A Personal Thank You

by Victor Cheng

by 

I wanted to thank you for being a reader and follower of my work. It has meant a lot to me.

To understand why I feel this way, I’d like to share a deeply personal story that reveals my most shameful secret about myself. With the exception of two or three people, I haven’t shared this with anyone else before.

You see, I’ve spent most of my life thinking that I didn’t really have anything to say that would be valuable to anyone else… especially in the area of business. I know this seems odd given that you largely know me from either my writings or my videos on business.

It all started when I was about 11 years old. I grew up in a small business family. My parents ran one of the first Apple stores in my hometown of San Diego, CA. Back then, Apple stores didn’t look anything like they do now.

Unlike today’s largely direct (to consumer) sales channel, back then Apple used an indirect sales channel strategy (e.g., they sold products through independently owned retail stores like the one owned by my parents).

I worked at the store on and off for most of my childhood. I would pack boxes, count inventory, move boxes in the warehouse, drag networking cable in the ceiling crawlspace to connect new computers, and pretty much do whatever was needed to be done that a kid could do.

For dinner conversation, my parents would discuss the business – revenue, costs, personnel problems, new entrants (like CompUSA), lines of revenue, and other strategic issues. (Later, as a young adult, I was shocked to discover that this was not normal conversation for everyone else.)

I remember one conversation that I had with my dad when I was 11. I wanted to be helpful to my parents and their business because I saw how hard they were working. I forgot what prompted the conversation, but somehow I got on the topic of how to grow sales through advertising. At the time, my parents store attracted customers through:

1) Yellow Pages advertising,
2) newspaper advertising,
3) drive-by traffic from people seeing the street sign in a good location, and
4) repeat customers buying an upgraded or second computer.

Since the first three were all very expensive and probably the second largest expense after personnel costs, I remember asking my dad what percentage of the customers came from each advertising source.

I had two questions in my head at the time:

(1) Which customer source worked the best in terms of absolute numbers; and

(2) which customer source generated the most revenue relative to its cost?

I thought that if we knew which one worked the best, we could do more of it. So, if the Yellow Pages directory ads worked really well, maybe we should run a bigger ad, like some of the competitors. If the newspaper ads worked really well, it might make sense to run two ads instead of one, or to run the usual ad twice as often.

I figured, unless you knew what worked and by how much, it would be hard to know which approach would be the most effective and least risky way to grow sales. So, when I asked my dad what percentage of sales came from each advertising source, he said he didn’t know. The computer system didn’t track this information, and the salespeople didn’t ask customers this question at the cash register.

I became increasingly intrigued by these questions and thought long and hard about how to get the information needed to answer them.

It was during this time that Apple had introduced a new computer called the Mac. It had a completely graphically oriented user interface, which has since become the norm. You could write documents with different size fonts, write documents in bold or underlined fonts, and other things that were largely considered revolutionary for the average person at the time.

Well, one of the things these tools allowed me to do was to create a new order form – the form that salespeople fill out to record who purchased what item, how much it cost, and to provide the customer with a receipt.

I designed a new form that looked mostly like the old form, but with the addition of a simple one-question survey that asked this:

How did you hear about us?

* Newspaper Ad
* Yellow Pages Ad
* Street Sign / Drive By
* Previous Customer

(In hindsight, to be MECE, the hierarchy really should be new customer vs. repeat customer, and the advertising sources should really be grouped under “new customers” – but I cut myself some slack… Hey, I was only 11 years old!)

I figured, if we used the new order form for a few weeks, we could quickly figure out what was working, why it was working, and how much each advertising source was producing in revenues.

After spending a few hours figuring out how to do this, I was very proud of my new form. I thought it could really help my parents’ business. But, when I showed my dad, he took a look, saw what I did, chuckled, and told me to not worry about it and to just go play outside.

I remember feeling disappointed at the response and just assumed that my ideas must not have been very good. I don’t know if my dad was distracted, set in his ways, couldn’t fathom that an 11-year-old child could come up with a useful idea, or truly just wanted me to be a kid and not to worry about adult problems.

(In fairness to my father, he was 10 times the father to me than his father was to him. He did his absolute best with what he had to work with)

It was only in hindsight that I realized how much that experience, and others like it, influenced me over the next few decades. In class, I would often have ideas but would rarely say anything. On some unconscious level, I just assumed my ideas weren’t very good and in hindsight realized I was ashamed of myself. And, even though I did get good grades in high school and college, this underlying assumption was always there just below the level of self-awareness, somewhere in the back of my mind.

When I was recruiting for consulting jobs at Stanford, I remember going to one information sessions and meeting one person who had a BA, MD, and MBA – all from Harvard. I remember being in awe at some of the people working in these firms.

At the same time, I also remember thinking that the case-interview “puzzles” were really intriguing. In the way that Sherlock Holmes was drawn to a mystery, I was always drawn to business “puzzles” and found the entire process of problem-solving fascinating.

When I received offers from nearly every consulting firm that came to campus, and discovered that I received three- to seven-times more consulting offers than any of my friends, I was shocked. I figured that the firms must have made a mistake somehow. While I liked solving cases, I somewhat assumed that my ideas probably weren’t that good.

Before my McKinsey start date, I remember being scared to death. I would be advising clients 40 years older than me… people running $500 million to $1 billion businesses. Those businesses had way more zeros than I was used to seeing. The one word that describes my primary emotion during that entire time was:

INTIMIDATED.

To my credit, I never let this fear get in the way of taking action. I still practiced cases and applied. And, the more I practiced, the more confident I appeared on the outside, even though, on the inside, I was in awe of the whole thing.

By the end of my time at McKinsey, I stopped being intimidated by people in positions of power (CEO clients). I learned that no matter how much power one has, however many degrees from Harvard, at the end of the day, 2 + 2 still equals 4. For me, facts and logic became the great antidote to feeling intimidated. I found senior clients would listen to me when I had the facts and logic on my side.

As a result, I left McKinsey with a much higher confidence level.

However, it’s useful to realize that a distinction exists between confidence and self-esteem.

Confidence is the outward conveyance of calm and competence around a SPECIFIC domain. I am confident in my ability to solve business problems. I am not confident in, nor do I project confidence about my ability to run a chemistry lab.

Self-esteem is an entirely different animal. It is how you feel about yourself in all situations and contexts. It is an internal feeling that is comprehensive in nature (not just tied to a specific situation or task).

This distinction explains why, in my experience, some people who project too much confidence outwardly (bordering on arrogance) often have very low self-esteem. Sometimes the people who seem confident on the outside are compensating for an empty feeling on the inside.

It is my belief that some billionaires use the acquisition of wealth to fill a low self-esteem “hole.” They think: “If I just get the next billion, I will feel better about myself.” Of course, this is a fool’s journey. Any moment of success is a temporary high that eventually fades, and how you feel about yourself on a self-sustaining basis is entirely independent of achievement, success, or money.

You can’t fill a hole in your heart with money, a degree, or a more prestigious resume.

You can solve financial problems with financial improvement solutions.

You can solve a career problem with a career improvement solution.

You can solve emotional problems with emotional well-being improvement solutions.

But, you can’t solve an emotional problem with a financial or career improvement solution.

It just doesn’t work (although a lot of people try)…

When I left McKinsey, I was confident in the area of business, but I still had low self-esteem. In other words, I was certain I was good at solving business problems (high confidence), but I felt like I was a defective human being… and, as a result, I felt bad about myself (low self-esteem).

The key emotional insight that I’ve only discovered more recently is to realize that it’s NOT the degree of perfection that matters, it’s how you FEEL about yourself regardless of the level of perfection you may or may not have. In short, I was paying attention to the wrong metric most of my life. I was trying to reduce the “What’s wrong with me?” metric when I should have been focused on the “How much do I accept and love myself just the way I am?” metric. That was a tough lesson to learn.

In my process of self-acceptance, there have been two things that have been very helpful to me. The first is having this and other forums to share my ideas with the people like you. My original reason for writing was to free ideas that were stuck in my head. In other words, I wrote so I could stop fixating on ideas and get back to work. Much to my surprise, my writings have found an audience in you and others.

Between the thousands of emails and blog comments, I’ve slowly come to realize that maybe what I have to say IS valuable to others. This has helped to slowly erode the false premise that has governed the last few decades of my life – the premise that my thoughts are unworthy of others, and therefore I do not have worth as a person.

Yes, this premise isn’t very logical, but nobody ever said an emotion has to be logical.

Second, even more than the ability to write, I have been blessed with the ability to receive the many, many thank-you emails from people around the world on how my ideas have changed their lives for the better.

I get so many emails along the following that I’ve lost track: “I didn’t think I could reach that high in my career, I didn’t believe it would work, but I still followed what you said exactly, and I surprised myself and achieved something I never thought I could.”

The only thing more gratifying than accomplishing something you didn’t think you could do is to be thanked for facilitating that process in someone else. It is very hard not to smile from ear to ear when reading a message like that.

As my closest friends know about me, I receive so much more satisfaction from helping and watching others succeed than from any of my own successes.

I’ve also been deeply moved when people thank me for helping them develop the courage and peace of mind to deliberately NOT go into consulting (even though they were “supposed to”).

But, best of all are the messages several of you have sent thanking me for just being me. Those have been more touching to me than I have words to express.

Your kindness and heart felt appreciation has given me something near perfect SAT scores, high GPAs, two degrees from Stanford, 7 consulting job offers, 3 live television appearances, 5 book publishing credits, and numerous other accomplishments have not.

You’ve shown me that I have “worth” just for being me.

While I am comfortable being described as successful or accomplished, I’m entirely uncomfortable seeing words like kind, generous, high integrity, stronger character, and trustworthy used to describe me.

That’s because those are words one uses to describe somebody with inherent worth and couldn’t possibly be applicable to somebody worthless like me.

I now realize that how I’ve been seeing myself my entire life was wrong.

For someone who went through life feeling like he was a “nobody”, it has been quite the revelation to discover that I was actually a “somebody” all along. That discovery has been the greatest gift of all… the gift of self esteem and self acceptance.

Your collective kindness and appreciation has helped me to realize both.

I am and will be forever grateful.

Thank you so much.

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{ 171 comments… read them below or add one }

deepak March 15, 2013 at 10:47 am

As an introvert, I can related to it and learn. Thanks for sharing

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Udit March 16, 2013 at 12:47 pm

I am an extrovert and I can still relate to it.

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Themis March 15, 2013 at 10:47 am

Dear Victor,

Thank you for sharing! You are truly inspiring. Please continue to keep posting your thoughts!

All the best,
Themis Gomes
+56 9 6612 7171

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Magnus Jacobsen March 15, 2013 at 10:57 am

It sounds like writing this blog has given more than you could ever have hoped for. Do you know what is next?

Have a great weekend,
Magnus from Copenhagen

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Jikku March 15, 2013 at 11:03 am

Hello Victor

I believe deep down that this is one of the most important and influential articles you have written to date and I have been reading all most all of your articles. First it is enlightening for the readers to understand that people who are at high positions of power and exude confidence still have emotional problems to deal with in the areas of self esteem. You also gave one of the best distinctions of what being confident and having self esteem meant. I am glad you got it out of your head. Now its time to move on and continue doing the great work you have been doing. And by the way there is nothing shameful about opening up. Go Victor Go.

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Victor Cheng March 15, 2013 at 2:32 pm

Jukku,

Thanks for your encouragement. Yes, people in all walks of life are just people. It’s easy to forget that.

