One Year in Manhattan

One year ago today, I packed up two suitcases in Toronto, said goodbye to Dan, Finn, Steve and Arnold Tutoring, and got on a plane to New York City to move into my apartment and begin life as a management consultant. It's been an incredible ride filled with ups and downs, new experiences, new friends, a new career, and this blog!

While I didn't expect to be writing my anniversary post in self-isolation due to a global pandemic, that's for another blog post and I'd like to keep this one reflective by taking a look at what I've learned about consulting, this crazy city, and myself over the last 366 days.

Things I Learned About New York City

  1. It's amazing for running. I always knew the NYC marathon was the world's largest race and looked like a ton of fun, but I always assumed that was driven by the large tourist population who wanted to experience the Big Apple by running all five boroughs. Turns out, this city is filled with passionate runners and the concrete jungle is a low-key runner's paradise with paths all around the perimeter of Manhattan, plenty of public parks, and the haven of all running - Central Park. I discovered Central Park during my second day living here, and I've run up there nearly every weekend since. It's my favourite part of the city and I find myself in a perfect mental state whenever I'm running those trails and roads. Finally, the relatively small size of Manhattan makes every run a tourist-attraction-filled adventure! Within a 5-mile run from my apartment, I can experience the East River, the Williamsburg, Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges, the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, the Freedom Tower, Battery Park, and the Hudson River. Pretty Saucy.

  2. The Restaurant Scene is Overwhelming. I always say that all I think about is food, and as a result, cooking in New York is a bit of a battle because there are SO many restaurants to try - vegan or otherwise. I've done a decent job of checking out spots in the East Village, but still have a long way to go. My goal is to have a go-to for every major type of cuisine so that when friends visit, or I have a date, or I need a quick meal, I don't have to consult Google. Lookout for a separate post where I share my go-to list of restaurants and bars that I've been tracking!

  3. New Yorkers are Awesome. I certainly don't call myself a New Yorker, and probably never will no matter how long I've lived here. With gentrification in nearly every neighborhood in Manhattan, part of the soul of New York has been stripped away over the last decade, but you still meet lots of New Yorkers (rough around the edges, New York accent, some type of European background) who own small businesses and work in the neighborhood. While they can be intimidating at first, I've always admired their qualities of blunt/direct speaking, moving and talking quickly, and doing things right, by hand. It's an old-school mentality that always has an underlying friendliness, allowing for neighborhood vibes and local haunts to still exist within a giant metropolitan city.

  4. Broadway is Legit. While I had been to Broadway a few times before moving here, I always forget just how talented the musicians and actors/performers are - I guess that's why they've made it to Broadway! Coupled with the performances, the theatre district is something else to experience - bustling every night, filled with great restaurants that aren't all tourist traps, and a great way to experience the city that never sleeps.

  5. There are so many transients. New York is filled with people who move her just for a job (or even without a job) and don't know a single person. Because of that, it's a great place to meet new people and companies know this fact, which is why every dating app, meetup group, sports club concept, etc. usually begin in New York City. The best part about using these platforms to meet new people here - everyone has a cool story. Everyone has moved from somewhere else with an ambitious mindset to succeed in their industry, whether it's finance, entertainment, entrepreneurship, tech, sports, or media. I rarely meet someone who doesn't have an interesting job, career path, or talent.

Things I've Learned About Consulting/My New Career

  1. I'm Not Great at my Job Yet. Part of the reason for me leaving Arnold Tutoring was that I was too comfortable and Danielle and I were the (self-proclaimed, mind you) "smartest people in the room" most of the time. I definitely feel that lack of comfort now, and because there are other smart people around, I often hesitate to make a decision thinking "oh they'll tell me which way to go". This is something I want to improve as I continue to grow in my role as a consultant - gain more confidence, make more decisions, and keep learning.

