March 4, 2014 § Leave a comment


I always find myself thinking about motivation. It seems like we’re constantly
being told that our economy sucks, that there’s no such thing as job security,
and that things may even get worse up ahead. It’s hard to find the motivation
to do anything when you’re told it’s hopeless. But it’s not hopeless. When I
look around, I see and hear so many stories of achievement, creativity, and
success. The pessimistic outlook isn’t the only one.

Within our covers are photographs of and interviews with individuals who
celebrate what’s on the inside – the beating heart that forges through any
obstacle. From a young car designer on a mission to make every vehicle on
the road unique, to a group of snowboarders always looking to find the next
NBD rail, to a photographer who wanted to capture his Scion tC in the most
intimate way possible, and to a handful of chefs that abandoned the typical
brick and mortar shop for pop-up venues or mobile kitchens.

While each of these stories is driven by something different, there’s one
common thread – they all do what they love. As cliché as that sounds,
the way these individuals get out there each and every day to do their
thing and better their craft is truly inspiring. They do what they love, and
because they love it so much, they get to do it all the time. It’s a virtuous
circle of motivation and it’s contagious. Their personal inspiration becomes
an inspiration to others, and that, I have to say, has made me even more
motivated to find stories to share with you in every issue of Scion Magazine.

Like those featured in this issue, I’m fueled by what I like to do for fun and
what I would probably do for free. Somehow, I’ve managed to make a living
doing just that, and I’ve been fortunate to live my life being just as excited
about tomorrow, as I was the day before. That kind of motivation is not found
in titles or rewards – you can only find it within yourself.

It’s what some might call intrinsic motivation: focusing on being the person
you are and channeling all of your energy and drive into being the best
possible version of yourself. Whether I’m traveling to car shows a thousand
miles away, stressing out the night before a big shoot, or even challenging
Shingo to a friendly race around the office, I maintain that inner desire to
have fun, create something new and share it with you first and foremost. It’s
the stuff of life, and I figure it’s time it had an exclusive issue of its own.

So read on, explore, learn and discover what you are most passionate about.
I’m sure it will drive you to reach your potential, if it hasn’t already. And if it
happens to include a Scion, be sure to let me know.

LISA MARIE CHEN, Editor-in-Chief


Drafting your Personal Blueprint

March 15, 2011 § Leave a comment

It’s March Break in the city and I couldn’t help but wonder about what I’ll be doing when my school breaks for good at the end of next month. As hallway conversations fade from midterms and exams to interviews and job offers, it’s clear that we’re swiftly approaching the next chapter of our lives. But what do we do next? I’m always flattered when people tell me that they have no idea how I manage to juggle school, work and life but my rationale for my unorthodox work ethic is easily summed up in one word: passion. When I was in high school my favourite English teacher used to drill us with pages of famous and sometimes not so famous speeches.

While I may not remember anything about computing integrals in calculus, I’ve always remembered a speech by Martin Luther King that emphasized the importance of being passionate about what you do. Though not verbatim, I find myself referencing the street sweeper to friends who haven’t quite figured out where their life is heading. If you find yourself in that boat and need a little bit of motivation to get you on the right foot, don’t listen to me, hear from the man himself. Here’s the transcript from MLK’s speech at a Philadelphia high school in 1967. Enjoy.

I want to ask you a question, and that is: What is your life’s blueprint?

Whenever a building is constructed, you usually have an architect who draws a blueprint, and that blueprint serves as the pattern, as the guide, and a building is not well erected without a good, solid blueprint.

Now each of you is in the process of building the structure of your lives, and the question is whether you have a proper, a solid and a sound blueprint.

I want to suggest some of the things that should begin your life’s blueprint. Number one in your life’s blueprint, should be a deep belief in your own dignity, your worth and your own somebodiness. Don’t allow anybody to make you feel that you’re nobody. Always feel that you count. Always feel that you have worth, and always feel that your life has ultimate significance.

Secondly, in your life’s blueprint you must have as the basic principle the determination to achieve excellence in your various fields of endeavor. You’re going to be deciding as the days, as the years unfold what you will do in life — what your life’s work will be. Set out to do it well.