-Victor

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Luke Phillips March 15, 2013 at 11:04 am

Hi Victor,

This was beautiful to read, thank you for sharing this with me. It has been great following your journey. Your messages, which I started following just over a year ago when I was 19 has helped me professionally and personally. For that reason, I am forever grateful. I have learnt to think in new ways and adapt to different situations, that may have seemed intimidating prior.

The knowledge you have provided me, I am proud to say I now share with others in my professional and personal circles.

Once again, thank you for all the advice. It has been wonderful to have you as a mentor-like figure in my life – it is what young people need these days, more than ever.

Regards,

Luke Phillips

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Victor Cheng March 15, 2013 at 2:32 pm

Luke,

You’re quite welcome.

-Victor

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Peter March 15, 2013 at 11:04 am

Thank you for sharing this private secret with the community who looks up to you as teacher and strong motivator (at least, that’s what I’m thinking…)

Just fixed an interview with BCG and will always keep your words in mind!

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M March 15, 2013 at 11:09 am

Great story from a REALLY GREAT GUY, never doubt that! Thanks for sharing! I think it’s great to learn a little bit more about your background and personal feelings because behind THE framework, advices, examples and articles, there was THE MAN – YOU all the time. You can feel proud for all the great work you’ve done, as for thousands people around the world you are “that guy Victor with that amazing blog”. As far as ex-consultants go on the net, I think you’re the rockstar ;-)

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Sophie March 15, 2013 at 11:11 am

Thanks for sharing this Victor.
This came along at a good time! Got laid off of job last October and have been to many interviews since but no offers… feeling totally worthless right now.

I know exactly the “deep-rooted” feeling (also my father’s choices in upbringing)… been battling it all my life. That “I’m an imposter” and “Everyone else is so much more worthy”.

Keep up with the blog.
Good for the professional.
Good for the soul.

Thanks again for sharing bits of your knowledge for FREE!

Sophie

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Victor Cheng March 15, 2013 at 2:34 pm

Sophie,

You are not your “interview pass rate”. I’ve been there in many other parts of my life. Just stick to what you know you need to do (personal feelings aside), and keep at it. It works out as long as you focus on the right things.

Good luck,
-Victor

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Iris March 15, 2013 at 11:12 am

Victor, it is always nice to hear people self-reflecting. You should go deeper in that search and ask yourself, how to fill that hole without needing frequent emotional proof/support from other people. This will really set you free and happy – that worked at least for me.

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Victor Cheng March 15, 2013 at 2:35 pm

Iris,

You are so right. I am working on that as well. I found that the “other-esteem” from all of you helped me crack open the door to truly “self-esteem”. I’m working on it, but definitely not 100% there. I’m doing the work, and it is exhausting!

-Victor

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Eloisa A. Ramos March 15, 2013 at 11:19 am

Hi Mr Cheng,
I think and feel I owe you million thanks. I should have said it a long time ago. Really, I am enjoying reading your emails as it help me a lot in my consulting job. I am into Business & Technology consulting. I have recommended you to some friends wishing to join consulting companies as well, and they too appreciated your materials. When I read your emails, I can feel exactly what you feel and I like it. Please continue sending emails, as you are guiding many souls in the process. We become strategic thinkers too. Thank you again.
Eloisa R.

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Aboud March 15, 2013 at 11:26 am

Beautiful, inspirational read. Thank you, Victor!

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Jean-Bernard Cheney March 15, 2013 at 11:33 am

Great coaching as John Whitmore would for sure put it.Thanks for sharing this path, and thanks for your inspiring woork too.
Jean-Bernard

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David Topf March 15, 2013 at 11:37 am

Hi Victor,
I agree with many of the other comments that this was one of the most important articles you have written and I am thankful that you have managed to reach the conclusions that you have and that you have the courage and strength to share these conclusions with us.

I was in a second round interview to BCG, having prepared with your great help and I realised lying in bed the day before the interview that I had no personal reasons for wanting to become a consultant. I dont know if I would have had the courage to turn an offer down, but luckily I did not get the job and I am now doing a PhD in Physics, which, for me, is extremely gratifying.

I only realised much later how lucky I was that I was forced to follow a career path that would make me happy rather than one that would make me rich. Ever since, I try to pursue a happy and fulfilled life and not the ideal money oriented life that it sometimes feels everyone expects a successful person to have. I not especially that you find helping others more gratifying than your personal achievements and this is a message I try to live by as well.

yours,
David

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Victor Cheng March 15, 2013 at 2:37 pm

David,

It sounds like in hindsight you ended up on the right path for you. Congratulations!

-Victor

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Andrew Phillips March 15, 2013 at 11:41 am

Hi – great story!

I’m intrigued – did you ever find out later why your father wasn’t interested in your idea? Did he ever adopt this idea later?
Which of the customer sources was the best?
I want to see the data!

Andrew

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Victor Cheng March 15, 2013 at 2:38 pm

Andrew,

I never found out and never bothered asking. The business was eventually shut down due to industry wide gross margin compression from a high of around 23% to a low of 9%. That combined with high fixed costs made the business marginally profitable and declining each year.

Surprisingly, I can remember P&L ratios from my teenage years.

-Victor

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Daniel March 15, 2013 at 11:53 am

Thank you so much for sharing. I am sure many of us can relate to the feeling of “not worthy” or “not good enough”.

It takes great courage to open up and share your personal experience with thousands of us readers. It is one thing to share consulting advice but another level altogether to share this personal story.

Best,

DC

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Victor Cheng March 15, 2013 at 2:39 pm

Daniel,

Thanks for your kind words. Much appreciated.

-Victor

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Amanda March 15, 2013 at 11:57 am

Hi, Victor,

Usually I am very shy to leave an comments, I am always like an outsider who does not know how to get involved. After subscribing your newsletter for months, I am really thankful for what you have done, is to share your experience with others and let them benefit from it. Thank you very very much!

Amanda

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Joy March 15, 2013 at 11:59 am

Hi Victor,

Thanks for sharing. It is quite thought-provoking and may help to answer some of my hesitations.
Keep writing.

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Justin March 15, 2013 at 12:00 pm

Thank you so much for sharing Victor. I always enjoy reading your posts.

All the best,

Justin

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Richard hp March 15, 2013 at 12:05 pm

Clearly you have been on a profound journey of realisation, and I would not want to invalidate someone who seeks to improve themselves. However I issue a warning to those who seek to understand life better through introspection. There comes a point where you’re living more in your head than in the real world. Your attention is better focused on other people, not yourself. Even the ‘self’ belief that you have no worth, is really a belief that OTHER people don’t value you.

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Victor Cheng March 15, 2013 at 2:44 pm

Richard,

Thank you for sharing. I half agree and half disagree with you. Like in all things, there’s a balance. If one focuses only on others, there’s no sense of self — which can lead to allowing others to take advantage or in extreme cases abuse oneself. If one focuses only on self, there is no opportunity for relationships with others.

“Even the ‘self’ belief that you have no worth, is really a belief that OTHER people don’t value you.”

I can’t speak about how other people feel, but for me it is hard to feel something you’ve never experienced before. For me it wasn’t just that I felt others didn’t value me, it was at my core a feeling that I didn’t value me — which is why whenever I received a favorable compliment, I would always reject it as inaccurate.

-Victor

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Richard HP March 18, 2013 at 6:29 am

Well thank you for replying.

You are correct, a balance is required. I just find that introspection tends to shift the balance too far towards introversion.

I would still consider a core belief like that differently. You at your core didn’t value yourself. But what led you to change that belief? The many emails and comments from other people saying you’d helped them? The realisation that when your dad invalidated you it was not because you were wrong but that he had some other reason for doing it? If you look closely at what I’m saying you’ll realise that you only understand yourself through other people, and that’s not to say you should neglect yourself and your own needs and allow people to take advantage of you, but to say that to understand your fellow man is of far greater importance than trying to ‘understand’ yourself.

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Victor Cheng March 18, 2013 at 1:07 pm

Richard,

Thanks for your thoughtful reply. Now that I think about it, there’s another way to look at it. I think the goal isn’t necessary to understand one’s self or others, but how people relate to one another. If I’m the observer and I want to see how two people relate to each other (say two friends who are married to each other), then as you say it’s important to understand each person in the pair.

When the relationship involves myself, then I think it makes sense to understand both sides of the relationship. In this example, that would be me and the other person.

I think as an adult, what you say is easier to do. If you look towards others, you can better understand them and how you might relate (or not relate) to them.

I think the harder part is when you’re a kid and don’t have the level of sophistication to see what’s causing others to do what they do. How they relate to you isn’t something that gets critically reasoned and analyzed by a 3 year old, 7 year old or even 13 year old child. Those explicit and implicit messages get very much internalized, bypassing many critical reasoning filters and impacts the self.

From that point forward, if you only look to others, the picture is forever incomplete. I think it necessary to look at yourself (which I suppose is the sum of the experiences you have with others which is your point) to understand your own reactions to others (due to implicitly imprinted thought patterns that often aren’t explicit conscious choices).

-Victor

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Tayo Oseni-Alexis March 15, 2013 at 12:09 pm

Victor,
Thank you so much for sharing. I am truly inspired.

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David White March 15, 2013 at 12:10 pm

Dear Victor,

That is an amazing, revealing, and I am sure freeing, testimony. Congratulations for having the courage to share it. In addition to fact-based analysis, feelings really do matter, don’t they? I found that that particular fact was seldom validated in the world of insecure overachievers who populate large firm strategy consulting.

I’m really encouraged by what you had to say. You are enabling lasting positive change in the lives of your readers.

David

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Victor Cheng March 15, 2013 at 2:50 pm

David,

Feelings ALWAYS matter. In a battle between logic and emotion, emotion always wins in some way, shape or form. It’s my belief that EVERYBODY is impacted by their emotions. Some can express it out loud, which is one of the healthier ways to deal with it.

For others, emotional energy “leaks out” in other ways — through addiction, abusing others, letting others abuse you, over-eating, gambling, seeking high risk behaviors, cutting one’s self deliberately, high blood pressure, heart attacks, depression, anxiety disorder, and the list goes on and on.

For me it was an addiction to achievement, which at first doesn’t sound like such a bad thing. It is a bad thing when you’re willing to sacrifice your health and / or relationships to do it. Thankfully, I didn’t end up going irreversibly far in those directions before figuring it out, but I’ve seen others go all the way.

-Victor

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Shreyas March 15, 2013 at 12:20 pm

Hi Victor,

I look forward to your e-mails every day and I thoroughly enjoy them. I have learned a lot from them and whether or not I get in to consulting, your ideas have tuned the way I think and I now know for sure that it will only lead to good things for me. I also enjoy your writing particularly because there is a lot of humility in it and a tone of humor that makes me feel like I really know you. And reading this today, really has made me connect with you on another level.

Everyone in this world suffers from some sort of insecurity and I have personally seen people drive to overcome it whilst others tend to fade away because of them. I am really glad you used yours to power yourself to the top and put up your ideas for so many to read, grasp and make it their own.

It’s a big pleasure. Keep going!

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Xicheng Liu March 15, 2013 at 12:44 pm

Dear Victor,

I could see myself in your story as I read.

Self-improving has always been the centre of my life.

When I was younger, I used to care a little too much about how people think about me and I ended up denying myself sometimes. But deep inside, I knew that I was different and I had talent.

