Friday, May 18, 2012

Georgetown McDonough School of Business MBA Graduation

In 2006, I took the GMAT. In 2007, I applied to business school. In 2008, I was accepted to business school, but declined. In 2009, I was accepted to business school, but deferred. In February 2010, I decided the MBA program “was not for me”. A few months later, I changed my mind and began Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business full time MBA program. Today, May 18, 2012, after a goal that started 6 years ago, I will graduate with an MBA.

I often ask myself, why did I go? In short, “to-add value”. Although this phrase is cliché amongst b-school students, it sums up approximately 99% of everyone’s motivation. Perhaps we wanted to add value in at least one of the following areas: our network, our knowledge, our wealth, our career, or our family. Maybe we have already seen the fruits of our labor, or maybe we are waiting for the future dividends that will pay out. 

 So why add value? I think regardless of where we are trying to add value, we are seeking to add value as a way to somehow improve the quality of our life. And sure if the quality of our life is higher, we will have great pleasure, enjoyment and happiness, right? Unfortunately, I am not at “my peak success” in life so I can’t answer this question. Instead, I search for the answer from arguably one of the most successful men in all of history, King Solomon. Mark Driscoll describes King Solomon, saying, " it would be like combining Hugh Hefner, Bill Gates and Albert Einstein, oh and he just happens to be really good looking too." Check out why King Solomon, king of all of Israel was considered so successful: 

#1 The Most Powerful Man 
(His royal court was so large because he ruled over all the kingdoms west of the Euphrates River from Tiphsah to Gaza; he was at peace with all his neighbors.1 Kings 4:24) 

#2 The Smartest Man
(I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be.1 Kings 3:12) 

#3 The Wealthiest Man
(Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both wealth and honor —so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. 1 Kings 3:13) 

#4 Ultimate Ladies Man
 (700 wives & 300 concubines (stripper girlfriends), 1 Kings 11:3)

Solomon, like myself and other over achievers, searched for pleasure in life. Below is a brief summary of his journey, his findings, and his conclusion. 

Solomon’s Goal: Find pleasure in life! 
Solomon wanted to find out what was good and would make him happy. He said “I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure.” Specifically, he tried the following: laugh a lot; get drunk on wine; acquire significant real estate; take great pride in his hard work and successful career; amass copious amounts of wealth in the form of silver, gold, and livestock; invest in vineyards; and invest in luscious gardens and parks. (See Ecclesiastes 2:4-10) 

Solomon’s Findings: Being a Workaholic is Futile 
Yes it's great to be successful, but ultimately it's meaningless. When you die your work/wealth will be turned over to someone else. Who knows if this person will continue the vision you had and continue to prosper what you left behind or just squander all of it? It’s kind of depressing to think about, really. 
My heart took delight in all my labor; and this was the reward for all my toil. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun. So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. And who knows whether that person will be wise or foolish? Yet they will have control over all the fruit of my toil into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun. This too is meaningless. Ecclesiastes 17:23 
Solomon’s Conclusion: #1 Any Success in Life is a Gift From God
I think so often, we try to give ourselves credit for our success. I worked hard. I got the A. I received the diploma because of my labors. If we think we are responsible for our success, we are delusional. The reality is that our success was simply a gift of God. Think about it. Tim Keller writes that our success is derived from some combination of three factors: genetics (IQ), environment (upbringing, social class, family connections), and personal choices. At best, we have control over only one of the three factors, our personal choices. 
What do workers gain from their toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. Ecclesiastes 3:9-14 
#2 Only Knowing God Brings Enjoyment in Work and its Benefits 
A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? To the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. Ecclesiastes 2:24-26 
Without God, all of our material possessions and career success are meaningless. Once we get “to the top”, we will only become depressed to find out that it has not brought us happiness. Only God can bring enjoyment and pleasure in all things. It’s never too late to seek out a personal relationship with the creator of the universe.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Gelato > Ice Cream

About a month ago, I went to Europe for the first time ever! I spent two weeks traipsing through Spain (Barcelona & Madrid), and Italy (Rome , Florence, Tuscany, Sienna, Venice) .  Since returning back home, everyone keeps asking me about my favorite part of the trip, and what I liked most.  And sure, I know the generic answer should be something along the lines of “oh well La Sagrada Familia was just breathtaking”, and “The Sistine Chapel was so mesmerizing that I blacked out briefly and a guard had to take a break between saying “no photos, no videos” to help me”, or “The David was sensational, I spent 30 minutes just contemplating how you could possibly take an undesirable  piece of marble and carve in such real looking veins on a hand! “. But instead my answer has been “When I was in Italy, I ate gelato everyday, if not twice a day, and it was stupendous!" 
That’s right folks. That was the highlight of my trip, because I was just expecting ice cream masked in a fancy Italian name. But oh no, there was a continuous party in my mouth, so much so that I am on a mission today to explain to you that not only is gelato different from ice cream, but it is SO MUCH BETTER! 
Have you ever come across this situation in other aspects of your life? Where you saw two things that on the surface seemed identical, but just had a different name? What about happiness and joy? Are they the same? Is joy just a fancier way to describe happiness? In short, no. Here's why. Ice Cream : Happiness as Gelato: Joy.  In case it’s been awhile since taking SAT verbal section, let’s quickly unpack this analogy and explain once and for all why Gelato > Ice Cream and Joy >Happiness .
#1 Better Ingredients = better for you
Gelato:  As you can see in the chart below, gelato not only has less sugar (including Nutella) and less fat (cream) than ice cream, but also tastes richer and creamier than ice cream because it contains egg yolks!

