, kids!) – it’s just that people knew what I meant immediately when I told them “I’m a financial analyst.” Sure, it wasn’t the most glamorous of employments, but it was a pretty sweet gig for me – I dreamed of such mundane things as a product launch and going to the cafeteria with my workmates when in the ICU. Of course I’m now a professional Supple Leopard/Stunt Artist/Rehab Junkie, so I view my former career in a rosy haze of wistfulness.

It is nice, though, to be able to be a “safe” person for people to bounce ideas off of. When I emailed my friend to ask him to come have tea with me and bring his books I reminded him that I have a huge brain injury/disability thing going on (this was to keep expectations low). As I considered what we’d talk about today I figured I’d write some questions down for more public consumption. Only one future post centers on financial issues – the rest of the questions are more general.

These are questions you should think about before venturing out on your own. Please understand, though, that anything I write is only a starting point for your thorough and well-rounded research. My impairments prevent me from rifling through my books and files, some of them are in storage, and I have about 10 more minutes before I need to stop typing so I haven’t done the Internet research you should do. These things are just on the top of my mind – and if you can’t answer these questions, please do not think you will just get by with an AMAZING idea.

There are probably success stories out there about people who have great ideas but zero business sense and manage to become millionaires anyway. Do not depend on this kind of story for your future success. If it happens to you, great – but it would be much wiser to approach your livelihood (and your family’s welfare, if applicable) armed with a cogent strategy and some snappy looking spreadsheets. Also, PowerPoint Slides – those never hurt. Seriously, though, pictograms and infographics are appealing to many people (Pinterest, anyone?) Summarizing your idea on a ppt slide is a good discipline – plus it will help you explain your venture to other people. PS. People have short attention spans and pictures are good.

So this is going to be a series – probably about a month long, if I post this sort of thing once a week.

Question 1: What is my product/service (30 second elevator pitch)?

Make sure you can define your product/service and “pitch” it within the time it would take for you to share an elevator ride with a VIP who happened to step into the lift with you. Say what sets your idea apart and be comfortable enough with it so that you can think on your feet and tailor it to different audiences.

In appreciation of how my friend was gutsy/vulnerable and shared his business details with me I’ll give you an example – Me. Myself. And I.

This might not be the perfect example, but it’s what I’ve got to work with. “Learning How…” is not a business – it’s my life. Many things I learned to do in school are only partially applicable because I cannot influence events in RecoveryLand to be more interesting or compelling – they just happen, and never on my schedule.

But they do happen at the right time, i.e. on God’s schedule, which has resulted in a story I’d find quite interesting and compelling if it weren’t my life – since it is my life I have a less removed take on the situation and summarize it as harrowing and hysterical. At least that’s how I describe it in my “Memoirs” – and since a book is a product I’ll use that as my specific example.

Learning How is the true story of how I had an AVM rupture and massive stroke at age 30 after deciding to forgo the American Dream and move to Africa as a missionary. Instead of sending me to the mission field, though, God put me in a wheelchair. When I woke up I didn’t believe what had happened to me since it sounded so outlandish and just plain bad. But then God gave me peace about this situation and this book is about how I learned to walk (literally and figuratively) and to wait for more healing.

165.  How to Get a Heart Tranplant

165. How to Get a Heart Tranplant

I could say a lot more, but this is supposed to be an elevator pitch, so I won’t. And I’m so close to this story I often forget salient details, so if you have any suggestions for my pitch, let me know. Basically, what sets me apart in this pitch is the badness of what happened. It is my fond hope that this “badness” will catch people’s attention so they stick around for the miraculous 2nd half of the story –the part where God saves me from a lifetime of anger and bitterness and plants hope where despair used to grow. There are other/critical factors that set my story apart from the near death/inspirational narrative genre on the market, but I’ll save that topic for next week. See you then!

PS. My new prayer requests are here. New things include “Vocal Cord Intervention” and “Health Insurance” decisions. I’m also officially on Summer Vacay now!! Thank you for praying ❤

P.P.S. If you’re new here I revamped the “Favorites” page for your benefit. Start here.

