Nicky's Blog

8 Lessons for the New Professional

May 10, 2011
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I am nearing my two year mark since graduating from college –  the realization of which has moved me to consider my work experiences thus far. At twenty-four years old, I am always looking to fine tune my professional self. Here are 8 lessons I’ve learned on business etiquette that many young professionals can attest to and almost-graduates can make use of.

1. Under-promise, and over-deliver. If you commit to delivering a goal, it has to get done. No exceptions.

2. Over-communicate. We all have selective memory and we don’t recall the same conversations. Therefore, reiterating what you are doing when you are doing it helps all parties involved know that you’re moving the needle.

3. Use the office lingo.  Speak using the same work abbreviations and expressions your colleagues use. This is especially helpful when starting a new job – it reiterates that you are meeting the learning curve and that you notice details.

4.  Soliloquies have no place in e-mails. As a liberal arts school graduate, essay writing is my specialty; but, essays do not belong in e-mails. When sending e-mails, make them concise and “actionable.” At my first job, I wrote poetic monologues (slight exaggeration), but I learned quickly that this was a big taboo. Sorry to break it to you but the VP does not  have time to read your 5 paragraph e-mail.

5. Carbon copying can be a cardinal sin or your saving grace. Carbon copying is generally useful for letting others know work is getting done.  Adding or removing people from the cc line can have vastly different consequences, however. Adding someone can make the urgency of an email carry weight, but removing someone can sometimes get you in trouble, as it can be perceived as challenging hierarchies, especially if that person is senior. Rule of thumb: always think twice before you hit the delete button.

6. Never underestimate the power of ‘Thank You.’ Give thanks when it is deserved. That is, don’t be cheap with your thank yous. We are all busy in our work lives and sometimes we can neglect to show gratitude for a work achievement or a personal favor.  Sometimes giving thanks can mean the difference of maintaining or losing a good working relationship.

7. Don’t say sorry unless your actions merit it. Working in the corporate sector, I have observed that men, as compared to women, do not say sorry unless they have done something for which they believe they need to apologize for. Whereas women tend to say “sorry” in any situation that is uncomfortable, awkward, disappointing even when they are not responsible for said situation. When you say sorry you are accepting accountability for the problem. Also, subconsciously people start to associate you with or, even worst, as the problem. Start reducing “sorry” from your vocabulary and in the long-term, I promise, you won’t have anything to be sorry about.

8. You’re as awesome as your last body of work. In college, this made perfect sense: A + A + B + A + C = B+ . But, in the work world, the equation works like so: A + A + B + A + C = C  which can make you want to scream “WTF!?”  My advice: treat your supervisors as though they have long-term memory loss –  always try to outshine your last achievement and you will continue to do exactly that: shine.

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Once an Aspirante, Always an Aspirante

January 27, 2011
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With the trend of communities mobilizing on the internet, it’s a rare and beautiful sight to see a large presence of people congregating in person. As a volunteer for Aspira of NY’s Annual City Youth Conference, I witnessed these powerful human moments at work. I left the event mesmerized by the energy of 600 people in one room promoting one cause.

Whoever conceived of the expression “children are the leaders of tomorrow” got it almost right; swap “tomorrow” with “today” and they would have hit the nail on its head. Aspira exemplifies this idea that it is never too early to tap into young people’s unique leadership strengths.

The formula for leadership is wisdom plus knowledge plus strategy. Aspira provides the strategy and its members acquire (and bring) the wisdom and knowledge. Aspira has been promoting its educational goals for decades, helping new and old generations realize their ambitions.

As an Aspirante , I benefited from its college-prep resources, including an especially practical SAT prep course that helped me get admitted into one of the top 25 private colleges in the nation. The course, I should mention, was free of charge to me. Over ten years later, I still recall my instructor, Adam Benson, who used humor as his magic wand to entice students to stay plugged in. If someone were to open the classroom door we would be inside roaring with laughter, as we attempted to solve the next math problem.

I also gained intangible skills as a public speaker and relationship-builder that transcend time and place, making them useful for the rest of my life.

By the time Aspirantes graduate from high school, they have engaged in critical life-serving experiences that put them at a competitive advantage over their peers.

Volunteering at Aspira’s Youth Conference as a young professional reminded me how significant a role the organization played in my formative years. It gave me the social confidence to see Impossible as I’m Possible, and to subtract ‘can’t’ from my vocabulary.

