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Sunday, June 5, 2005

   On Personal and Organizational Vision
I’m trying to get into the habit of constantly working on new essays. It keeps my mind keen and well-organized. It also gives me a sense of control over the general chaos of the world.

// Sidebar: Having a sense of control over things correlates strongly to happiness. I’ve read a few psychological studies on this. Whenever you’re down, just take control of some situation, and voila! Instant glee.

Today’s post will be on the importance of vision and how it relates to both individuals and organizations. Hopefully by the end, you’ll come to appreciate the whole vision thing and maybe even apply it to your own life.

First, what does “vision” really mean? Well, let’s first break the word down into its semantic roots. “Vision,” according to my handy-dandy dictionary, is from the Latin verb “visio,” which means “to see.” And, related to that Latin verb, is its current definition: “A mental image produced by the imagination.”

But that’s just a general definition. I like to think of a vision as merely a destination that one imagines for something.

For example, let’s say you want to build a Lego castle. Right now, you’re just staring at a box of oddly shaped Lego pieces. Not much to look at, but you’re still excited. You can just see the finished castle sitting before you. It’s a clear and defined goal that exists just in your head (and maybe on the cover art of the box).

That’s your vision. Though right now you have a lot of random pieces, you can imagine and just see a destination for those pieces—namely, being built into a great castle.

Okay, that was a lame example. I don’t think anyone really plays with Legos anymore. But you get the point.

So why is having a vision important?

Well, why is having a destination for anything important? To use a simple analogy, if you’re going on a trip, it’s important to first know where you’re going. Otherwise you might get lost or end up spending too much money on gas. On the other hand, if your vision is too precise, then you might miss out on some great opportunities along the way (tunnel vision, it’s called). So always keep your vision slightly out of focus. Stay flexible!

To get away from this analogy, I will now list a few concrete reasons on the importance of vision (feel free to chime in with your own ideas).

First, when you have a vision, you’re working toward a firm goal. And because you have a firm goal, you can take measurable steps toward its completion. This should keep you motivated since you can generate short-term wins.

Second, if you’re able to communicate your personal vision to others, then they’ll no doubt help you achieve it. Just being aware of your vision will cause them to keep their eyes and ears open for any related opportunities. I once heard a quote that if you really want something, the universe molds itself to help you accomplish it. The hard part is just figuring out what you want.

Third, as I mentioned earlier, a sense of control is correlated with happiness. Having a vision gives you a sense of having some control over your life. That’s why I recommend writing your vision down.

So where do you see yourself in five years? It’s a popular interview question (let me tell you…) that directly taps into one’s sense of personal vision. It’s also a hard interview question. I mean human beings were never meant to answer it. If you’re a caveman, struggling to survive in a hostile jungle, you live then and there. And if you do have a vision, it’s not to be eaten by a jungle cat.

I blame evolution for our general difficulty in formulating a vision.

Now, to take a step back, I wrote that this essay was meant to demonstrate the importance of vision as it related to both individuals and organizations. So far I’ve only discussed individual vision, but I think that the same basic rules apply for both.

If you’re the CEO of IBM, you better have a vision for where your company should be in a few years. And not only that, you better be able to communicate that vision to your people on a daily basis. How can you captain a ship when all the oar-men are pushing the water in different directions? You can’t—that’s why communication is so integral for organizational vision. It keeps everyone on the same page and working toward the same end.

Like individual vision, organizational vision also lets everyone keep their eyes and ears open to new opportunities that relate to your vision. It will also keep everyone motivated, since you can generate short-term wins.

So how should one go about formulating a vision? This is an eminently difficult question. Choosing the wrong vision is worst than having no vision at all. Steering a ship toward a deserted island will lead to guaranteed failure, whereas if you’re steering it randomly, there’s a chance you’ll stumble upon a worthy destination.

The framework I find most useful for creating either a personal or organizational vision is often used for analyzing companies. It’s called a “SWOT” analysis, with “SWOT” standing for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

Basically, strengths and weaknesses relate to internal attributes whereas opportunities and threats relate to more external and environmental attributes. Both are important, so I’ll give a quick demonstration using myself as an example.

First, let’s look at my internal attributes, which include my strengths and weaknesses. My strengths include writing, design, quantitative analysis, logic, business/marketing, well-roundedness, and generally being very easy-going. My weaknesses include the fact that I’m probably too easy-going and demand a certain level of skill variety in whatever I do. I also have a very strong drive toward individualism, which hinders being able to work under other people.

Taking my internal attributes into consideration, let’s look at some external threats and opportunities that relate to me. Let’s say I wanted to focus on my strength in writing and wanted to stay independent (to avoid my weakness). Well, what are the opportunities and threats that relate to me?

