Sunday, April 25, 2010

Peace Out R World...

It seems fitting that on the night before my final exam at Rotman I took some to contemplate, ie procrastinate, and think over the past 20 months of my life, most of which were spent in, talking to people from, or bitch about the goings on at, 105 St. George Street, which is colloquially known as the Rotman School of Management. As I thought long and hard about it I realized that there had been some good times; some bad times; some teary times; some downright weird times; some new friend times; some times that made a national newspaper; and this one time at orientation camp...

As with most of my decisions in life I realized retrospectively that I didn't think hard enough about actually going to Rotman until I found myself knee deep in first year finance thinking: "where I come from cum day means something totally different then what this guy is talking about." I mean sure, I did the administrative tasks necessary: I applied, interviewed, quit my job, and basically sold my soul to the Bank of Nova Scotia. But truthfully, did I think long and hard about what it would mean to become a permanent and flummoxed fixture at Rotman? No. Not really. Rotman was sort of like this one time I woke up and decided I needed a new pair of pants. 2 hours later my whim found me standing outside of Club Monaco on Bloor Street with a pair of pants and also a bag full somewhat expensive clothes that I wasn't exactly sure I needed. Similarly, one very expensive whim later, I found myself on Bloor Street with a Rotman branded knapsack full of textbooks that I wasn't quite sure when I would use again and with my head crammed full of learnings. But hey, I had those 3 letters I wanted so... Such is life; I really should think about things before jumping headfirst into a data pool.

Those 3 letters of course provide no answers to life's greatest mystery's; in cheesy terms it provides a tool-box. In consulting terms it provides a framework. In banking terms it lowers your WACC in order to achieve positive project NPV; or something. An MBA provides nothing beyond a foundation. A foundation for what you may ask? Well that's the ironic beauty of a degree as broad as a business degree; it provides a foundation for anything really. The veritable world is your oyster. Spotted: a double edged sword of frightening. Much like Ontario, the MBA is yours to discover.

In some ways I wish I could look back at my Rotman application essay and see how I responded to the seminal question of: what do you want to do with a [Rotman] MBA? Sadly my computer crashed halfway through school (please, as if I back shit up) so I can't actually look at what I wrote. I remember vaguely how I answered, but what I also know is that if I was asked the same question today my answer would be completely dissimilar to what it was two years ago. Truthfully I'm not even sure I could even answer that question anymore; in many ways, I've become entirely less certain of myself in the twenty months since I started Rotman. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. The precocious kid whom entered Rotman and who believed he know all of the answers to life's greatest mysteries found out he knew almost nothing beyond his comfort zone.

In reality my answer to that indomitable question of what I want to do with my life is about as truthy as asking my 4 year-old nephew, Ethan, what he wants to do when he grows up. With certainty I can picture him saying: "Uncle Jono I want to be Buzz Lightyear." Sure kid... and I want to be the King of Spain. Rotman is like the adult version of finding out that Santa Clause doesn't really exist. As a reality check it sucks at the time, but its seminal. And leaving your comfort zone is well... what life's all about. Uncertainty breads reinvention and it instills a sense of drive and purpose. This probably is the art of the MBA; beyond of course the rote learnings of Porter's five forces, an MBA is a kick in the pants.

And so, after twenty months at Rotman, which included one too many self reflection papers, a lot of group work and countless trips to that weirdly stocked general store where I would look in disappointment at my food options (really?), it is time to quote the legendary Edward R. Morrow: Good Night and Good Luck.

It has been a slice R-World.

And remember everyone - there are just as many's B's in MBA as there are A's.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Many Meanings of Flip Flopping...

The term Flip Flopping is something that probably won’t be included in the Ontario sex-ed curriculum once it is updated to teach 3rd grader’s about the big nasty world of the gay; regardless it is perhaps a term that every Ontarian should now know its definition of.

In the gay world flip-flopping is when two men (lets assume they are partners, and maybe, depending on where they live in North America lucky enough to be considered husband and husband) take turns penetrating each other. This is what we gays like to call a flip flop f*ck and this versatility is one of the many reasons, of which sharing bow-ties and face-cream are others, that being gay is awesome. Just think of the penetrative combinations the average gay couple’s sex life includes; who's on first is NOT a common question being asked in gay bedrooms across the nation, rather the question asked is: who's doing who first? Straights, most of the time, I feel bad for you as it must really suck to be constrained by single-partner penetrative sex [SPP] (unless of course you’re with a straight man who enjoys anal play, in which case all the more power to you) and I’m sorry to the lesbians reading this who may or may not have penetrate intercourse. Munch on.

In politics, however, a flip-flop means something completely different, obviously; and furthermore, get that visual image of Dalton McGuinty and George Smitherman flip flopping on the health tax credit out of your head. Ew. In politics flip flopping refers to political leaders who approve a policy before clawing back on said policy; this claw back is often due to demands from special interest groups. "Dalton really flip-flopped on Transit City," would be one example of a political flip flop. Occasional flip flopping on Sean Cody would define the gay meaning.

Now it appears as if Dalton McGuinty, current Premier of Ontario has flip flopped, politically, over something much less graphic then flip flop f*cking. Updating our sex-ed curriculum to teach Grade 1's proper body names for their private parts is suddenly too much for our government which found itself on the wrong side of special interest, mostly religious minority groups. I mean won't someone please think of the children?