As I look back now, I am grateful for those experience. I’ve realised that, people have different opinion about you because they are standing at a different perspective. They have nothing necessarily against you as a person. I’ve learnt to take negative comments or opinion as a checking device that reminds me that, there is always something that I can improve upon. This attitude stops me from slipping into my own ego. I think any negative experience or failure can also be the inception of your success.

I now still care about how people think about me. However, what I now care about is no longer if it’s a +ve or -ve comment, but I want to know if there is anything I can improve, even when I know I seem to be doing well already.

I used to give myself a lot of pressure as I want to be perfect in whatever I do. I believe it is a good attitude to have and I will keep benefiting from it. But because of that, I was sometimes vulnerable to negative comments. I think that my change of attitude in recent years not only makes my life easier, but also helps me with my very goal of being “perfect” through continuing improvement. It is a good feeling.

Let me now talk about how I got to know you and what makes me liking about your training and your story. I spotted your website around 5 months ago when I started thinking about working as a consultant after my PhD. After having read about your book and learnt about online videos and LOMS program, I am convinced that your logical problem solving technique is applicable to nearly all aspects of life. This is not an exaggerated comment.

Because of my PhD (currently 3rd yr) and family business experience, I realised that, logic is essential to life, but yet a fairly tough thing to excel. I had a strong feeling that this thing was trainable, but the path of getting there seemed vague to me, and the only way I can improve my logical way of thinking is through trial and error.

My hypothesis was confirmed when I saw your training material – Logic is indeed trainable. Just to give you one very specific example: I used to get lost from time to time when I was writing my PhD paper. It sounds funny, but it happens. The paper is simply so long, and there are many things you want to mention and analyse, and somewhere in the middle, you just forget the very question you are trying to answer. As an Economics PhD, we are sometimes scientists, but also sometimes writers, believe me, like a real “writer” who tries to convince you something just by the WAY it’s written. How can I convince you on something if I forget the main point in the first place? Your problem solving technique helps me a lot.

People may wonder, “That’s it? Your paper is no longer the same just because you don’t get lost?”. I was surprised myself too. But it makes sense. You will see what I mean if you attend a couple of academic seminars, and meet a “good” presenter, and a “bad” presenter. The “good” presenter is much clearer than the “bad” one.

Victor, I owe you a big thank you for this one, not to mention many others.

Back to what I said earlier, what strikes me the most is the path through which you improved yourself. I respect very much about the fact that you are still doing it. I guess it is not surprising after all, because this is how you become who you are today.

Thank you for sharing this. Keep up the good work Victor.

Best to Family

p.s. If you ever come to the UK in the future, I am more than happy to be your guide!

Xicheng Liu

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Victor Cheng March 15, 2013 at 2:54 pm

Xicheng,

Thank you for sharing your story. On the topic of writing, I find it ironic that English, in particular writing, was my worst subject in school.

I did not learn to write until my Engagement Manager at McKinsey taught me. The first step is to THINK clearly, the second is to write what you’re thinking.

I’ve never considered myself an exceptional writer. But I do consider myself a clear thinker and I’ve gotten better at saying what I’m thinking.

Thank you for sharing your story and thoughts.

-Victor

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Amy Zhao March 16, 2013 at 1:33 am

Dear Victor,
Thank you for this honest post.. I have been following Brene Brown for a long time and am very interested in her ideas about vulnerability. So, inspired by her thoughts, I would say, thank ou for setting an example to be vulnerable and embrace yourself.
I have always wanted to get into consulting since college. I know so many people working in McKinsey and they were all top and brilliant students in school. I always thought I am not good enough for consulting, and I did get rejected so many times. Some feedback from a food company interview said I lack business sense, and since then, I was intimidated by everything related to business. I thought I would be nothing in this area and I always feel bad about myself. Last year when I felt something is missing in my wealth management job, I find my love still lies in various business operation problems. Of couse, not recovering from that “death sentence” feedback, I didn’t know what to do and was in moderate depression. I ran into your book and your website while surfing the Internet. It was the first kindle version English book I ever bought–and it is simply great. Your book is so well written that case interview, something I always feel is “someone else’s game”, became so clear and comprehensible to me. More importantly, I have learned that I don’t need to get into consulting to prove myself to be worthy. In fact,now I became a researcher doing family business research. Your advice on doing well in case interview somehow became my guidance on research design and analysis. You are so right here about being a clear thinker. And thanks to you, I am on my way of becoming one, which I never thought I would be. The director of the research center I am in, who is both a family business owner and a business professor, said he was inpress

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Amy Zhao March 16, 2013 at 1:38 am

Dear Victor,
Thank you for this honest post. I have been following Brene Brown for a long time and am very interested in her ideas about vulnerability. So, inspired by her thoughts, I would say, thank ou for setting an example to be vulnerable and embrace yourself.
I have always wanted to get into consulting since college. I know so many people working in McKinsey and they were all top and brilliant students in school. I always thought I am not good enough for consulting, and I did get rejected so many times. Some feedback from a food company interview said I lack business sense, and since then, I was intimidated by everything related to business. I thought I would be nothing in this area and I always feel bad about myself. Last year when I felt something is missing in my wealth management job, I find my love still lies in various business operation problems. Of couse, not recovering from that “death sentence” feedback, I didn’t know what to do and was in moderate depression. I ran into your book and your website while surfing the Internet. It was the first kindle version English book I ever bought–and it is simply great. Your book is so well written that case interview, something I always feel is “someone else’s game”, became so clear and comprehensible to me. More importantly, I have learned that I don’t need to get into consulting to prove myself to be worthy. In fact,now I became a researcher doing family business research. Your advice on doing well in case interview somehow became my guidance on research design and analysis. The director of the research center I am in, who is both a family business owner and a business professor, said he was impressed by what I have done. I think the lacking of business sense thing is no longer a curse on me. You are so right in this post about being a clear thinker. And thanks to you, I am on my way of becoming one, which I never thought I would be. Thank you so much, and let me be your host when you come to Hong Kong!

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Victor Cheng March 17, 2013 at 9:01 pm

Amy,

I am a huge fan of Brene Brown. One of the big takeaways I got from her is the ability to feel an emotion is a two way street. If you want to feel the peaks of happiness, you have to be willing to let yourself feels the depths of sadness.

If you shutdown the bad feelings, it inhibits your ability to enjoy the good feelings.

The other thing I’ve learned is that one’s sense of well being is more closely correlated to the number of high quality relationships one has in one life (parents, siblings, spouse, children, friend) than number of accommplishments. One more good friend for life is worth infinitely more than another brand name on the resume.

It doesn’t mean we show I’d strive for resume accomplishments, as they are useful for practical purposes. But they provide little solid emotional value in and of themselves. For those we must look to relationships and to build deep and connecting relationships with others, we need to let others see us for who we really are. As Brene Brown says, the hard part about this is we need to be vulnerable by showing ourselves and others what we really feel, otherwise all they will ever see is our “public” face, and not our more real “private” face.

Victor

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Judith March 15, 2013 at 1:07 pm

Thank you Victor for sharing this personal story with us. I don’t usually comment on online articles, but I feel compelled to leave a statement here, mostly because I completely relate to the subject matter. To me, attaining that level of self-esteem where we are completely at peace with who we are is a continuous life journey, and as Iris pointed out above, getting to the point where we can fill that void without needing frequent emotional proof or validation from other people is what will set us free. Whether we can realistically achieve this holy grail is a different story, but it is an ideal that we can always strive for. All the best on your journey, and I look forward to reading and learning more from you. God bless.

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Bilal Elahi March 15, 2013 at 1:09 pm

Thanks for sharing Victor. As someone who can relate to your experiences, feelings and thoughts I respect you even more for sharing this so openly. This gives me courage and focus as I navigate through life.

Thanks Victor.

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Sung March 15, 2013 at 1:16 pm

(I hardly ever comment but I feel extremely compelled to do so now)

And I’ll just say you’re the ONLY newsletter (out of hundreds that I subscribe) that I look forward to and when I receive it, I push aside everything and digest every word throughly – it’s because I’ve never read anyone with such credentials’ writing that is as humble, thoughtful and selfless as yours.

Thank you Victor.

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Victor Cheng March 15, 2013 at 2:55 pm

Judith/Bilal/Sung,

Thank you – you’re very generous with your words.

-Victor

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John March 15, 2013 at 1:16 pm

Great! The article shows two main things – Gratitude and authenticity, both of which are traits of great leaders and people who have made an impact with their lives. Victor thanks for the knowledge and inspiration. I have benefited a lot from your blogs and videos.

Keep going!

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Akshay Jadhao March 15, 2013 at 1:24 pm

I think after long time finally you found your way. Im happy about that. And thanks for your all posts…your audience…

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Hussein March 15, 2013 at 1:26 pm

Dear Victor,

I just wanted to thank you for taking the mystery out of the entire process and sharing so much of your time, your experience and self. You have a lot to be proud of and I am very grateful to have come across your website more than two years ago. I am now a consultant because of what you shared and what I have learned and am learning from you will benefit me beyond my time in consulting.

Have a great weekend and God bless you and your family!

Regards,
Hussein

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Aditya Sharma March 15, 2013 at 1:28 pm

God Speed to you and what you are doing! Knowing what you are as an individual is perhaps the greatest achievement one can ever have.

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Yify March 15, 2013 at 1:53 pm

Hi Victor, I will be one more person to tell you how life changing and inspiring you are. However, it’s not the amazing degrees and career that motivate us, but your “human-ness” that makes us believe that we too, can achieve excellence. Articles like these are extremely powerful as they paint your imperfections but show a resilience to overcoming and learning from them. It’s empowering for all of us readers, and I for one, have been greatly inspired. Look forward to all your future endeavors and sharing my success with you.

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Victor Cheng March 15, 2013 at 2:56 pm

Yify

Thank you!

-Victor

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Duane March 15, 2013 at 2:04 pm

Victor –

It appears you have found what most are searching for. Thank you for the courage to share you most intimate secret with us.

Best regards,

Duane

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Meena Kumba March 15, 2013 at 2:21 pm

You have been really helpful for my case interview practice and the things you say really really works! The best of all are the words of motivation that you provide! I really appreciate your emails and do not miss any of them

On a side note, I think you have a great strategy going on for building a huge network. Keep it up!

Thanks for sharing your personal feelings.

Thank you,
Meena

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Gemma March 15, 2013 at 2:55 pm

Touching, thank you for sharing, Victor.

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JWN March 15, 2013 at 2:55 pm

Hi Victor,
Asante Sana (thank you in Kiswahili).
Please continue to share your thoughts and help people like me realize our destiny.
You are a great individual.

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Victor Cheng March 15, 2013 at 2:57 pm

Thanks everyone for sharing your stories, thoughts and kind words. It is much appreciated.

-Victor

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Ali March 15, 2013 at 3:00 pm

Victor – I signed onto your mailing list initially for your great insight into consulting prep, but it’s been all your non-consulting articles that have struck a serious cord in me. This piece, in particular, has compelled me into dropping my first message here.

I am floored. Floored by your candidness, humility, and deep insight into the human psyche. Thank you for putting into eloquent words what I’ve been wrestling with for a while. I did not land any consulting jobs, but I’ve found my passion and am uncompromising in its pursuit.

Unlike you, I do not possess a stellar track record of academic/professional achievements. What I do have, I guess, is the outwardly thoughtful and empathetic nature that my family and friends ascribe towards me. These complements, though, have always troubled me at an uncomfortably deep level because I felt they did not level with my inward feelings about myself. “If only you knew the real me,” is what I would think to myself. “If only you saw my grades would you realize how UN-thoughtful I am!”

