Visualizing Success

In undergrad when I was supposed to be building little stereochemical models using plastic balls and sticks, I read a lot of self-development books instead. Many of them spoke to the power of visualization and its simple three steps:

1) Visualize one’s goals with as much details as possible as if they have already been achieved. Note how it feels, what it looks like and heck, even how it smells if you can swing it.

2) Write down those details then put the paper away and forget about it.

3) Accidentally happen upon that piece of paper some time later and recognize with shock that you managed to realize your heart’s desires without even “trying”.

The secret lies with the subconscious: once you defined what success is in the most primordial way (that is, what it feels like to each of your senses), the subconscious then knows what to work towards and guides your subsequent decisions in a way conducive to the realization of those sensations.

As I’m cleaning out my “treasure trunk” (a Hudson’s Bay Company limited edition metal popcorn tin) in preparation for my upcoming move, I came upon such a list I wrote on Feb 3, 2007, titled “No limitations 5 year goal”.

I guess it was one of my earlier attempts at visualization because most of the list read like a Christmas wish list (“Chanel quilted purse, Burberry trench and Louboutin red-soled shoes”) with no details of the sensations I expect to experience when those “goals” are realized. Consequently, I’m still sadly lacking those wardrobe essentials.

A slightly better one was “Working well-paid Parisian science plant-related research job” (although the grammar was admittedly shitty). Nevertheless, this attempt at visualization was better because I did end up doing research on genetically-modified tobacco plants that summer, albeit in Germany and only for a living stipend. I think I could’ve visualized with more feeling.

However, there was one winner in this list that made my skin tingle and my jaw drop. It was also the longest and the most emotionally-involved visualization: “Live in traditional but in great condition old Parisian apartment with Eiffel Tower view, on same side of the river, in cluster with other such apartments”. Bam! Five years later in 2012, I spent my February (as well as January, March and April) in precisely such a flat on rive gauche. During the five years in between the time I wrote down that goal on lined, three-ring binder paper to when I looked out my window at the Eiffel, life took me down paths I wasn’t even capable of fathoming back in 2007. Yet in spite of it all, the power of visualization still got me to that Parisian rooftop apartment.

So basically what I’m getting to is this, it’s time to get back to dreaming.


In the darkest moments of the night, I woke to the spring storm with a start. Woken by the dream with a man I never thought I would, then unable to return to sleep at the realization of another that never could. I checked my timeline to what I already knew was true. These past months my body has been solemnly marking its milestones of a year ago. It remembers the crowd swirling the French academy foyer on that last rainy day in Paris, it remembers the snow-capped mountains surrounding a cabin in Norway. Whenever I’m worked up I just have to look back on the calendar, as I remember the when, my body remembers the who and the how.


Surprise #1

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For my 26th birthday, I bought myself a condo.

Yeah that’s right, let it sink in.

I knew this place was going to be mine the moment I turned around and saw the church looming out the bedroom window. I have had only two other moments of such clarity in my life so far. These are moments in which one realizes an absolute truth. A statement surfaces in one’s head as involuntarily and as clearly as if one bursted out saying it. This time, it was “This is the view I’m going to wake up to”. I guess this is what people mean when they say, “You just know“. Five realtors, six mortgage brokers (and counting) and one lawyer later, I got exactly what I wanted and in the way I wanted it.

Obviously there are lots of dish but I’ve got to go autograph a whole bunch of papers and spend wads of money so I will get back to you later. To keep you entertained (*cough: jealous), here are select photos of my new place. Note that the decor seen is not mine, it’s from when the property was staged for sale. Obviously, mine will be so much better. Glam shots coming up.

For those not familiar with Ottawa, the church you see is Notre Dame Basilica and the glass building to the left of it is the National Gallery of Canada. In Paris I had the Eiffel Tower and Les Invalides, in Ottawa I have Notre Dame d’Ottawa (you see, I want to ensure you are properly informed to be as jealous as you ought to be).

P.S. I used a pink pen.



Happy third birthday Penning an Image!

We haven’t spent much time together lately, only because I’ve been waiting for the right moment. I have lots to tell you, but all in due time.

Une Pratique Française

Pelletier and Laplante debate the future of Québec in Canada at le Salon du livre de l'Outaouais, Feb 28, 2013

Pelletier and Laplante debate the future of Québec in Canada at le Salon du livre de l’Outaouais, Feb 28, 2013

Tonight I went to le Salon du livre de l’Outaouais with the Ottawa chapter of the Sciences Po alumni association.

