Been a while since I have posted - been busy in the private equity world and with writing my book. This may be a long chapter (bare with me), but I wanted to copy it here to see what your thoughts are and whether it is helpful to hear some of my background and story as well as some guidance for you younger folks:
11:59 or Breaking the Nest
The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your
own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves.
When they emigrated from India, my extended family on my mother's side settled in Texas--mainly Waco and Austin. They had to work their way up and put their hands into anything to make a living, whether it was borrowing money and opening up a dry cleaner (which my parents did with the help of their uncle) or making a small down payment (collected from family) and buying a gas station. Everyone had their own jobs and they were new to this free world. One thing everyone in my family had in common was that they were truly raised to put in hard work--hours and hours of work to hopefully one day live the American dream. Yours truly? I was born in Waco. I only lived there for one year after I was born to my beautiful mother and respectful father, surrounded by loving family.
Growing up in the dense and populated New Jersey town of Edison, where there is a large minority population, especially in the public system. That was certainly the case when I attended to Menlo Park Elementary School, and again, when I transferred to MLK Elementary School (when my family moved to the other side of Edison.)
Even n my adolescent years, I realized that the way I thought about the world was different from the way others did; in fact, it seemed everything I said and did was different as well. My peers were stuck in groupthink, going along with every opinion and trend and activity and belief that those around them did. They had a worldview that fit into a tidy box: one they all ascribed to. But I thought differently about the world; in fact, it seemed that everything I thought, said, or did was different. The difference I noticed was this: while my classmates and friends and peers subscribed to whatever belief system was the norm, I was--yes, even as a young man--expanding my thoughts about the world around me, and about the world. I remember feeling a little apart in my thinking and imagining so many different things during school, or at home, or when playing outside with the kids of my neighborhood. Some of my thoughts were strange: unusual. The point was I was always thinking, expanding my viewpoint. To this day, I remember the musing I did as a young man: the ideas, the opinions, the dreams, the views.
One thought I had was would be how best to make everyone like me. How best to gain more and more friends. It wasn't that I was worried about who I was, and if people would accept me. No, I thought about how to expand my circle of influence to as wide a circle as I held in my imagination.
Maybe I should go for more walks and go to my cousin's apartment--there are a lot of opportunities to meet people there, I'd think.
How can I get the best Pokemon cards and be the best at playing with them? Maybe I can use my father's computer and do some research on different ways to beat the opponent.
How can I help people?
Because I didn't just want people to like me: I wanted to make a difference.
Bullying was very common from where I was from. I was punched in the stomach many times from people around my neighborhood. And it wasn't just me: I remember the same happening to others. So, in my efforts, I would confront the bully and try to make peace between all the parties. Kids around my neighborhood would play with me, but the reality was that they didn't think that I was as smart as they were and I definitely didn't do what they (and every kid in town for that matter) thought was "cool."
I knew my thinking was different from that of others, and that included my family members. It continued from my childhood through my teenage years. During those years, I had a lot of trouble learning and applying information for tests. Sometimes it was even hard to concentrate on one subject. Sometimes I just didn't put that much effort into the subjects that I hated; I focused only on the ones I loved and had a passion for mainly math.
Isn't that true of all of us? We focus on what comes easy, and avoid what comes as a challenge.
Math always came easily to me: I am great with numbers. I think I got it from my father, who is an engineer and a great one. I looked at him with pride at what he knew and what he'd accomplished. I believed I could be great like him, in my own way. There were those who thought I was going nowhere in life, sadly lacking the essential skills for ultimate success. But I knew I also had believers, especially my parents, including my incredibly caring mother. I knew my family and close friends believed in and supported me. I don't blame anyone for thinking that I wouldn't succeed in life. I was in a place of mind where I didn't care to work hard and be the best I could be. A lot of times it was hard for me study or get that "A" in all my subjects, especially ones I did not enjoy.
I remember once, for a second grade Thanksgiving project, I built a scene from the first Thanksgiving and presented it to the class. My model represented what I thought the first Thanksgiving was like. When I received my grade, an A+, it was an amazing feeling. The feeling of achieving something like that, no matter how small, is something you will always cherish.
Do you remember an early project or accomplishment that still brings pride to your heart? How many moments like that have you racked up lately, no matter how large or small?