I have discovered that, like you, I receive far more satisfaction when I can help someone else accomplish a goal rather than trying to attain them myself. And even though I continue to climb the success ladder on paper, and even though I continue to struggle with being at peace with my self-worth, I can take heart in the fact there are stellar folks out there like yourself who take the time and pain to let us know that there is a way to be truly happy.

Thank you.

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Victor Cheng March 17, 2013 at 7:51 pm

Ali,

Sometimes one’s friends and family know us better than we know ourselves. Best wishes on your personal journey.

Victor

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Melissa March 15, 2013 at 3:00 pm

I will be one more person to thank you for this. You are truly an inspiration; a kind, generous person, with high integrity, and a stronger character :)

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Chinedu Ogbu March 15, 2013 at 3:09 pm

I read this post and all that came to my mind was an old African adage. Sometimes, THE BEST WAY TO FREE YOURSELF, IS TO FREE OTHERS. Now, you are free. Thanks for liberating others. Thank you teacher and mentor.

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Niyi Balogun March 15, 2013 at 3:13 pm

Dear Victor,

Like a kid presented with a wrapped present, your email notifications excite my senses. Whilst considering career options, I had stumbled into your rich and informative mind. Hoping to filter through quickly, I never thought a long-term quasi-mentor(ee) relationship would begin and be sustained.

I cant thank you enough for the value you add to our lives and so, here is my personal THANK YOU.

Niyi Balogun,
Lagos, Nigeria.

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Ed March 15, 2013 at 3:23 pm

Others discover all of these things at different times and in different orders. Some find it through FAITH in God, or faith in their place in the world. It is more important HOW you live than WHAT you have at 70. Learning to be independent is more important than learning how to play some game that makes you miserable. God gave us our own brains…use them. I am still trying to get a ‘career’ almost 20 years after my MBA, but as I try, I have had an adventure that has been unique, excellent and difficult. We all need to appreciate our own paths and know that no human being can accurately judge us…only fools think that they can accurately do that.

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Hayward March 15, 2013 at 5:03 pm

Thanks Victor, you are a good person.

Appreciatively,
Hayward

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YJ March 15, 2013 at 5:24 pm

Dear Victor,

Greetings from San Diego!

It’s just so much joy reading your post. I have to say that at some point you lure me into this consulting and case interviews (I did interviewed with McK) and at another your self discovery post somewhat convinced me that it may not be a suitable career for me. To be honest with you, about 9 months ago, your marketing emails would be the last few emails I would read and since the past 3 months I have been waiting for “Victor Cheng” in my inbox and kept sharing them with my friends. I’m not sure if it’s a real change in me or in the nature of your emails. But I do know my friends and I are liking them more and more.

I think I’m way behind you on the journal to career, self discovery and realization. I would, however, as Steve Jobs put it, “Keep looking. Don’t settle”. Yet, being in an unsettled state is uneasy. It is your posts and stories that encourage me to push on.

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Dee March 15, 2013 at 5:38 pm

Dear Victor,

Your postings were always read as a guiding light that reassures us that we’re on the right path. Thank you for sharing with us your journey.

Dee

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David March 15, 2013 at 5:53 pm

Dear Viktor,

I have been a fan for many years now – ever since I looked at your case interview prep videos. Nowadays I always get excited when I see a newsletter from you. I get curious to see what insight you have chosen to share this time (and I promise, there has been many over the years). This was one of my favourites – likely because I recognise myself in your personal stories. When I read it, I realized I have never thanked you for all of your work – THANK YOU SO MUCH!

David, Sweden

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Shailendra Bade March 15, 2013 at 6:55 pm

Victor,
You are simply a man of integrity. The only happiness you look for is in helping everybody with whatever best humanly possible.

You were running the photo contest some time back. I entered there and thought I have a definite chance with NASA pic considering the tips about capturing oneself with your book and the monument. I was all set to plan meeting with you and discuss my future roadmap!! But I lost and really this was the first time I was happy because I trusted your judgement. When I looked at the winning picture I realized that you have voted for the thought that has gone in each of the picture – the soul. I was simply very happy to find better entries winning and moreover your integrity in action!!!

Victor…..these days they have stopped making people like you. The mould has been dismantled!!!

Regards,
Shailendra

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Emre March 15, 2013 at 7:02 pm

Dear Victor,
I have been following your entries closely since the time I wanted to be a consultant: because that’s how I found you…
I was about to finish my Ph.D. and I was looking at my options. And consulting seemed to be a good way to advance my career. I found your website and blog entries very beneficial for my applications. Even though I gave up on consulting and decided to pursue academic career, I still follow your entries and read all your e-mails. That’s because I really like them and find them helpful, not only for consulting, but also for academia and even all other aspects of life…
I am sure there are several others who agree with me…
Thank “you” for everything,
Emre

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Mehmet March 15, 2013 at 8:44 pm

I agree with you Emre.

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Kostas March 15, 2013 at 7:12 pm

Dear Victor,

Thank you for an amazing journey to knowledge, self-awareness, self-esteem and gratefulness. I really look forward to your next thoughts my friend.

Best wishes,
Kostas

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Beedee March 15, 2013 at 9:46 pm

Dear Uncle Victor (this is what I refer to you as),
To echo the sentiment of others, I say thank you. Thank you for taking time out of your daily life to help others. Your advice on consulting and life in general have become my watchword and it is humbling to know that the Victor Cheng feels as I do.

All my best,
Bodunde

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Steve March 15, 2013 at 10:09 pm

Hi Victor,

This is first time I am leaving my comments in any blog. I am from Singapore and have been entertaining thoughts on joining consulting after working 4 years since graduation. I really like to thank you for the daily mail and this story. They are truly inspiring.

Similar to you, I am not satisfied with myself and it comes from problems with my self esteem even though I look confident on the outside. There are a whole set of personal problems (for e.g always trying to seek acceptance from others, being self centered, procrastination, arrogant, critical, pessimism etc) that I have not dealt with but focused on getting a better career and indulging in material goods and food to ignore my most fundamental problems – personality and character.

Your blog post have clearly showed even with your personal achievements, you are not satisfied until you advanced to the next level of greatness – to serve and receive. I truly thank you for showing this distinction and hope that I can use this newfound awareness to improve myself a little more.

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maxim March 15, 2013 at 10:53 pm

Hi Victor,

I can understand perfectly what you are talking about as I am now in the mid of the same wonderful journey. Let me share my experience with you – it may give you some hints how to move forward.
It started a year ago, when I quit from CEO position of a leading financial company. I somehow came to understanding that making more money woudn’t make me much happier, and that my problem was of internal nature rather that of my achievements on the social scale. So I decided to buy some spare time to ‘fix my brain’.
Ironically, I had no clue what to start with – as I was considered quite successful on the social merits and did not see (or heard/read about) someone who would tackle similar problem (except Neo from Matrix).
After some consideration I came up with the idea (as you did) that my problem was deeply inherent low self-esteem (which was not cured by excellent social status) and that it was somehow related to my father’s attitude to me. You have mentioned a single episode that you think has blocked you – I could not remember such in my experience – it was rather father’s ongoing attitude of being much more demanding than rewarding.
Having realized that I see myself through the prism of my father’s attitude (or, more correctly, through my perception of my father’s attitude), I decided to talk to my father in hope that it would help somehow. The conversation was a tough thing for both of us that had a definitely positive effect – we got much closer to each other. However, it haven’t helped much with raising my self-esteem, though my father assured me that he love me and always did.
I was a bit tangled what to do next, so I spent much time learning psychological literature in hope to find some clues. At some point, I realized that there is a vast difference between FEELING worth (some emotional thing that needs no reasons) and UNDERSTANDING your worth. In the first case you need no reasons for feeling worth – you just know on an unconscious level that you are ‘the salt of the earth’ and ‘the light of the world’ – just because you are a human being. In the second – you don’t feel it, but always looking for reasons to justify it to yourself – by social status, bank account, job achievements, rank to peers, number of fans, etc. The trick of this state is that you understand that you are good on the conscious level, but deep inside feel still miserable.
Therefore, the key issue here is how to make a transition from understanding worth to feeling worth. For me, this was the toughest challenge of my life (and still is) – changing my features which I considered inborn to my nature – a way when I was seriously afraid of my health – both mental and physical. I could imagine why for some it is much easier to earn another billion than to go through this.
In my understanding, the underlying reason behind feeling one way (and not the other way) is an overwhelming FEAR that stuck on unconscious level in early age (much earlier than 11 y.o., probably even earlier than a child learns to speak). Therefore, you can barely solve the problem just logically understanding that your feeling ‘unworth’ is irrational or by identifying a case in the past that you think has caused it.
I am deeply convinced that what you described as a ‘personal shameful secret’ is an overwhelming case in contemporary society, especially among high-achievers (as I see, low self-esteem is a main driving force for achievements). However, probably only 10% realize that something is wrong, and maybe less that 1% try to change things (those are called leaders, or messiah, or insane).
As I see, three things (as you taught) support the current regrettable state:
1. Biased values of contemporary society, that are not designed to make a man happy but rather force him to consume more. At the age of 35 I clearly saw that my navigation tools (metrics) that I use to judge my success were completely misleading.
2. Implicit belief that the man’s character (and feelings) are formed in early age and could not be changed. As a result, many could identify some unpleasant traits in their character, but those are perceived as inborn characteristics that could not be changed (only option is to accept them and persuade/force others to do the same).
3. A widespread delusion that a feeling could be changed on a logical or conscious level – the role of fear as a main force that prevents a character from being changed is undervalued. Therefore, those who try to change themselves are usually scared away and try to get back to ‘normal state’ (their comfort zone).

All in all, thank you for the story and good luck!

Love you,
Max

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Victor Cheng March 17, 2013 at 8:05 pm

Max,

Thank you so much for your kind words and sharing your story. My story is very similar. While I had one distinct memory that stood out, the real impact was spread out over many years.

At a society level, particularly in certain social circles, the culture really emphasizes achievement. As a father of three daughters, I actually think it is much worse for women than men. I am very concerned about launching my kids into a world that I view largely as hostile to one self esteem (if one isn’t aware of what is going on and why it is going on).

One thing for everyone to realize is that engineered status symbols exist for a reason — usually because somebody is making money off of its existence. Consumption of material goods favors the producer of such goods. There is an incentive to encourage (or at least not discourage) insecurity in the minds of its customers for the insecure person spends much more money to (temporarily allay his anxiety) than the secure one.

Good luck with the rest of your own journe and thank you so much for sharing.

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Maria March 15, 2013 at 11:08 pm

Dear Victor,
Thank you so much for sharing your true story with me and you hardly know how much you are alike me in emotions. I am in the best major in the best university of China, but I am not as smart as people around me. I was accepted because my skills in singing inspired them. I used to give up in my study and seldom did I answer questions in classes like I did in high school even though I knew the answers. But recently, I got some chances my classmates didn’t and I was shocked by it. But like what you shared, I am becoming a little bit more confidence. I am following your spirits now and hope we can live more happy lives and gain sense of achievements! Best regards!

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Joe March 15, 2013 at 11:37 pm

I learned about this “hedonic escalation”. I took the time to understand what cause a hedonic in me. I realized that I need to stop and ask myself, “What am I chasing and if I ever grab this? Will it make me happy and satisified?” I find myself said yes. Then, I ask myself, am I fooling myself into think what it is suppose to be.” I answered, “No”. Then, I asked myself why five time to get to the root cause of my hedonistic pursuits. When I identified the root cause and then I asked myself a a better question to restrategize my life choice.

