What if I can’t get there right now?

Take time to find out what you want.  Make time for the things you love.

What happens now will not determine the rest of your life.

Those were the three pieces of advice I gave during my presentation to a group of undergrads last week.  And then I opened it up to Q&A.

“What if I kinda know what I want to do, but I don’t think I can get there right after I graduate?”

Excellent question.  I did a lot of talking about how important it is to figure out what you want, and told a story about how I finally got it.  It’s only natural to think that I am encouraging folks to go out and get their dream life.  I am.

It’s risky.  It can be scary.  And for an undergrad who is still building up his savings, resume, network, and life experience, it can be difficult to get to exactly where you want.  In an economy like this, it may mean just taking “a” job.  The important thing to remember is to keep moving forward somehow and guard yourself against getting stuck.

4 Steps to Staying on Course

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Advice for my undergraduate self

About a month ago, I received an invitation to speak in front of a group of undergrads.  I had spoken on panels before, but I had never been asked to give a talk, by myself.

The invitation asked me to talk about my MBA experience and the type of options my MBA allowed me to have after my graduation.  Doing that could take less than ten minutes.  I had up to an hour to fill.

Q&A could fill some of that time, but what could I tell them to ensure that they would have questions to ask?  And be comfortable enough to ask them?  I began to think about what would be the things they may not think to ask.  What were the things I would not have known to ask, when I was their age?

It occured to me that many of the students in my audience would be freshmen and sophomores, and it’s been a full ten years since I was in their shoes.  I crafted my talk around what would have been helpful for me to hear ten years ago, as a freshman in college.

Here is a recorded, condensed version of the presentation I gave at UC Berkeley on Monday, March 14th, 2011.

Earning an A (in vanquishing should-monsters)

About a year-and-a-half ago, I was one of twelve students being trained to teach Leadership Communication for the new class of MBAs.  As part of training, we were asked to do everything we would be asking our students to do, which included an assignment called “Getting My A.” The assignment is based on a chapter from The Art of Possibility, where each of the author’s students is given an A at the beginning of the semester in order to eliminate any anxiety caused by the fear of being judged/measured and to give students the freedom to take risks necessary for growth.  There is only one requirement for earning the A: each student must write a letter from the perspective of her future self at the end of the term, about what she did and accomplished over the course of the term in order to earn an A.

Because I was teaching a communications course in a small-group setting, the assignment was modified to start with “Dear team, I got my A because…” and had to be delivered as a speech.  I went home and thought about what to write.  I’m a fairly decent public speaker, which is part of the reason I was selected to teach the class.  Yet, in order to push the students who were already good public speakers outside of their comfort zones, I wanted to model the kind of growth I expected them to achieve.

I asked myself, what is it that holds me back?  What kind of growth would I have to accomplish in order to earn an A?
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Getting un-stuck

When I first started this blog, I was soo ready.  I had hundreds of ideas I wanted to communicate, and I just needed somewhere to put them.  For the first week or so, I wrote a lot.  Or at least, it *felt* like a lot, for a number-crunchy non-writer like me.  I wrote what was on my mind.  I wrote posts inspired by feedback I had gotten from people who read my earlier posts.  I had never counted writing as one of my strengths, yet people were saying positive things about what I had written.

And then it occurred to me:

Crap.  People are actually reading what I’m writing. What should I write next?  Should I finish the networking series?  Should I continue to write about self-exploration?  Should I write things that will be useful to the undergrads I’m speaking to next week, or should I write something for my friend who’s going on a sabbatical?  Who should I write for, and when?

So, you’ve probably noticed (or maybe not, because who’s really waiting for my next post) that I haven’t written anything new for more than a week.    Here’s the advice I had a hard time putting into practice:

There are two types of thinking: divergent thinking and convergent thinking. Both are useful in creativity and problem solving, but you must keep them separate.

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