As I mentioned, I paid close attention to the subjects I enjoyed in high school, and mostly treated those I didn't enjoy with, at best, a real inattention. It wasn't until after I graduated that I realized exactly what a mistake that was. I could have, if I'd only tried and cared, done a lot better by making sure learning was my first priority. The high school years were part of my building block years, and unfortunately I missed many blocks but tried to rebuild them as I grew older and opened my mind up. In hindsight, I realized that I didn't want to waste my life on non-essential, unimportant aspects (or mediocre effort) and rather, focus on what will not only set me apart from the rest of the world, but how I can help others as well.
Although I wasn't very popular in school, I maintained some close, loyal friendships. I was mostly perceived to be too nice or too caring for my own good: the nice guy isn't the cool guy as a rule. In actuality, I was taken advantage of many times because of my disposition and sometimes things got ugly, but most of the time I would try my best to compromise and shrug it off, not letting it affect me too much.
One example of this is that, throughout high school, I always carried one of the highest averages in math and was therefor asked many times by my classmates to tutor them. I would invest a lot of my time tutoring and hoped, even after the tutoring was finished to keep in touch. That never happened. Even worse, they would blame me if they got back a bad score, as if I could guarantee their success.
Even with that reaction, I continued to do it. I guess its just the mindset I have, that if someone needs help, I try my best to make time and solely focus on helping them until they get what they need. But I've learned a lesson about his impulse over time.
Help someone, but don't expect something in return.
Once in seventh grade I was wearing a baseball cap rather than a "fitted" hat, which was the trend at that time. I was wearing it sideways, following the trend of the time.
"That's not the way to wear it; it's the wrong type of hat," a girl in class said to me.
I ignored her comment. But the next day, the same girl--noticing I was wearing high socks--said, "Why are you wearing those? You should wear ankle socks."
I said, "Look! Michael is wearing them."
She replied, "That's fine for him, because he's cool."
Soon after, I tried wearing ankle socks, but a few days later I switched back to the higher socks because they were what I was comfortable with.
Now, what socks we wear and if they are long or ankle socks is not of much importance in the scheme of things, but that's not the point. My early experiences illustrate how I was willing to do what pleased myself, rather than what others thought I should.
Do you remember a time you ignored the input of others to stay true to yourself? How did you do it?
I set up a block in my mind, unwilling to let others dictate to me about what I wore, what I did, or anything at all. I begin more and more to care about my own preferences, my own perceptions. At the same time, I was learning to remain focused yet open minded at the same time.
I went to John P. Stevens High School, one of the two largest public schools in the town, and knew when I started that it must be a fresh start. And it was. I even joined the football team, which unfortunately just lasted two weeks, as it took up a great amount of time. I wanted to make my family proud, so I tried my very best to study. Nevertheless, I had a low GPA throughout high school: I had slipped again into focusing on just a couple of subjects and failing to put the needed effort into other subjects. I see in retrospect that I should have tried my best and learned from my former mistake. I should have expanded my mind in focusing on everything and enjoyed learning about other subjects. Most of all, I should not have wasted these essential years in not living up to my full potential.
That is a regret but also a life lesson.
As I progressed through high school, I began discovering and unlocking value within myself. In the process I discovered and developed some characteristics I never thought I had: primarily, self-confidence.
With this confidence, I saw the world through a different lens than I otherwise might have. I tried to seek opportunities everywhere and act on them. I knew I wanted to become someone in life--to prove that those who doubted my potential were wrong. Again, I chose my own self-image instead of prescribing to the ways and the labels my peers saw me.
By the time my senior year at Stevens rolled around, I had some loyal friends, but they were often not the best influence. Distractions made me lose track of what I was trying to achieve. I tried to find a balance between hanging out with friends, family, doing schoolwork, and worrying about myself. It was difficult, but I learned through this experience.
How is the balance in your life? Is it tilted toward one aspect of your life? Work? Family? Friends. Finding balance is one of the life lessons I teach to mentees now. Balance is an essential thing not just to understand, but also to achieve.
When I graduated, I attended Drexel University, a private university in Philadelphia, first declaring finance major. In the first six months I came to the sobering realization that I was very far behind, and an understanding of how hard others had worked to get where they were. This ignited ambition in me: I was determined to work hard, to become focused and driven. To achieve.
I had a greater sense of urgency. What inspires urgency in you? When you see someone achieving what you aspire to, does it light a fire within you? Urgency is essential, but useless without action.
