The Irreverent Professor

Unvarnished realities about life, teaching, learning, and change in this wild, wild world

Archive for the category “college”

Getting Unstuck: Sacrifice

I feel sure that there are a number of people out there who think I’m bat-shit crazy.  I’ve moved 17 times in my adult life (six times to where I live now – I kept at it until it stuck).  I’ve changed jobs 16 times in 26 years, often into a completely different career (for example, caterer to lawyer).  I have four college degrees.

IMG_3106

When I got engaged, I told my would-be husband that I was concerned I wouldn’t be able to stick it out for the long haul because I didn’t seem to stick with anything for the long haul.  I’m happy to say we’ve been married for 15 years…in no small part, perhaps, because he’s been willing to move six times (and sometimes the moves were even his idea!).

Now maybe I am bat-shit crazy, but here’s the thing: I don’t just tolerate change.  I crave it.  I thrive in chaos.  I loathe the status quo.

So when someone tells me they really want to change ____ (job, career, relationship, location, etc., etc.), I am baffled when the next words out of their mouths are…”But I can’t.”  Sure you can.  You always can.  The thing is, change takes sacrifice.  It’s not so much that people “can’t.”  It’s that they aren’t willing to make the sacrifice.

I can’t even tell you how much I’ve sacrificed to make all the changes I’ve made over the years.  But I’ll try.  Here are just some of the sacrifices I’ve made:

  • Damaged or lost relationships with friends or colleagues.  So many I’ve probably forgotten some people altogether.
  • Money (sometimes significant amounts) on the sale of houses and condos in real estate transactions (we’ve bought and sold six dwellings in 15 years).
  • Opportunities to be near and with family, sometimes during major life events and crises.
  • Stuff–mountains of stuff.  Stuff I’ve replaced and had to get rid of again. Stuff I bought, was gifted, was given.  Stuff I loved and hated and outgrew.
  • Space.  I’ve lived in a 3500 sq. ft. house.  I’ve lived in a 1296 sq. ft. condo.  I’ve lived in several in between. It’s all the same to me.  You know, except for the amount of stuff I can fit in it.
  • Career trajectory, upward mobility.  I could probably be a Chief Purser, law firm partner, Full Professor by now if I’d stuck with one of those things.
  • A passel of kids (but we did manage to acquire one along the way.  And by “acquire” I mean adopt, not snatch…just for the record).
We completely gutted and remodeled the kitchen in this condo...and lived there two years.  Next!

We completely gutted and remodeled the kitchen in this condo…and lived there two years. Next!

Of all the things I’ve sacrificed over the years, do you know what I’ve grieved the most? (And I’d like to say it was relationships because that would make me sound all deep and stuff but…) A chicken basket.  A white basket with a small ceramic chicken glued on it.  It was given away in one of many “Brutal Purges” that resulted in hundreds of “off to the local charity” trips.  I’ve grieved it because my mother-in-law talked a store clerk out of it when it wasn’t even for sale and gave it to us as part of a wedding gift.  She cracked me up, my mother-in-law.

I’ve known people who have made the sacrifice, decided it wasn’t worth it, and went back to their old job/relationship/town/whatever.  I applaud that.  Some sacrifices aren’t worth it.  I wouldn’t give up my husband and son for anything.  I wouldn’t give up chocolate for anything. (As aforementioned, I’m neither deep nor sentimental as evidenced again by giving my husband, son, and chocolate the same priority level. But it’s chocolate, for heaven’s sake.)

But those who say they want to change, but can’t?  I’m not buying it.  It’s just a matter of whether value of change > sacrifice.

Carpe sacrifice!

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To Endings…and New Beginnings

This weekend I attended a college graduation.  It wasn’t my graduation.  And it wasn’t my first graduation.  As a professor (and serial student myself), I have attended a few graduations.  What made this graduation different is that it may have been my last.

Look at all the shiny, happy almost-college-graduates

Look at all the shiny, happy almost-college-graduates!

I resigned from my professor job to move to the place where my heart is and has always been.  The place I call “home” even though I haven’t lived there in 20 years.  The place I grew up, learned to ride a bike, had my first crush, my first love, my first heartbreak.  My first prom, my first…well, nevermind.  You get the gist.

I resigned from my professor job because…well, I’m not really sure why.  My husband said, “Why don’t we move home?”  And I said ok.  We move about every three or four years at the suggestion of one or the other of us, so this wasn’t a shocking idea. But for the first time, we are moving for the quality of our lives and not for our careers.  And that makes it very different.  But home is the where of our happiness so it must be a good thing… right?

I have mixed feelings about this ending.  Although I’m excited to be moving “home,” I’m not sure what this new beginning means for me.  Sure, it means living at the beach (yay!).  And it means raising my son in the place where I grew up (yay yay!).  But what does it mean for ME, you know, professionally?  My husband teleworks, so he takes his job with him.  But I’ve been working at a brick and mortar university.  And now I’m…not.