Anyway I haven’t read all of the proposed and "scary" changes that Dalton McGuinty approved to provincially mandated sex-ed curriculum, before he rescinded them, but apparently they were going to teach 3rd graders that gay people exist. GASP. And then in grade six the province was going to talk about vaginal lubrication, anal sex and masturbation. Scary stuff that. When I was in grade nine my gym teacher introduced anal sex as a risky sex activity. When someone asked why two men would have sex with each other in the bum, he responded by saying: “well there’s no other hole you have to make do with what you have.” Touche.

People in Ontario should meet a Colorado third grader by the name of Ethan McNamee. In 2009 Ethan arranged a same-sex marriage rally as an independent class project. Ethan was concerned about the issue after hearing about anti-gay remarks on the playground. Then he learned about a same sex couple in his neighborhood that couldn't get married because uhm... they're gay and the American's don't allow such things as gay marriage. "Everybody is different in a good way," he said.

If a kid in Colorado can stump for same-sex marriage, certainly, the good people of Ontario can handle their kids learning about gay people. Jesus, its not like I'm asking the province to teach children about flip-flopping; after all McGuinty's already done a good job on that one.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Sometimes I think a lot about Heather Reisman, CEO of Chapters/Indigo. Girl – what are you up to exactly? Are you making organic paper products for your Pistachio stationary chain? Are you and Jerry deep in a game of Risk? Do you use the Streit’s Matzoh Ball Mix at Passover or do you cook matzoh balls from scratch? If so, what’s your secret?

But beyond the mundane realities of Heather’s life, I also have more serious business minded questions for her. Like how does she pick her Heather’s Picks for Indigo? According to Indigo’s website Heather’s Picks are: “Guaranteed Picks, Chosen Personally by our CEO and chief booklover – we guarantee these great reads or you’ll receive a full refund or exchange.” I thought initially that Heather’s picks would be somewhat topical; even Gwyneth Paltrow has amended her GOOP lifestyle e-newsletter to include season offerings such as Steven Spielbergs favourite Matzoh Brei recipe. Oddly enough, however, Heather’s picks exist in a festive time warp, Brian Mulroney’s Memoirs is currently one of her “picks” even though it was published in 2007 and well… Brian Mulroney is about as relevant as Britney Spears these days.

That being said, there is still money to be made in seasonal literature, and now is the time when every Indigo is decked out with copies of that clich├ęd graduation gift: Dr Seuss’s Oh, The places you’ll go. It may not be chosen by Freulein Reisman, but its still a money maker.

People often give copies of Oh, The places you’ll go to recent graduates as a sort of pick me up as they embark on the next chapter of their lives. I suppose rhymes like: “You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.” are helpful in times of CRISIS, JOB SEARCH, and OH MY GOD WHAT AM I GOING TO DO WITH MY LIFE moments. Heck Theodor Geisel even has rhymes for moments when you feel like crying: “Out there things can happen and frequently do to people as brainy and footsy as you. And when things start to happen, don’t worry. Don’t stew. Just go right along. You’ll start happening too.”

I understand why the book has a following, however, if I see one copy of Oh, The places you’ll go at my Donna Martin Graduate themed graduation party… I’m going to lose my shit. Its not that I don’t value its message, which is about as saccharinely sweet as a “Favourite Things” episode on Oprah, feeeeeeaaaaaaatttttttuuuuuurrrrrrrrrrinnnnngg JEEEEEENNNIFFEERRRR ANNNNIISSTTTTON (you know the voice that Oprah uses to introduce big name guests, read that line like that) because I do, but because… it just isn’t really the right message to graduating students.

Lines from Oh, The places you’ll go are like when you call your mother crying because your boyfriend broke up with you or because you don’t have a job and the only thing she can tell you is that everything is going to be ok. In those types of situations, hearing that “everything is going to be ok”, just isn’t very helpful. What you need your mother to do is introduce you to that cute boy down the street and or get you a job. We need action and well action… not words.

So what will I be getting my Rotman friends, besides a papier mache picture frame made out of my statistics notes? In keeping with the Children’s literature them, I’m partial to something from the Hardy Boy, Nancy Drew oeuvre. Why? Well the Hardy Boys mystery novels, which chronicle the lives of amateur teenage sleuths Frank and Joe Hardy, teach a couple of valuable lessons that Oh, The places you’ll go does not.

For Example:

First of all each of the original Hardy Boy books are self sustaining stories; when the Hardy Boys solve their mystery du jour, the story is over and there is no lingering bullshit. This is helpful for moments of your life that you wish would just end. The Hardy Boys teach us know that once you’ve solved the mystery of the Tower Treasure, you’re on to the next case, the mystery at the House on the Cliff. Lets say you hated doing your Masters of Lameness Administration (MLA) at the School of Lameness; well that shit ends in two years. Move on!

Secondly the Hardy Boys teach us that life is mysterious. Frank and Joe have solved over 100 different mysteries. They’re only 18. So don’t cry and don’t be lazy; go solve some mysteries.

Thirdly, don’t discount the value of friends. The Hardy Boys are surrounded by good friends, from Chet Morton and his Jalopy to harmonica playing star athlete Biff Morton, described as buff, blond and muscular (call me!). This also leads us to point 3b): although the Hardy Boys also have “girlfriends” these seems to be a platonic designation; if you notice neither Frank nor Joe are taking time away from their busy schedule of solving crimes to fuck-around with lady parts. Point noted Frank and Joe.

The reality is that the last thing MBA students, and other graduating students need is a pat on the back telling us that everything is going to be ok. We know that; we survived. What we need now is a little context – and for that context, I will be looking to the Hardy Boys whose tale of white, upper middle class, WASP suburbia is about as comforting as anything else out there.

And to make a long-story short - Heather, I’m looking for a job – if you want someone to vet your picks – call me!