First of all, I think it’s hilarious that having attended both universities in Ottawa, I’m involved with the alumni association of a school across The Pond where I’ve only spent four months.

In the weeks leading up to tonight, I was under the impression that it was going to be an intimate table ronde politique et littérature where the alumni discuss Benoît Pelletier’s Une certaine idée du Québec: parcours d’un fédéraliste de la réflexion à l’action and Laurent Laplante’s Stephen Harper – Le néo-Durham. *Meanwhile, the Ottawa U alumni association is having a wing night.*

As the day approached however, I began to panic. In between applying to a national public policy fellowship that the Department of Justice nominated me for, I barely had time to crack open the thinner of the two books. When I ran into a fellow alumnus and colleague at the Chief Legislative Counsel’s (aka chief lawmaker of Canada) retirement party, I tentatively asked her how far along she was in her readings. “I’m halfway through the thick one,” said she. “Oh s%^#!” thought I, knowing how rigorous Sciences Po expectations are.

However, after slapping together a fellowship application package that involved a Skype consultation to Britain regarding the Hansard; using Department of Justice connections to trace down an archived policy; nearly having to phone up a senator to get first-hand account of the “particular moment in Canadian history” I was asked to write about; using all of my banked goodwill to get public service executives to write me recommendation letters during the end of fiscal year chaos; and getting through to a professor during his “unplugged” vacation via his in-laws, you can be sure of two things: 1) I pursue what I want doggedly, and 2) I wasn’t too keen to read about Lord Durham.

So tonight, I decided to wing it.

Lucky for me, the activity turned out to be attending the regional book fair. All I had to do was to watch the authors squirm in the hot seat while I looked at them with appraising eyes (my specialty).

The highlight of the evening however, was the book fair itself. I’ve heard about book fairs in Europe and notably the world’s largest in Frankfurt. This was my first and attending it made me realize how infrequently people here buy books, let alone paw through the collections of different publishing houses. To North Americans, this must be as bemusing as watching an exquisitely-dressed French woman determinedly squeeze through a basket of plums until she finds one that’s juuust right.

My colleague and I giddily raced towards Éditions Gallimard, France’s leading publishing house. “Ici, c’est Paris!” my colleague exclaimed, probably reminiscing her years of studying in the City of Lights. “Paris est ici!” thought I, remembering with a smile walking past the publisher’s headquarters on my way to school. I can’t believe it’s been a year since I trotted those revolution-friendly winding streets.

Gallimard sells “serious” books, the works of every author entombed at the Panthéon. So basically, what I wish I had the time to read in Paris, the city in which most of them were written (or written for). These are the books and authors you know by name but have never read (Voltaire, Sartre, Dumas, Sand, Rousseau, Kafka). Yet, you think everyone else must have so you nod knowingly (as does everyone else) when these titles are brought up.

However, Mom always told me it’s better to be dumb when one is young than when one is old. So I summoned the nearest associate and began with: “SVP excusez ma ignorance mais…” (humble, right?) “…I’m looking for a representative work from a famous French author that would impress people when I tell them I’ve read it.” (…yet still far from true humility.)

It turned out the associate is a retired French literature professor and he graciously humoured my crass request and my obvious ignorance that didn’t take long to surface.

Me: Alors Kafka, est-il français?” (Seemed like reasonable, it was a French book fair)

Lui: Non.

Me: *tentatively “Jaaaponais?” (Getting mixed up with Kafka on the Shore by the Japanese author Haruki Murakami)

Lui: Il est Pragois.

Me: “Oh!”

After following him down a few aisles.

Me: George Sand…

Lui: *cutting me off* “est une femme…

Me: *cutting him off* “Ça, je sais.” (I’ve seen her statue in Jardin de Luxembourg and it was definitely that of a woman.) *feeling relieved of complete disgrace*

Lui: Mais on prononce son nom sans ‘d’ à la fin. C’est un vieux nom français.”

Me: “Oh!” (I always thought she was an American expat who mastered French but this makes a lot more sense) *a shameless save* “Good thing I warned you I was ignorant!”

Despite my dramatization above, the older gentleman actually made me feel really at ease. He took the specifications of my request with as much care as a grocer at a French marché ouvert (and this is a compliment). In Paris, I’ve seen locals confide in their grocer as if a therapist:

Shopper: “I’m serving ça avec ça and finishing par ça.”

Grocer: *after nodding pensively* “Alors ça c’est le type du champignon to make your soup with.” *weighs a handful of plump but knobbly fungus I’ve never seen before in my life*

In the end, the professor and I decided on Voltaire’s Lettres philosophiques in which the dude (whose coffin I saw at the Panthéon) gives his two cents sur le commerce, sur le parlement, and sur les quakers.