Social confidence, or its absence, is not to be overlooked as a powerful cause for why people don’t amount to their hopes. Many people are capable but shy away from the testing grounds, fearing that they just aren’t “enough”.

Looking around me, I saw social confidence beginning to surface in the eyes of the young people with whom I spoke. I saw my former face in theirs.

At their core, they have much to offer the world, but may not know it yet or not know it with unyielding conviction.

Many of these young people come from under-served backgrounds and are weakened by discrimination and prejudice, all of which can easily deafen one’s own cheering inner voice. However, with Aspira’s nurturing, their core values will gradually swell until they’re overflowing with belief in themselves as positive contributors to the world they live in.

Thank you, Santa, for my Kindle

January 14, 2011

For Christmas, “Santa” bought me a Kindle 3.

I did a great deal of research prior, though Amazon’s claim that it sold more Kindles than Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was the persuasive headline.  Still, I was apprehensive:

– I could never throw my kindle against a wall, pick it up and still read it. In other words, soft pages of paper actually were less vulnerable to harm’s way than a delicate piece of plastic. I didn’t like that I had to treat it like a silk scarf.

– having worked in my college’s library for four years, I learned to love  the slightly moldy smell of books. I like the nostalgia of the old. I would never be able to buy an  “old e-book” and take a whiff of its history…

– having to pay ten dollars(+) for each e-book when this “book” was one I couldn’t touch, share with someone, seemed unfair. It didn’t have the same qualities and perks as a physical book,  so why pay the same cost?

– I wondered, would I miss jotting my chicken-scratch notes on the margins? The Kindle has an option to “write” notes, but it is very limited.

– I couldn’t lend my Kindle in the way I could pass along a book that made me cry or laugh to a friend who needed a good cry or laugh. Call me a traditionalist but one of the best aspects of reading a good book  is sharing it with someone who can find solace in those same words. (Turns out there are e-communities of borrower/lenders. Here’s one great one I am a part of:

–  What if I lost the charger and was itching to finish that last chapter but the battery died on me? (The Kindle, I discovered, has a month’s battery life– not too shabby.)

I decided to buy the Kindle 3 because:

– I figured the portability factor would encourage me to bring it with me wherever I may be and thus read more. (This did prove true!)

– I liked the anonymity of the Kindle. I could read a romance novel  or a pre-law book at my own discretion.

– I liked that I could read a 300 page book or a 20 page manual and still hold the same weight in my palms. Gone would be the days of lugging around a cumbersome book.

– With the built-in 3G feature, I could buy a book anywhere at anytime. I just switch on the wireless and browse the Amazon store online.

Technology is often about the coolness factor; the Kindle is definitely sexy, but it’s also practical. Since using the Kindle, I have read more in one week than I have in months! It  has revolutionized the way I read- I read books  faster on the Kindle for reasons unclear to me. There are also many free classics and other books that the idea of borrowing from the library seems almost trivial.

I will admit this though: I miss flipping pages.  My sister and I were reading on the couch the other night. I could hear her flipping  the pages and I could feel myself pressing down on the “next page” button. It lacked that same authenticity. I wanted to flip a page badly. I peered at her from the corner of my eyes until she realized. We stared at each for a couple  of seconds and then giggled. “How’s that Kindle treating you, huh?”  She joked. “Great! Just great” I replied with a hint of sarcasm. I really wanted to flip a page, but instead, I grinned to myself and pressed down on that silly button.

2010 New York Marathon

November 9, 2010
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Hundreds of people surrounded me at every angle shouting cheerful words. Some were giving gifts of potassium to the tired, yet determined runners. “I got a banana,” he chuckled, as he hurried past me on my right. People waved signs, taped and glued together by loving hands, over their heads. Stretching over blocks and blocks, all I could see was a sea of waving signs and hands.

I could hear voices saying, “You can do it, Jennifer” and “Let’s go, France”. I soon realized that these encouraging words were uttered by and to strangers. There existed an understanding that each runner was equally deserving of  unconditional “Yes You Can” mantras. I started to extend my hand into the sea of runners. Slap. Slap. Slap. And, then,  smiling and content faces.

I could see pain and pleasure in their faces. The pain they felt piercing their body emanated into passion in their eyes and we felt it. I wanted to do whatever in my means to console them into realizing their goal. It was exhausting to expel that much energy into people whom I had never before met, but I did it without conscious thought.