  2. I Really Enjoy Traveling for Work. Being on the road allows me to separate life from work quite easily. It's not a problem staying at the office til 9pm on a Tuesday when I'm in another city, but when I'm in New York and my life is right outside, I find it more difficult and am tempted to fit plans into my weeknight schedule. I also enjoy hotels and love eating out, so I have yet to get that "I miss my own bed" or "I just want a home-cooked meal" feeling. Beyond just being on the road, I prefer working from the office here in New York rather than at home. Nobody at the company cares where we work from (which is great flexibility), but given the chance, I go to the office every time. My apartment is small and I don't have a great desk setup which is making Corona a real pain in my back (literally and figuratively).

  3. People Are Attracted to Positive Energy. Whenever I'm in a team room with co-workers, I try to be optimistic and positive about everything from the work we're doing, to how warm it is outside, to how delicious the lunch that we ordered was. I've received a large amount of comments about it, almost always positive (at least to my face), which made me realize how unique that is in the consulting work setting. Everyone is intense, type-A, smart and driven, so maybe they don't take as much time to smell the roses. Either way, I haven't had to force myself to do it, and it's been a nice way to easily meet friends, so I'll continue to keep my chin up.

  4. I'm Hard On Myself. I know this is not unique to me, but I've really noticed when I take a step back that anytime I make a mistake or get frustrated by how I built something at work, I almost make a point of bringing up my faults to coworkers or leaders. A) There's very little value in dwelling on it. Acknowledge the mistake and move on. B) It's only going to make me afraid to make the next mistake. While self-deprecating humour is one of my go-tos, I'm going to start to bring up errors earlier on when I realize them, and not dwell on shortcomings to others.

What I've Learned About Myself/Miscellaneous

  1. A Year Goes By Quickly. Two main things come to mind when I realize how fast this year has gone by: A) Make sure you do something you enjoy every day. This doesn't have to mean you love every aspect of your job. But make sure you call a friend, go for a run, read a book, take a bath, play with a dog, or anything that makes you happy. It's too easy for life to get in the way, and too often we let the non-enjoyable parts of life take over the enjoyable parts. B) You can do anything for a year. Worried about taking a year-long position overseas? It won't feel like that long. The exciting thing about a year is that it is a long time for you to make changes, improve in your work, have an impact, etc. but it won't feel like a long time before you get to see those results!

  2. I Don't Mind Some Alone Time. I've always been an extrovert and have gained energy from going out with friends after a long day. That still applies, especially when on the road for work, I'm always convincing co-workers to go out for an 8:30pm dinner after we've been in the office for 12 hours. But I've also realized the benefit of having my own apartment in which I can chill, relax my mind, cook, listen to music or podcasts, read, and setup exactly to my needs. I certainly don't want to live alone forever (if my future wife is reading this, I'm pretty much ready anytime now), but I've realized a few of the benefits to some personal space.

  3. Meeting People in your Thirties is Weird. Dating is fine - like I mentioned, New York is awesome for that. There's a large proportion of women in this city, most of whom are successful, ambitious and are also looking to meet people, and there's about 20 different dating apps in NYC. However, meeting platonic friends is a weird concept and why I Love You, Man is such a hilarious movie. I've done a decent job with the short amount of time I've been in the city, using running clubs, work events, friends of work friends, and Winnipeg Jets hockey games to meet people, but it still remains a challenge. And it's weird - I'm not dying for new friends. I have tons of friends in several different cities and I have lots of friends in NYC who I can almost always call on to hang out with, but adding a couple more to the mix never hurts.

  4. The Comfort Zone thing is True. I'm not one for quotes, but when I look back on this year, I think it's been a good one for me because nearly everything has been new and outside of my comfort zone. Walking into a brand new career at 33 was uncomfortable. Walking into a running club in Central Park was weird. Presenting to CFOs was unsettling. Going to an Arsenal bar at 10am and chatting with strangers was odd. Being further away from family and close ties was unnatural.

While some of these experiences resulted in great outcomes and others not so great, I'm sure I've learned something from all of them. The goal for the next year is to become even more familiar with New York, help out in my community a bit more, continue to meet people and go to events, and report all of it more often on this blog.

Thanks so much for reading!

Mike