The power of a good (Cinderella) story

Last week, I spoke at “F-Up Night,” a gathering at my school where grad students and faculty share personal stories about mistakes they have made and how they eventually overcame them. The point of this event is to nurture a mindset of resilience on campus, particularly as we approach final exams and the shorter days of winter. 

This event was my idea and I’ve been working for months to bring it to my school. I am proud of how the night turned out. But with all the planning, I had no time to prepare a story of my own to tell. When my name was called, I just had to improvise. This is what I said:

“Well, good evening, everyone. So, I have not prepared a story for this, to be honest. ‘Not preparing’ is a new thing for me, something I’ve been experimenting with in the MBA program. But anyone who knows me well knows that I love to tell stories, so maybe this won’t be so bad…

My favorite stories are those that take the shape of a ‘Cinderella story.’ You know, where the main character starts out down here, in a bad place. Then things begin to improve a little, and then a fairy godmother comes along and they really improve. It starts to look like things are going to work out when suddenly, everything falls apart again. The character is back in a bad place, down low. And just when all hope seems to be lost, some last-minute moment of magic occurs, some kind of breakthrough. When the story ends, things are better than they’ve ever been and the main character is happy… or happily ever after in the Disney version.

Well, that is basically the shape of the story of my MBA internship. And that’s the story I’d like to share with you tonight. Continue reading

White. Hot. Shame.

When I started this blog a couple years ago, I told myself I was going to fill it with first drafts. Just write and publish, a little bit every day, until I could get comfortable with shitty first drafts being a thing.

No matter how mundane or how personal, I would just write and publish and not look back. That was the plan.

But that plan lasted all of a few days, max. I did write pretty consistently at first, but as soon as my parents started reading, my need to please had overpowered my desire to create anything worth reading. Now, I rarely write because I can’t stop censoring myself.

And if it ain’t real, why bother writing about it? The good stuff goes in a journal now, and then it gets recycled.

This morning is different, though. Something has happened and I am compelled to try to put it into words.

It’s 3 a.m. and I have been tossing and turning for 3 hours, unable to sleep. Maybe it’s time to try something else.

So, fuck it. Here we go. One shitty first draft, coming right up.

Here’s what happened:

Continue reading

A battle to get my boss fired

Recently, I’ve been posting transcripts of the speeches I’ve been giving in a public speaking class. Today, I gave a speech I can’t post, but it meant so much that I still want to tell you about it.

The assignment was to deliver a persuasive speech that would convince a business to make a change. I pretended the class was the Executive Committee at a firm where I used to work and I tried to persuade them to fire my boss.   Continue reading

Don’t blink

We have to pay attention. Sometimes, progress is easy to miss.

Sometimes, progress is a few words, added at the end of a statement. It’s an afterthought, barely audible.

Today in class, I heard progress.

The professor asked, “Let’s say the hospital decides to hire another surgeon. What are some of the downside risks they should consider?”

My classmate, Rick answered.

“They use a proprietary surgical method. If they hire another surgeon, he won’t be trained on the new method. He won’t have all the experience that the other surgeons have. So the hospital won’t be as profitable with him.

Or her.

Him or her.”



I have always had a problem with metaphors. I think in metaphors as if they’re my first language.

Sometimes I say unusual things, because I’m speaking metaphorically. And then I get weird looks and I have to translate what I meant. But it’s hard to find other words.

I always want to say, “Well, that metaphor really was what I meant. I don’t know how you say it in plain language.”

I sound like a foreigner.

Continue reading

Change the world

Since I’ve been in grad school, I haven’t had much time for blogging. Okay, I haven’t touched my blog.

But this quarter, I’m taking a class called Finding Your Voice. It’s about becoming a better speaker by being more authentic. Rather than writing blog posts, I’m sharing the speeches I give in class. Today in class, we were asked to give speeches about what we would change about the world and how we would deal with it. This is a transcript of my speech in response to that prompt. 

* * * * *

I’m going to show you two photos today.

This first one is an image of a single mom and her daughter. I share it because I want you to think for a moment about what associations come to mind when I say, “single mother.”

Vigdis with daughter - Edit

And I’ll tell you what comes to mind for me: Continue reading

What matters?

I don’t have much time for a blog these days, in the throes of grad school. But this quarter, I’m taking a class called Finding Your VoiceIt’s about becoming a better speaker by being more authentic. Today in class, we were asked to give speeches about what we value. We were asked, “What value is so important to you that you’d teach it to your own children?” This is a transcript of my speech in response to that prompt. 

I help people…


over money.

…or at least that’s what I used to say before grad school, when someone would ask me what I did for a living.

I was a forensic accountant. And for years, my job was to investigate financial misdeeds. I followed money, and I quantified the financial impact of some terrible human behaviors.

As you might imagine, I accumulated some war stories from this work. One day, for instance, I sat at the table with a woman, her husband, and their attorneys, and we discussed how the husband had spent more than $2 million on hiring escorts over the course of the last 3 years of their marriage. And I will never forget the day when I sat down with an elderly couple and their son—a grown man, maybe 45 years old—who had embezzled more than $600 thousand from the company his parents had started.

In business school, we talk about accounting as if it’s all just debits and credits—boring, impersonal stuff. But for me, it’s much more personal. In my career, forensic accounting was a window into humanity. As a career, it galvanized my sense of what really matters in life. Continue reading

The difference between us

We took a walk to explore a nearby park. I say “park” because that’s what the city calls it, but it turned out to be more like a rain forest, right in the middle of a residential neighborhood. The trees form a lush canopy and many of them are covered in moss. A creek winds through the park and there are a few places where you have to walk through the water to follow the main trail.

I must have said, at least five times, how beautiful the place was. I said it would be nice to come back and run the trail sometime. I said all of that because I was trying to suppress a steady stream of terrifying thoughts. Continue reading


When I first met Josie, I asked if her name was short for “Josephine.” It reminded me of The Wallflowers’ song by the same name, which came out when I was in high school. I’d see Josie around and in my head, I’d hear the chorus:

You’re so good to me
And I know it ain’t easy Continue reading