Where I learned what an elevator pitch is:

(37). Exercising the Option…

photo by KAR

Ed says, “Happy Veteran’s Day!” It’s his favorite day of the year. Little known Ed fact: He is very proud to have served in the Korean War. I’m completely serious. One movie he and Frank did notice onscreen in between all the concessions was War Horse. Ed was like, “That’s like me – I’m a war horse.”
I can’t remember why I formed the part of Ed’s backstory that made him a Veteran, but I’m glad I did since I think it’s pretty funny but it’s intended to show my respect for those who have served our country. A former Marine once told me that he’d rather sign up for a third tour in Iraq than retake our 1st year of Business School again. I was like, Yeah – I’d retake our 1st year any number of times to avoid going to Iraq, but to each his own. Maybe the flavor had faded with time for him. Or maybe we had just taken a really awful Econ test. Either way, I don’t think he was serious.
Meanwhile, at this moment in history military service is not required in our country. This is/was not true for other folks who live(d) in other times/places where enlistment is/was either required or highly encouraged. P, my internship manager, was a medic in the Israeli army. My “adopted” grandpa was drafted into the fire brigade during the bombing of London.
When another B-school friend, E, told me that her little brother K had enlisted I was a little floored. He was not looking for college tuition help, or world culture exposure through travel (both good reasons to enlist, in my book) – he just wanted to serve his country. So he left whatever he was doing (I forget if it was school or work), and went to Iraq. What floored me was that he had no obligation to serve but he chose to exercise the option to do so. I wrote him while he was overseas and told him it reminded me of Someone else who chose to do something He didn’t have to. That K is a good egg.
So for all you Veterans out there, and those of you who serve them – thank you.

30 x2. My New Cohort – Rehab Class of 2013

I had this week all planned out – you’re supposed to be reading about grilled pizzas today but I got tired.  So you get to read about Georgetown!  I’m going back to GU for the first time today since getting sick.  I’m going to meet my vocal surgeon.  Charles (my stroller) is coming bc I hope to be able to walk on campus a little but need some more support than Leo.  

I was often at the Hospital since Mrs. R got her liver transplant there and was often a patient as different things cropped up.  She essentially prayed me through my undergraduate years, saw me toiling and troubled as I learned the ropes at my first job, and I think I visited her while I was in B school, too.  When I was a sophomore, though, my dorm was right across from the hospital and I could see her white turban bobbing in the sunlight if she was getting some air on the balcony.  Mr. R and I used to discuss the funny demeanor of the lady who ran the coffee cart outside of the hospital cafeteria.  I am blessed to have gotten a BA, MBA, and the bulk of my hospital visitation experience and a boatload of prayer support and encouragement at Georgetown.

Visiting 101 - part 1 of  2

Visiting 101 – part 1 of 2

A note on below:  A couple folks asked me (when I originally posted this), PLEASE tell someone if you’re uncomfortable.  Don’t worry, I know that now.  Like today I will tell my doctor that I’m rather a sissy when it comes to being scoped.  I know several of you are no strangers to the scoping process, but I’m sorry – I can’t get used to it.  And I suppose that my VS will want to look down my throat since (as Mommy points out), he needs to see the issues before he operates.  Okay, fine.  As I told CMD today, I’m a wimp.  Let’s consider that fair warning.

Georgetown MSB Graduation May 2009

I was dutifully doing my vision exercises at Planet Rehab and I overheard an elderly inpatient practicing her first car transfer.  She was out of breath after a couple of minutes of climbing in and out of the car they managed to park in the hallway, so her Therapist asked if she was okay, and if she needed some water.  “No,” the lady replied, “I need another Percocet.”

At this point I couldn’t contain myself and burst out laughing.  PT37 remarked that at least that lady was honest.  Life in RecoveryLand is often wildly entertaining.  At other times it’s truly harrowing – like when I was learning how to walk without holding on to anything and I was so scared I cried.  I cried when I thought no one could see me, and never in front of PT6.