Big, fat marching bands burped music into the air – loud, move-your-body music. The kind of music that you can’t say no to. The kind of music that doesn’t say no to you. And, the kind of music that runs over your body and tickles it, inciting you to move to the left and to the right. My body listened and followed organically.

“Do you have a press pass?”, he asked me with an endearing grin on his face. Smiling back with one eyelid closed, “No, I replied.” “Well, she’s sure cute enough not to,” muttered the man behind me. I smiled and pressed down hard on the shutter. Snap. I froze the runners’ pain. Snap. I froze the runners’ pleasure. Snap. I froze this magic I was being witness to. Froze it then so I could feel it again some other day.

Two pretty southern bells tapped their fingers over their iphones and asked me what mile marker we were standing on. “You’re asking the wrong girl,” I replied with a shrug and a shy smile. They tapped incessantly until one exclaimed, “Sweet Jesus, finally!”  One asked me if I wanted to see where my boyfriend was on a speckled map on her fancy iphone marathon application. “Um, well, uh, he’s not really my boyfriend. Er, ok, his name is…” “Your boyfriend is finished, dahling. You better go get him at the finish line, baby.” I smiled, gave them my best, and ran away.

How I wanted for all of New York City to show this kindness and sincerity to passing strangers daily. Even round bellied, cranky police officers, who were assigned a very specific purpose that day, couldn’t help but feel the good energy of the people  they were policing. That pull was universally felt.

It was these same people that I likely brushed shoulders with on the subways, and sat uncomfortably close to on the buses. It was these same people that probably shouted their order with a tone of bitterness at Starbucks. It was these same people that may have slid stealthily into my cab seat when the rain fell from the heavy clouds.  But, Sunday represented the truth that New Yorkers never cease to amaze me in good ways. Perhaps, I might even want to say that humanity is full of warm surprises me because, after all, these people  had come from all corners of the world.


September 25, 2010
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Your living room was bare and dark.

I would open the shades

to allow the light

to drown out the bareness.

Your walls were bare, too,

with only a framed photo

of my mom.

Mom sleeping

with one arm bent

at the elbow,

resting on her forehead.

I sleep this way,


Inside your living room

were two wood chairs

that seemed

to hold

the house together.

Your hammock,

hung shyly between

two corners

of two walls.

I loved


soften my knees


fall backwards

into your hammock’s

safe embrace.

A faint cloud of dust


each time,

encircling me.

I loved the feeling

of my body

held tightly,

safe from

all that isn’t good.

I loved swinging,

as I lay,

with one leg perched

on your floor.

I loved your bare room.

I loved you.

Your Bare Back

September 4, 2010
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The truth of human existence

lies in the silhouette

of your bare back.

Muscle, bone, and flesh

are beyond

the mere tangible.

Muscle, bone, and flesh

reflect spiritual strength,

humanity’s resilience.

Dancing my fingers

over your body,

I relive your history.

The knots in your back

are the past absences of hope,

moments of despair.

My dancing fingers

feel the rhythms

of your breathing


as you








I hold erect my finger

and push down hard

on those knots.

With my bare hands,

I will away

your pain and fears.

I am Moving

September 3, 2010
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The Empire State building shines in a mustard yellow color tonight. I see it through my bedroom window, the same window I have seen it out from for the past 23  three years. Except tonight I am especially aware of its presence because in a few short weeks I will never have the Empire State building to see from out my window. I am moving.

I have lived in the same apartment since I was born. I have seen it undergo a plethora of wild stages that have mirrored my own stages of growth and awareness. I used to have purple walls. A plum purple color that was playful and warm just like my mom intended it when she chose the color.

When I was really young, I used to wake up in the night-time, crawl out of bed, and walk out into the living room. As my squinted eyes adjusted to the light, they also were greeted by my purple walls. I would turn the corner to see my mother, sitting on a small stool that nearly touched the floor, writing in her blue jean-like journal. They don’ t make those kinds of journals anymore, but they were of a cotton-like material and were really long in height.  You could release a lot of energy and ambition into those journals, which is what my single-parent mother of three little girls did.

When I saw by mother hunched over her journal, scribbling fears, hopes and memories, it didn’t register with me than that she was, in those rare moments, finding time for herself. I simply saw a book in my mommy’s hand. I would run to her because my feet were cold because I wasn’t wearing socks and the floor was always cold at night. She would put down her book and hold me until my eyes closed again.