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Rach March 16, 2013 at 12:00 am

This is deep. It mirrors the way I have felt for a very long time….I can’t but think about all the times I’ve had something to say, but I refrain from speaking because I’m not sure if its the ‘smart’ thing to say.
I discovered you and subscribed to your mails about 2 years ago when I was preparing for my first (and only) Case interview after my MBA. I didn’t pass it.
I am now a successful Project Manager in a multinational Telecoms company, and I still find very great value in the lessons I constantly learn from you. However, of all I have learnt from you in the past, this is the greatest lesson of all!

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saravanan rajan March 16, 2013 at 1:17 am

Arguably one of the best article that you have written …..and the first time that i am sending a reply , though i have been following you for almost an year by now !!!

By the way …i am one of those many who is trying to get into business consulting ….and surely have the same feel when i meet any of those consultants …” Intimidated” !

But surely have an interesting story to tell…may be it might help someone else ..or might receive some interesting insights from you and others….

I practiced physiotherapy for nearly a decade ..(Sports physiotherapist) ..did my Masters in South Africa …had a good bash in the profession ….

Some how did not have the feel of “fulfillment” ..wanted to do more and bigger things ….touch more lives …don’t know how !!!

I am fascinated by setting up and or running something…and do more variety … am one of those who get easily “bored” or hit the feel of stagnating or monotonous !!!

So did my MBA…from University of Witwatersrand, from the moment that i was introduced to the subject “Strategy”…i fell in love with it ….

It makes lot of sense and fun to do all the analytical work to figure out what the best thing to do …..

Landed up in a corporate strategy department with a infrastructure company in India !!! and recently trying to get into business consulting as i keep searching for that variety and excitement of new learning …..

But find it hard to break into the stereotype profile that any business consulting firm look for ….

That’s when i hit that feeling of “am i not worth being there” or am i really that bad that am not able to crack into those interviews ?? which are rare to come by owing to my odd CV !!!

But articles like your’s keeps me going !!!!

I strongly believe that I will make it one day ….and will sure let you know !!!

Thanks for everything that you have done ..knowingly and unknowingly …..

Cheers
Saravanan Rajan

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Liz March 16, 2013 at 1:40 am

Hi Victor

Thanks for sharing this with your audience, it humanizes you at a time when most people want to appear superhuman. This week I received the news that I had not made it for final interview round at McKinsey. While this hurt I went back to a list of the ideal job I had written after I quit my last consulting job and realized that my job search wasn’t right. I was going down the same path I had promised not to. So I’m now searching for the right thing for me and not what is right by other’s standards. Like Steve Jobs said, like a lover I will know it when I find it.w

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Victor Cheng March 17, 2013 at 8:09 pm

Liz,

Good luck on your ongoing search. I think its a wonderful idea to write down a list of what you want in an ideal job, and then use that as a benchmark for your career choices.

When I’ve gotten into trouble in my own career, it was always due not being clear on what I wanted and why I wanted it. Good job in being highly self aware of yourself (it’s not easy to do!) and in continuing to find what is right for your life.

Victor

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Moses Were March 16, 2013 at 2:10 am

Wau! i have read many of your writings but this is a class apart it very much touches my personality history and so forth am extremely moved,motivated and energized to look father be blessed and continue serving millions people world wide, i have learnt a lot from you.

Moses Were.
Kampala Uganda East Africa

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Ebenezer Makinde March 16, 2013 at 3:49 am

Dear Victor,

The inspiration you give to me and others is way beyong gratification. All the testimonials and tips on consulting and life general is extraordinary and I always wait anxiously for alerts on my personal devices for the next Victor Cheng’s editorial :) I’ve dona alot of interviews with different consulting firms from McK and twice from Accenture without success but I’ll keep learning and improving because you always tell your followers to pursue their dreams and improve on failures… I know I will be sharing my great testimony with you very soon.

Cheers my very good pen consulting pal :)

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Vivien March 16, 2013 at 4:11 am

Dear Victor,
I am really really grateful for you,your character and your email inspire me all the time,I hope I can be someone like you one day.
Best Regards,
Vivien

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Mohamed Arif March 16, 2013 at 4:46 am

Dear Victor,

First of all, I thank you for sharing your ideas and expertise at Mckinsey. Your inspiring mails not only taught me something but it transformed my view of a consulting firm into a positive one. Currently, I am trying to get into the best MBA programs and once I am done with that, with your encouragement and support I will be able to enter Bain and Mckinsey.

Once again, thank you very much!

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Jane March 16, 2013 at 8:14 am

Dear Victor,you never seize to amaze me!I have been reading your articles from time to time and they have been indeed rewarding and inspiring. Thank you for opening up, It makes me feel more encouraged because for many years, I believed something was absolutely wrong with me. I have had a turn around and the secret is to only think positive things about yourself. I know you are going places so keep up the good work! kudos to you victor!

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Femi Ekwuyasi March 16, 2013 at 9:03 am

Hello victor,
As usual, you have once delivered a thought provoking and self discovery write up, I do appreciate you.

I must confess, I have been In similar situation from my childhood till now but your story has made me discover areas in my life I have overlooked but of great value and blessing to people around me. It’s eye opening now I see myself in a better light.

Thank you once again victor for this masterpiece.

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Sinda March 16, 2013 at 9:19 am

Thank you Victor for sharing your personal experiences. It means a lot, not only for giving guidance and an insight in consultancy but also in real life. You just provided us the reality out there. THANK YOU!

You are a person who sets no limit on anything and have a strong indomitable will. Once again, thank you.

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Bipin March 16, 2013 at 9:49 am

Victor,

Thanks for sharing this personal journey. As they say, the quest for self-discovery eventually takes a sage to the realization that there is no “self.”

On the path to finding me,
I learned what I had to learn,
I searched what I had to search,
Then I found…
….That there was no me

Success, failure, happiness, sorrow, health, wealth – all are transient in the grand scheme of things. Reminds me of a verse (Tao-Te-Ching)

He lets all things come and go
effortlessly, without desire.
He never expects results;
thus he is never disappointed.
He is never disappointed;
thus his spirit never grows old.

It is a hard state to reach – very few have and very few will.

Do not rely so much on external validation to measure your value, because unfortunately that too shall pass some day.

Be comfortable with the fact that you mean well and you are doing what you need to do (as a husband, father, son, brother, friend, etc.) and let everything else flow.

Please don’t try so hard and mostly, just be kind to yourself – you are all you have.

Thanks,
Bipin

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Ketan March 16, 2013 at 9:57 am

Hi Victor,
Thank you for sharing. Truly inspiring. I can relate to
your point about filling the “hole” with materialistic things.

Best,
Ketan

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Pedro March 16, 2013 at 11:19 am

Ok, this time you made it Cheng. You have forced me to write this, I cannot help it any more:

BRAVO. Well said. Congrats. And thank you for saving us youngsters from years and years of wrong goals and metrics.

Thank you Victor.

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George March 16, 2013 at 5:09 pm

Hi Victor,

Thank you for writing this wonderful letter to us. I, like many others, have never commented on your blog though I have followed it. I actually came across it as a first-year graduate student who panicked and didn’t want to stay in his program. However, I’ve learned that you can apply strategize and clear thinking to any domain of life, not just in preparation for a consulting interview. While I will live the penurious life a little while longer, I am secure in the fact that I can take control of some aspects of my life and think about the long-term investment in an education and in ideas. Thank you for this realization and I hope to grow alongside you. Best of luck!

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Sulaiman March 16, 2013 at 9:59 pm

Hello Victor,

Thank you for your letter. Your emails are interesting and always hold a gem of wisdom and utility that can be applied in several aspects of life. But now the reason why it is so is clear; you have been intensely involved in both the ‘thinking’ and ‘doing’ spheres of business and life right from an early age.

I have always battled with burden of low self esteem even in the face relatively good accomplishments-maybe the issue of low self esteem is one of humanity’s ailments. However, after reading your letter and considering the high esteem in which i hold you, i now feel my self esteem issues may not be real issues after all.

Thank you for sharing your secrets with us Victor, and i look forward to receiving more of those amazing emails from you.

Sulaiman

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Thiago March 16, 2013 at 10:25 pm

Victor,

Congratulations! It is much difficult to share fellings than knowlege. And I am sure it is more easy to do that through writting than face-to face. I am not judging you… Just the opposite. It is a very good beginnig!

I know exactly what you feel. In all my life I was the best in every academic things I have done. Best grades in school. The first kid in my school to win a knowlege contest that used to happen every year with just 11 years old. In the next year they didn’t allowed me to participate and put me as a “judge”. 9th place in the test to enter college. One of the 10 best of college. And…. didnt pass in consulting. But…. did pass in a bank interniship (to be precise I will be part of an equity research team).

In the first moment, I was very upset. In the second one, I was too. How? Because I was still thinking in what I missed!

Your share made me understand that no matter how good you are in some fields, there will be a lot of other that you will be not. Actually, what matter is how you feel about your accomplishments and not what they are!

Thank you! Keep on!

Thiago.

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Victor Cheng March 17, 2013 at 8:26 pm

Thiago,

“it is much more difficult to share feelings than knowledge.”

You are so right!

I had to take a whole day off after writing this post because by 8am I was exhausted. While I completely agree with your statement, I think that ideally the opposite should be true.

Victor

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Joshua March 16, 2013 at 11:28 pm

Hi Victor,

Your publications, emails, and written persona have been inspirational to countless people and you are an absolute rockstar. I’ve had trouble trouble relating to others in the past and found solace from your writings when I’ve the chance to read pieces related to a particular though. Keep growing, keep moving forward, and don’t ever change your compassion for anybody.

Thank you

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Igor March 17, 2013 at 1:14 am

Dear Victor, I couldn’t not to write to you after this message.

Thank you for sharing of not only consulting related posts but for thoughts about life experience, emotions, mood, confidence and humans interaction. It was always very intresting, some times intriguing and, of cource, very useful.
This message also gave me useful thoughts which I will learn and apply.

Thank you for being a mentor.

And I’m looking forward to hearing your ideas and thoughts in the future!

Best regards, Igor

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Valkal March 17, 2013 at 3:21 am

. . . at places I realized I am reading my own story . . . . it’s a gift to read you and learn from your reading and experience.

Keep writing, your words mean a lot to many people in both sense; logical and emotional.

-Valkal

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Victor Cheng March 17, 2013 at 8:27 pm

Valkal,

Thank you. I too have seem my own story in the story of others.

Victor

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Mohammad Khasawneh March 17, 2013 at 6:37 am

Dear Victor,

As much as I have learned from your E-mails, books, and LOMS program ; I have to admit that I have learned from this E-mail a lesson in life.

This week I will be sitting for my first round interviews with Mckinsey and to tell you the truth I am having all types of thoughts,fears and dreams. Your E-mail came to tell me that what ever you do or accomplish doesn’t really matter if you don’t believe in your self and capitalize on that.

I have learned a lot form your program and now I am learning from your personal experience . I think the value you added to my personal experience \professional one is worth mentioning and I cant thank you enough for that.

despite the outcome of the interviews I will always appreciate the work you have done and the value you have added to a lot of people and kids.

I wish you the best of luck in all your efforts and projects and looking forward to meet you one day .

