Mike Roche, MBA Class of 2018
“Don’t downgrade your dream just to fit your reality. Upgrade your conviction to match your destiny”- Stuart Scott
Change and improvement are things that everyone in the world craves, however, only a select few are willing to roll up their sleeves to get their hands dirty to make it happen. We took the first step by dreaming big enough to realize that we want something more from life and applied to get our MBA.
Now that we have gotten to this point, the test is beginning. Some of us came here with a plan while some of us have shown up without knowing the next step, but I think it is safe to say that all of us have been surprised by at least one thing that we’ve experienced so far. Whether it’s public speaking, networking, t-accounts, perpetuities, CF0 vs CF1, BINOM.DIST or shaping your new aspiration, remember that we are all working towards bettering ourselves.
The purpose of this article is to share some recommendations based on my previous experience in the music and education communities that you can apply to your approach towards maximizing each of your endeavors.
Admit What You Don’t Know
More often than not, the greatest obstacle that we face is ourselves. The MBA program places a heavy emphasis on making impressions, which I have found to be quite stressful as I attempt to learn what sometimes feels like another language.
By always having to be “on” all of the time, I have to remind myself that part of making an impression is being humble and modest enough to admit that I don’t know something. Knowledge gaps are not weaknesses if you demonstrate a desire to close them as much as you can.
Teachers and employers know that you are not perfect, but they also know that the person who puts in the correct effort will turn out to be the best in the long run. It takes a mentally strong person to:
1. Keep an Open Mind
Admit that you don’t know everything for your own benefit; even the things you believe yourself to already know may not be entirely true. There is always more to learn. If you keep a closed mind, you are preventing yourself from learning new material.
“If you stop learning, you stop living.”- Paul Hudson
2. Listen to Opinions of Others
A good idea is a good idea, regardless of whether or not you came up with it. Don’t let your ego get the better of you; if someone has great advice to give, take it.
3. Accept Help
Even if you think can do everything, why should you? If others are offering to help, let them help. Be social. Listen to their ideas and watch how they do things. You may learn something. If not, then you can teach them something and do what humans are meant to do: socialize.
We are each other’s greatest assets. Dolphins can teach dolphins better and faster than trainers can teach dolphins. There have been studies done to show that once a dolphin trainer teaches the first dolphin how to complete a trick, that dolphin can teach the next one to do the trick better and faster than the trainer can.
Because dolphins speak the same language. This process is a ripple effect that can benefit all of us in our education. We are all reasonably similar in age, which means that we will be more likely to approach things with similar methods in comparison to our professors.
They are experts in their fields, but most do not have education degrees. If we expect to be taught everything in class without reading ahead or working together outside of class, we will likely come up short for the course expectations. I am so thankful for all of the friends that I have made in this program by simply asking for help.
“The greatest enemy of learning is knowing”- Thom Hannum
Create Your Intention
Everyone at some point experiences the feeling of failure when not reaching a goal or keeping a resolution. So much of the time this happens because the goal is too vague or is impossible to achieve in the time available. Set yourself up for success in setting and achieving your goals by being SMART.
- Make the goal Specific
- Make it Measurable
- Make it Achievable
- Be Responsible
- Establish a Timeline
Goals that are as broad as “Writing this term paper” or “Get caught up on BZAN” make it difficult to feel like you are making progress, even when you are. A simple change of approach to “Write my outline and begin research for the opening section tonight” or “Read chapter 1 and complete homework questions for BZAN by tomorrow afternoon” will allow for visible progress. This is just as much for your mental health as it is for your academic success.
If your goal is to “Understand Chapter 1”, how do you know if you actually do understand it? Does it mean that you can complete the homework without the notes? You can recite all of the terms and definitions? You can explain concepts to someone else who is struggling? It all depends on what “understanding” means to you. Have a way of determining your success. If your goal is measurable, you can create personal victories and gather more data to help setting up future short-term and long-term goals.
Anything worth achieving is not usually within the realm of “instant gratification”. We often lose interest if we can’t see an immediate result, so you may want to be on the conservative end of setting your first goal so that you succeed. As you continue to achieve, you will develop a keen sense of how much further you can expand your goals. I like to think of this as “static stretching”. When you first start stretching everything is tight, which means that you need to take things slowly and extend further as you become more comfortable. You can’t run in a marathon without working your way up to it!
4. Responsible & Timeline
“Cramming” for a test doesn’t allow you to retain the information past the exam. You might get an A, but you might not remember anything either. You are making a huge investment in yourself, so set yourself up to avoid being in “Survival Mode”. Write down your goals and when you want to achieve them. Setting goals in a new way can be difficult, but it could be the key to launching you past your own expectations.
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results”- Albert Einstein
Expanding Your Comfort Zone
“The size of your comfort zone is determined by your past experiences and your ability to predict an outcome. In order to learn and grow as a person and a leader, you have to venture outside of your comfort zone. The more you venture, the more you risk. The more you risk, the more you learn. The more you learn, the more you have to give others.”- Frank Troyka
By acknowledging what you don’t know and incorporating better “goal-making strategies” you can minimize the risk of doing things differently than you used to. This is the equivalent of going to the gym every day with your ideal weight in mind, incorporating the correct diet, a goal of what muscles you want to work on and the necessary exercises as opposed to simply saying “I want that beach body!”
There is nothing more gratifying than accomplishing something that you didn’t know that you were capable of. This can be a stressful time if we are not taking care of ourselves, but I will encourage you to stay the course and be mindful of the simple reason (among others) as to why you’re here: To Better Yourself.
“I survived because the fire inside me burned brighter than the fire around me”- Joshua Graham
Mike is a first-year MBA student at C.T. Bauer College of Business. He is passionate about learning and helping others, feel free to connect with him on LinkedIn