Even with the newfound urgency, I still lacked the effort to get that high GPA and graduate with an expectation of landing a great job. Joining a fraternity helped, as I saw others working really hard to get where they wanted to be. I used their example to get where I wanted to be, to motivate myself. At one point, mostly under the influence of what everyone around me thought was the right direction (even I fall victim to it sometimes!) I considered changing my major to pre-med. I even took science courses, but did poorly in them. I soon switched back to finance.
Realizing that time was going by and I was falling behind, I resolved to take charge of my life: it was now or never. I stopped waiting around, buckled down and worked hard, starting to network with financial firms and working professionals. Gradually I was building courage, persistence, and strength, becoming more aggressive and proactive with what I wanted. I set goals and put plans in place to meet them. I learned to have intellectual curiosity and keep a positive attitude. I asked the question "Why?" with respect to everything I was doing. I would stay up and teach myself different financial engineering and modeling concepts, just by searching in Google, to make myself competitive. I started networking, and--to keep my contacts organized--built an Excel database of all my contacts thus far that I could add to as I went along. For the first time, I was organized. I had switched my mindset and focus to make sure I was building toward the career I envisioned.
Prior to this point, my work ethic was like a roller coaster. A real breakthrough occurred when I was offered a six-month internship at one of the world's largest banks, J.P. Morgan. Being offered such an opportunity really changed my view of the world I lived in, for it was where I learned to open my mind. I took charge of my future and found balance. I worked hard in my internship and built a network to leverage from. I started taking live financial courses on my own and researching the many paths that are out there. From the moment I rose in the morning to the time I went to sleep at night, all I did was think of and act on ways to make myself a better candidate, whether it was through obtaining more knowledge, bugging professionals in the finance industry, having coffee with and getting advise from professionals in the finance world, thinking intellectually on why a certain input results in an output, learning to speak better, and more. Whatever I did on each specific day, I knew I would be one step closer to achieving my dreams.
In other words, I started thinking past 12!
At Drexel, there would be three rounds of internship hiring, or what the school called their Cooperative Learning Experience Program. J.P. Morgan was a very sought after internship for Drexel students that were looking at the finance world. I began submitting my resume and immediately digging into who would interview me and who the managing director for that department was. As I did, I tried to build a network within that department to greater my chances of getting the internship. I applied during the first round and was rejected, meaning I was not even offered an interview to present myself. I had gotten another interviews and an offer for another small finance firm, but I rejected that offer because I knew that I wanted to keep trying for J.P. Morgan. I emailed and called the department again. I was able to back-solve for their email addresses and have the main reception desk transfer me to someone who worked in the same department.
Be persistent in what you aspire to.
I applied for the second round, and was again rejected and for the second time, unable to present my case and why I should be given the opportunity to work there. I was offered other interviews but was either rejected for many of the finance firms or given an offer at smaller ones, and would reject their offers and try again for J.P. Morgan for a third round. Now, I knew it would not be easy, since Drexel is not a top school for finance majors and so it was harder for me to obtain an internship at a big bank, especially when many other top school students tried for the same role. I applied for a third round and found out two weeks later that I was given an interview.
When I found out, I was content but not overexcited. I knew that this was just one step and that I had to be the best damn candidate out there to beat all the others and get this internship to further my pursuit of a career in finance. And so, I prepared my very best, spending hours and hours for days to make sure I was on point for anything and everything they might ask of me. I went in there and gave it my very best shot. I was frank and I was genuine.
I heard October 4, 2010 that I was offered an internship position at one of the largest banks in the world. It was one of the first moments I recall feeling genuine pride in myself. Even though it was an internship, I had been tenacious and worked hard to achieve this goal. I felt as if I was on top of the world, knowing that this internship would lead to greater things in life. More than just landing the internship, I was proud of myself for the determination I had shown in achieving my goal. I realized that if I was able to do this, I was definitely able to do more. The internship was exactly what I hoped for: it was a stepping-stone into the world of finance. So many finance terms were thrown around every day at the job. I would spend hours researching all these new words and concepts and learning both on my own and through the senior manager. I had built a great relationship with everyone there. They still remember me to this day as "that guy who keeps calling." But hey, it worked, didn't it?
