Archive for November, 2008


November 5, 2008

Dawn is hours from breaking, and darkness shrouds a clouded sky. Put one foot in front of the other. Keep moving. Wake up!

“What the fuck, are you serious?”

A canvas of brittle, browned leaves blankets the trail, offering shelter to treacherous sinkholes and ankle-twisting branches. Put one foot in front of the other. Keep moving. Wake up!


Autumn’s chill sweeps down from the hills, carrying with it the scent of eucalyptus and memories of runs through this forest, lifetimes ago. Each breath lances the lungs. Each step jolts the spine. Each mile torments the legs. Put one foot in front of the other. Keep moving. Wake up!

“I don’t understand. I thought…”

Run like you love the pain. Run like you mean it. Run like your life depends on it. Run, for you have been asleep far too long.

“Thursday’s your day in the barrel.”

Three quarters past, at one of those forks in the decision tree so sharp that I can still feel the puncture wounds in my chest, I wrote this. Three event-filled quarters later, I find myself again at an eerily familiar fork, so I figured it was finally time to sit down and watch “Casino Royale.” Apropos.

“You don’t trust anyone, do you James?”


“Then you’ve learnt your lesson.”

If only I would learn mine.

This is no magnum opus, nor much of a valedictory.  There is little left in me to commit words to print, save a vague sense of obligation, though to who or what, I know not. The ragged draft of a witty, bittersweet final post lays abandoned, consigned to the ether like so many other stunted pieces; and there shall it remain, for what is here has taken its place.

Nearly four months have passed since the end of my whirlwind year at INSEAD, and what better time to take stock of matters than now, after the famed “First 100 Days”? Thanks to Fates, Furies, or Pat Sajak and his Wheel of Fortune, I graduated amidst a six sigma market, am currently living a life punctuated by six sigma events, and am doing my damnedest to ride the sigma-squared in a quest for Veritas. Unfortunately, (or fortunately, depending on which side of the line-in-the-sand you stand) the Aequitas part will have to wait for Siddhārtha and his karmic cudgel to do what he does best.

I won’t squander this white space regaling you with reviews of star professors, summaries of must-bid classes, or tales of parties and weekend trips that have already faded into the annals; there are other blogs out there that do that much better than this one could ever hope to. Instead, I’ll use this last hurrah for a tad bit of reflection, in the form of incoherent fragments, as I’ve given up on weaving together some sort of readable narrative. Caveat emptor. YMMV.

Fragment –

If there’s one thing I wish I would’ve taken away from this year, it would be the ability to manage expectations.

Despite my inveterate cynicism, perennial bitterness, and outward projections of being Shiva the Destroyer and the Harbinger of Impending Doom rolled together in a sheet of filo dough, there was always a bit of me that offered shelter and safe harbor to that oh-so-fragile vessel, Hope.

Hope that things do work out, that people are good, and that truth and justice do exists. Storm’s a’ come, and the harbor don’t look so safe no mo’. There ain’t no silver linin’ on this cumulonimbus, either. If only I had listened to the weatherman and brought an umbrella, I might be a little drier, warmer and happier.

Folks, don’t go to business school and expect to find human goodness. If that’s what you want, I’d say you’re better off blowing your coin on a hillock of pura cocaína and taking your septum on a ski trip.

Fragment –

The MBA is not a panacea.

Not for work, not for life, not for love. It’s just a piece of heavy paper with a pretty stamp, along with a few gigabytes of pixellated memories on a hard drive tucked away somewhere – assuming you’re the camera-toting type – to be dusted off through the decades during hazy trips down memory lane.

If you’re taking a year off in hopes of executing some sort of quantum leap in your life, sit back and do some serious head scratching before you take the plunge. Oh, sure, it’s possible. There are cases abound of X’s contorting themselves into Z’s, ray-of-sunshine epiphanies, and disparate soul mates crashing together like neutrinos amidst the entropy, but these were exceptions, not the norm.

Detractors would argue that we graduated at a bad time, your year is what you make it, and that the learning and experiences are priceless paving stones on the path to self-betterment. Said detractors should: A) Consider a career in cobbling together smarmy Mastercard ads, and B) Blow me.

Fragment –

I pride myself on being a good judge of character, but somehow when it comes to my personal life and stock portfolio, all bets are off, and sense flies out the window.

“Real men don’t diversify,” a famous (male) INSEAD finance professor was fond of saying. I subscribe to this approach in investing and life. When I hit, I hit big, but when I miss… The problem is I never know when to realize my gains, or when to cut my losses. My gut and brain can be screaming “Left!” yet there’s always a part of me that never listens, and chooses instead to amble rightward, usually at the detriment of the other bits and leading to annihilation of the whole.

Fragment –

I’ve got a joke for you:

Q: What do you get when you throw a gaggle of highly motivated, morally bankrupt, alpha opportunists together in a city, add booze, and mix?

A: Some real ninja-like feats of deception, obfuscation and opportunism.You won’t see the caltrops until they’re buried in your heel, and that sharp, pokey feeling that’s tickling your gut? Oh, that’s just a katana running through your back. But don’t worry; it’s for your own good.

I remember coming across a post by an INSEAD blogger of yore about how the people she hung out with in P1 and who were her new BFFs ended up being more like KOS by P5. For this writer, it took until P7 for the Kool-Aid to wear off and the ninjas to be separated from the pirates, who in this strained metaphor, eye patches, peg-legs and all, are the good guys.

A hooked hand and a thousand thanks go out to the motley and unexpected INSEAD crew of the USS Cynic, for staying on deck and weathering the tempests, especially this last one. You have my gratitude and friendship for life, or for as long as you want it: Ahjuma, The Banker, Brownie, Double-D, Hence, JSoros, King Mufafa, NBP, Saigon, Two Pair, and the UEGA duo.

And to the OG’s, who I couldn’t have made it this far without, you already know that my hearth, home and black humor are yours: Architect, C-Mog, Dr. O, HapaD, Lucky Lindberg, Naia, Shay, Siren, Slutzky.

Fragment –

Coming into the year, I thought I’d learn a bit, mingle a bit and grow a bit, but I had no idea that the distribution of my experience would skew so heavily toward the latter.

I read an article once, about height discrimination in China and the lengths prospective job-seekers would go through to surmount this bias. The truly focused opted to undergo a procedure whereby their legs were broken and their bones forcibly separated by metal rods and made to heal between the gaps so that when the pieces finally rejoined, the person would be an inch or two taller than before.

Why anyone would voluntarily go through something like this is beyond me, that is until I look back at the thirteen months from August 2007 to September 2008, and realize, “Oww. My being hurts.” The repairs have only just begun, and I’ve got a feeling that the contractor may not be able to finish the job in time, if at all.

It has been a long, arduous climb, up and away from a year I never thought I’d want to forget. I stand at the pinnacle of this jagged crag, perched on the brink, arms wide, fists clenched and thumbs pointed skyward, gazing out on the vast expanse of white noise below. Maybe it will resolve into a stunning panorama of a bright future. Or perhaps it only serves to mask a black oblivion.

There’s the go signal. Time to find out. So long.

“Farewell to you and the youth I have

spent with you.

It was but yesterday we met in a dream.

You have sung to me in my aloneness,

and I of your longings have built a tower

in the sky.

But now our sleep has fled and our dream

is over, and it is no longer dawn.

The noontide is upon us and our half

waking has turned to fuller day, and we

must part.

If in the twilight of memory

we should meet once more, we shall speak again to-

gether and you shall sing to me a deeper


And if our hands should meet in another

dream we shall build another tower in the


-Kahlil Gibran