There are some patients who can’t control when they cry or shout, or have some other kind of outburst.  The Lord spared me the exposure to this extra stimuli during my previous Rehab career, but recently I have found myself in the same session at three different venues as folks who shout, clap or cry out when you least expect it and because they can’t help it.

When I first got home I noticed I was very easily startled.  I couldn’t bear being approached from behind (it’s still difficult), and the sound of a child pitching a fit in the supermarket reduced me to tears.  I think it probably has something to do with my hearing loss and vision changes – they make it a lot easier for someone to sneak up on me inadvertently.  My social worker at The Place told me that it’s not uncommon for patients like me to exhibit reactions like that.

I have spent the past year trying to build up my tolerance for unexpected sound and movement.  I even supplemented these efforts with a prescription that my doctors could not convince me to take to the pharmacy before.  I stopped taking them several months ago, but I carry the lasting legacy of those pills around my waist.  So when I began noticing the cries of the other patients I thought I could handle them.

I was wrong.  During one session in particular my teeth were clenched the whole time, and I occasionally wanted to run and hide in the closet, but I can’t run.  I held it together and refused to tell my therapist or anyone else that I was having trouble coping.  I was deeply troubled by my discomfort.  In my old life, I would have simply been very tolerant and made allowances for whatever issues the other patient was dealing with.  Now I tried to be tolerant but I was near tears for the duration of the session.

I’ve thought a lot about those scenes as I’ve walked on the treadmill, taken a ride in the car, or drifted off to sleep.  It occurred to me that but for the grace of God, that could be me crying out etc., but my bleed was in a part of the brain that compromised my physical abilities more than anything else.  At the same time, though, I stopped beating myself up about my discomfort since I realized that my cognitive faculties were spared, but I do have a significant brain trauma thing going on, so differences in my reaction are likely driven by that fact.

In essence, I’ve decided to cut myself some slack.  The feelings of compassion are still there, it’s just the gut reaction to unanticipated sound/movement that changed.  I also considered that I’m a patient, too – we’re all sharing the same session or gym space.  We’re all there for different reasons, and I had better get used to using the word, “we.”

In B-School we spent our first year divided into 4 “Cohorts.”  Basically, you take all your classes together and get used to who’s going to talk and learn to anticipate the flavor of what they’re going to say.  I visited a school when I was in the application process and the Professor made the class sing the Cohort’s self-written Song for the benefit of me and the other visitor.  So now this is my new Cohort.  We’re not aiming to get some letters to put after our names, we’re just trying to live life in the normal world.

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.  🙂

 

 

 

204. Food For Thought: When Launching a Business [Series part 2]

Launching a Business : (2) Competition & Positioning |  Ann Ning Learning How

Before you enter the field you want to know who’s already there and if your product/service is good enough to hold its own.  Do your homework!  The internet makes it easy to get a good start – Google, Amazon, etc. will give you an overview.  You should also go to some sites that people interested in your field congregate at and see what they’re talking about – e.g. is there a cool new product Moms are talking about on a popular Mommy blog?  Are tufted fabric headboards popular now, or do people like wooden ones?  How do men carry things when they travel without carrying a purse?  If the messenger bag is a popular solution, what kinds of options are already in the market?

If your offering is a product you could also go to the store and just look at what’s already on the shelves at local big box retailers.  Would yours be a compelling option to a consumer pushing a cart down that aisle?  (We’re suspending reality a moment and pretending you’re so amazingly fortunate as to have your product in a hard-to-break into distribution channel; seriously, though – if you can’t imagine your product being a fantastic option on that shelf you’ll have nothing to say to the stores’ merchandise buyers, so definitely ask yourself this question.

If your offering is a service make sure you know who your competitors are and why you can do the job better than they can.  There could be some debate on this point, but you probably don’t want to alienate your competitors by saying things like, “You are awful at what you do,” or telling prospective customers that everyone else is amazingly incompetent because it’s possible you could need their help in the future, or a collaboration might be in order on a project one day.  So play nice, but position yourself well so you can play hard.    You’re playing for keeps here – this is your livelihood we’re talking about, and you could have a family of people depending on you.