Beach boy

Beach boy

People keep asking, “So what are you going to be doing?”  Some persistently believe I’m retiring at 47 despite my efforts to dissuade them of the notion (it probably doesn’t help that my flippant answer to the question is occasionally “be a kept woman.”  It’s a joke!).   Answering “I have no idea” seems to make people uncomfortable (including me) and if I’m not mistaken, I’ve gotten a few pitying looks…and a few envious ones.  🙂

My goal is to relax, get quiet, and spend a few months figuring out who I am.  I call it a self-imposed sabbatical, in keeping with the professorial mindset.  Marlo Thomas (whose awesome webcast I attended last week) would probably say It Ain’t Over and Jane Pauley (whose book Your Life Calling: Reimagining the Rest of Your Life I am reading now) might call it a step toward reimagining my life.

Endings are difficult…but exciting, because they mean new beginnings.  New beginnings are scary…but exciting because anything is possible.

Carpe new beginnings.

Real Issues, Bogus Motives

A drama has been unfolding at The University of Alabama over the last couple of days.  Actually, I’m sure it has been unfolding longer than that, but it’s become public only recently.  The issue? Segregation (whispered like any mention of cancer).  It’s a real issue…for the 1950s, for crying out loud!

I love the South.  I do.  I love the “sirs” and “ma’ams,” I love the live oak trees and Spanish moss, I love the accents, I love the genteel manner people affect even if they are jerks.  One of the things I don’t love is that racism is alive and well here, y’all.  And when it rears its ugly head, people gasp in shock and fling themselves down on their fainting couch while fanning themselves with a copy of Southern Living.

After many years (as I understand it) of having completely segregated sororities and fraternities, someone got their knickers in a twist this year.  And now it’s a thing.  A thing significant enough to require a video made by the university President.

And it warrants “The Final Stand at the Schoolhouse Door” by the students.  A 7:00 a.m. protest that some of my students claimed was usurped by the administration as (and I quote) “a photo opp,” diminishing its significance.

The Final Stand

The Final Stand

But let’s be fair.  The students creating this event probably had a multitude of motives too.  Some surely truly feel outraged at the occurrence.  But if they are so outraged, why hasn’t something been done proactively in previous years before the opportunity to just react to Dr. Bonner’s video? (And maybe something has been done – enlighten me in the comments.  I’d love to know.).  Some are looking to make news (they succeeded).  Some just want to be part of a cause, any cause.  In my college days it was South Africa and apartheid.  I had friends dragged away by police for building a shanty town on the administration building steps.  They couldn’t have been happier about it.

I’m not saying it’s not a good idea to strike while the iron is hot.  But like some of my students, I call bullshit.  This has been going on far too long.  And it’s being carried into the public on the back of a VIP’s daughter who didn’t get the bid for her sorority of choice.

Segregation is bigger than this one girl.  It’s bigger than the Greek system.  It’s bigger than the university.  It’s an issue that presumably has already been resolved.  Catch up, people!  I want to put whole chunks of the South in a time machine and bring them into the present.

I’m usually very proud to be a Southerner.  But today…not so much.

Carpe the future.

[The comments in this blog are my personal opinions and reflections and do not reflect in any way the opinions or actions of The University of Alabama, it’s administration, faculty, or students.]

What’s the Big Hurry?

This post is going to seem contrary to my usual “Carpe everything!” and my personal motto “Now is better than later.”  But it’s been on my mind for a while.  What’s the big, honking hurry everyone seems to be in these days?  Why are so many people (including me sometimes) so focused on getting to the next thing that they forget about the now things?

I have had several college students who got engaged during their senior year of college…or so soon afterwards, they still had awkward hair from wearing those ridiculous mortarboards.  Many got married to high school or college sweethearts.  They had been together a long time, so they were “soulmates” or such.  As soon as they graduated (and sometimes before), they got married.  Although I suspect some of them are in college to get their M.R.S. degree (yes, that phenomenon is alive and well, at least here in the South), some of them surprise me.

Really, no one looks good in mortarboard. But I was still happy to be getting my Ph.D.

Really, no one looks good in mortarboard. But I was still happy to be getting my Ph.D.

I’m not saying getting married straight out of college is necessarily a bad thing (and I will again catch all kinds of flak from my friends who did this and are still happily married).  But these kids (and yes, I think of them as kids) are missing out on experiences that come with being single in your 20’s: having your own apartment and never having to fight over the remote with anyone or eating the last of the chocolate peanut butter ice cream in the freezer.  Life-shaping stuff.

Without my single years in my 20’s, I wouldn’t be who I am today.  Maybe I’m just a late bloomer, but I needed that time to feel lonely, to learn to be alone happily, and to make some moves I could never have done as part of a couple or family.  I am not at all the person I was in college.  Or in my 20’s, for that matter.

This “what’s the big hurry?” also applies to the career types who are in so much of a hurry to climb the corporate ladder that they forget there are a lot of great things to experience (and learn) where they are–and more importantly, outside of work.