From a nutritional perspective, gelato is also way better for you (240 calories , 16g fat and 19g sugar vs 340 calories, 21g fat, 34g sugar for ice cream), relatively speaking of course :) .
Joy:   The ingredients for joy are simple and inexpensive whereas the ingredients for happiness are complex and expensive. With happiness, it is created as a byproduct of favorable circumstances (going on vacation, getting a promotion, watching a funny movie, front row tickets to see Redskins play, or buying the iPhone4). With joy, however, there aren’t endless ingredients, but instead just one: The Holy Spirit (Psalm 51:11-12; Galatians 5:22; 1 Thessalonians 1:6). The Holy Spirit is able to produce joy in a person because the Holy Spirit actively lives inside all people who have accepted Jesus Christ as personal Lord and Savior. (1 Corinthians 3:16, Romans 8:9, Ephesians 1:13-14, John 14:16-17)
#2 Better Process (Doesn’t Require Addition of External Items)
Gelato:  Gelato, unlike ice cream, doesn’t need to resort to relying on adding external items (ex. Air) during the freezing process. Instead, gelato is just inherently awesome stand alone, and thus can allow the ingredients ALONE to work their magic during the freezing process.  Many ice cream producers try and produce better products by experiment adding different amounts of air  (20%-50%) to make the product lighter and possibly more desirable to consumers. Little do they know that they can never outsmart gelato, whose process results in a more dense, more intense flavor product every day of the week!
Joy: Without air you don’t have ice cream, and without favorable circumstances you can’t have happiness. Think about how easily happiness can disappear when circumstances are changed slightly (i.e. food poisoning on vacation, longer hours as a result of promotion, choking on popcorn during funny movie, ref recalling final Redskins touch down, iPhone 4 dropping calls mid intense convo with your significant other). 
In contrast, without air you still have gelato and without favorable circumstances you can still have joy. We know joy can withstand crummy circumstances because in the Bible, many characters are recorded as experiencing joy in the midst of suffering..."We rejoice in our sufferings." Romans 5:3, "You received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit." Thessalonians 1:6, "In a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have over flowed in a wealth of liberality."2 Corinthians 8:2... In fact, Paul, who underwent beatings, imprisonments, sleepless nights, hunger, and countless other types of suffering, described himself as "sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything." 2 Corinthians 6:10.
#3 Creates an Experience Worth Sharing
Gelato: When was the last time you asked someone how their weekend was and they replied with "Well I got some ice cream this past weekend!"? I'm guessing almost never... Why? Because it's on par with saying you did laundry, pumped gas, surfed the Internet, or brushed your teeth. No one wants to hear about the mundane, ordinary, and routine parts of your life. But an experience with Gelato is worth sharing! Who wouldn’t want to hear about the rich creamy texture of the Nutella flavored ice cream that melted in my mouth??…Who wouldn’t want to hear about the fresh and intensely flavored Mango Gelato that led me to an internal struggle over a 2nd serving when my mind was telling me no,  but my bod-eeee was telling me yeahhh-he-heh. 
Joy:  Yes we tell our friends every now and then about how we bought a new car and it made us happy, but it’s not front page headlines.  But what newspaper wouldn’t want to report about a time when a person, in spite of all the terrible circumstances surrounding them, was able to experience joy?  The Bible certainly did, check out what the apostle Paul went through
"Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked,  I spent a night and a day in the open sea,  I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers.  I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.  Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. " 2 Corinthians 11:24-28
So did Paul still have joy in spite of this? Yes…
I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it.  I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength." Philippians 4:10-13
The reason this makes for such an interesting news story it that it is very counter-intuitive that joy can be present and increase in the midst of circumstances… so what’s the secret? How can we experience joy and not have to settle for happiness? As I’ve already alluded to, you have to be on Team God to even have access to joy. Secondly, you need to understand that joy is deeply rooted in hope. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13. I’ll try and address this idea of hope in a future post.
In the mean time, do yourself a favor and create some happiness for yourself by indulging in some delicious gelato. If you live in the DC area, I recommend going to Bocatto in Clarendon. If you live in NYC, go to Grom. If  you want the world's best gelato,  I recommend traveling to Italy and going to  Giolitti’s in Rome or Pluripremiata Gelateria in Tuscany. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