By the time the internship came to a close and it was time for me to leave, I knew that I was taking with me enough knowledge that I would have the upper hand in any forthcoming interviews for full-time work in the finance industry. I had decided what I wanted to do in the future was to work on Wall Street. However, it turned out that my college was not considered the best preparation for that. Nevertheless, I knew that with the right networking, drive, aggressiveness, and persistence, I would have a chance. I started igniting my ambition and building a passion for "high finance."
Like the experience of a lot of other people, my first job out of college wasn't what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. It was for a consulting firm, but I didn't want to miss the opportunity of working straight from college, so I was compelled to take it. I kept an open mind and started working hard there. Regardless of how I felt about the job, I wanted to be an added-value employee. I didn't realize it at the time, but I was teaching myself what I would later teach those I mentor: take what you can get and do your best at it until something better comes along.
Even "not quite right" positions can be a stepping-stone to the right job.
After less than four months on that job, I began to think bigger. I put myself in the driver's seat and started to take action. While eliminating distractions around me, I was focusing on doing whatever it took to get a role at an investment bank. By opening my mind and trying different approaches, I was exploring every avenue in an effort to find a way to break into the investment banking industry.
Every day--sitting at my desk as the sun streamed in--I would make it a goal to make five cold calls and send out five cold emails. Every day I would get turned down from somewhere (at that point I was flexible in working at any location and at any investment bank, just to get my foot in the door). I had interview after interview, showing up in my best suit, full of confidence, only to fail at landing the analyst position. It was tough and competitive, especially given that I came from a school that wasn't within their typical recruiting list of institutions.
One day, as I was sitting at my desk making the daily calls and sending out the daily emails, I thought that I should try to find a recruiter and maybe obtain a corporate job that would provide me with the skillset required for investment banking. I reached out to many recruiters and a couple months after, I took a corporate role at a satellite company, thinking that I could my use experience there as leverage for an investment banking role in the future. Again, I was strategically working to overcome any obstacles in my way. Where others might have given up, I found ways to overcome my challenges. I let six months go by and then started to interview for investment banking roles and build upon my network. Since my job was in New Jersey, every time I had an interview I would make the difficult trip to New York, do the interview, and hurry back to work in the least amount of time possible. I kept doing this, and even though for some of the interviews I got into the final round, I was unable to score an offer. The most common feedback that I got was that the company decided to go with another candidate that had a better background from a more prestigious school and internship. Even though I had an internship at J.P. Morgan, I didn't necessary have the most relatable internship, since it was not directly in investment banking. Aside from going to interviews, I continued to make it a mission to organize which firms I contacted, those I need to follow-up with, and those that are in the "pipeline" that I have yet to contact. Recently, I went through my list of all the firms and recruiters I contacted, and it was well over 100. I kept going into work with the mindset that I would follow up and contact these specific firms and didn't give up. Many times, it was hard to keep going, especially after being rejected many times; however I persevered and kept it up.
A year passed. A year! And after constantly interviewing and networking with more than fifty different firms, I still had no job offer in my chosen field.
Have you ever persisted against what seemed like impossible odds? At the one-year spot, I decided I needed try something new. I decided to buy a $1,200 self-learning course on taking the GMAT, planning to attend business school after taking it, thinking I would spend two years getting an MBA and then try to break into the industry again. I bought the course, completed the course, and then started studying for the GMAT. I knew I wanted to be an investment banker and investor, so I wanted to exhaust all possible approaches.
I remember it being a Sunday and my exam was coming up on a Monday three weeks later at 8AM. I received an email from an administrative assistant, asking to set up a first round interview for an Investment Banking Analyst position at a leading investment bank. Of course, I said to myself "why not?" and proceeded to go for the first-round interview. I went to New York on that Tuesday and met with three people and interviewed the same way that I have been doing for over two years. I left the firm to go back to my job in New Jersey for the satellite company. I immediately heard back and was asked to return for a second-round interview. And so, I did a couple days after. This time, I met with managing directors, and it was a little harder, but nevertheless I gave it my best shot. I left the interview feeling good about it, but still had the anxiety and nervousness that maybe one of them didn't like me and I would get rejected. A few days after that, I received a call from one of the managing directors, who asked me to return for a third and final round interview with the co-presidents of the firm. I was baffled about why he called me to let me know and why the administrative assistant didn't just email me and coordinate and time that would work. The answer was that he wanted to prep me and so he did for my last round.