And I say to you, my young friends, doors are opening to you–doors of opportunities that were not open to your mothers and your fathers — and the great challenge facing you is to be ready to face these doors as they open.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, the great essayist, said in a lecture in 1871, “If a man can write a better book or preach a better sermon or make a better mousetrap than his neighbor, even if he builds his house in the woods, the world will make a beaten path to his door.”

This hasn’t always been true — but it will become increasingly true, and so I would urge you to study hard, to burn the midnight oil; I would say to you, don’t drop out of school. I understand all the sociological reasons, but I urge you that in spite of your economic plight, in spite of the situation that you’re forced to live in — stay in school.

And when you discover what you will be in your life, set out to do it as if God Almighty called you at this particular moment in history to do it. Don’t just set out to do a good job. Set out to do such a good job that the living, the dead or the unborn couldn’t do it any better.

If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music, sweep streets like Leontyne Price sings before the Metropolitan Opera. Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well. If you can’t be a pine at the top of the hill, be a shrub in the valley. Be be the best little shrub on the side of the hill.

Be a bush if you can’t be a tree. If you can’t be a highway, just be a trail. If you can’t be a sun, be a star. For it isn’t by size that you win or fail. Be the best of whatever you are.

For the record: I’m at Keio Business School…

November 4, 2010 § 1 Comment

Last month I was interviewed by Canadian Business about life as an MBA and my experience on exchange. I’m psyched to be featured along side some pretty impressive Canadians. The issue hits stands this week and will be available across Canada until November 8th.

They weren’t able to shoot an original photo so you might recognize this shot by Ste.Ho from a while back but a Zac Posen suit never goes out of style 🙂

Be sure to pick up a copy or you can read it online here.


adopt & adapt

September 6, 2010 § Leave a comment

I’ve never enjoyed apartment-style living, so it was nice to know that my new place would come furnished with 12 other housemates. There are no elevators (due to frequent earthquakes, buildings with less than 5 stories are limited to stairs) and floors are separated by gender. There are a couple lounge areas and a communal kitchen, throw in a couple class rooms and break out meeting spots and you’ve got the ideal graduate residence.

Within minutes of my first marketing class at KBS we learned about the concept of “Adopt & Adapt”. As supported by many Japanese corporations and companies, they take popular Western ideas and tailor them to suit Japanese needs and wants.

Here are a few examples I’ve seen since I’ve arrived:

While this toilet is more Western than traditional style (the hole in the ground that requires squatting, eww), the buttons on the side provide functions that aren’t required in the west. Manners are first and foremost in Japanese society and the “peeing” sound can be easily masked with the press of a button that simulates a flushing noise to avoid offending others. There are also options to warm the toilet seat and bidet functions to keep you fresh & clean.

Ignoring the fact that his shirt happens to read “LOSER” the guy in the bucket hat takes flyering to the next level. In Japan, rather than passing our leaflets of information that usually end up on the ground steps after receipt, flyers are distributed in the form of tissue packets. This is a convenient way to get consumers to take the flyer and probably encourages lasting impressions from a marketing perspective since tissues/napkins aren’t readily offered by most restaurants and bathrooms.

You gotta love white boards but I’m sure you agree with me that it sucks pretty bad when you spend all of your time brainstorming and getting all of your ideas on the board only to have them erased. Sometimes you take a picture of it to trigger your memory but most of the time you rely on your notetaker to get every point down in Word. Depend on the Japanese to make your white board efforts incarnate. After you’ve finished writing everything down on the board, a simple press of a button and your work is scanned and printed by the attached printer. If you’re worried about wasting paper, a USB port is available to save a PDF version of your doodles. Amazing.

It’s all about Sole Value

May 19, 2010 § Leave a comment

What is it about that red sole that has transformed the shoe industry? Christian Louboutin came on the shoe scene in the early 1990’s after an unsuccessful string of assistant positions in large fashion houses like Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent in Paris. Without any real design training, he applied his passion and ambition and today is considered to be one of the most valuable luxury brands in the world. It seems like every minute a new designer emerges but why are some companies so successful at leveraging their brands, while other struggle to break even?