My Time in Jail (Brasil Part 3)

Friend/Co-Worker: "How was your trip to Brazil? "  
My Response (stolen from teammate Bob): "The trip was great, we finished the playground , but that wasn't the highlight. The highlight was when we visited a prison " 

It's true. Friday December 9, 2011 , the day my team spent at a juvenile detention center in Sao Paolo was by far the best part of the entire trip....way more so than the satisfaction derived from finishing the playground (our original goal/purpose), hosting a Christmas party for kids, eating at a Brazilian steakhouse, feeding monkeys bananas, or even playing Brasilian Bacci. 

Originally when we were told that we were going on a road trip to jail, I was hesitant and also a bit frightful. Open Arms, who visits the jail on a monthly basis, gave us strict instructions before our arrival. "Take off all earrings, watches, earnings, bracelets, or anything else that can be grabbed . Ladies, make sure to wear loose clothing that covers as much as possible. You will also be given a full sheet to wear to make sure your curves are all covered. These young men never see women and we don't want them to go wild. Oh and by the way, these 11-21 year olds are in jail for a variety of crimes (drug trafficking, theft, armed robbery, stabbing, etc) but be sure not to ask them why they are in jail."  GULP. What on earth did I sign up for? I immediately suggested to our leaders that each guy pair up with a girl to serve as an impromptu bodyguard that would be on the look out for any suspicious behavior and be ready and prepared to pounce/save us as need be. I took a deep breath, and figured I would be okay.

When we arrived at the facility, we were escorted through various security check points, leaving all passports, wallets, cell phones at check in. After a brief pat-down, we walked down a narrow nondescript corridor and were lead through a door which I had assumed was  taking us to a secured room, partitioned by plexi-glass , with the inmates on one side sporting hand/ankle cuffs, and the volunteers safely on the other side. WRONG.  The door opened up to an outdoor courtyard where 60+ inmates, in white tshirts hunter green shorts, and blue flip flops , were sitting in white plastic chairs sans cuffs of any kind! The leaders in front of me began tracing the u-shaped chair formation, shaking hands with and greeting the inmates one by one. My heart was racing, and I was adamant on sticking to my "no eye contact, no smiling" policy in order to avoid trouble, so I told my bodyguard Tucker that I didn't feel comfortable proceeding.  I took a few steps backwards onto the dying grass, kept my eyes on 30 foot concrete walls topped off with barbed wire that enclosed the premises and eagerly waited for the greetings to finish.

I felt more at ease when I noticed a guard in each corner and Open Arms volunteers started playing worship songs. I was surprised by the number of inmates that knew the songs we were singing and were actively participating. After the songs, one of the inmates got up to share a song that he had wrote. In front of everyone, this inmate began singing something along the lines of "I need Jesus. I have been forgiven. My life has changed. I want to live for Him" , but in Portuguese of course.  WOW. That guy had courage. I guarantee you I would never stand up in front of my friends, especially ones who could beat me up, and sing about  my decision to want to know God. What's more, it was a very rude awakening of the wrongful judgment that was going on in my heart. There I was, only 10 minutes before, second guessing my decision to come to the prison, thinking our time would be fruitless, our efforts wasted, because these inmates were beyond reproach and somehow unworthy of being given a second chance. But you know what, God doesn't grant second chances, he grants INFINITE chances, and it's never too late to come to the Lord. Because we are saved by grace through faith, and not by works, it's irrelevant if we are at the end of our life, and don't have time to repent and do good works. As long as we believe that Jesus is our savior, we can have the promise of eternal life in paradise with God.
 "Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!" But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence?  We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” " Luke 23:32-34;39-43