An easy way to visualize the playing field and your position on it is to draw a picture.  I think a concept exists for illustrating several attributes at once (a “spider chart”), but this is too intricate for me to dive into now.  For ease of use and clarity of thought, let’s look at a simple attribute chart.  Pick 2 attributes that are important and draw an x-y axis with negative space so you have quadrants.

To illustrate – let me refresh your memory on Parking 101.  This is not strictly an attribute map of a “playing field,” but I just want to show you what I mean by “negative space” and “quadrants” – sorry, I don’t know how to describe it.

Parking 101 | Ann Ning Learning How

Now put points on your attribute map representing the key players on the field and add one for yourself.  Are you alone?  Are people nearby?   Be able to explain why the attributes you’ve chosen are important, why it’s a good thing that you’re positioned where you are and why the proximity of your competitors is near or far.

Now it’s time for me to self-illustrate with Learning How...  I’m not going to use the names of any other books because I don’t want to pick on anyone and my visual issues have prevented me from doing the thorough reading/research you should do if you’re able – I’ve just skimmed the back of the books and tried to gather the information I could.  So here are my attributes:

I’m defining the field as the near-death/inspirational narrative book genre, and the two attributes I’m dealing with today are:

Attribute Map

1)  Readability:  Quality of the text is important because Learning How… is a book – people will experience it through reading.  There is a lot of good writing out there and a lot of bad writing.  Few people who have a real-life story they want to tell are equipped to write it themselves – many people often use a ghostwriter to help them tell their story since this action will result in a better quality product.  Good move, I think – it is a better decision to work with a professional who has a demonstrable command of the English language than to go it on your own and make your reader suffer through ill-thought out text.  Many people with a story to tell have amazing skills they have cultivated instead of writing, so it makes sense that they would enlist some professional help when the time came to write a book.

Have you ever read bad writing?  I have.  It’s like scraping fingernails on a chalkboard. You are bound to come up against it at work or school – the painfulness of these experiences are proof enough that you do not want to make your reader suffer.

Now I’m going to toot my own horn a bit for the purposes of this illustration:  I know how to write.  A bunch of MCPS Teachers and Professors at Georgetown (COL ’02) made sure of this and I hope that whatever I produce will be a credit to them in terms of the quality of writing.  My writing “voice” is what it sounds like if we were speaking face to face, at least that’s what I’m going for – this, plus occasional brain lapses that may or may not be related to the injury are my excuses for my grammatical errors and colloquialisms.  I told you I’d learn the grammar on Youtube on Monday before teaching it at ESL on Tuesday.  Overall, though, it’s a blessing that I can just talk/write and words come out because my impairments do not allow for a whole lot of revision.  Or any revision, really – so I’ve been told that the chapters of my “Memoirs” are kind of like blog posts.  I figure I’m okay with that since people have short attention spans and I can’t really weave together a cool structure at this point.  It is what it is.  And there’s also the problem of me being asleep for the first few chapters, so they’re necessarily short.  I have, however, addressed this issue by adding in some real-time updates written by Tanpo and Boo Boo (my sister, Ai Ai).

So there’s no ghostwriter here, and (I hope) no bad writing.  You’re getting this from the horse’s mouth.  (Not Ed, but me…it’s just an expression.)  There is no middleman – the thoughts are 100% raw from me to you.

2)  Palatability

By “palatability” I mean to what extent does a book appeal to general tastes.  The inspirational genre I’ve parked myself in often smiles on uplifting stories that make you feel good by illustrating the triumph of the human spirit.

I’m conflicted over this one.  In a way, Learning How… is extremely unpalatable – I mean how instead of sending me to the mission field God put me in a wheelchair.  (I usually do not verbalize this part of my medical history to providers since it’s rather a downer.)   But on the upside, being unpalatable puts Learning How… in a quadrant with few if any competitors.  This goes back to the “badness” concept.  In a certain way, I’m depending on people’s instinctive desire to rubberneck to drum up some interest.  So yeah – it looked really bad to me.  Before I woke up I mouthed the word “Why” a lot and for a few days I was thrashing about in my bed, clearly extremely agitated and kicking my legs since that was the only thing I could do.

