Tag Archives: life

Melissa Takes Boston: Part 2 (Lessons from Beyonce)

Did everyone have a happy Super Bowl weekend? (Or happy Beyonce weekend to those of you whose interests align more with mine.) Beyonce has been very popular in entertainment news recently with the lip syncing controversy and as headliner for the Super Bowl halftime show. I thought I would take some time to share some of my favorite (and applicable) lessons we, as MPA students, can learn from Beyonce.

1. No one can tell you that you can’t succeed. One of my favorite quotes is, “If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.” – Van Gogh. I think this quote can be extended as a solution to any voice you hear that tells you that you cannot succeed. As students at the University of Texas, members of the MPA program, and even interns in the field, there will always been someone who does not believe we can succeed. (Even if it is ourselves.) Looking at the Beyonce lip-syncing controversy, when she was criticized for her inaugural performance, she retaliated by singing the National Anthem at the start of the Super Bowl Press Conference. As you go through school and our internships, you have to remember that no one can tell you that you can’t succeed. And when they do, because they will, then prove them wrong.

2. “You know it costs to be the boss. One day you’ll run the town.” I have always found this lyric of Beyonce’s to be particularly interesting but I find it more applicable as I get further into my education. Classes can be overwhelming sometimes and I know I am not the only one who has dramatically questioned if it is all worth it. As we go through intense classes and now a busy-season internship, we must keep in mind that these are all steps towards our goals. We may have some struggles along the way, but one day we’ll run the town. (and according to B, us girls will run the world.)

3. Image is important. Before I became a business student, I didn’t own a suit, and I had maybe one or two business casual outfits. Throughout recruiting and now during my internship, I am learning how important it is to ‘dress to impress.’ How you dress is often the first impression that others have about you. Although it is key to act professionally, you will not be taken seriously if you are not also dressed with professionalism. (Beyonce certainly always dresses to impress.)

Beyonce’s driven personality and inspiring songs are great sources for inspiration as we continue along our educational paths and soon into our careers.  Who do you look to for life lessons and what lessons have stuck with you?

Click here to read Part 3 of Melissa Takes Boston!

Getting Involved: How Much Is Too Much?

One of the biggest struggles I’ve faced during my time at the University of Texas is figuring out how to get more involved on campus. There are tons of opportunities to get involved in student organizations, volunteer work, internships, and even academic research, but my problem has always been finding a balance between doing well in my classes, getting involved in extracurricular activities, and having enough free time to relax once in a while.

My inherent inability to find that balance is pretty obvious when you consider that I added an entire extra major just because I like to read and write and wanted to take some non-business classes. Doing Plan II was a lot of extra effort for something that I didn’t initially think would have a huge impact on my career, but it ended up helping me a lot with the research and writing aspects of tax.

Beyond academics, I’ve had to learn to say no to a lot of great opportunities, such as being a TA, helping on research projects, and getting involved in too many of the student organizations on campus. One thing that has helped me decide whether I should get involved in a new activity is figuring out how much time it would take, and then going through a typical week (or thinking through it, if I don’t have time) and seeing if I can spare that much time, but obviously that’s not foolproof. Another great way to reach that balance when I’m short on time and energy is to participate in one-day events like Project Reachout or Project 2012, where you can spend a day volunteering without a semester-long time commitment.

So far, I’ve come pretty close to finding a good balance, but I’m always looking for new time management tips!

The Man in the Glass

Harvin C Moore IIIA few weeks ago, Professor Limburg and the MPA program welcomed Harvin C. Moore to speak at our Distinguished Speaker Lyceum.

Mr. Moore began his presentation with some relatable stories, his qualifications, and who he was. To give you some background, Mr. Moore was a lawyer, businessman, and UT Grad (Hook ‘Em!) who had much success in both Real Estate Development and the Savings and Loan business. He was known for having a “Midas touch”  due to his gift for putting together lucrative real estate deals. His story seemed to be similar to others we have had the pleasure of hearing this semester in Lyceum- a successful businessperson who has graciously volunteered their time to share with us personal anecdotes and provide some advice before we head off into the real world.