Years later, when I finally open one of the dozens of books she had filled up with her convictions, I realized the significance of those moments I had haphazardly fallen witness to.  Those purple walls remind me of my mother’s vulnerability and courage  in the earlier years of her life raising three children by herself.

I am nervous about moving because this small apartment in New York City is the only place I have ever called home. All the profound love I have ever trusted blindly is contained within these walls. Like the colors of the walls, I too have changed . My essence remains the same, yet the many layers of shyness, restlessness have faded only to be painted with strength and unyielding curiosity.


August 17, 2010
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“Longings and worries are both, to some degree, overblown because we have within us the capacity to manufacture the very commodity we are constantly chasing when we choose experience.” – Dan Gilbert, Harvard Psychologist

Two things you need to know before you here me out: 1) I get obsessed easily and especially in my pursuit for capital t Truths. What are “capital t Truths”? Phenomenon that are True, wholeheartedly and unequivocally so and 2) I’ve been really damn sad these past two weeks. I am talking about the kinda sad that keeps you in bed during the daytime, tucked under the covers, away from the big, scary world. I won’t reveal the source of that sadness because it’s not really productive to share it right now. I’ll just say that it had been a paralyzing sadness that temporarily obstructed my sense of self in painful ways.

I say all this as a premise. I really want to talk about this man and his idea, which I stumbled upon, and that carried me out of my bed and back into the world.

Dan Gilbert‘s idea is simple to deconstruct: happiness is not determined by the external circumstances we face rather it is a condition we can evoke if we learn to manipulate our mind. Happiness is not so much an entity that can be acquired in the outside, but instead it is a self-willed creation. And guess what then? The outside world becomes irrelevant.

When I first considered Dan’s happiness theory I felt suspicious. “Synthetic happiness“, as Dan refers to it, seemed to be overly artificial, and quite frankly, an excuse the weak might use in not being diligent in their pursuits. I prefer to think of myself as practical, as a realist and so I was reluctant to accept this idea that just seemed tainted by self-deception and insincerity. It just rang too kumbaya to me and I wasn’t having it.

But, I listened more to what Dan had to say and he addresses the same concern I was feeling. He argues that we all possess a “psychological immune system”, which can lead us to simulate an experience or a sensation, if needed. Dan also refers to case studies he’s conducted. The case studies demonstrate that the neurological experience of happiness we undergo during an actual event is the same as when we don’t go through that physical occurrence. He cites amnesia patients as the controlled participants. They offer a non-biased perspective considering they cannot recall their lived experience;  therefore, they wouldn’t feign happiness.

The point is essentially this: we assume that happiness is a thing to be found, but it is not. Happiness is always a synthesized experience. And it’s empowering to understand this phenomenon because it is precisely this understanding that is the catalyst for evoking the feeling of happiness. We can evoke this feeling when we most need it irrespective of what is occurring around us.

When Taty came home from work, I was running after her shouting, “I’m synthesizing my happiness”. And she looked at me as though I were just released from the asylum. My change of attitude would be case in point for Dan. A minute before I stumbled upon Dan’s talk, I was at my lowest ever. And then I watched his video and I was all sorts of giddy and inspired. And do you really think it was because I found happiness in this video and that this one video will carry me into an eternal state of happiness? Not quite. Nothing drastic changed during and after the twenty minutes I spent watching that video. It’s simply that I, that my mind, chose to be happy and to create that experience for me.

Song of the Day: New Day by Tamar Kaprelian

The Puerto Rican Mambo (not a musical)

August 2, 2010
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Its a real shame that, until this past Sunday, The Puerto Rican Mambo (not a musical) had been collecting dust on a shelf for over a decade. A warm thank you to the New York Latino Film Festival for re-releasing this “best” kept secret.

The 90-minute indie film directed by Ben Model and written by Luis Caballero cleverly uses humor as a tool to narrate the rather painful stories of Puerto Ricans confronting racism, classism, xenophobia in New York City during the late 80s. I laughed really hard in the theater to the point where tears rolled down my face. Peering around me, I witnessed others laughing too- people from seemingly different walks of life genuinely relating to the short film. The film’s beauty is precisely its portrayal of humanity‘s struggle for acceptance through the lens of one particular ethnic group.

Shame on the film executives of that time for not having the cojones to be avant garde. This movie had and has potential to be adored by a broad audience of movie goers. I’m telling you – its funny when it needs to be, angry when it wants to be, and enlightening all around. That’s my marketing ploy, now let me tell you about the film itself.