That’s when Timmy told Ai Ai he thought she should go out to OR to be with me and support our parents, and she flew to PDX, expecting me to still be closed-eyed and upset.  But she was in for a SURPRISE!  Because I woke up the day before her arrival and when she walked in to my room at Vibra (2nd hospital) I was in the middle of PT and was able to give her a hug.  I was so loopy I thought I was dreaming so I just talked (very softly and laboriously) and laughed with her – business as usual!

So the part where I surprise my sister and we laugh like hyenas for 3 straight days is actually very palatable, but she had been steeling herself to be an emotional bolster for our family in a very unpalatable situation.

Upon reflection, my whole refusal to believe what happened is kind of sad (and unpalatable).  People told Mommy that they were deeply touched when Daddy wrote that email saying I had asked Mommy in the garden if we were dealing in reality and not a dream, and she told me it was for real.  In hindsight it is a little heartbreaking.  I honestly didn’t know and asked Mommy to tell me the truth.  I only half believed her, though – I decided later that if we were all in my dream of course she’d say this was reality.

So why read Learning How…?  Not to torture yourself because it’s like a wreck you can’t look away from.  Yes, this is one of those cases in which truth is stranger than fiction – but this really happened (wanna see Tanpo’s video montages?) and I’m just recording the events that unfolded.  So you’re in for the voyeurism/entertainment value occasioned by the severity of my illness and my refusal to believe what happened once I woke up and entered the Rehabilitation Process (and might have given a lot of people a (mildly) hard time).  Let me say again, this is not a feel-good story about the triumph of the human spirit.  It’s about how God took away my old life, eliminated the possibility of giving me the life I wanted, and how He gave me a heart transplant so I can look to the future with hope, not because of some promise of future good He communicated to me supernaturally before I woke up, but based on all of the publicly-available information I knew about in my old life and that was motivating me to go to Africa.

Pfewf – that was a long sentence, but I had to get that off my chest.  A few paragraphs ago I said I was “conflicted” over the attribute of “palatability.”  I’ve tried to explain above that Learning How… is, in a way, extremely unpalatable in that if you just look at what happened before Decision Day (when God answered all my questions on July 24, 2011), you’d have the script for a movie about why NOT to trust Him.  But if you follow the story a little longer you’ll understand why I think He was saying I did not forget you.  I did this on purpose.  You can trust Me. 

Still, the story is kind of…extreme.  I mean, if people read inspirational fare they want to feel good so they have more energy to face daily life– how will they relate to such a downer and such a statistically unlikely event? I’ll go into this more in a later post re. “Who are your customers?” but let me tell you why I’m taking this very unpalatable experience and saying it’s relatable: All the skills that help me cope in RecoveryLand I used daily to cope with school, work etc. in my old life.  There is no new knowledge here, nor was any “special” knowledge communicated to me in the Valley of the Shadow.  More to come!!

PS.  If you’re wondering when Learning How… will be publicly available, I’m aiming for Thanksgiving…(but that’s what I said last year, too)…I move kind of slowly now, but I’m trying, I really am.  xoxo

Part 1:  What is your elevator pitch?

Launching a Business : (1) Elevator Pitch |  Ann Ning Learning How

200. Food For Thought : When Launching a Business (Series Part 1)

Launching a Business : (1) Elevator Pitch |  Ann Ning Learning How

A friend of mine is coming over today to talk with me about the numbers for his business. I emailed him saying something like, Talking with me is a very low risk scenario. If anything it will give you greater confidence (and a little shove) to go talk to a real professional.

