Change Me As We Go

www.sherrylee.ca

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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.

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

West Coast Trip

Unlikely Friends

There was this guy I became friends with when I was around 13. He was the typical teen who just hit puberty and thought his inappropriate jokes were cool. I found him annoying at times, but overall, I thought he was nice. Then one day, out of the blue, he completely ignored me. Pretended I didn’t exist, didn’t say hi, didn’t reply to messages, avoided me like the pest. I thought it was really strange because we were just friends and nothing had happened. I shrugged and moved on. Boys are complicated, I was told.

Years later, we met again at a social event. By that time, I resented him for ignoring me without explanation. However, he had a guitar and he was not bad at it. The music lover inside of me nudged my ego aside and after a few hours, I broke the ice and we’ve been friends ever since. Our previous friendship was never mentioned. It was as if we met for the first time. Years later, I learned what really happened. But until then, the elephant in the room was ignored for the sake of making music.

He was not exactly the most charming person either. He was blunt, somewhat pessimistic, and often had little regard for people’s emotions. Yet, something about his honesty was intriguing and I thought I’d just wait and see. With time, I learned to appreciate it instead of dread it. With the bluntness taken for granted, talking about anything and everything openly was fair game. We agreed to disagree sometimes. Strangely and unconsciously, we became pretty good friends. I remember being surprised and touched when receiving an email from him when he first moved to Australia, letting us know he got there safe and sound.

I probably became very much like my friend. I tell the truth as it is unless I have a good reason not to, and I guess I expect the same from people. I was addicted with Dr. House partly because of his obsession for the truth. It became even more obvious when, a few years ago, I was almost overjoyed to hear a colleague tell me “You know, the first day I saw you, I thought you were a stuck up bitch. You were all dressed up and looked all pissed off. I thought you were gonna be a nightmare”. Most people would probably get a bit defensive but I felt an immediate connection at that moment because this was someone who got it. He knew that I would appreciate the honesty and that we could laugh about those first 5 mins.

Friends like these can sometimes be hard on the ego but they are worth it. The best friendships can sometimes be the unexpected ones. And the battles worth fighting may not always be the obvious ones either.

Now, I have another decision to make. Is this one a worthy the effort? I can deal with ego-crushing bluntness, but I’m not sure what to make of ego-flattering, bent truths that may or may not redeem themselves in the future. I don’t know what to make of heartfelt promises that always fall through. I don’t know what to make of “I’m sorry, I wasn’t thinking”. 

Everybody Lies


Dr. House was right about the fact that everybody lies but I have been struggling with this truth. I’ve worked hard to muster the courage to tell the truth when it matters. Even when it hurts, even when when it’s inconvenient. If it’s the right thing to do, then it’s the right thing to do and you just take a deep breath and say it. Life tends to remind me every so often that truth and courage are not universally important for human beings. It’s such an inconvenience.

How do you build team spirit when there is no balance? How do you trust someone who will let you open up to them but not reciprocate? Can you ever trust one who will watch you vulnerably asking for the truth, and lie to your face under a masquerade of comforting words? Is “I wasn’t thinking” ever a good enough reason to fail to protect someone? My answer is a ringing NO.

I can pretend that I’m not angry anymore. If I need to, I can pretend we’re friends. I may forgive, in the [distant] future. And if I do, I will also forget. But right now, I can’t forget. I refuse to lower my standards when it comes to the definition of loyalty. I grew up surrounded by amazing people who kept their word and kept the best interest of others before theirs. If they can do it, so can everybody else.I was told that this is a depressing world and that I should just accept that everybody does shitty things sometimes. But they’re probably lying. After all, everybody lies.

What Do You Do When Life Drives You Nuts?

Once, in Lil Blume’s communication class, we were given a peculiar exercise. From a long list of emotions, we had to circle all the ones we had felt in the past week. I remember it being quite revealing for those who don’t usually pay attention to how they feel. If I were to do this exercise for the past 3 weeks, I would probably cover the entire negative side of the pallet, and probably most of the positive ones too. Yes, it`s been a roller coaster ride. What do you do when life drives you nuts?

Usually, I would play music. I played two shows last week and it definitely helped. Catching up with people at the show was really nice. Being on stage again always feels safe. It must sound strange but as I step into the limelight, exposed to all judgement, it tends to feel like retreating to a safe haven. A place where I can be myself, a place where the more honest you are, the brighter you shine. It`s like stepping foot in a parallel world, leaving your worries at the door. It’s also a place where hard work almost always pays off.

Sometimes, though, music is not enough. If I`m too upset, I won`t have the energy to play or write right away. Today, though, I just needed to clean the house. As Paolo Coelho describes it so well in the Alchemist, cleaning the exterior somehow purges the interior as well. While I don`t enjoy cleaning, it never fails to improve my mood and calm me down. Maybe because cleaning brings fast and noticeable results. Less chaos probably also helps me feel less stressed. Perhaps cleaning is something that I know I can do successfully

After the music and the cleaning, the process usually ends in writing. Engraving the memory, with all its flaws and beauty, into a song, a lyric, or a melody. Remembering exactly how it felt so that those who hear it won`t have to be alone.