Mohammad N. F. Khasawneh

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Adriano Bacelar March 17, 2013 at 9:33 am

Dear Victor Cheng,

It was a big pleasure to know your work and you better. All information that you give us the opportunity of read have important and powerful concepts, there is a lot of intelligence around that.

Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and expertise with us. I wish you knew that this knowledge will be put in practice helping myself and people who really needs help in Brazil to improve our life in someway.

Best regards,

Adriano Bacelar

General Director
Lacir Bacelar & Company
Phone: +55 (27) 9859-7733
SkypeId: bacelar00033
LinkedIn: br.linkedin.com/in/adrianobacelar

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Lyndon March 17, 2013 at 1:19 pm

Thank you for this entry.
I’ve long struggled and sometimes continue to struggle with my issue of self-esteem. Although my situation is unlike yours; I can relate to yours. I’ve always thought people don’t “need” people, but I’ve been wrong. Our family, friends, mentors, and so continue to provide us support when we need it most.

I’m fortunate to hear about your story. I’m somewhat lost for words.

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Kyle March 17, 2013 at 1:39 pm

Thanks for the great post Victor. As someone who used your advice to get a great job I can only say, please keep up the good work. It is definitely appreciated!

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Ahmed March 17, 2013 at 6:25 pm

Thank you Victor,
I rarely comment on articles. But this is something unique :)

Ahmed

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Victor Cheng March 17, 2013 at 8:49 pm

Hi Everyone,

I am truly and deeply humbled by your stories and your words. After I had finished writing this piece, I walked around for about 15 minutes before I could bring myself to push the publishes and “send email” button. It took a few deep breaths and a little leap of faith that I would not regret publishing what I wrote, before click on the button. I am glad that I did.

The community that has developed around all of us is truly amazing. I feel quite honored to hear your stories. It reminds me that I am (and we aren’t) alone in our struggles.

One of the reasons I decided to publish my private thoughts was to reinforce the idea that at the end of the day, we are all just people. We all have value just for being who we are.

I’m aware that a great many people think highly of me and my accomplishments… to the point, in some cases, of putting me up high on some pedestal. I very much want to discourage any such tendency. We should all hold each other in high esteem.

Yes, accomplishments are worth perusing for a variety of reasons. Yes, they should be admired. However, accomplishments I think should be separate and independent from how we value one another.

I know a wide range of people. I value the nice ones much more than the mean ones — even if the mean ones are more accomplished, possess more power, or have attained more financial resources.

One of the complaints clients sometimes have about consultants is the attitude some give off that the consultant is somehow “better” than the client. It is one thing to have more knowledge or experience than another, it is another to act like that gives you the right to rest someone poorly.

I encourage you to respect everyone you encounter in life for we can all agree that we would like everyone to respect us.

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Michael Tuori March 17, 2013 at 9:24 pm

Hi Victor,

Your emails have helped me a lot in improving my approach to business problems even after I stopped actively pursuing a career in consulting. This email, however, has moved me on a deeply personal and emotional level.

I come from a abusive childhood and poverty. I lived in foster homes and was homeless when I was 16.

I earned my GED at 22 and have recently earned two masters degrees from MIT. While I know that this is quite an achievement I still measure myself by the outward appearances of my peers, and always seem to come up short. On top of that, I feel out of place because of my background and feel too insecure to share that part of my experience with others.

It’s refreshing to see you open up about something so personal in an industry that is all about outward appearances. I often feel like I am being petty about still carrying around pain from my childhood now that I am 30 years old and have become relatively successful in life. I have to remember that we carry pain from our childhood our whole lives. I need to remember to nurture my self esteem rather than repress the pain.

Thank you very much for sharing this. This can help individuals in ways much greater than just guiding them in landing positions in top consulting firms.

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Jean March 18, 2013 at 2:41 am

Hi Victor

Thank you for the inspiring message!!

PS: Sounds like someone has attended the “Breakthrough Experience” by Dr John Demartini…..? ;)

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Victor Cheng March 26, 2013 at 9:26 am

Jean,

Thanks!

And I did not attend the Demartini program, though it looks interesting.

Victor

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Andy K March 18, 2013 at 5:37 am

I hardly leave comments but this is something I’ve always been pondering upon.

Just like you said, Victor, unless you have self-esteem, it is like pouring water to fill the leaking bucket.

Hope many readers of yours will use this article as a guiding light to a happier life, rather than “successful” life.

Now that you not only know but have courage to share, you’re a true VICTOR of your life.

Andy

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Victor Cheng March 26, 2013 at 9:27 am

Andy,

You’re very kind. Thank you.

Victor

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Nylia March 19, 2013 at 2:21 pm

Thank Victor, you are a wonderful person! Thank you for sharing your very personal experience. The timing of receiving your email was flawless. I really needed the encouragement as I have had a similar life experience and embarking into a new career in Investment Banking and wanting to start my own non-profit has been challenging. I believe as you do, from personal experience I believe your mind can and will be made over by looking at what you do well and recounting the times your assistance was appreciated big or small. Please keep sharing your positive perspective and guidance!!!

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Nduka March 21, 2013 at 5:19 am

Hi Victor,
Thanks for sharing this. It was indeed fun for someone like me who also had a humble upbringing to read your story. The issue of Self Esteem had been a problem to me in the past but latter in life I started to appreciate myself just the way I am and this has been helpful to me in life. I now live my life not the live the society or people around me project.

Well done for the good work you are doing. Many of us have learned a lot from you especially in applying the principles of consulting to everyday business situation.

Deo Gratia

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Hanna March 24, 2013 at 6:51 pm

Dear Victor,

I’ve been reading your writing for over a year now, and I have to say that your last couple of writings – this one about your “shameful secret” and the one about success and determination and Michael Jordan – have been favorite ones so far. I also think these have been your most important writings. I used to think, “Wow, Victor is such a perfect person, with his degrees from Stanford and being seemingly one of the best consultants at McKinsey. I can never be as amazing as him (and therefore am worth less than him).” Well, a part of me still thinks that, but I am completely amazed/surprised that someone as successful as you can have problems of self-esteem (I guess I’m still puzzling over it – maybe when I’m older I will understand it better). I really do appreciate your courage in sharing this personal story with all of your readers – it shows the human side to highly successful people, and it gives me a lot of inspiration, and I think you’re a great mentor and role model. Being in college, in a place where I feel like my peers have a tendency to judge people’s worth on their accomplishments and big-name places people have worked at, seeing humility and honesty from someone like you is a huge breath of fresh air. So I’m deeply thankful that you shared this story.

Switching gears, you mentioned in an earlier post that you’re starting a newsletter giving us advice about life in general. I was extremely happy to hear that and am particularly looking forward to your advice about how to find the right jobs to get you where you want to be. You’ve already written quite a bit on this topic, but I still find it difficult to stand up to “general pressure from people” to pursue specific careers, such as consulting or finance, and if you have any more advice about having to put up with pressures like that, it would be much appreciated.

I don’t know if you travel to campuses to give consulting interview training, but if you do and you happen to be coming to any schools in Cambridge or Boston, I would love to have the opportunity to see you in person.

Thanks,
Hanna

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Victor Cheng March 26, 2013 at 9:54 am

Hanna,

Thanks for your thoughtful remarks. Success is external. Self esteem is internal. The two are independent. Seem people, myself included, use the external to compensate for the lack of the internal. It doesn’t work very well. To solve an internal issue, one has to do the work internally.

In terms of resisting the voice of others, there are two ways to tackle this issue. The first is better, but harder. The second still works, and is easier.

1) Know yourself and know what YOU want. If others are unduly able to influence you, it is a sign (I could be wrong) that your sense of self isnt yet very strong. You are still only in college, so to a large extent this is understandable. However, I find that some people with very strong (some would say overly strong) parental influences (some would say interference) will be so accustomed to listening to the voices of their parents in terms of what they should want, that when they’re finally are on their own and able to ask themselves what they want, there’s a deafening silence in response.

One’s self identity is like a muscle. The more you use it, the more others encourage you to use it, the more you insist on using it, the more developed it becomes.

As for me, I had a pretty strong sense of what’s wanted. My problem is when I deviated from what was expected, and didn’t get that external reinforcement from others that I was accustomed to, I didn’t have the self esteem to feel good about myself even though my choices were off the beaten path. To my credit I did it anyways, which I am proud of myself for, but my own sense of self was not very well developed.

2) the other approach is to critically analyze the assumptions, premises and implied goals of “conventional wisdom”

It never ceases to amaze me that the ivy and ivy equivalent schools say they teach critical thinking. To me critical thinking means INDEPENDENT thinking. Yet of the 10,000+ professions in the world, the majority of graduates only want to go into 5 fields – medicine, law, engineering, consulting or investment banking.

In my opinion this is RIDICULOUS.

In my opinion, it shows a degree of physical or intellectual laziness. On campuses, the majority of people apply to firms that come on campus to recruit. There are many more employers who do NOT come on campus than those who do. The world is a big place. There are many options.

So when you hear someone say, oh you should definitely pursue XYZ career option, you always need to stop and ask them (or ask yourself)

A) What’s your objective where XYZ decision makes sense?

B) What’s important to you? (aka what are your personal values?)

All career decisions need to be made in the context of one’s objectives and one’s values. Both of these factors are PERSONAL factors that by definition vary from one person to another.

So if you accept someone else’s thinking about what career to pursue, realize that you are implicitly accepting their values and their objective.

I think this is a dangerous thing to do. It subjects you to being manipulated. You are either living your own dream or you are being co-opted into fulfilling someone else’s dream.

My suggestion is for the time being ignore any career decision.

Sit down and write a note to yourself on what you hope your life will be like 10 years from now. Be as specific as possible and cover every facet of life – personal, family, romantic, geographic, financial, physical, literally thing you can possibly think of.

This might be really hard to do.

It is SUPPOSED to be hard. By the say, nobody every does this.

From the picture, tease out a list of what’s important to you… What you value.

For example, the things I value are my kids, having control over my time, not being around a**holes, being able to pick and choose the kind of people I work with, being able to teach others, being able to contribute in some meaningful way to others, being able to continually learn new things (I get bored easily), earn enough money to enable all the above and a little extra as buffer against uncertainty (major medical, accidental death) for me and my family.

I run all my career decisions through this values-based filter. Once my values are clear and my objective is clear, the stepping stone decisions are much easier to make.

Victor

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Hanna April 7, 2013 at 1:21 pm

Hi Victor,

Thank you so much for taking the time to write this. I think people I have met basically fall into two camps: those who think that a person should follow their passions, and others who think a person should enter lucrative careers — for the prestige and for not having to worry about not having enough money.

I think I have a pretty good idea of my interests (specifically international development/social justice issues, and how technology and business can help in both of these areas) and what I value (a lot of which cross over with yours), but I don’t think I have a good idea of how to get there, even after talking with a lot of people. This is not like becoming a doctor, the first career I considered (for the wrong reasons), where the career path is marked out pretty clearly step by step. The other challenge, as you mentioned for yourself, is not getting the validation you need from others. There are some who are supportive, and there are some who imply through their speech that I should just forget it. But then again, I think back to Barack Obama’s book “Dreams From My Father” to the part where he writes about how some person he met told him he should forget about his passions and go be a radio/TV host, and imagining the President letting go of what he wanted re-inspires me again.

There are also a number of people who I have met who have pursued one of the five common careers you mentioned upon first coming out of school but then later tried to find their way back to their true interests. I don’t know what you think of managing one’s career this way.