Technically, I’m a professional. Or at least I used to be. I was an English major as an undergraduate and then I got an MBA and became a financial analyst. It was a huge relief to have some sort of profession to hang my hat on. Don’t get me wrong – I loved being an English major, and the ability to write serves you well in every context and differentiates you from your peers (that’s right, stay in school, kids!) – it’s just that people knew what I meant immediately when I told them “I’m a financial analyst.” Sure, it wasn’t the most glamorous of employments, but it was a pretty sweet gig for me – I dreamed of such mundane things as a product launch and going to the cafeteria with my workmates when in the ICU. Of course I’m now a professional Supple Leopard/Stunt Artist/Rehab Junkie, so I view my former career in a rosy haze of wistfulness.

It is nice, though, to be able to be a “safe” person for people to bounce ideas off of. When I emailed my friend to ask him to come have tea with me and bring his books I reminded him that I have a huge brain injury/disability thing going on (this was to keep expectations low). As I considered what we’d talk about today I figured I’d write some questions down for more public consumption. Only one future post centers on financial issues – the rest of the questions are more general.

These are questions you should think about before venturing out on your own. Please understand, though, that anything I write is only a starting point for your thorough and well-rounded research. My impairments prevent me from rifling through my books and files, some of them are in storage, and I have about 10 more minutes before I need to stop typing so I haven’t done the Internet research you should do. These things are just on the top of my mind – and if you can’t answer these questions, please do not think you will just get by with an AMAZING idea.

There are probably success stories out there about people who have great ideas but zero business sense and manage to become millionaires anyway. Do not depend on this kind of story for your future success. If it happens to you, great – but it would be much wiser to approach your livelihood (and your family’s welfare, if applicable) armed with a cogent strategy and some snappy looking spreadsheets. Also, PowerPoint Slides – those never hurt. Seriously, though, pictograms and infographics are appealing to many people (Pinterest, anyone?) Summarizing your idea on a ppt slide is a good discipline – plus it will help you explain your venture to other people. PS. People have short attention spans and pictures are good.

So this is going to be a series – probably about a month long, if I post this sort of thing once a week.

Question 1: What is my product/service (30 second elevator pitch)?

Make sure you can define your product/service and “pitch” it within the time it would take for you to share an elevator ride with a VIP who happened to step into the lift with you. Say what sets your idea apart and be comfortable enough with it so that you can think on your feet and tailor it to different audiences.

In appreciation of how my friend was gutsy/vulnerable and shared his business details with me I’ll give you an example – Me. Myself. And I.

This might not be the perfect example, but it’s what I’ve got to work with. “Learning How…” is not a business – it’s my life. Many things I learned to do in school are only partially applicable because I cannot influence events in RecoveryLand to be more interesting or compelling – they just happen, and never on my schedule.

But they do happen at the right time, i.e. on God’s schedule, which has resulted in a story I’d find quite interesting and compelling if it weren’t my life – since it is my life I have a less removed take on the situation and summarize it as harrowing and hysterical. At least that’s how I describe it in my “Memoirs” – and since a book is a product I’ll use that as my specific example.

Learning How is the true story of how I had an AVM rupture and massive stroke at age 30 after deciding to forgo the American Dream and move to Africa as a missionary. Instead of sending me to the mission field, though, God put me in a wheelchair. When I woke up I didn’t believe what had happened to me since it sounded so outlandish and just plain bad. But then God gave me peace about this situation and this book is about how I learned to walk (literally and figuratively) and to wait for more healing.

165.  How to Get a Heart Tranplant

165. How to Get a Heart Tranplant

I could say a lot more, but this is supposed to be an elevator pitch, so I won’t. And I’m so close to this story I often forget salient details, so if you have any suggestions for my pitch, let me know. Basically, what sets me apart in this pitch is the badness of what happened. It is my fond hope that this “badness” will catch people’s attention so they stick around for the miraculous 2nd half of the story –the part where God saves me from a lifetime of anger and bitterness and plants hope where despair used to grow. There are other/critical factors that set my story apart from the near death/inspirational narrative genre on the market, but I’ll save that topic for next week. See you then!

PS. My new prayer requests are here. New things include “Vocal Cord Intervention” and “Health Insurance” decisions. I’m also officially on Summer Vacay now!! Thank you for praying ❤

P.P.S. If you’re new here I revamped the “Favorites” page for your benefit. Start here.