The movie is segmented into frames of Luis Caballero talking to the camera, as though auditioning for a role, followed by reenacted skits. The “auditioning” Luis does stand-up comedy routine. It takes a lot for me to laugh–I always tell people I laugh inside. But, Luis, had me roaring with giggles for over an hour. He’s blunt, sarcastic, and ironic. He can keenly synthesize his awful experiences with racial hatred and bigotry into digestible comedic skits that anyone can comprehend and empathize with despite not having lived through them. And for those who have endured the ugly battle, Luis’ comedy is therapy.

The pharmacy scene is brilliant. Luis enters a pharmacy to do what any other person in the store would do: browse. Upon entering, the female cashier approaches him interrogatively. She asks if he “needs” anything to which he replies, “No, just browsing”. She is appalled by his response. “Browsing?” She asks with a perplexed look . “Yes. Browsing,” he repeats. Then, the woman scurries to the back of the store to report Luis to her manager. The manager announces over the speakerphone: Attention customers, there is a Puerto Rican browsing. Again, there is a Puerto Rican browsing in aisle six. Do not be alarmed. We have the situation under control. The scene is greatly exaggerated, inviting laughter; but it is that same dramatization that also highlights the pervasive problem of racial profiling.

Watching the film, I kept on thinking, “Damn, this still happens.” The experience manifested differently, but the root of the problem still apparent. Yes, progress towards equality and co-existence has been achieved within the past twenty or so years. Still, there is a new subconscious racial fear or intolerance that exists today even more complex and difficult to combat than blatant racial hatred of the past precisely because of its subtly. Like Luis, I have entered a bank and observed the white woman customer in front of me treated with a painstaking amount of care and patience. Then, when I reach the counter, not a single word is uttered to me. The transaction made hastily in silence. I am left to suspect that the disconnect between the “customer service'” I experienced and that of the woman in front has everything to do with the color of our skins. Otherwise, we are both two equally-deserving strangers waiting in line, no?

This film begs to seen by so many more people than were in the theater this past Sunday afternoon.

The Story of Ferdinand (El cuento de Ferdinando)

July 18, 2010

Everyone ought to read the Story of Ferdinand. Someone designated it a “children’s book”, but that was a silly thing to do. The story’s timeless motif of compassion and non-violence is one adults need pay mind to because children innately love unconditionally and, with age, “learn” otherwise.

Frankly I don’t remember when I first discovered this book or where I was because memory is funny like that. I do remember the little epiphanies that this book triggered within. I fell in love with Ferdinand as a little girl and I’ll tell you why.

Ferdinand is a bull. He lives in a pasture in Spain and prefers to sit under a particular cork tree: “He liked to sit just quietly and smell the flowers.” The story unfolds by way of a bumblebee stinging poor Ferdinand, which leads him to huff and puff. One would think, upon naïve glance, that he is an angry and mad bull. But really Ferdinand is just in pain. Two bullfighters witness this sight and perceive Ferdinand as the “best” bull to compete in a fight.

The bullfighters whisk Ferdinand to the ring where he finds himself surrounded by flowers the Spanish women adorn in their hair. Ferdinand, much to the dislike of the crowd, sits in the center of the stadium breathing in the lovely floral scent. The image of a big, strong bull sniffing flowers quite joyfully is funny to me. This pacifist bull that would rather smell dandelions than fight or behave in any aggressive manner instantly became a hero to me.

The message of my hero ought to be internalized by the world at large. Ferdinand is not swayed by others to behave outside of character. No one or no external circumstances can deter Ferdinand’s gentleness. The story reminds me that the spectrum of human emotion is complex, multifaceted and can surprise us in really positive ways.

In passing, I told my mom I might tattoo my dear friend Ferdinand somewhere on my body; of course, she nearly died then and there. Someone once told me to wait a year before you ink yourself even if you are shaking with conviction that this is THE symbol. I will do this even though I believe in Ferdinand very much so…

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About author

A lover of people, the arts, parks, curiosity, spontaneity, altruism, self-exploration, and story telling. I believe in living your life nakedly and on fire. I am one of triplets: I have two sisters running about in the city coping my look. If you see "me", think twice. Much of my writing is inspired by my daily happenings. Much of it is also closely connected to my years at Bates College. This blog is for anyone looking for inspiring insights and stories.