Again, thanks so much for your reply – I’ll definitely keep your advice in mind!

Hanna

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Victor Cheng April 7, 2013 at 2:16 pm

To paraphrase one of my teachers, Gary Vayerchuk, most people over optimize to being the most satisfied with the next 5 years of your life, and not enough on the last 5 years of your life.

Sure aiming for your dreams doesn’t always work out, especially not immediately, but you rarely regret at least trying. At the end of your life, I think it is better to say definitely I tried X, I failed at X, I have no regrets, than to die wondering what if I would have, could have, or should have…

The former is a statement with a closed ending. The latter is a question, with no answer. I personally don’t want to leave this world with questions unanswered. Truly we all only live once, and what is the purpose of life if we’re not actually willing to live it.

In terms of the compromise option, do the safe thing for a few years, then do the thing you really want to do, it is a legitimate option. The main risk though is you get too comfortable with the safe choice… The golden handcuffs problem… It is really just a self imposed mental challenge, but the pull of it can be quite strong. The key question though is does taking the safe step advanced you closer to your goal or not?

The other thing to consider is time. I think it takes 10 years to become truly exceptional at something. I have a cousin, who is really more of a niece to me, who dreams of being a screenwriter. She writes every day. She writes poems, novellas, short stories, screenplays, all kinds of stuff.

She knows it takes 10 years to get good, so she is busy now writing, and getting better. She is very determined. The part I didn’t mention is she is only 14 years old and she started when she was 13. I suggested she focus and work l Iike in this passion of hers and by the time she turns 24 years old, she will be on her 2nd decade as a writer.

Personally I think she might make. She has enough raw talent, and she is incredibly determine and willing to work hard for it.

Now the “safe route” for her would be to just focus on school, get a “safe” degree like a computer science, work for a few years in a “safe” job, and then maybe dabble as a screenwriter… With plenty of safe backup career choices. The problem is then she’s not really starting the process until she’s 25 years old, not good until she’s 35 years old, and by then there are competing interests like having kids, aging parents, and life just gets more complicated with time.

The other consideration is if you need a stepping stone career step, you want something that leaves you with enough time to work on what you really want to work on on the side. If the stepping stone career step legitimately helps you develop skills you need for what you really want to do, then it can be worth doing aggressively. The key is to start with the end in mind and then work backwards to see what next steps make the most sense.

In terms of not knowing what the steps are, I would suggest asking friends of friends, family members, alumni who are in the field you ultimately want to be in and just asking them what it is like to do what they do. It really helps to have role models to reference in your thinking, otherwise it’s all a theoretical conversation.

Finally, I will say this. Extremely happy and career satisfied people require little money to live a deeply fulfilling life… one with no regrets.

Miserable people require a lot of money to compensate for being miserable, and they eventually discover that no amount of money is enough to compensate for being miserable.

Those are the two extremes, and there are plenty of shades of grey in the middle.

This is real life and there are no rules. The only rules that matter are the ones you decide for yourself. This is one thing that is NOT taught in school.

The premise of school is you succeed by following the rules. This is also true in life. But what nobody ever tells you is in real life you are allowed to write and re-write your own rules as you see fit.

If you apply your choices versus someone else’s rules, you will always optimize for what they would do in your situation given their values. You will essentially be living the life they wish you to lead. The only rules that matter are the ones you choose for yourself.

The challenge is this feels incredibly unbounded, highly uncertain. But that is life, incredibly rich with opportunities and options of which few people actually take because they are uncomfortable with reality and much prefer the artificially structured environment of school and a few career tracks.

I think most people see the very natural uncertainty of the real world as a negative. The flip side is this is exactly what makes life rich and interesting. What is the point of living in a free country if one never actually exercises one’s option to choose freely from ALL the options.

Victor

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Hanna April 21, 2013 at 2:14 pm

Hi Victor,

Thank you so much for your advice – I’m grateful for the time you’ve taken to share your insights. It helps to hear this advice from someone like you, and I will keep what you have said in mind as I figure out my career direction after college.

Hanna

Perizat March 26, 2013 at 6:54 am

Victor,

You are a beautiful person! Very courageous and inspiring.
I am getting prepared for my interview at McKinsey and I find your project ‘CaseInterview’ extremely helpful.

Greetings from Kazakhstan
Perizat

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fan April 9, 2013 at 4:37 am

Hi Victor,

I am in consulting and quite busy often times with little time to check emails and read all the things I would be interested in. Of the many emails I get I do follow yours and I am very greatful for the efforts you make to share your valuable thoughts.

Thanks

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Victor Cheng April 10, 2013 at 5:05 pm

Fan,

Thanks for your note and thank you for reading. It’s the highest compliment to be able to earn the attention of someone so busy.

-Victor

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Tifa Xiaoyue Gu April 12, 2013 at 4:54 am

Dear Victor,

I’ve been following your articles for a while and it’s the first time i’m inspired to write to say thank you. I sometimes think that we are used to zoom-in our own emotions but actually such emotions are derived of over self-importance. I start to delibarately get rid of self-esteem, but ironically I might be wrong in taking things for granted at the same time. After reading your feelings, I am warmed up. I hope to be meaningful, grateful and complete. I will embrace any chances to be a better man. I feel happy that I shared my feelings with you.

Thank you.

Best,

Tifa

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Katy September 16, 2013 at 9:10 pm

Victor, thank you for sharing so much with me. I have been following your blog for almost a year now. I really was not sure if I wanted to do consulting or not, but I went into a case interview and applied some of the things I learned from you. My interviewer was blown away and has opened a lot of doors for me since then. This helped my self esteem to grow much more, not only that I could be good at consulting, but that I can be a force for good in anything in the world. I’m also considering the non-profit sector for work. Possibly teach for America.
But, mostly what I wanted to say to you is that I have found profound help with my own emotional issues by looking to God for support. I know that you are a child of God and that he loves you and is conscious of your life. He wants you to be happy and I am sure that he is so proud of you for all the people who you have served and blessed throughout your life. You are of infinite worth no matter what your achievements or awards say. No-one can add to or take away from your inherent worth. That said, I always feel better about myself when I am doing good things with my life. But I know that even if I’m not succeeding by the world’s standards, I am still a person of worth. And you are too.

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Martin Kayondo September 26, 2013 at 8:10 am

Dear Victor

Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge, for me it’s always wonderful to read your insightful posts. All the best, Martin

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Esther October 7, 2013 at 7:48 am

Love this article. Makes me understand that all great leaders I know and aspire to be like are all humans like me. They have the same fears, challenges, etc that I go through. If they could make it despite all odds, I can make.
Thank yo Victor.

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Ram October 14, 2013 at 1:51 am

hi Victor,

i have been subscribing to your letters for some time now. the amount of knowlwdge and insights- both professional and personal has been tremendous.

you are an inspiration and icon to me. Keep the good work going.

I can relate to your emotions during your lows; hope to learn from your life and emerge stronger.

best regards
Ram

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Catherine October 23, 2013 at 9:20 am

Hi Victor,

I’m a recovering consultant and you’ve been a source of inspiration to me for some time. Although I’m no longer as interested in the consulting career path, I have directed friends who are interested in it to your website because I think it is amazing and I wish I had this resource when I was initially recruiting.

I’m in the process of applying to business schools now after having worked in three start-ups focused in the social enterprise space. I think it’s fascinating to me how work and self-esteem is such an interesting topic and I think especially in the world of social enterprise, you see lots of high-achieving persons who I think use it as a barometer for how “good” of a person they are. Do you have any experience with social enterprise?

Thank you for continuing to write and share your stories and lessons with us. You’re able to verbalize and put clarity to intangible concepts like the distinctions between self-esteem and confidence and others that are highly illuminating.

Much appreciated and all the best,
Catherine

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Victor Cheng November 7, 2013 at 8:23 pm

Catherine,

I’m not that familiar with social enterprises, but I am quite familiar with using some external factor for validation. Such an external factor might be how many hours an investment bankers works (e.g., I worked 110 hours this week so I’m better than the banker who “only” worked 95 hours), how broke a starving artist is, how much income a professional earns, or how “impossible” a social problem a social enterprise tries to solve.

The preferred external factor is largely culturally, socially and familiarly determined. However, these external factors are inherently stable because one has no control over them. Ultimately the only stable and secure form of validation is self validation.

It is the easiest concept in the world to understand intellectually, it is the hardest to actually live by day to day.

Victor

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Ricky October 25, 2013 at 2:03 pm

Well said Victor. Powerful words that really have me thinking about myself and my goals. Great way to start a Friday morning. Keep doing what you do.

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Victor Cheng November 7, 2013 at 6:32 pm

Ricky,

Thanks!

Victor

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Paolo Joseph Lising November 7, 2013 at 2:08 am

I stopped reading your posts after reading your piece on finding passion months ago. I lost my confidence and drive on being a consultant for either big or small firm. I got tired of selling myself to a place that clearly does not need me. I was wasting my time. Now, I’m just one of those 8-5 office worker, not totally happy but doing fine. This piece you wrote got me into reading your piece again. I thought you were about to close shop. But I wont be looking into the consulting career anymore because it is very stressful to be rejected so many times.

Keep doing what you do, there are people whose ambition is to be in the consulting industry! To me, I’m focusing on somewhere else (don’t know yet) wherein my talents will be much appreciated.

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Victor Cheng November 7, 2013 at 6:26 pm

Paolo,

Good strategy, whether that’s career strategy or corporate strategy, is to figure out what is a good fit for you, where you have a relative advantage over others, and to focus on it. Strategy is not doing what everyone else is doing just because everyone else is doing it.

Best wishes in continuing down your own path thats right for you.

Victor

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dara November 9, 2013 at 4:29 am

I totally see myself in the younger you. I hope it works out fine with me and feel at peace with myself too. Liking and accepting yourself could be pretty hard.

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Azhar Miah November 10, 2013 at 1:27 am

Victor,

Truly inspiring and generous piece of work. You sound like somebody that I would want to be friends with and be a business partner with. That is because you isolate what is truly important in life — being kind, humble, and giving. That is something that most of the so-called “successful” business people lack or have long forgotten. You have more value than you could possibly know. I wish you much happiness!

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Linna November 24, 2013 at 11:01 am

Dear Victor,

Thank you for your sharing. It’s my honor to be your reader.
I think you’ve convinced me that helping people is an ultimate way to feel your own value.

One month left before I officially work as an consultant.
Before being a consultant, I hope I’ll form a habit of helping people first if the theory of 21 days to form a habit is true.

Thanks and best wishes for your life!

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Alejandro November 30, 2013 at 5:02 am

Victor:

I really wanted to thank you for all the knowledge you have shared with us. Not only in the professional way you have been a great example but also in the personal way. With this message you made me realize of so many things that one shouldn’t be worry about.

Thank You so much , You really made an impact…

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Kevin December 16, 2013 at 10:32 pm

Victor,

Thanks for sharing this post. I was recently rejected from all of my MBA interviews and have been feeling a bit in the dumps. This blog and the responses have helped me re focus on what is most important.

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Victor Cheng January 27, 2014 at 12:23 pm

Kevin,

It really stinks to get rejected. But hang in there. Also take the feedback and put your energy into a different area. I originally did not want to be a consultant. I wanted to be an investment banker. But I had a 100% rejection rate from Wall Street, for a career path I had been working on since I was 13 years of age (when I went to investment banker summer camp — yeah, I was a weird kid). So when I got rejected by all the banks despite 8 years of effort, it did not feel good.

