Over the years, I have had a few lofty goals pile up on my to-do list:
- Get an MBA: I did my Grad Dip 10+ years ago and I have wanted to do an MBA since
- Run a half marathon: four years ago at the end of the Camino I was walking a marathon a day for about five days straight. During this time I thought “I should run this one day”.
- Work in a cutting-edge start-up in a meaty role: coming up in the digital evolution (at least in Australasia) I always thought working in a business starting from scratch could be cool
People who haven’t known me long might mistake me for being a ‘type A’ perfectionist – someone with overwhelming ambition and naturally driven by success. While it might appear that way from the outside, those observations are actually correlations, not causations (omg MBA joke, woo!).
I am embarrassed to admit, but I am actually a recovering no-ict. People who know me well have been intervening for some time – the classic check yo self before you wreck yo self. By default, I am predisposed to say no. “No, it can’t be done”, “no, I can’t do it”, “no it will never happen”. This type of thinking is often referred to as a ‘fixed mindset’ or ‘deterministic thinking’ – believing that some things are set in stone, so why bother?
Not until my late twenties did I go into no-rehab and start challenging my own self-limiting beliefs. Asking questions such as “well how can I make it happen?” or “what if I could do this?”. Maybe most importantly, just being open to the concept that preparation plus serendipity enables life to somehow magically unfold.
Overcoming no-ism was supported by being lucky enough to have worked with some strong female mentors. Additionally, access to no-ism experts who will never know the impact they’ve had on me. These mentors came via books and helped me to change my thinking. These books included:
- Angela Duckworth – Grit
- Carol Dweck – Mindset
- Tony Robbins – Awaken the Giant Within
- Barbara Arrowsmith-Young – The Woman Who Changed Her Brain
- Alan Watts – The Wisdom of Insecurity
The self-help list goes on! I know it sounds a lil’ la-la-woo-woo-hippy-dippy, but really, if you can control your mind (and your mindset), you’re halfway there.
Needless to say, once you tear down one self-limiting belief, it becomes rather fun pushing the experiment to the nth degree. ‘I can’t travel by myself”, “I will never get to x position”, “I will never understand coefficient variations”. Myths Busted!
So, when I found myself in the position to take on those three meaty goals listed above, I thought “why the hell not? How hard can it be?”. I essentially replaced no-addiction, with yes-addiction. But… I found out the answer to “why the hell not?”. Because Burnout.
To say last Quarter was like living inside a hurricane is an understatement – 80-hour workweeks, demanding assignments, inflexible deadlines, competing work/school/life demands, yaddi-yaddi-yadda. We launched TheMarket, went to NZFW, travelled to Taiwan, wrote a 100-page business study on a handbag company. It was like camping – intense!
Did things slip? Did my leadership skills go out the window? Did I disappoint some people? Did I accidentally cry in front of someone I that didn’t want to cry in front of? Yes, yes, yes and yes! No-relapse territory.
This post was supposed to be about how wonderful Year 2 Quarter 3 of my MBA at the University of Auckland was. That the International Business trip to Taiwan with Dr Daniel Vidal and Dr Antje Fiedler was amazing. That Dr Lester Levy’s Leadership and Ethics was mind-blowing. That I learnt so many great things about business growth and developing leadership skills! And sure, those papers were amazingly mind-blowing, and I did learn great things (photos in this post are from the trip to Taiwan, how delicious did it look?!). But the takeaways that will stick with me most were not on the syllabus’ Learning Outcome Graduate Profile.
The gifts in this Quarter were about grit, resilience and stepping up to the challenge. It was an endurance test about holding on. I learnt that I can be extremely productive and that when I thought that I could only handle so much, that somehow, I could dig deeper and handle some more. I was pushed to the proverbial limit – and I got through to the other side. It didn’t go perfectly, and it isn’t sustainable to be on that level for a long time, but looking back, the result was pretty damn good. It is the age-old shoot for the stars and land for the moon. Pow! Pow!
I know this sounds cliché (but I am a walking cliché these days, and I embrace that), but the biggest learning was actually a reminder of one of my core values – that health is wealth. Without a healthy body, mind and soul, you do yourself a disservice. You just cannot give from an empty cup. To mentor, to be a leader, to bring one’s A-game to a challenge, one must take time to regenerate energy and fresh ideas. There is selflessness in selfishness.
This Quarter we have been hit over the head with the sobering fact that it is likely that:
A: I will retire at 70+
b: I will live to 100.
These two facts alone reiterate that life is a marathon and not a sprint. More than ever, the evidence points to the fact that there is time to get things right. It is, therefore, ok to slow down and take stock of what is important and control the direction things are going.
As I enter my MBA’s last-but-not-least quarter, I am looking forward to finding out some answers to my still unchallenged self-limiting beliefs. “Can I evolve my life to balance financial, self-fulfilment, health and family success?”. The recovering no-addict in me sometimes threatens to go rogue – these are pretty lofty goals, and it is not realistic to think that they will be 100% solved in six more weeks. But, getting my mojo back, realising it is unimpossible and managing my monkey mind is a good enough start in my book.