Co-writing my first French/English song :)

Yesterday, I met with a fellow songwriter to try and write together. From one song I heard at the meetup where we met, I knew we had an artistic affinity. We also found out we both speak French but had never written any French songs yet. One day we should do that, we said.

So we met yesterday, not knowing whether the creativity streams would converge or diverge. None of us had any idea of what to write about. We decided to go through some of his mini recordings and see if anything grabbed my attention. The first one was as far as we got. “I kinda like that!” I said.

We took 5 mins aside to each come up with different ideas about where to go from there. After 5 mins we had 3 ideas. We picked one of mine that added contrast to the rhythm as the pre-chorus. A few minutes later, we magically had a chorus forming. This was getting really exciting. Before going to bed, I listened to the recordings from that session and aside from the music, all you hear is giggles and excitement. It was a magical moment that any songwriter yearns for.

While looking for an interesting way to end the chorus, Edi came up with a hook that brought the energy right back up. “Where did you go?” was all we had but it worked so well and was so catchy. We tried finding different meanings to this phrase, different phrases that could fit, different words we could end with, but in the end, “Where did you go?” it stayed.

We were so excited. Now on to the lyrics. We started to struggle. We knew we wanted to talk about two friends meeting after some time apart and sadly find that they have nothing left in common. Yet all the lyrics we came up with didn’t feel fresh/original. Something wasn’t quite right. We thought the verse would be about the memories, and the pre-chorus about the change. Yet we couldn’t fit anything properly.

Then I had this crazy idea. While playing the verse melody, I heard “Et si on pouvait tout se dire….” in my head. I brought up the crazy idea and after a good laugh we decided to give it a try. That got the ball rolling and in 20 min, we had our first verse!

Verse:
Et si on pouvait tout se dire comme autrefois
Tout semblait toujours plus simple entre nous
Nos aventures aux petites heures du matin
Qui n’existaient plus que dans nos regards n’y son’t plus

We have more lyrics for the other parts but we’re not sure about them yet, so you’ll have to come to my show to find out 🙂 My show is on March 14th at Hart House (UofT downtown campus). It’s FREE and the details can be found in the following link:
https://www.facebook.com/events/131434843700071

Can trust be regained?

To me, trust is an investment in a relationship with somebody. Be it a friend, business partner, significant other, stranger, family member, trusting someone is a risk we’re willing to take. It involves two parties willing to bet on each other’s integrity. Like any investment, we lose some, we gain some. But once an investment fails, do you reinvest in the same person?

from Raamabaanam.blogspot.com

For a long time now, I’ve wondered if it made any sense to repair broken trust. I still don’t have the answer. In most cases, I have rebuilt trust with time. When I forgive, I forget. When I forget, I can trust again, to a certain level. The problem is to get to the “forgive” part. And once we forgive, forget and trust. Is it worth it?

It starts with a surprise

Ever had an exchange with an acquaintance or even a friend or family member, which surprises you to the point where you wonder whether you know them at all?

Sometimes, these discrepancies are just things we didn’t expect but are okay with, just personal preferences such as belief in Astrology. I would consider this as just a difference. A belief/opinion that I don’t share and that’s completely fine. I don’t think we need to agree on everything. In fact, my best friends and I often disagree on many, many things.

But sometimes, what we hear is shocking, against our moral code, against anything we think friendship would ever represent, against all expectations. There are certain things that I expect from any true friend. A true friend doesn’t use your secrets against you. In fact, a true friend doesn’t tell your secrets to anybody, even when you’re not friends anymore. Does that not make sense? Is it just me?

The disconnect

Once my perception of a friendship is shattered, I feel an instant disconnect that is hard to ignore. I don’t know who you are or what you want, but clearly it’s not what I want. I’m gonna have to revise my trust level in you, “friend”… I think friends should have each other’s back (unless legally bound otherwise, which is a completely different issue). Friends should respect each other’s opinons, feelings, and trust. Anything less is just not friendship to me.

After years of internalizing the importance of honesty, trustworthiness, loyalty and the like, I find it hard to “not make a big deal out of it” when a friend’s “loyalty” ends where his personal gains begin, or when people start to equate friendship with networking. I insist that networking is motivated by personal gain, while friendship doesn’t have any other motive than enjoying each other’s company.

The Guilt card

In their defense, people sometimes make you feel guilty about the whole situation, even though they know they messed up. “Get over it”, “you’re blowing this out of proportion”, “I’m sorry, I didn’t know you would be angry about this little thing”, “I’m sorry, I wasn’t thinking”. The last one is possibly the worst. You weren’t thinking? THEN THINK MORE OFTEN. “Not thinking” is not the excuse but the crime itself.

When I forgive, I forget. And I usually do forgive. But it takes time. I’m told trust is like paper. Once crumpled it can’t be perfect again. After a few years, wounds heal and memories fade. The context is gone and so are the consequences. Forgiving becomes much easier. But until then, you’ll just have to earn it. Otherwise, I’m sorry but you’re not sorry.

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