I then turned to my next choice consulting. In hindsight (though absolutely not at the moment), I was glad I got rejected from all the banks. It forced me to find something I that was a better fit.

And finally in the big picture of life, career is only one aspect of life. It can be an important one, but it definitely is not everything.

Best Wishes,
Victor

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sheen January 22, 2014 at 4:29 am

This is realy a beautiful thing to read, thanks for sharing this to us, it mean a lot , how u learn from your life i wish i also could learn from my life too.
If i have a mentor like you, then defiinetly i wil be a successful person one day.
realy thanks for giving me such inspiration views and idea
thanking you

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Victor Cheng January 27, 2014 at 12:24 pm

Sheen,

You are welcome.

Victor

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Howard January 26, 2014 at 12:04 pm

Dear Victor, just want to let you know, your website is the most valuable thing on my way to those jobs i want. really, I appretiate this

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Victor Cheng January 27, 2014 at 11:30 am

Howard,

You’re welcome.

Victor

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Shohan January 28, 2014 at 12:37 pm

Hi Victor,
What you shared is very personal here! and thank you for that. I have been reading your articles but I know that I will not apply for any of the big 4. I like to follow your advice because it helps me to apply for jobs in other kind of industries, to improve myself on different area and I really appreciate how you share about your life. I always find this helpful. You are a great man Victor! :)

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Victor Cheng February 10, 2014 at 2:01 am

Shohan,

Thank you for your kind words and good luck!

Victor

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Hector February 26, 2014 at 3:22 am

It’s great to see stuff from the inside while in life we end up focussing on only what the person has externally and thinking that they are lucky etc. Very rarely do we get a chance to see the actual journey, given that we are programmed to see only a persons’ destination. It takes a lot of courage….

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Maxime Defoy March 3, 2014 at 9:56 pm

Dear Victor,
The World would be a better place if others (including me) wouldn’t be afraid of showing themselves as transparent, honest and helpful as you are.
Someone’s NOT giving up…
A thousand thanks,
Maxime

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Olkan March 9, 2014 at 11:47 am

Victor,

It was very interesting to read even you used to have a self esteem problem like me.

I can confidently tell that you have helped me alot and still helping. This story also made me think a lot and increased my awareness. I alway think that you up high there and never need my compliments or confirmation of your work. However that was not the fact. I appreciate, thank you very much. You are doing such an amazing job.

Olkan

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May Kue April 16, 2014 at 6:21 pm

Victor,

Thank you for sharing. You are very much appreciated and the things you’ve shared, mentored and weighed on has had immense value. This was a wonderful example of your humility and reminder to us, we’ll, at least me, that despite your success, you still struggle with your “gift”. Once again, thank you for your candor and showing your vulnerability.

Sincerely,
May Kue

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Chelsey April 17, 2014 at 9:56 pm

Victor,

I began reading your emails for career advice, but I discovered (as it seems you have) that your advice broadly applies to life. Like so many people who become skilled in one area, I think that your passion and insight into consulting has enabled you to connect with others in such a special way. I really do hope you decide to do work/seminars on self-esteem. Communication is such a gift and its good to see you using it to inspire others. Keep up the good work!

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Lindsey May 5, 2014 at 11:39 pm

What a beautiful and touching message! It is unfortunate that so many people walk through their entire lives without seeing their inherent value in just loving themselves. Our identities are not in our accomplishments, but in those who love us. Learning that allows such a freedom to allow others to feel the same. Thank you for your vulnerability in sharing such a profound insight.

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serena May 13, 2014 at 3:23 am

Hi Victor,
Just wanted to add to the chorus of thank you’s..your personal insight is what resonates the most with me when you’re not promoting anything, just talking to us. Please do consider writing more about developing softer skills such as confidence and self worth because without those the hard skills don’t mean as much.

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Elena May 13, 2014 at 3:04 pm

Hello Victor,

thank you for sharing this personal story with us. I truly appreciate your e-mails and other supporting documents you provide. This e-mail made me realize once again that I am not the only one struggling, other people successful people do as well. I am really happy that I found your web-page as it helped me to move into a consulting job and find something I enjoy doing and work with great people.

Please go on with the helpful work.

Elena

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Darren June 10, 2014 at 11:02 am

Hi Victor,

Thank you so much for sharing such a personal story.

Your emails have helped give me a new perspective on life and career. Academic and career achievements, ambition, hard work serve for nothing if they only mask deeper/emotional issues that you speak of.

It has taken me a long time to realize and most importantly accept this. In some strange way though, I feel that I had to focus on some things that don’t ‘truly’ matter to realize what really matters!…most importantly being at peace with yourself. It sounds like you may also have had a similar experience and reading you emails only serves to confirm I am finally on the right track to finding that peace within myself.

Thanks again Victor!
Darren

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Victor Cheng June 19, 2014 at 6:13 pm

Darren,

A friend of mine once said sometimes the only to find the right choice is to pursue what you THINK is the right choice. Whether a choice is right or wrong, the act of taking it often brings the clarity that merely contemplating will not.

Victor

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Jumoke June 16, 2014 at 5:24 am

Dear Victor,
Thanks for sharing your secret weakness with us, it makes you a truly great person. I wish you more success in life.
Thanks
Jumoke

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James June 18, 2014 at 7:10 am

Hi Victor,

Just want to quickly say that this article resonates with me on so many levels and, as like many of your e-mails that I receive, provides a wonderful view point on emotions and dilemmas that I have faced in my studies and search for a career. With your help I have gratefully accepted a management consultancy position in London. Congratulations on your fantastic website (it’s unrivaled here in Britain).

Many thanks,

James

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Victor Cheng June 19, 2014 at 6:14 pm

James,

Thanks for sharing and congratulations on getting and accept the job offer!

Victor

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Jessie July 1, 2014 at 6:32 pm

Inspiring!

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Yessen July 13, 2014 at 8:53 am

Victor,

I’m form Kazakhstan and I have learned a lot from your site and look over my shoulder program.

Many thanks for that and all the great work you do!

Sincerely,

Yessen

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Bowen Li August 17, 2014 at 3:01 pm

Hi Victor,

Thank you so much for sharing something so personal with us, and thank you very much for all the lessons and help you have been providing us.

Sincerely,
Bowen Li

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Mike August 20, 2014 at 3:21 pm

Victor,

I read your emails almost religiously because wealth of information that shared in priceless to me not only in professional growth but my personal. Although I am a Soldier in the US Army the advice you give second to none.

Regards,

Mike Y.

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Victor Cheng August 24, 2014 at 12:55 pm

Mike,

Thanks for your kind note. Also, thank you for your service. I for one very much appreciate it.

-Victor

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Daniel August 27, 2014 at 1:06 pm

Victor,
Thank you for this personal perspective – I relate to what you say. Just so you know, I keep all your emails in a special file that I review and use on a regular basis (I don’t keep any other emails like that). Truly GREAT advice. Many thanks.

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Victor Cheng September 25, 2014 at 12:16 pm

Daniel,

You are quite welcome and thanks for the kind words.

Victor

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Sarah W September 1, 2014 at 4:36 am

Hi Victor,
Thanks so much for sharing all this knowledge and those insights. I do totally understand what you have gone through since I have done the same…This experience is so valuable for you to understand and help others, and for others for bringing out the best out of them. So just do as I do: feel thankful for this experience/history as it makes you much deeper and wiser ;-) and capable to help others. Thank you too Victor!

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Victor Cheng September 25, 2014 at 12:17 pm

Sarah,

I totally agree. Thanks for the suggestion and you are welcome too.

Victor

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Nikhil Desai September 16, 2014 at 8:30 am

Hi Victor,

Let me tell you.. I have outgrown to aspire for any lucrative consulting offer with any of the top 5 consulting jobs… but that hasnt stopped me a bit from following you and your invaluable newsletters…. Whatever you say and share is so profound and something that I can relate to… all of us as humans go through these.. but few have the ability to express this in words as you do.. and when you do, there are a bunch of us who get enlightened… I should say that you are doing a very noble job…I wish you all the best and pray that you touch many more lives as you move along… Thanks,

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Victor Cheng September 16, 2014 at 11:49 am

Nikhil,

Thanks for sharing your kind words. I’m glad you find what I write helpful. Life is a fascinating journey.

Victor

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Chap September 16, 2014 at 12:58 pm

Thanks Victor,

One to two years ago, I saw your ad and I subscribed to your emails. In a way, you brought me hope because my career is in the doldrums. I did not know about the world of consulting until then. It was something I look forward to (and still look forward to). Maybe that will help my career and attain my financial objectives. Of course, as you correctly pointed out, that does nothing to the emptiness inside and I find that helping my friends, relatives and other people in need that have bigger problems than I have without asking anything in return (I believe in paying it forward) really helped a lot. Thank you.

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KNF September 16, 2014 at 3:42 pm

After your initial email on self-esteem, I read through lot of articles on internet. But your story brought everything in perspective. I am not sure this will be right place to put a question. Sometimes in exercising self-acceptance, I get feeling that I am not exerting enough effort and trying to find an excuse in the name of acceptance. I understand there is a fine line, but I am struggling to find answer. Any suggestion on this front. Thank you for being such a genuine mentor. I look forward to read more and more from you.

Sincerely,
KNF

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Victor Cheng September 17, 2014 at 3:56 am

KNF,

First off I want to acknowledge your effort to seek the answers you are looking for. When I think of self acceptance, I do not think in terms of effort or working harder. Rather, I think of it in opposite terms — in letting go and deliberate avoiding the effort that goes into self judgment, self criticism and self shaming. It takes a lot of effort to continually look at one self and find it lacking.

Self acceptance isn’t tightening your fist and working harder, it is letting go of your fist entirely and accept that what you are, who are, the good, the bad, the ugly is you… and you without any changes are worthy and okay.

The premise behind self acceptance is that all human life is precious. When you see 100 new born infants, do you judge some as worthy and others as not worthy? Do you deem some as worthy of a good life, while others are not?

Most people I know see all infants as precious. Some may be bigger or smaller, one gender or another, on color or another, but fundamentally all have worth. We accept babies for the precious creatures that they are.

If you buy into this perspective, than realize that all of us are those babies 20, 30, or 40 years later. We are all STILL precious, STILL worthy… just the way we are.

Don’t try harder to find self acceptance. Instead, STOP trying so hard to self judge. Just let go, surrender, and accept yourself flaws and all.

And in case you find that difficult because perhaps you find yourself falling short of everyone else, just realize everyone else is thinking the exact same thing too – not realizing that you are just as flawed as they are. It is the flaws that make us human. Accept your own humanity (aka your perceived imperfections), otherwise you for all practical purposes and attempting to be a deity – that is striving to be flawless and perfect.

Victor

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KNF September 17, 2014 at 6:25 pm

Victor – Thank you very much for taking time out to write such a detailed reply. I have no words to thank you.
Sincerely,
KNF

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Victor Cheng October 9, 2014 at 1:36 am

KNF,

You are quite welcome.

-Victor

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Aziz September 18, 2014 at 10:22 pm

There are people out there, people like me, who see other people preparing for consulting and feel super intimidated because we know we’re not good enough. And then we log onto caseinterview.com, with a very realistic hope that we are. You have selflessly helped a lot of people and therefore created a life worth aspiring to, one that has been meaningful on a professional as well as a humane level.
Thanks for everything!

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Victor Cheng October 9, 2014 at 1:36 am

Aziz,

Thank you for the kind words and you are quite welcome.

-Victor

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