Whirling Thoughts

Chewing, swishing, and spitting thoughts out. Personal blog of Nicholas Chan.

Month: July 2018

First Year Internships – Take The Learning Opportunity

Coming back from a trip to Kingston, my housemates and I were discussing each others’ summer jobs. Being in Queen’s Commerce, a very career-oriented business program, we all felt the pressure to land an internship for the summer.

We are all currently three months into our roles and during the three-hour commute, we had a chance to discuss how we like our jobs and roles.

The words “I hate my job” and “I don’t have much to do” and “I have a lot of free time” came up during the discussion.

The challenge that hits a lot of first-year students in business roles is two-fold. First, it’s significantly harder for you to land a job because it is believed that you lack experience. Second, once you land the job, the reality is that you are often giving routine, mindless tasks that no one else does.

Is this part of the overall job hunting process? Yes. But are there ways to avoid it? I would believe so.

Another friend of mine has had a great time working at an ecommerce / marketing startup this summer. She finds the work engaging, interesting, and one where she is constantly learning new things.

I also had the same experience working at an early-stage startup called Jrop, where I learned a lot about sales, autonomous vehicles, and an up-close look at the nitty-gritty details of execution / strategy that comes with running any business. Very few people know this company exists.

While landing big names in first year will look great on the resume, it appears that many (not all) of these jobs devolve into some form of grabbing coffee, formatting documents, and other routine work. Frankly, these are not activities that make you a smarter and more interesting person, no matter what company you work at.

At the end of the day, your job is an outlet to learn something new, grow as a person, and meet new people. All of this is what contributes to you landing another job.

Finding roles at smaller companies is a good way to get the increased flexibility and learning opportunities. They are generally more accessible and more willing to give first-year interns more free reign. Rather than simply looking to land big names, I would encourage future first-years to find these high-growth opportunities.

Building A Stream Of Information – I’m Unsubscribing From The Economist

One of the most crucial components to maintaining an edge in business / life is access to relevant, high-quality information. This information shapes our perspectives, decisions, and acts as the basis for new ideas or strategies.

So in the pursuit of this information advantage, common advice that is given is to read the news. The intent behind this is well-meaning, but the reality is that reading the news turns into you swimming through oceans of irrelevant information, overreactions, and repeats of company press releases. Occasionally, you come across an article that will change perspectives or add significant value, but skimming through news sites to find these nuggets of gold is extremely time consuming.

To me, staying informed is a situation where quality matters exponentially more than quantity. What defines quality? My litmus test is whether it unlocks a new perspective and provides applicable information to my fields of interest.

Those criteria also mean that everyone should build out a stream of information that uniquely suits their needs rather than listening to general advice.

On The Economist

I recently subscribed to The Economist on the recommendation of several friends. It does a great job of analyzing geopolitical trends, politics, and providing a global perspective. The Economist has definitely made me smarter.

But recently, I’ve asked myself how useful this information is to my own interests  in technology, startups, and business strategy. My conclusion is that other than a few talking points, the information that I’m absorbing through The Economist has largely been redundant.

The pieces of information that would interest me, have already come in through other new sources in my stream of information.

My largest complaint of The Economist is that it is reactionary in its coverage and analysis. They provide few robust analyses on business strategy and trends in the future.

I get it, that’s not what The Economist does, their focus is on economics and geopolitics. My interests and the magazine’s interests don’t align, so it’s time to switch off.

The New Information Stream

My subscription of choice moving forward will likely be the Harvard Business Review. Their in-depth case studies, CEO interviews, and discussion of technological trends in business are more suited to my personal interests.

To keep myself up to date on significant news items, I am a fan of using newsletters which sort out irrelevant information. The Hustle is my go-to for daily business and tech news; Seeking Alpha’s Wall Street Breakfast is a short, digestible, daily breakdown of news from a financial lens; Abnormal Returns for curated article links on personal finance, investment strategies, and news from a financial lens; The Tim Ferriss Show is my podcast for learning about how high-performers think and operate through in-depth one on one interviews; National Geographic is my favourite magazine and it provides a holistic view of politics, culture, and nature through their passionate photographs and storytelling.

Moving forward, I will continue adjusting these information sources as my needs and interests change. So far, I am happy with the quality of information these sources provide. They keep me from being caught flat-footed in conversations while providing me with information that helps me make better decisions.


Consistency – Showing Up Everyday

Something that I have struggled with over time has been consistency in my posting. I find my inspiration and desire to write constant, but my ability to create the time to write those posts very difficult.

It’s easy to get caught up in excuses and put off a post for another day or week, that then turns into another month. There’s always some excuse, an event, or project, or impeding exhaustion.

Taking the advice of venture capitalist Fred Wilson, who has managed to blog consistently for years on end, I installed WordPress onto my phone.

I connected my site to my phone, which gives me the ability to write short posts like these. I am a big fan of the idea, mostly because it revolves around setting up an environment that removes friction (annoying to login and open up blog on desktop) from my desired result (more writing.)

Writing is something that I truly enjoy as an avenue to express the random thoughts that come about every day.

This is why I named this blog whirling thoughts, it’s a safe place to plop down the random ideas and thoughts that pop up from time to time for an occasional audience.

The key barrier from making this a habit / successful routine is my lack of consistency. Really need to focus on writing more stuff down and creating consistency.

Not sure where the idea came from originally (buffett?) but knowledge and habits are like compound interest. Continuous small actions, such as writing everyday, ultimately creates significant improvement and growth or what people refer to as the process.

Moving forward, I aim to improve my consistency and focus.

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