I was even more taken aback, by what happened next. Eduardo, a volunteer with Open Arms delivered a sermon to the inmates. I didn't understand what he said (all Portuguese), but I noticed how all the inmates were fixated on his charisma and his ability to relate to the inmates. The reason Eduardo was able to capture the audience so well was because, just 5 years before, Eduardo was a prisoner at the same facility. Eduardo spent 1.5 years in the Sao Paolo detention center for multiple counts of armed robbery. When Eduardo was in jail, the only letter he received was from Marcelo, his old PE teacher, who happened to be an Open Arms volunteer. When Eduardo got out of jail, he visited Marcelo, and eventually gave his life over to Christ. From there, we were told that he has since led hundreds of people to Christ and completely turned his life around. I was shocked when I heard this. From meeting Eduardo, he seemed like the nicest guy and I almost didn't believe that his past really was his past. It was just such a perfect reminder of how God's mighty power and capability to change ANYONE. [case in point, Paul (formerly Saul) , who wrote the majority of the New Testament, used to who used to imprison Christians and witness Christians being stoned to death for their beliefs]
 "While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep. And Saul approved of their killing him." Acts 7:59-60 Acts 8:1
 "But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison. " Acts 8:3
Seems hard to believe right? What's even more comforting is knowing that God can work with any past mistake(s) to bring Glory to His name. 
"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" Romans 8:28
In fact, it was Eduardo's idea and initiative that propelled Open Arms to start the prison ministry. After Eduardo's sermon, Steve, a guy from our team shared his story about how he came to know the Lord. His story was also full of redemption and served as another powerful witness to the transformational power of the Holy Spirit to radically alter a person's life. After this, and another short sermon, the inmates were invited to come to the center if they wanted someone to pray over them. About 70% of the inmates came to the center, a few even in tears. So did the inmates accept Jesus into their life? Maybe, maybe not. Only time will tell.  

The rest of our time at the prison was spent playing with the inmates. Although football and soccer was available, I went with the contact free activities (ping-pong and checkers). While  getting schooled multiple times in checkers, it became very apparent that these boys were no different than me. The boys and I are both broken and in need of love. Not one of us is worthy or deserving of God's love. We have all done things that are displeasing to God. Yes, I might not have broken state/federal laws, but in God's eyes I have done things equally as bad as the prisoners (how about idolizing things other than God (family, relationships, money), or failing to love my neighbor as myself?). I left that day feeling overwhelmed by God's grace in my life, and His unending love for me that never runs out in spite of all the times I have broken His laws and deserved to be put in an eternal jail. Thank you Jesus for saving a wretch like me. 

Monday, January 9, 2012

Tim Tebow...a godly arm?

 Put away those terrible towels! Last night's victory over the Steelers (who arguably had the #1 defense in the league) was nothing short of amazing... but did you know
  • Tim Tebow threw for 316 yards and set an NFL post-season record by averaging 31.6 yards per completion. 
  • During his time at University of Florida, Tim would frequently sport John 3:16 on his eye black
  • Demaryius Thomas, the receiver who caught Tebow's winning pass in overtime, was born on December 25, which happens to be the the birth date of Jesus Christ
 Coincidence? Meh. Miracle? Perhaps. Excuse to share the gospel? YES.
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."  John 3:16
 “Rather than being never-satisfied, Jesus accepts you fully, as you are. The Messiah’s salvation was not that if you could be good enough for long enough then He would save you. Jesus’ salvation was an announcement of His acceptance of us based on the work He would do for us: He would live the life we were supposed to live and die the death we had deserved to die, in our place, so that if we would just accept it we would be immediately and fully forgiven and accepted. “ -  J.D. Greear, senior pastor at Summit Church in Raleigh, NC.

As wonderfully life changing as this Bible verse is, what if someone didn't watch the Denver/Steelers game? What if someone doesn't have a TV; doesn't have internet to google "Tim Tebow eye black";  doesn't have access to a church; and has never been exposed to the Bible? Based on the Bible verse, using reasoning, it implies that if someone doesn't accept Jesus they will "perish" /not go to heaven... Are you saying that a loving God would condemn someone to hell who has never had the opportunity to repeatedly hear the gospel and have plenty of time to accept it? Absolutely not.

Yes, without Jesus you can't get into heaven, but God has limitless ways to make himself known to anyone.... even if you don't like football or church. Here's how:

Through our CONSCIOUS
Every single one of us on earth, whether living in a field in Africa, or a dope house in Los Angeles, has thought "what will happen when I die?". God has specifically made us so that we would yearn for something beyond death.
"He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end." Ecclesiastes 3:11
 Through our CULTURE
God determined the exact time and place where each and every one of us would be born and live. God chose for you to be born in the certain decade, year, day, month, and country, state and city, that would be most suitable for YOU so that you would be best equipped to seek him, perhaps reach out to Him, and who knows, maybe even start a relationship with Him!
"From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. " Acts 17:26-27
Even if you have never been within 10 feet of a Bible, a church, or a Christian, we are all able to find and seek God because He has revealed himself through everything we see in the natural world (flowers, mountains, trees, people, etc).... so really we have no excuse :/
 "For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse."Romans 1:20
 "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech;  night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun. It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is deprived of its warmth." Psalm 19:1-6
As if that weren't enough, God throws out open invites, welcoming and encouraging anyone to seek Him.
 "But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul."  Deuteronomy 4:29
So where do you stand? Have you seen God revealed in your life? Have you ever considered seeking Him out? He's everywhere...even football stadiums in Denver, CO.