Where I learned what an elevator pitch is:

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:

Housekeeping:

  • 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:

154. Skating where the puck is going

Skate where the puck is going - Recovery || Ann Ning Learning How

Sports analogies are largely lost on me.  But I’m using this one.  Wayne Gretzky’s dad was the one who told him, “skate where the puck’s going, not where it’s been.”  This is useful advice for hockey and life in general.

I first learned this phrase in Business School when we all turned into crazed marketers during a product-launch simulation we only did for a few weeks, but we were all bent on winning.  Our marketing teacher, Prof. H, somehow got us on board with this “game” and then we all took it VERY seriously.  In marketing terms, you have to focus on choosing product attributes relevant to what customers will care about in the future so by the time you develop your great idea and launch it you’re poised to intercept all of the market demand you clairvoyantly assessed since you’re so smart.

I’ve had more recent opportunity to apply this concept at VT.  They have a shiny touch-screen that supplements the VRB (Very Robust Commodore), and one of the games is to stand in front of it and touch the dots on the rotator pictured on screen.  L puts a stool in front of the screen so I can touch it for stability as I reach out with my other hand, so I don’t have to do this activity seated anymore.  The thing is that the screen is very sensitive, and there’s a slight gap between the surface you touch and the surface that registers it, so there’s a tiny delay that means if you press the dot and hit the nail on the head – sorry, but you’re often too late.  That thing beeps at me shrilly, and I tell it, Shhh!  You’re giving me away!  But I’m not the only one, so I’ve heard several of us being advised to aim for the area slightly ahead of the dot, not the dot itself.  This strategy works when I can actually get my fingers to do what I want them to.

As a result, I’ve had the phrase, you gotta skate where the puck’s going, running through my head for months.  I can’t help but think it applies to my life right now, but the problem is that I have no idea where the puck is headed.  I was sure it was going to land in Africa.  I was wrong.  Really, really wrong.

But that’s okay – I was wrong, but this isn’t a product launch, this is my life.  A failed product launch might bankrupt you but thankfully a devastating medical event didn’t quash me.  (Happy Aside:  I am currently unemployed, but Mommy says I won’t be destitute on her and Tanpo’s watch :)).  True, I lost almost everything, but the “almosts” I’m referring to are huge, viz., my family and my faith.  (I got the chance to verify that the reason I wanted to go to Africa in the first place is sound, although I’m not actually going.)  I don’t know what the final destination is, and although I’d love to know, I don’t really need to know.   The idea right now is to just skate in the general direction of the puck.  Oh, why be picky – I’m just trying to skate, period.  Or maybe just walk without an assistive device.  But although I have some mobility issues in getting to the goal, I assure you that I’m in this thing to win it.

PS.  When I thought the puck was headed to Africa I would have LOVED to get some practical training before asking my church to send me and so they’d feel better about letting me loose in another country.  This program In Tents,” directed by Ruth’s mom, would have been just right.  I’m a great advocate for preparation, and the kind of things In Tents teaches you about would be suitable for many destinations, both overseas and stateside.  But I can’t go anymore.  Maybe you can!  It’s in MI June 8-22.  Watch this video to learn more.

In Tents is a hands on, in depth training for passionately serving God from the home, while learning to be women who can strike a victory for God like Sarah and Jael. This event for young women 18 yrs old and above will be held Jun 8-22 in the home of John and Ann Bjorlie (Grand Rapids, MI). Younger teens are welcome with an older sister attending. Lessons include: “How to teach children” with Bernadette Veenstra, “How to be a mother’s helper” with Becky and Abi Wagner, “Make meals for a crowd and host an evangelistic event” with Kathy Holiday and Ann Bjorlie, “Gain vision for using your spiritual gift and talents to serve God” with Jane Wolcott and Mary Bredeweg, and “How to study your Bible” with Kathy Morell. Contact: Ann Bjorlie ph: 616-821-0303 email or visit the Facebook event,”In Tents 2013.” from assemblycare.org