Back In Action


Its been exactly a month since my last post. I’ve been busy traveling in India for a field study project towards my MBA and also getting a bit of vacation in as well.  The project involved studying the impressive operations of Akshaya Patra, a non-profit organization which feeds over a million kids a day as part of a school lunch program.  I traveled to 10 different cities, finally saw the Taj Mahal along with various assorted forts and palaces,  and spent the new year in Goa (where Jason Bourne’s girlfriend died in one of the Bourne trilogy movies).

I also read a lot of good books, one of which was Shantaram, probably the best fiction book I’ve read in a long time .No, it wasn’t the best piece of literature but it was immensely entertaining (in the way that a Bollywood movie is).  Other interesting books were Outliers, SuperFreakonomics, and Jack Welch’s Straight from the Gut.

Classes have started again and the first couple of weeks are always busy. But I’ll try and post a full-year total of my dividend and online income as soon as possible.

Wish you all a happy new year!

Finding A Job

Regular readers know that I’m a full-time MBA student. I haven’t had much time to post mainly because I was spending a lot of time looking for a summer job. With the economy being as bad as it is, it’s been quite hard to get a paid job this summer. Unpaid internships are a dime a dozen and I was able to procure a few of those, which I turned down.  Eventually, I was able to find three paid gigs. One was in the IT department of a large cruise line company which didn’t really excite me.  Another was an online marketing analytics job that was very tempting. However, I turned that down in order to research distressed commercial real estate at Marcus & Millichap. Finding any sort of paid real estate job is tough in this environment and I figured that spending 3 months over the summer was a good way to gain some experience in the field of commercial real estate.

But landing these jobs was very tough. It probably would have been easier if I had looked for product management jobs, since i have a programming background, but I really wanted to do something different over the summer. If I’m spending all this time and money getting an MBA, I might as well do something that doesn’t just slot me as another techie.  My first preference would have been a job in investment management but despite having several interviews that didn’t pan out.  I think if I had networked a lot more, that could’ve become a reality but that’s probably true of any field. If you network hard enough, you’re bound to land a job sooner or later.

One thing all students should do is contact alumni in their fields of interest and offer to buy them coffee to learn about the industry. It’s much easier to do as a student otherwise you’re just some weird random dude who wants to meet them! You never know who will be able to help you get a job. And it probably won’t be the friends you hang out with all the time. You’re all part of the same network and if there were an openings, you would have known about them already. So go out and expand your network!

Check out this funny video for more job finding tips.

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Stephen’s Sound Advice – Summer Jobs
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor Stephen Colbert in Iraq

How To Figure Out What To Do With Your Life?

As someone who’s struggled with finding meaning in life, I can understand the frustration young high schoolers feel when they ask me what they should be doing with their life. Unfortunately, I never have a good answer.

But now thanks to Penelope Trunk, I can direct them to this page and get them off my back:

There is no other way to figure out where you belong than to make time to do it and give yourself space to fail, give yourself time to be lost. If you think you have to get it right the first time, you won’t have the space really to investigate, and you’ll convince yourself that something is right when it’s not. And then you’ll have a quarterlife crisis when you realize that you lied to yourself so you could feel stable instead of investigating. Here’s how to avoid that outcome.

1. Take time to figure out what you love to do.

When I graduated from college, I was shocked to find out that I just spent 18 years getting an education and the only jobs offered to me sucked. Everything was some version of creating a new filing system for someone who is important.

Often bad situations bring on our most creative solutions. And this was one of those times: I asked myself, “What do I want to do most in the world, if I could do anything?” I decided it was to play volleyball, so I went to Los Angeles to figure out how to play on the professional beach circuit.

I spent my days on the courts, and late nights at the gym, and in between, I worked odd jobs in bookstores. And then I realized that the other thing I wanted to do was read. I had been so stifled in school being told what to read all the time. It was thrilling to be able to read whatever I wanted.

I wasn’t making very much money. Sometimes I couldn’t pay rent, and my landlord hated me. And sometimes I couldn’t afford to wash my clothes and I pretended that bikinis never get dirty. But, in fact, you really don’t need much money to figure out what you love to do, you just need time and space and a willingness to keep yourself busy until something sticks.

2. Take time to figure out what you can get paid for.

It took me a few years to navigate the arcane hierarchy of Southern California beach volleyball, but I finally played on the professional tour. For a summer. And what I found was that I am not nearly as competitive as the top players. I was, at one point, ranked 17, but I can tell you that I never cared as much about my rank as the other women.

What I did excel at, though, was winning sponsors, which, on some level, is what professional sports is all about anyway. I always had better sponsors even than women higher than me in the ranks, and I won partners and trainers by dint of my ability to attract sponsors.

But the truth about professional volleyball is that it is a really tough life. The eight hours a day on the beach starts getting old, and so do the Budweiser commercials I did (totally not fun) to manage to scrape together enough money to support myself.