All of a sudden, Mr. Moore began describing a scenario to us and asked us to close our eyes and imagine a man standing alone in the middle of El Paso. (Are you a little confused? Don’t worry- we were too.) Much to our surprise, we open our eyes and see Mr. Moore standing on stage and he begins to tell us of his time in PRISON in El Paso. His company had been issuing illegal loans, and justifying it to themselves because they were solvent at the time of the loan. Being solvent doesn’t negate the fact that the type of loaning Mr. Moore was participating in was illegal. He explained that after he was notified about the criminal charges, he knew he could not sit in the court room and plead “not guilty.”  Thus, Mr. Moore went to prison.

I found his story so interesting, and it was quite an eye-opener to the entire Lyceum audience. The MPA program provides us with ample opportunities to succeed, yet once we do succeed, we must be sure that we maintain our ethical principles. In his message, Mr. Moore alluded to the poem, The Man in the Glass, by Dale Wimbrow. The poem reminds us that we will all have the opportunity at least once in our lives to act in a way that compromises our ethical beliefs, but if you can’t live with yourself after you make such decision, it probably is the wrong decision.

Transcending the Ordinary to the Extraordinary

Allie Su (piano) and me (violin) on May 11, 2012.

Earlier this semester, my violin instructor at UT asked me to think about why I continue to study music and what it means to me. Coming from a major in which a lucrative career is emphasized, taking the time to reflect why I would continue to study music was important. A music career exemplifies the risk-reward theory from finance; that is, it is extremely difficult to have a long-lasting, stable career in music that compensates handsomely. If that is what you’re seeking from your degree, you are likely taking a great risk by choosing to study music. Or as some of my friends put it, “Am I not just wasting time by studying and practicing still if this is not what I intend to do to earn a living?” After some pondering, I realized my answer is no. Emphatically no.

First, the definition of “being productive” is constantly being misplaced. I will never forget the sermon of the late Father Jim Weisner when I was a sophomore. Father Jim proposed the argument that going to church could also be seen as a waste of time; after all, nothing was getting done, no one was making money, and, therefore, going to church was unproductive and a waste of time.
Father Jim continued with an analogy. He asserted that despite this definition, no one would ever describe holding a baby as a waste of time. How could you? There is always something magical about holding a baby: seeing him or her smile, gaze in awe, stretch out his or her arms. Productivity cannot and should not be measured by the conventional metrics. Rather, it is essential to view productivity in terms of what is constructive to one’s self.

Is studying music directly enhancing my degree plan? Maybe, maybe not; but nevertheless, it is essential to my well-being and happiness and is definitely a productive part of my week. Let’s be honest, you can only read so much tax law before losing touch with your reality, mission, and goals. Likewise, no one would ever, ever proclaim that going to a Texas football game is a waste of time. However, a football game is basically an extended period of time during which no “work” is performed.

No other study has taught me the value of detail other than the study of the violin. Business students are constantly competing against each other for grades and in school you are evaluated against your peers. Music is much more demanding due to the fact that you are competing against yourself. For example, in the recital I will perform this evening, I have set a standard that I consider perfection and will evaluate myself against my self-set standard.

Let’s take a single aspect of musicianship: intonation. In the business school, a particularly strenuous exam might rank an 85% as an A. To contrast that to the study of the violin, if I were to perform and only play 85% of the notes in tune, it would be quite the cacophonous experience. The truth is that most listeners would prefer that every note be in tune—and this is only a single aspect that the musician must manage while also having focus on dynamics, tone, bow economy, articulation, etc.

Nothing in the practice of accounting teaches meticulous attention to detail the same way the study of the violin does. In many ways, despite my tendency to visualize things from a bird’s-eye perspective, the study of music is what has taught me how to put the puzzle pieces together in order to achieve the big picture I so desperately desire to see. John Wooden of UCLA once said, “Little things make big things happen.” This has never been as evident as it is in music, where planning and execution of minute facets cumulate to create something fantastic, transforming text on a page into the emulation of emotion.

For me, music transcends the ordinary into the extraordinary. On one hand, music enhances the personal life. Music brings a joy that is inexplicable and that cannot be replicated by anything else. A friend of mine who studied psychology once explained to me that people who have studied for as long as I have experience music via the cerebellum, which is the same part of the brain that regulates our breathing and heart beat; he says that is the reason that some people always have their iPod with them at all times.
Regardless of the science though, the presence of music in life brings about happiness. I personally cannot imagine a profession, other than musician, in which I would be more than ecstatic to go to work every day. The ability to perfect one’s art, create beauty, and finally spread that joy to others cannot be compared to anything I will get to do in accounting. This is not meant to bash the accounting profession by any means; as a future auditor and board contributor, I can certainly attest to the fact that I will have to opportunity to be creative in my approaches to testing and standard-setting.

