Change Me As We Go

www.sherrylee.ca

2013

If I had one word to describe 2013: mind-blowing

A quick recap:

Jan  – iamsick is making a lot of progress, got into the OCE challenge, get office space.
Feb – Audrey leaves the team, we open our iamsick.ca bank account, stress is palpable.
Mar – Co-wrote first song with Edi (amazing!), 3 conferences, 1 award, more news than I can keep up with, painful month.
Apr – Recovering from March, unprecedented flash floods kill 11 in Mauritius.
May- Trip abroad. Feels good to take time off. Tables turning.
Jun – Revamping iamsick. The suspense is killing me.
Jul – Our first hire! Our first negotiations! So excited! End of suspense. Leave for Cali. Heartbreaking yet exhilarating.
Aug – Start new job. The curtains have been drawn. A whole new world. Lee Thompson Young commits suicide. Music on the streets.
Sep – Jacuzzi, schnitzel and wine. Parks. New iamsick launches. Music club!
Oct – Maroon 5! Living a normal life again. Algorithms.
Nov – We’re changing the world! Trip to TO. Many meetings.
Dec – Mandela dies. Algorithms. Poker. Guests. Adventure, happiness, uncertainty, new ideas, hope.

Over the course of 2013, I’ve met incredible people. They have inspired me, challenged me, and believed in me. Some gave me the vote of confidence when I needed it the most, some kicked my ass. But in the end, I’m closing 2013 with a smile. I don’t really know how long I’ll stay in California, but right now, I’m happy 🙂

Golden Gate Bridge at Sunset

On the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge

Now let’s get to the resolutions. How did I do this year?

CS/Business
1. Get funding for iamsick.ca (somewhat, but not “the amount” yet)
2. Improve rails,java, sql skills (game change! enter Scala)
3. Improve use of tools in our process (getting there! )

Personal
4. Get fit (sigh)
5. Cook more often 
6. Get away from Rogers Telecom.(VERY SOON)

Music
7. Master chest voice and vibrato on 2-5 songs
8. Go to 5 open mics (3 times in MV, 2 times in TO)
9.  Write 5 songs (One Day, Where Do We Go, Excuses & Apologies, Sun Still Shines, NewestSongWithoutName, Best Day)

Other
10. Try something new.(I went rock-climbing. It scared the crap out of me and I almost cried but I did it! sort of)

First American Thanksgiving

Languages are like tectonic plates that are constantly moving, and along the seams where they collide, you have Creole. – Phillip L., history professor, CA

Change Me As We Go is about taking ideas from one field and applying them to another. It’s about sharing our views and learning from each other. Yesterday, I had my first American Thanksgiving. We were invited to join a colleague, his aunt, uncle and cousins for an exquisite family lunch. As we introduced ourselves, we learned a bit more about american culture, the history behind thanksgiving, Austria, Canada, and a bit about Mauritius, of course. I told them about the Dutch, French, and British settlers, the different holidays we celebrate in Mauritius, and how we generate hydro power from accumulated rain water in our reservoirs. Then I explained how you will barely ever see any Mauritians speaking our official language (English) on a daily basis, while virtually all media is in French, but most people really speak Creole. Furthermore, I admire many of my friends of Indian decent who can not only speak English, French, Creole, but also one or more of Hindi, Tamil, Bhojpuri, Telegu, Urdu, Arabic. I explained that our Creole was mostly derived from French, and was quite similar to Haitian creole and Seychellois creole and that started a short discussion about language. The quote above is a line said by uncle Phillip which stuck with me during our conversation.

I also heard a very interesting story of how online genealogy research has led them to suddenly discover that they have relatives in Ontario, Canada! It was a fascinating story. Unfortunately, it would be really hard for us to find much about our history. Most Mauritian Chinese came from the same areas of China. So we know where our grandparents or great grandparents are from. Could there be more to the family history than we might think? Maybe we have relatives in Trinidad! Or Saudi Arabia or India. The Hakka people migrated a lot. I wonder…

Overall, I would say it was a very pleasant first Thanksgiving in America and it was an absolute joy to share this special meal in such great company. While I’m typically not a history buff, I really enjoyed hearing uncle Phillip’s mini history lessons. It somehow gave me a little glimpse of why history fascinates some people. It’s not just about remembering the past. It’s also about inspiring the next generation, contributing to their careers, and hopefully their character. Thank you to the wonderful family who made my first American thanksgiving a special one.

Comments on News Articles in Mauritius

Change Me As We Go is about accepting that we are not perfect and that sometimes, we should learn to improve ourselves before criticizing. Words are cheap.

While I cringe at some of the articles written in Mauritian press, something else ticks me off even more: the comments. Every news article is usually followed by a seemingly endless thread of comments, most of which are blaming the government for anything and everything, their language often flourished with inappropriate words. Their occasional refuters unfortunately don’t fare much better either. While I agree that there is for improvement for those at the helm, it just strikes me that so many Mauritian internauts complain relentlessly, without any constructive propositions. Just saying the rules/government/mentality sucks isn’t going to change anything!!!