I could be a creative writer, but that’s insanely competitive and, at best, I’d have to struggle to make ends-meat. Plus, I don’t see things getting any less competitive in the future. To make things even worst, people have been reading less and less fiction and that trend is expected to continue deep into the future.

On the other hand, digital content is really taking off. This represents an opportunity. I could become a specialist in online content. That could be my personal vision.

See? After using SWOT, I now have something worth fighting for. (This is just an example though--I'm not really interested in pursuing this path.)

Make sure though that when you’re doing an analysis of both opportunities and threats, you rely on sound market research and not solely on intuition. There are a wealth of secondary sources out there that talk about industry growth, expected trends, and average salaries. For example, my duties with this network require me to always keep my eyes peeled for statistics related to anime and manga sales growth.

If you have a few moments today, sit down and write out a SWOT analysis for either yourself or your organization. Then use that data to create a vision. From there, create a plan for achieving that vision and communicate it to everyone you know.

I think you’ll find it a helpful exercise.

Comments (3) | Permalink

Monday, May 30, 2005

@ Starbucks & Freezing
My Internet connection is on the fritz, so I'm working on the site here at Starbucks. God, $10 for one day of access and they don't even have the sense to turn the air conditioning down (I'm FREEZING!).

Anyway, check out the article I wrote for our Naruto hub by visiting the main page. I think it's a winner :-).

Comments (8) | Permalink

Sunday, May 29, 2005

   Why I Hate Resumes
The topic of today's post will be on why I thoroughly abhor resumes: Those glittery, hype-infested scraps of paper job-seekers dole out by the dozen. Overall, I’m going to argue that the act of writing and editing a resume is a dangerous and self-abusive one. I’ve been thinking about this topic for a while now and finally wish to publish my thoughts.

So let’s begin.

When a person is in the act of writing a resume, they are effectively bifurcating themselves into two entities: The resume writer and the person being written about (let's call the latter "the product-person").

The resume writer has one purpose: to spin and to mold the product-person into a perfect fit for a given audience. To accomplish this, the resume writer must critically analyze the product-person through the eyes of an expected target audience.

Now, who here likes to be judged? It’s an obnoxious experience and writing a resume forces constant self-judgment on every single thing you’ve done. And it’s not just once, a good resume writer will write a different resume for each and every job they apply.

It’s painful.

Let’s say Susan worked at Burger King for one year as a cashier. She’s applying to work at IBM. Will she include her bout at BK on her resume? It really depends on her other qualifications.

If after BK she interned at Intel, she would probably not. She wants IBM only to see her as an engineering professional, not as a food services employee. However, if she had no other work experience, she’d probably try to spin her time at BK to emphasize the more universal things she’s learned. She’d write something like this:

“Cashier, Burger King. Trained in providing superior customer service. Received “Employee of the Month” distinction four times. Had a perfect attendance record. Supervised assistant cashier.”

The point is, she’s forced to place a value judgment on her life’s various paths and forced to edit or spin them for someone else’s consumption. And, after facing imagined rejection dozens of times before finally submitting a polished resume, she no doubt must experience the agony of real rejection.

But this is far from the biggest problem…

The biggest problem is when people become “proactive” resume writers. In this case, the resume writer becomes a puppeteer and the product-person becomes the puppet. I’ve always felt a natural disdain for people who fall into this trap. You know the type.

These people look at life as simply the material to fill out a resume. They join clubs because it “looks good,” take jobs because they “sound prestigious,” or pursue hobbies because they make them “unique” or “well-rounded.”

While this may lead to short-term successes, it carries grave risks in the long-term. If you sell your soul for something and then fail to get it, what’s left? People should live their own lives, not the lives that other people want them to lead.

It all reminds me of “Crime and Punishment,” that famous Russian novel. In it, the central character desires greatness, so he acts like he perceives a great person should act. However, he soon realizes that great people act a certain way because it’s in their personality, not because they’re trying to mimic someone else.

To disclaim though, I absolutely don’t advocate a complete bottom-up approach of blindly pursuing interests and emotions. This can lead to unemployment, under-appreciation, psychological problems, and so on. That’s a whole other blog post.

For now, I just wanted to complain a bit about resumes, not provide any alternatives, advice, or guidance in any way. I’ve had to write a *lot* of resumes these past few months. And I hate, hate, hate doing it.

Comments (8) | Permalink

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Checking In
Wow, it's been a while since I've blogged anything of note.

I've been busy. Very busy.