So I thought to myself: Who is using the skills I have to make money? And I landed on marketing. And I had this boyfriend who was going to hire someone to do marketing at his Internet startup, so I volunteered to do it for free, to get something on my resume. And then I got a job.

3. Watch people around you to figure out who is happy.

I ended up having a pretty big job at a Fortune 500 company running their web site. Don’t get me wrong. It was the earliest days of the Internet, and it actually took more people to redesign my blog recently than it did to launch that Fortune 500 site in the early 90’s.

But anyway, I started climbing the ladder and tons of people wanted to mentor me, to help me get to where they were. And they told me they were happy, but when I watched them, day in and day out, I realized that the people at the top of the ladder were not nearly as happy as I had expected them to be. They tucked their kids into bed from their phones at their desk. They were overdressed constantly and they had hair-trigger tempers for topics that seemed inconsequential to me.

So I went to where coolness seemed to be: At startups.

Now that I’m on my third startup, I can tell you with certainty that if you looked at my life you would not see that I am happy. Running a startup is really high risk and really difficult, and entrepreneurs work longer hours than anyone else. But I’m almost always there to eat diner with my kids, because I control my own hours.

So the final step of finding out where you should be is looking at everyone’s life with a clear lens. Adult life is really hard. Finding out who we are, and finding someone to share our life with, and having kids and still having a life, and being able to pay for all of that: Impossible, really.

So you look around and see who is doing what part of that well. And you pick the sacrifices that they made. Because no life is perfect, but all lives have some things to offer. Be clear on what you’re choosing and what you’re giving up, and don’t pick anyone’s life if they tell you they have everything: they’re lying.

But if you’re already out of college and still don’t know what you want to me, may I suggest considering an MBA at top Business School? 😉

Why You Shouldn’t Flirt When You’re Drunk!

No, I haven’t abandoned my blog. I’ve just been busy packing up and moving to Los Angeles and settling in to my new digs in Westwood, which is close to UCLA. And it’s incredibly difficult to pack (or even sleep for that matter) when you’ve sprained a back muscle, especially the serratus posterior superior muscle. Don’t even know how I sprained it. Probably from too much partying around the Labor Day Weekend.

Anyway, I’m all settled in and I start pre-term Math, Accounting and Excel courses tomorrow followed by week-long Orientation and Leadership classes. After 3 weeks of this, the the regular MBA courses start and it’s going to be an incredibly hectic first quarter where I’ll be taking 5 core courses in just 10 weeks.

So I’ve been spending the past couple of days front-loading my recreation and have been hanging out at bars and pubs, networking with my future MBA classmates and other friends. One such networking event entailed going to a bar and drinking imported beers for nearly 7 hours! While I stopped drinking after 3 hours, one of my friends (who’s actually a medical doctor) kept on going. Around midnight, after he had been drinking and flirting with another drunk chick for several hours, he convinced her to pepper spray him! Luckily, it didn’t get as bad as it could have, but it made for a hilarious near-riot. So if you’re prone to thinking you’re invincible when you’re drunk, you might not want to flirt or get into argument with other drunks! (There, that’s one thing they won’t teach at business school!)

And while drinking in bars and pubs is a lot more expensive than drinking at home, it is definitely a lot more fun! Looks like business school is going to end costing a lot more than I expected!

Got An MBA Fellowship = No Student Loans!

Today I got a letter from the University of California, San Diego’s Business School. They’ve offered me a full fellowship for the MBA program! I think it was based on my GMAT score.

It consists of a complete waiver of all tuition and professional fees for both the years of the course. Getting this means I won’t need any student aid, nor will I have to sell any of my investments to fund my education. Considering that I have a very pessimistic outlook on the direction of the US economy, I believe the unemployment rate will be a lot higher when I graduate in 2 years time. I’d rather save up my money for the rainy days ahead (which means they’ll be more opportunity for good investments at that time). Not having to sell my investments also means I’ll be able to use the income they generate for living expenses.

Not having to worry about student loans or money when I’m going to school will be a great relief. The last time I went to school, lack of money caused me a lot of stress. I’d rather not have to worry about my finances and solely focus on maximizing my experience and enjoying the whole process.

I read an article in Businessweek about a Harvard MBA student who had dreams of working on Wall Street. With the current layoff and poor economic outlook (and with huge student loans looming) he prudently settled for a job working at Mattel. But I can’t help think that he must be very disappointed that the best job he could get after spending $150,000 on a Harvard MBA was working for the makers of Barbie dolls.

I also have an interview with UCLA’s Anderson School of Business lined up. I’ll give it my best shot since its an awesome school. But unless I get some sort of financial scholarships/fellowships, it’s going to be tough to beat the financial attractiveness of UCSD’s offer. In fact, the fellowship makes this MBA the cheapest possible way to get a business education, putting its cost on par with that of the Personal MBA program which costs $1,267.

