2010: A Year in Review; Unforgettable

We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.

– John F. Kennedy, September 12, 1962

Its been 70 days since my last post. I didn’t forget about all of you out there, I was just too busy living life. Please don’t take it personally. And please excuse my poor grammar.

If you have known me for any reasonable period of time, you should be aware of my affinity for quotes. You should have already read one if you got this far. You’re going to get one more. I’m sure you can’t wait.

I recently read Profiles in Courage by John F. Kennedy. It’s worth reading. Add it to your short list.

I’ve been interviewing for “Post MBA employment opportunities” aka jobs for the past several months. One of my interviewers actually had read this blog beforehand. I was shocked.

I’m taking four classes this winter quarter. This is after the unbelievably difficult and time consuming experience that was this past autumn quarter (in reality, this was the “life” I was too busy living). I could graduate on time and probably take only two classes this quarter. But that’s just not who I am.

One of the classes, by all accounts, is terribly time consuming and complex. It’s competitive. A simulated business environment. Some people are scared of it. I think it should be fun. Especially managing foreign exchange risk!

I have found a gym buddy and will be going regularly again. In my undergraduate days at Purdue it was basically my religion. I was upset with myself when I missed workouts. Unfortunately these sentiments have waned as my schedule has become increasingly full. That is going to change this quarter. One 8AM trip at a time.

A reference to my undergraduate days. A nice segue to the main attraction for the day.

I can’t claim to be aged or wise but I have noticed some things over the years. Some things change people gradually and some things change people rapidly. I like to call the latter “transformative.”

I’ve talked with a lot of people about two experiences that myself and many peers have been through that I feel are transformative.

The first is an individual’s first foray into living away from their parents. For most of us, this is our undergraduate education. We really weren’t that separated as most of us likely relied on our parents for financial or moral support. But, what did change is that we no longer had to seek permission or approval for much. We found ourselves very much on our own. I think this is a huge step towards adulthood for many. And transformative.

The second is an individual’s first foray into being self-sufficient. Yes, working that 9-5 (if you’re lucky) job, paying the bills, and having really no one to report back to except yourself (and the bank I guess). I think a lot of us looked forward to working and the real world. We thought we’d be flush with money and opportunity. And in reality, we really probably were. But within that first year of “freedom,” I think reality really sets in. With this freedom comes a lot of responsibility. And consequences. And you realize you’re really not as great as your parents said you were. There’s a lot of really great people out there and you’re just another one of them. I think this set of realizations is also transformative.

And just recently, I’ve come to appreciate a third period of transformation, corroborated by several of my peers: Business School. Let me explain.

Before  March 2010, the farthest I had been from my birthplace (Cincinnati, OH) was Las Vegas, NV. Once. I had been to Chicago, thrice. I had been to Orlando, FL. Once. I had never seen New York. I spent less than one day outside of the United States. In Windsor, Canada. The tallest building, at 574 feet,  I had ever been in was the Carew Tower in Cincinnati. And most importantly, I had never experienced a Disney park.

My list of contacts in Outlook numbered around 200. I had flown on an airplane 6 times over two trips totaling about 6000 miles. I had never been in someone’s office above the 8th floor of a building.

Since March 2010, a lot has happened. I have traveled literally to the other side of the planet three times. I have been to Chicago (twice), New York City (where I got to watch my Purdue Marching Band lead the Macy’s parade!), Orlando, Cleveland (several times, perhaps not that noteworthy), Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Hong Kong, Macau, Shanghai, Thailand, and probably several other places I have failed to mention. I spent a total of 10 weeks in 2010 outside of the US, including the first celebration of my birthday abroad. I have been in the Oriental Pearl Tower (at 1,535 feet), The John Hancock Center (at 1,500 feet), the Willis Tower (at 1,730 feet) and two of the tallest buildings in Cleveland (The Key Tower at 947 feet and 200 Public Square at 658 feet). And I have been to two Disney parks – Hong Kong Disneyland and Disneyworld.

Outlook has ballooned to 620 contacts. And this ignores a lot of people I have been fortunate enough to meet – from the guy who sold me pho near the lake in Hanoi to the barista at Starbucks I saw many mornings in Hong Kong to the several C level executives I’ve been able to meet. And I’ve flown around 75,000 miles – equivalent to almost three full times around the earth.

Take advantage of the opportunities that lay before you. Yours may not be the path through business school that I have just described, but it may be just as transformative if not more so. It’s a big world out there.

It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn’t feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.

– Neil Armstrong