You know, graduating college, trying to find temporary housing, the job search, and my general duties at theOtaku have kept me from reflecting here. That is, until now.

(Insert evil laugh.)

Before I do anything, I have to thank the hard work of our staff, who've kept the site running smoothly during my intermittent absence.

In the short-term, these are the things you can expect to see from our network:

(1) Art of Otaku: This will be the ultimate guide to drawing anime, created by some of our best artists.

(2) 1-2 new functions/areas on theOtaku.com

(3) myOtaku 3.0

(4) Our premium services launch

(5) (#5 is too tenuous to name.)

Once we get these things out the door this summer, the main question will be on whether or not we should expand the network horizontally. Currently, we're focused on vertical growth (in anime), but the network does scale nicely into areas such as gaming, fiction, general artwork, etc.

First thing's first though. We'll see where all the above take us. Then we'll decide what next from there. Our premium service will basically dictate this.

Some days, I feel like we can conquer the world. We have such terrific talent and experience on our staff. Other days, I'm more pragmatic and worry about things such as the state of the anime industry as a whole, the state of online advertising, our readership numbers, and so on.

To close, you can expect more blog entries by me. I have some interesting experiences I'd like to share with you :-).

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Tuesday, May 3, 2005

Thanks to everyone who sent me PM's or emails wishing me a happy birthday. I hope just as many of you wished our friendly neighborhood James a happy birthday as well.

I'm in the midst of my final two weeks before graduation. As such, I'm fantastically stressed...ok, enough myO posting, have other issues to work out.

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Sunday, April 24, 2005

Our Cosplay site is a fandomormous success. We have a whole gaggle of great submissions and traffic to the site has been pretty solid. Thanks to the otaku-ite cosplay pioneers who submitted their photos.

A huge thanks also go to myself, Gail, Justin (especially), James, and GTK for helping get this site out there.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2005

The Future is Premium
My #1 priority in the coming months is setting up the infrastructure for a premium services offering.

For those of you unfamiliar with such things online, you basically pay a small yearly fee ($20-30) and get lots of enhanced features and bonuses. A lot of sites do this, including IGN, Live Journal, and so on. However, we think we can do better.

The staff and I have a mountain of ideas for this and we think we can come up with a **ridiculously** great offering. We'll do our part. We just hope people actually bite and join.

The consequences of the success of premium can't be emphasized enough.

If we can get the same percentage of Otaku-ites to sign up for this premium service as the number of Live Journal users who signed up for theirs, then the future of our network is going to be AMAZING. If you thought our progress thus far has been great, it'll look like nothing compared to our what's next.

However, If premium is a big flop, well...I'll try to be optimistic for now!

Comments (15) | Permalink

Sunday, April 3, 2005

   Just to Clarify...
Please read our Terms of Service, if you haven't already.

With our high-tech new reporting interface, we can very quickly track and suspend users for plagiarizing.

We've frozen about a dozen accounts in the last four days, many of which were senior members. We're usually forgiving for the first warning if the person is very polite and upfront.

If you're an artist who accidentally plagiarized (i.e. uploaded someone else's artwork under your own site), please remove the works ASAP and you'll be forgiven.

Comments (24) | Permalink

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

   Go Speed Racer, Go!
I'm very pleased about a few things.

First, we're almost done appointing a new first-rate moderator team, who will scour the site on a daily basis for poorly done artwork and then give specific feedback on what's wrong with the ones that are deleted. They'll also select and feature a new artist every week for main page recognition. Thanks to our old mod team, including animefreack.

Second, we have a great new weekly feature. Dagger has agreed to post weekly previews of upcoming anime releases. Her first post was a homerun.

Third, with the fantastic tools Justin's provided us with in our stellar recode, we have the power to closely monitor comments and submissions for plagiarism and quality.

Fourth, Gail has agreed to edit a bi-monthly newsletter to our 120,000+ email subscribers. That should be fun.

Fifth, I had a productive call-in today with a major video game magazine. I hope we can work something special out for our members.

Sixth, don't forget that epic contest April 1st!

Yes, I'm very pleased.

UPDATE: Justin reminded me that I forgot #7 - our stellar new comments system.

Comments (13) | Permalink

Saturday, March 26, 2005

   The Short Answer
We'll take care of moderation problems. Just let us launch this code update first. =)

This doesn't mean that we're going to let everything that gets submitted get to and stay on the site. Publishing is a PRIVILEGE, not a right. It does mean there will be more transparency though, which is only fair.

PS: Visit the site on April 1st. We are going to have a MASSIVE contest, the biggest we've ever held. There will be five winners, each receiving a prize valued at $50. No April Fool's joke :).

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