I went in for the last round and again gave it my best shot and was very direct and frank. I told them why I wanted this and why they should give me an opportunity. I had been through so many interviews at this point that my answers flowed freely. I knew exactly what I wanted and now to express it to the interviewers. Later, I was at Thanksgiving dinner with my family in Boston, MA when I got the call from the vice president there, offering me the position--one of the best days of my life. I immediately jumped for joy after I hung up with him. I was ecstatic because, despite all the struggle, stress, and disappointments of not being able to do what I wanted to do in life, my persistence had paid off. I had met my goal, but even more important was the realization that real success was keeping myself on a constant course toward success. Ironically it was Thanksgiving, and I gave all the thanks to everyone in the world that had supported me.
I set new goals that day. One of them was to start out as an analyst and be promoted to a higher level. Today, I am at that higher level.
What goals have you set? Do you have a plan to get there?
I sought the opportunity, I found it, and now I'm giving back. The position I attained has transitioned into a pure investment firm, and is exactly what I have wanted to do. I have been promoted to a more senior level position and continue to make sure that I am putting in the hard work and now I am 100% into teaching younger professionals and analysts at my work. I make sure that all the work I do is well thought out. To this day, I still use everything I learned through my experiencing in landing this job, which includes everything from being resourceful, spending time to make a piece of work the best it has the potential to be (just like how I continue to improve on myself to meet my greatest potential) and not being satisfied until I believe its 100% complete.
And remember I mentioned balance? I have also found the girl of my dreams, whom I love very much--someone who has continued to support me in all my endeavors. This allows me to achieve the all-important balance in my life with family, friends, and in love. I would not have gotten to where I am now without dedication, passion, drive, persistence, and many other factors we will cover as we learn to Think Past Twelve.
1. Complete these sentences on separate paper:
a. I am passionate about ____________________ and ______________________.
b. The thing that makes my thinking different from others' is my way of _________
c. The talents I expect to use in my life are ___________________, _____________, and ____________________.
2. Think about, and write down, your answers to the following questions:
* What about you is different from all others?
* How do you feel about your future, about your place in the world?
* What persons have had the most influence on you? Do you see their influence as primarily positive - contributing to your growth and development - or negative - detracting from your best sense of yourself?
* When and how do you assert yourself?
* When do you think past 12?
- What is your purpose in life, as far as you understand it now? What were you placed here to accomplish? __________________________________________________________________
THE TWELVE O'CLOCK TAKEAWAY
Like many young people who are considered strange or different by their peers, my self-esteem underwent some rocky times. I had to learn to stand up for myself against influences to be like everyone else. Typically of someone from another culture, I thought for a while that I needed to copy and conform to those around me. But something in me was saying, No, I'm not like everyone else. What I think is what matters most to me. My work ethic was, at best, intermittent; but when I looked back on times I didn't assert myself, I was disappointed. I didn't like feeling that way, so I resolved to do better.
As I entered the work world, my determination grew to find the right direction for my passions and talents to be used for the best outcomes. I had an early idea that I wanted to work in the field of investment finance. I followed that vision, seeking continually positions where I felt myself most fulfilled. It took time. I was patient, asserting myself in whatever way I was following in the maze of searching by experience for my best fit. Because of my hard work and persistence, opportunities came. Finally I found myself in the field I had wanted all along, and in a position that offers me growth and responsibility.
Throughout this time, I have nourished the idea of mentoring young people. I started in my last year of college in my spare time, and have continued since then to seek to help high school and college age students, particularly those who are graduating, to set a course that will fulfill them. This coaching work comes naturally to me, and is very satisfying. Not only do I attempt to share life lessons with mentees or even people I meet that engage in conversations with me, but I also provide them different ways to go about life and a career. Many times, I give the lost student a way to find themselves. Even though I do this casually, I obtain great joy out of it. I have had many tell me to create a coaching school but for me, it's not about monetizing anything or creating a for-profit business. I do this casually and I do this for free. It's something I greatly enjoy doing. I have always felt happiness when I help others. This may be cliche but my experiences have been nothing short of enlightening and I hope to show you why. One of the things that I always hoped for when I was starting out was to have a mentor or someone to guide me that was of my generation and my age and/or had similar experiences as me. I'd like to show you and hopefully guide you in a direction that will be beneficial for you.
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