It all boils down to the creation of value. In our readings, “Value creation depends on the relative amount of value that is subjectively realized by a target user (or buyer) who is the focus of value creation…and that this subjective value realization must at least translate into the user’s willingness to exchange a monetary amount for the value received” (Lepak, Smith, & Taylor, 2007). In other words, creating value involves complex processes and often multiple targets for the purpose of monetary exchange. The importance of creating value is to gain competitive advantage in a market where product differentiation has become increasingly difficult. To be an industry leader one simply cannot focus on making a buck, now more than ever, customers need to understand that prices reflect more than the actual costs of production. Instead, customers must perceive the product or service as providing more than a need fulfilled but does so better than any other competitor or substitute can. Like all organizations, fashion houses are also focused on value creation. The buyer knows that she is buying a pair of red-soled Louboutin’s because no other shoe can deliver the same prestige, exclusivity and style. Or so she thinks…

The mere term implies that value is created. Although buyers are led to believe there is an intrinsic need to own that particular product, drive that certain car or travel to that specific destination, this value is far from absolute. It is likely the consequence of expensive marketing strategies and the firm’s capability to create and innovate that tells the target “buy me”. The fashion industry is no exception and Christian Louboutin illustrates a company focused on value creation that has led to long-term profitability.

Despite the economic downturn in 2008, Louboutin proudly notes that his company has experienced successful sales and double-digit growth. The secret to his success? Value.

New York City-based Luxury Institute reported the results of the “Best of the Best” luxury brands in the U.S. where consumers rated Louboutin as the best in the women’s shoe class. The scale was based on a survey that asked consumers to rate luxury brands by category across four equally weighted components: Consistently Superior Quality, Uniqueness and Exclusivity, Making the Customer Feel Special Across the Entire Experience, and Being Consumed by People Who are Admired and Respected (Swanson, 2010).  The survey indicates that consumers associate the luxury shoe designer with high value, but not based on price, instead it is the perceived quality, the exclusivity and the non-substitutable qualities that make owning a pair of Louboutin’s so valuable.

Schumpeter’s concept of “creative destruction” comes to mind. Christian Louboutin’s rise to luxury stardom was a result of entering a highly competitive market (luxury footwear), pure innovation (the red sole), and creating a value that was perceived and supported by society (celebrity endorsements, media).  At first glance, his level of innovation seems rudimentary. Painting the soles red emerged out of an idea that when a woman walked, the back of her heels would peek out. Within Schumpeter’s framework, the red soles acted as an isolating mechanism, strengthening Louboutin’s supplier power to price his shoes well above average shoes while simultaneously opening the door to replicas and imitations.

Like all great innovations it wasn’t long before red and other colour painted soles began to surface. In fact, the Chinese were not only able to replicate the red sole but went as far to produce thousands of counterfeit Louboutin’s, often in a timely seasonable fashion. Such is the process of value creation, eventually value slips away from the originator to be shared with other competitors and users.

In an attempt to combat the counterfeit goods, Christian Louboutin has started a viral campaign of a YouTube video exposing a factory in China as a pile of what appear to be Louboutin red-soled shoes are seized by the Chinese Administration for Industry and Commerce (Dodes, 2010). Currently on his website the names of several websites identified as selling fakes are listed next to a very limited list of online retailers that actually sell authentic merchandise. His strategy seems to be paying off, amidst all of the substitutes available (although of much lower quality), the Louboutin value has not been damaged. Instead, the brand has been able to maintain and if the shoes visibility in Hollywood magazines is any indicator, enhance its value.

Unlike other luxury brands, Louboutin has refrained from discounting his merchandise and has been quoted saying that starlets and even Oprah have to pay full-price. This has added yet another layer of value to the consumer, heavily discounted goods is like telling the buyer “we were kidding, it’s not as valuable as we said it was”.

It’s days like these when I love being in B-School…

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