Having spent the past 6 years in Canada, where the public is very engaged and people right and left are trying to find solutions to every problem imaginable, I find it a desolating comparison. I know that the most vocal comments are likely not representative of the nation’s opinion as a whole but I still find it concerning that many people are still waiting for the Government to fix all their problems. Why do we feel so powerless as a people? Why don’t we learn more about the real difficulties of our Government and try and come up with solutions together? Why don’t we have more public engagement? As far as I can tell, most of the community is not involved in politics. Criticism flies left and right but I rarely see a comment that is carefully considered and passionate about improving from the status quo.

Perhaps being a remote island unbeknownst to most of the world has something to do with it. A lot of things seemed out of reach or impossible when I was living there. Becoming a famous musician? Impossible. Becoming a famous scientist? Also impossible. In fact, becoming a famous anything seemed quite impossible unless you were an extinct animal (ie dodo) in Mauritius. It felt like anything I did wouldn’t matter as much, because we’re a tiny spec in the Indian Ocean, in our own little bubble.  The highest indication of success was if you became a doctor or lawyer. When my physics teacher told me “maybe one day you will work for Microsoft”, even he didn’t seem so convinced. Now I work for Apple. Kind of crazy if you ask me 🙂

Then I moved to Canada and almost anything became possible. High school graduates were building playgrounds and schools in Africa, college students were creating their own charities to improve access to education, people young and old are running for the cure, everyone is involved, everyone is doing something. Many university students teach anything from ballet to French in their spare time. Sure, people still complain about the Government here too, but many more people are doing something to change the world, because we know that we can.

So, dear Mauritians, it’s time to wake up and realize that you too, can make a difference. You are a talented people. Don’t let it go to waste. Speak slow, think fast. Say less, do more 🙂

Inspiring The Next Writers

Writers who don’t proofread their work because they have editors/proofreaders are like coders who don’t write tests because there’s a QA team. Do you know what happens if coders don’t write tests? Planes crash, machines go crazy and people may die 🙂

I regularly read Mauritian news online but with time, it has become less interesting to do so. I find many  (not all!) of the articles lackluster, sprinkled with grammar and spelling mistakes. My eyes tend to glaze over. To be fair, Canadian and American press also suffer from the same plague. One could argue that my expectations have gone up with time, but I’m not sure that’s the case. It bothers me when newspapers don’t hold high standards regarding the articles they publish. They are supposed to be authoritative sources of information! I wish people would at least proofread their work, ensure their verbs are properly conjugated and their sentences are proper.

When I was a student, I used to read the papers (English and French) to find new words and different ways of expressing ideas. Bhishmadev Seebaluck’s “Dear Shakespeare” column was a staple in my weekly English diet. I would underline new words or interesting expressions and add them to my copybook, complete with definitions and examples. I would review them every now and then to refresh my memory, and these articles are what got me ranked in the top 10 in General Paper in my year. I am incredibly grateful to great journalists and writers who, through their work, have enticed me into pursuing eloquence and, by extension, excellence.

Columnists like Bhishmadev Seebaluck have inspired many readers (including myself) to develop vocabulary, creativity, and mastery of language. Writing is an art and a profession. Isn’t it the goal of every artist to inspire others through their work? How can you inspire the next generation when your articles read like the noise in your head? Of course, it would be over-the-top to have every article à la “Dear Shakespeare”, but a little effort in language mastery would go a long way to inspire the next generation of writers in Mauritius. The arts are so underrated in our educational culture already. There are many passionate young writers budding in our midst who could use some encouragement. So if you are a writer, please, be an articulate writer. We want to look up to you.

Some Mauritian writers who make me proud (I’ll add to this list as I find more):
Bhishmadev Seebaluck http://www.defimedia.info/blog/itemlist/user/71-bhishmadevseebaluck.html
Ananda Devi http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ananda_Devi
Jacques K. Lee http://www.amazon.com/Jacques-K.-Lee/e/B001KCHJI8/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1

One Day (original)

Back in November, I was shuffling through my “poems” and this one caught my attention. I started playing some chords and improvising a melody. The first try was the right one. I then added the 2nd and 3rd verses to complete it. It’s one of the songs that was the easiest to write and I’m quite happy with it. I hope you enjoy.
If you’d like the chords: http://blog.sherrylynnlee.com/2012/11/one-day-new-song-work-in-progress.html

Lyrics below.