Most importantly, is the contribution that music makes to society as a whole. We have seen the consequences throughout history of what happens to great civilizations when citizens turn from amusements of the mind to other amusements. The continuance of arts, as well as sports and academics, contribute to a healthy and vibrant society. Creation of some sort is necessary in order for societies to avoid complacency. Music provides this.

Musicians are not studying music for a career that is lucrative in terms of dollars and cents. Rather, a life full of the music is rich in other ways. It is rich in the fulfillment of a day’s labor. It is rich in what it contributes to society. It is rich in the joy that it brings to people. It is rich, a la Maslow, in the fulfillment one receives when successfully creating his or her masterpiece on behalf of all humankind. And for some reason, accounting, while I relish my study there, will probably never bring me enjoyment in precisely the same way, for accounting is not and was never meant for self-expression.

This is why I continue to study music today. It continues to bring me fulfillment in my life that is not comparable to anything else. It allows me to be creative in ways that neither accounting nor law will. While creativity is important in business, too much creativity, especially in accounting, can ultimately be harmful. A friend of mine in accounting school once looked at my sheet music and told me, “That means nothing to me,” to which I responded, “That’s right; it’s my job to make it mean something to you.” Unlike explaining the meaning behind accounting numbers, only through the study of the violin am I able to interpret and convey the same print of music in a variety of different ways.

If society were to look at the arts and say, “the arts are unproductive,” then many would be discouraged to study the arts. On the other hand, I chose a more risk-averse career so that I could enjoy such diversions. Without the arts what is the incentive for working? What would truly make life worth living without our manipulations of the senses?

Economically, one could say the arts provide some sort of utility that maintains society in a balance. As such, I hope by continuing to study my instrument I will continue to challenge my mind. While this may be my last recital for the foreseeable future, I can guarantee that this will not be the last time I take the stage. With self-study and a creative outlet, it is only a matter of time before I find another channel through which to unveil the fruits of this study yet again.


About the Sonata
Itzhak Perlman performed at UT in the spring of 2009. Beforehand, I attended a lecture by Dr. Gratovich. At the end of his lecture, he emphasized the importance of the survival of the art in terms of creation. (You will probably notice that most of the pieces I am performing are centuries old.) As can be expected, without contributions to repertoire, the art will eventually die. You may notice that very few pieces are written for the violin nowadays. In any case, he issued a challenge to composers in the room to write and try to spread original works for this sake. He probably does not know this, but someone took him up on his challenge, and that would be me.

Because of a dare to complete the piece, I finished it in the summer of 2011. This sonata is written for violin and piano with the notion of collaborating with the pianist. Although only the first movement is performed today, in the first movement and throughout the piece, there are many instances of dialogue between the piano and violin, feeding off each other melodically and harmonically. Last, less evident from solely the first movement, the entire sonata is very influenced by Texan rhythms and dances (with a splash of Bach here and there, of course). In this video taken on May 11, I fumble through the first movement.

Sacrificed communication

Before Facebook chat and text messaging, AIM was my technology-based communication of choice

Technology has always been something I have been really passionate about- hence, when I became an MPA, I kept MIS as my minor here at McCombs. I look at websites, read blogs, etc. and just love to hear the fascinating stories about how technology is shaping and improving the world we live in. However, something else very crucial to the changing world is communication. I am a strong believer in the importance of honest communication and believe that communicating, itself, also shapes and improves the world we live in.

That being said, I was intrigued when I came across a NYTimes article this morning that contrasts ‘communication’ with ‘connection,’ and discusses the role that technology has in the “sacrificing of communication.”

The article goes on to explain the notion of being “alone together.” In a world where we are attached to our smart phones and computers, we feel constantly connected to all of the people in our lives. Sherry Turkle, the author, goes on to explain how we expect more from technology and less from each other. We feel like, because we could send an email or text message at any time, we are all connected. Of course, this is important in a world that is getting smaller and I am not trying to downplay any of the amazing technologies that help business communication today. I just think it is important to remember that there is a difference in what you get out of a face-to-face conversation vs. one online or via email. Continue reading Sacrificed communication