If I go to any other good school, the education is likely to cost me around $100,000. Since my wife might be in another city, thats twice the living expenses plus traveling to meet each other. If I go to a private school, the cost might escalate to over $125,000. By living in San Diego, I might be able to work part-time after the first semester, so that’ll further decrease the loss of income during that time. Instead of working part-time, if I want to set my own venture, being local will again help since I have a lot of contacts here. Of course, a less expensive route is to enroll in the online MBA programs, although the quality of education is not the same as the traditional programs.

However it plays out, my desire to go to Business school will be fulfilled in September!

How To Get A $100,000 MBA Education for $1,267

As regular readers know, I’m quite keen on getting my MBA. I gave my GMAT late last year and when I scored 740, I thought getting into a top MBA program seemed feasible.

The only problem is that a top MBA program costs about $100,000 plus living expenses. Also there’s the opportunity cost of lost wages which increases the total cost of the MBA program to nearly $250,000!

With the country looking like its heading in to a severe recession, I’m wondering if there will be any jobs when I graduate and have all these student loans to pay. I’ll still probably go for the MBA program , but hopefully, I’ll get some sort of scholarship to defray the expenses. Also, if we see hyperinflation like I think we will, in 15 years $250,000 will be worth only $25,000 in purchasing power and it might not seem like a big deal at all!

But for the more cautious among you, there’s a way to get a great business education for only $1,267.00 Compared to $250,00 that’s almost nothing. Josh Kauffman created a program called ‘Personal MBA’ which is a self-study program where you read great management books. Of course, you don’t get a classroom environment and there’s no career center to help you get a job, but thats what you get for saving $98,733. He also has an online forum where you can discuss the books so there is some level of interaction. Check out the books included in the MBA in a box program. Pretty comprehensive. Definitely a good option for those of you that already have a business and just need to work on your functional skills.

I’ll probably grab a few books on the list and get a head start on my MBA education!

I’d like to thank Lazyman for bringing this to my attention.

How To Score A 700+ On Your GMAT

After I posted that I got a 740 on my GMAT, I’ve received numerous emails asking how I went about preparing for it. Here’s what I did.

I got several of Kaplan’s study guides. Here’s the complete list of the best books to prepare for the GMAT. I’m cheap so I didn’t actually buy them. I borrowed them off friends and spent a couple 12-hour days at Barnes and Nobles solving them.

The GMAT is broken into two sections, Math and Verbal.

In the Verbal section, I kept getting critical reasoning completely wrong on the practice tests, so I concentrated on that section more. Kaplan is known for being a lot tougher than the actual GMAT. This acts to make sure you don’t get overconfident and the reverse psychology worked very well in motivating me.

I found the Math more challenging than the Verbal and so I devoted significantly more time to it. Make sure you get the books with the practice tests on CD. I solved numerous examples in all the books and gave all the timed practice tests.

After giving several tests, I realized that my main problem was I couldn’t complete the whole math section and in my rush to complete it I was getting stuff wrong. In none of the Kaplan practice tests did I score more than 610. In fact, for most of them I scored in the low 550-580 range.

Even though I never scored more than 610 on the practice tests, I felt that I couldn’t do any further prep and had to take the exam.

During the examination I decided to go very slow on the first several problems. These problems count the most towards your overall score. I figured that as they would get progressively more difficult, I’d get an incredibly different problem that I’d immediately know I couldn’t solve and instead of wasting time trying to solve it, I’d just skip it and my timing would be back on track. This strategy actually worked out very well for me. However, it came with a lot of practice. I finished with 1 minute to spare on both sections.

I think the best advice I can give you to keep giving tests. The practice itself will probably help boost your score a little bit.

If you can’t motivate yourself to study, you can take the Kaplan Prep courses, but at $1,500 they’re a little pricey. I was actually seriously considering taking the courses but my wife vehemently opposed the idea. (I guess she knows more about my abilities than I do!) One advantage is that you get to take a practice test at the actual center on the real GMAT. That way you really know where you stand.

Verbal is a little tricky to prepare for. If your language skills suck, there’s very little you can good other than actually cramming the grammar rules. I suggest you spend a lot of time reading English literature and watching British movies! It’ll be more entertaining and you’ll probably learn just as much.

The Math section is much easier to prepare for. One thing you need to focus on is becoming math-minded. If you’re scared of counting your change at a grocery store, then you’ve got a lot of preparation to do! I strongly recommend reading Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences. You should be able to get it at your library or buy it online for $5. It’s an easy to read book that gets you thinking about using numbers in everyday life. These sort of books have the added advantage of boosting your IQ!

Make sure you solve the Kaplan 800 book. It has a list of the toughest questions and are great practice for the actual exam. Even if you’re not aiming for a 700+, it’ll help boost your score. You definitely want a good score since most schools provide merit-based scholarships which are dependent on your GMAT score.

Good luck!