The visualization and manifestation of goals can take on many forms. Oprah talked about using vision boards in several episodes of her show, which uses images and key words to map out your desired future state. Before Jim Carey became a famous actor, he would drive along Mulholland Drive, visualizing that he was already a famous actor. He wrote himself a $10 million dummy check for acting services rendered, which he achieved in the 3-year timeframe that he set for himself. Simu Liu, who coincidentally graduated from the same university that I attended, tweeted at Marvel Studios that he wanted to play Shang-Chi in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, and he ended up being casted in the main role a few years later.
We all have different aspirations and visualize them in different ways, which are shaped by our own interests and experiences. For me, I crystallized my vision in the form of an application to Columbia Business School. In one of the required essays, I was asked to write about my 5-year career plan and how a Columbia MBA would help. I wrote that I wanted to switch from the agency side to the client side, ideally working at a FMCG company as they seemed like great training grounds for marketers. I would then hopefully get a transfer through the company to Asia, a place where I witnessed limitless energy, growth, and opportunity during a trip there with my father. After several years of working in Asia, I would then start my own marketing consultancy or advertising agency, which I would have had a lot of experience in doing by that time. I tied this essay up in a nice bow with Columbia being the catalyst for achieving these goals.
I’m proud to say that all the above happened, albeit not in the way I planned or expected:
- I was not accepted into Columbia – my mind is just not built to answer GMAT questions like the below in under 2 minutes each. My failure to be accepted to Columbia, however, served as a catalyst for things to come.
- I was not hired by an FMCG company – FMCG companies tended to hire those who are already working in the industry, whereas I was working on the IBM account at Ogilvy at the time. Also, most FMCG companies require an MBA, which I didn’t have at the time. Switching over proved to be difficult.
- I was not transferred to Asia by my employer – I thought about transferring over with Ogilvy since they had local offices all over Asia. This would have taken some time though, so I decided not to wait for them to move me there. I picked up my bags and moved myself to Beijing to study Mandarin for 6 months.
- I switched to the client side – while in Beijing, I met with an old client of mine from IBM who was doing a stint in Shanghai. She introduced me to the marketing department at Lenovo in Hong Kong, and the manager ended up hiring me, and this is where I ended up staying for over 9 years.
- I enrolled myself in an EMBA program – while at Lenovo, I wanted to upgrade my skills and move into management. The Ivey Business School, my alma mater, happened to have an Executive MBA presence in Hong Kong, and they accepted me into the program. No GMAT required.
- I am now starting a business in Asia, but not a marketing or advertising agency – having worked almost 20 years on both the client and agency side, I realized I was no longer passionate about my original business idea. Instead, I decided to start Dreamwriters, a self-publishing platform for young writers and artists, and I would use my past experience to get this off the ground.
No matter how big or small your dreams are, visualization is a powerful tool. What I have come to realize is that your journey doesn’t always happen in the same way, sequence, or timeline that you may have envisioned.
My journey was full of false starts and disappointments, requiring me to be proactive and to steer my own direction. I was able to do so because I always kept my north star in mind (crystallized in the form of a business school essay)!
The point is that visualization helps your mind stay attuned to your goals and will seek out ways to help you achieve them. Adding to Oprah’s words of wisdom: See it. Believe it. Achieve it. But be flexible.
Also, thank you Lisa Gilbert for connecting me to your colleagues here in Hong Kong. Without your help, I wouldn’t have been able to make it over here in Asia. Forever grateful.