One day, you’ll remember waking up next to me
And how it felt to swim chasing the sun
And you’ll stand alone on the lakeshore watching stars
And you’ll think of us, and how we were happy
One day, you’ll wish you could bring back these days, so carefree
One day, you will look back and wonder how it could have been
It could’ve been with me
If you had stayed
And you’ll stand alone on the lakeshore watching stars
And you’ll think of us, and how we were happy
One day, I found the answer was that there were no reasons at all
That one day, I decided I would take another road that won’t cross yours
In parallel, I’ll see you and you’ll see me
And we’ll be within reach but we won’t ever meet
So you’ll stand alone on the lakeshore watching stars
And you’ll think of us, and how we were happy
I willl be happy
I’ll be gone and happy

I’ll be happy without you

Recruiting

Business is a tough world. Small companies like us start, struggle and fail every day. Meeting deadlines, making payroll, and staying on top of the competition are just a few pressures that weigh on entrepreneurs every day. Under such stress, it’s easy to lose objectivity and become stubborn or even selfish. After all, isn’t business all about making money? Not quite imho.

Do I want to make a ton of money? Yes, of course. But I think that cutting corners is not my way to do so. At the end of the day, businesses are run by people. Whether it’s an investor, a user, or an employee, he/she has emotions, financial needs, families to take care of. Recognizing their priorities helps me better understand why they would want to be part of my business to start with. It helps me focus on long-term sustainability of the team/relationship instead of on my immediate need to get things done. 
People have talents and ambitions. As a leader, I believe it is my job to ensure that I help my team members achieve personal success. This also applies to potential employees. If someone offered them something better suited to their needs, I would not try to persuade them that I have the better offer. I think that being honest about one’s shortcomings is important in building trust. Trust is not only needed at the consumer/user level, but throughout the organization. If I can’t inspire trust from my team, how can I expect trust from my customers in the long run?
The first manager I had always used to ask “what can I do for you?”
That phrase set an impression on me. I felt that he was approachable and supportive.
My second manager said “If people are happy, they’ll stay”, emphasizing that work should be rewarding and enjoyable.
So my philosophy about employees  is the following:
My job is to keep you happy with the job. Your job is to keep me happy with your job.
It’s still too early to tell whether this the good strategy but let me know if you disagree. What is your philosophy on hiring?

Outlet

What’s Your Gobi – Part II

I was just reading an article on Forbes.com “How To Change Your Brain For The Better” and one of the captions started with “to become more resilient […]”. That word rang a bell and it suddenly hit me.

Running when you don’t feel like it, when you feel you can’t anymore. Stretching your limits beyond what you thought was sane. Running beyond reason. Running against your will. Running for the sake of forcing your mind to do so. That thought has been roaming in my head ever since Stefan Danis’ TEDxToronto talk but I only found it now. (If you haven’t seen it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-D6sNeqwgbc)

I found my Gobi. But instead of running, it’s about staying. Instead of doing, it’s about restraining from doing things I would regret. Instead of giving into the temptation of destructive behaviour that would satisfy me in the moment, I have to keep my cool. I’ve been rejected. I’ve been let down. I’ve even been betrayed. I’ve been cornered in to a lose-lose situation. Instead of physical pain, emotional distress. The Gobi’s 50% physical and 50% mental. My Gobi seems to be 100% mental. My Gobi is to stay. To stick to my words rather than my feelings. To fight every battle because I believe in the dream. To keep going until I reach the impossible.

Instead of 7 marathons, life has thrown me a few rocks that have hit hard. But I stubbornly kept marching ahead. It hit my heart, my health, my creativity, my confidence, it hit it all. But I kept marching on. Not out of strength really. I just didn’t know how to stop. At one point, I felt like I was exploding. I wanted to run away to Alaska or something equally remote, and not have to talk to anyone for a month. Just me, fresh air, and music.  Of course, that never happened. Perhaps it will at the end of the 7th mental marathon. But we’re still at #3.

Shortening the gap between a negative event and opportunity. I’ve been working on that from day 1. Some people get there in a day, or in a month. I thought I was that kind of person. But instead of getting to acceptance, I tried to skip ahead to opportunities. It’s time to get to it now as unpleasant as it is. Acceptance. Resilience. It might seem paradoxical, but resilience comes from accepting vulnerability.

Stefan Danis: if you read this blog, thank you for inspiring people to find the strength in themselves to dust themselves up and fight their own little demons for a brighter future.

West Coast Trip

Amy Winehouse

I had never really been a big fan of hers. I didn’t know her or her music. I didn’t think too much of it when she passed away. Today, I listened to her father’s book describing her battle against drugs, terrible men, paparazzis and alcohol. She had been clean of drugs since 2008, and almost over her alcoholism. It was such a sad story. Just when things seemed to finally look stable, she was gone. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book but it gave me new insight into the world of addiction and the lonely battle that addicts have to fight. Their many lapses. The people. The good and the bad people. There were many anecdotes that demonstrated her altruistic nature despite her eccentricities. She once rented horses 24/7 so that local kids could ride them for free. She was truly generous. I have to admit I had never thought that about her. I have to admit that I probably believed (or didn’t really question) whatever I saw in the news but it’s disgusting to learn how people made money from making up cruel sensational stories about her. Let’s give Lindsay Lo a break shall we?

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