This should be fun.

My newest snobcessory

My newest snobcessory

Belated Enthusiasm

Lately, I find that I’m reading of my own volition a lot of things I wouldn’t touch with a ten-feet pole back in grad school, when I was essentially paid (full scholarship) to read them. Now, I actually spend my weekends pouring over think tank publications, highlighting across the latest UN org chart and combing through the Hill Times. I even bought “The Great Political Theories – Part 1: From the Greeks to the Enlightenment” and “Part 2: From the French Revolution to Modern Times”. In contrast, my past (sparse) literary purchases ran along the lines of “It! 9 Secrets of the Rich and Famous That Will Take You To The Top”, among other more embarrassing titles.

These days, my desk is covered with more readings than that piece of wood has ever seen during my seven years of post-secondary education. I have yet to start on Donald Savoie’s “Governing from the Centre” that I promised to discuss with a colleague but the books (in French!) I ordered for the Sciences Po alumni association’s Livres de Politiques salon at the end of the month have already started to arrive.

I’m not sure what to make of this change in me, though this eagerness sure would’ve been helpful when I was in school and bullshitting through my teeth to meet the word limit for my term papers.

On TV with a Nose

This week the House returned to sitting and the social calendar suddenly became jam-packed. Among other things, I attended a panel on competition, innovation and productivity held by Canada 2020, a progressive and non-partisan centre. There, in the grand ballroom of the historic Château Laurier, Melanie Aitken (former commissioner of the Competition Bureau of Canada, who took on telecom and credit card giants during her tenure), Marcel Côté (KPMG), Glen Ives (chair of Deloitte Canada) and John Manley (president and CEO of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, as well as former Deputy Prime Minister of Canada) discussed competition in Canada and how policy is best implemented.

Competition Matters by Canada 2020, Château Laurier in Ottawa, Jan 30, 2013

Competition Matters by Canada 2020, Château Laurier, Jan 30, 2013

After the panelists staked out their positions, I approached the microphone to ask the first question. I summarized that they have mostly discussed the lack of competition and productivity at the structural (regulatory framework, tax incentives) and the organizational (concentration in low-margin industries and the tendency to sell successful start-ups to foreign conglomerates) level. However, it is the individual who votes in a government that passes certain legislation and it is again the individual who chooses the kind of business to operate (or sell). Therefore, I asked, could encouraging individual Canadians to be more risk-tolerant be the most effective way of increasing competition and productivity at the organizational and structural level?

Since starting Penning an Image, I’ve become very aware of how one is always scrutinized. So I was mentally prepared to see the following shot of me gesticulating on Canada 2020’s website (though I do wish they chose a less Jean Chrétien lip-droop version, but whatever, with enough practice, I will be like the panelists who spoke in quotable sound bites and moved in photo-friendly “shutter” bites).

Increasing competition and productivity at the structural and organizational level by encouraging risk-tolerance at the individual level.

Increasing competition and productivity at the structural and organizational level by encouraging risk-tolerance at the individual level.

What I wasn’t prepared to see was the following shots of an acquaintance’s  flat screen half-way across the province.

Seen across the country on CPAC, "20 Years of Politics in Action"

Seen across the country on CPAC, “20 Years of Politics in Action”

Direct from Ottawa, Rose talks policy (apparently) on the Canadian version of C-SPAN.

Apparently, the person with whom I haven’t spoken for over a year saw me on national television in his Toronto kitchen (thanks for sharing Mr. LSE!).

Rose’s first thought: &#@&=%!!!

Roses second thought: I hope I sounded intelligent.

Rose’s third thought: My flat little Chinese nose grew up to look quite distinguished in profile. *turning around to announce to the nearest audience, her unassuming parents:My flat little Chinese nose grew up to look quite distinguished in profile!!” (I have had a thing with my nose ever since kindergarten, when classmates used to push it because they thought it was cute. In her efforts to teach me to run away from out-stretched thumbs, Mom scared me by saying all that pushing will flatten my nose to a mere pig snout.)

Rose *to herself“Although that hair could use a serious deep oil treatment.” (Which is EXACTLY what I’m doing as I type this, but I fear it’s a lost cause)

Rose *getting back to the nose: “But look at the bridge on that one, I see some resemblance with the prominent noses of former deputy ministers of Justice!!” (I walk by their somber portraits everyday)

Dad: “Please try not to be so smug about this on your blog.”

Rose *patiently directs him to the following:

Image courtesy of Kads.