And to the students who are in such a hurry to graduate that they forget why they are in college in the first place–to learn, to experience “college life” which is a unique once-in-a-lifetime free-for-all the likes of which we long for the rest of our lives.  Don’t get me wrong, the Real World is great.  But there’s something about college…

And to the dreamers who are always thinking about the future (this is where I’m guilty) instead of relishing the present.

“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery. Today? Today is a gift. That’s why we call it the present.”  –Kung Fu Panda

I read a blog post by Rachel Macy Stafford “The Day I Stopped Saying Hurry Up.”  It struck me right in the gut.  How many times have I said that to my son as he watches the ants scurry around on the anthill or searches for the perfect rock?  Because wherever I need to go or whatever I need to do, I need to do it now.  Because now is better than later.  Only sometimes the now thing is the anthill and it’s really not going to make a big difference if I get to the office 10 minutes later.

When's the last time you took the time to climb a tree?

When’s the last time you took the time to climb a tree?

My life could have been very different.  I could have gotten married right after college except that He Who Shall Be Known as The One That Got Away and I couldn’t seem to get our acts together and ultimately married other people–all for the better I’m sure.  Instead I spent some time alone, learned to move around to different cities, eat out by myself, enjoy business travel, and accept the torture know as dating.  Ultimately I married Mr. Perfect when I was 32 and he was 35 (yep, late bloomers).

Lately I find myself in less of a hurry (my husband, one-speed Phil might disagree)…sometimes.  I’m a work in progress.  But after seeing so many friends and family struck down with serious illnesses, I realize hurrying past today toward tomorrow and next week and the next experience causes me to miss a lot of things and leaves me empty.  Now it’s time to stop and smell the roses.

Carpe now.

Treat Every Time Like the First Time–for Everything

This was the first week of the semester at the university I teach at.  I taught  pretty much the same courses I’ve taught every semester for the three years I’ve been here.  Shoot, they were basically the same classes I’ve been teaching for the last 11 years I’ve been a college professor (at several different universities).  Yet I was nervous as heck about walking into class the first day.  Some of my colleagues said they were too.  We decided that was a good thing.  Being a little nervous keeps us sharp and on our toes.  It may even have made us better professors this week.

A few nerves might be good thing to keep me sharp as a speaker

A few nerves might be good thing to keep me sharp as a speaker

The same thing happens to me when I speak to a group.  Although I have been a professional public speaker for nearly 15 years, I still get nervous each and every time I step out onto the stage (or dais, riser, carpet, or whatever).  And maybe that’s just the natural state of things for an introvert like me.  But I think it’s a good thing.  The fear at the beginning makes the feeling of accomplishment at the end all the sweeter.  Especially if it’s a hit (I ad lib and go rogue on myself sometimes, so what comes out isn’t necessarily exactly what I’d planned–sometimes a good thing, sometimes not).

I was recently reading this post “16 Ways I Blew My Marriage” by Dan Pearce at SingleDadLaughing.  What struck me was (a) he’s hilarious and (b) he was saying basically that we should treat our relationships as new all the time (my interpretation, not necessarily his).  When we get too comfortable, we get lackadaisical.  When we get lackadaisical, we stop trying.  And it shows.  Apathy and discontent ensues.  Fade to gray.

I have over time gotten apathetic about things like friendships, restaurants, vacation destinations, and activities. But maybe that’s because I started taking people for granted, ordered the same dish every time, didn’t research new destinations, and didn’t challenge myself, respectively?

I fortunately have yet to feel apathetic about my marriage (14 years and still going strong!), but I do occasionally ask my husband if it’s absolutely necessary that we walk around the house dressed like hobos in our very worst looking (but absolutely most comfortable) clothes.  [Despite this post, I do not anticipate putting on heels and slathering on make-up every day for my husband.  There is a limit.]

And if I’m completely honest about why we had a kid (in our 40’s), it was at least in part because of an outburst (ok, melt-down) I had one night about the boring predictability of our lives (work until 5:00, dinner at 6:00, watch television 8:00-10:00, rinse, repeat.  With an (almost) 4 year old now, nothing is predictable.  And it’s pretty awesome…because every day is a brand-new experience.

I’m going to try harder to find the “new” in everything and to treat every experience like it’s the first time.  Join me?

Carpe new!

Finding Meaningful Work…or Finding Meaning in Your Work?

I had an “aha” moment recently.  I was pondering why I get “itchy” every three years or so and change jobs (and usually, cities).  (To see some of the jobs I’ve held, see the post “A Bibliography for Job Hoppers Like Me.”)  It could certainly be that I am a Scanner, as Barbara Sher describes.  I have a lot of interests and the thoughts that constantly run through my head go something like this:

Oh! I want to be a caterer!

Now I want to be a lawyer!

Ooooh, let’s move to Las Vegas!

Let’s live at the beach!

Etc. Etc.

But my “aha” moment was this: I tend to lose interest in a job when it no longer feels meaningful.  I don’t mean (necessarily) like a ministry or saving the planet (I guess I don’t aspire that high).  Just feeling like my day is spent on worthwhile things.  Not TPS reports. (Office Space?  If you haven’t seen the movie, do.  Then you’ll get this reference.  More importantly, you’ll laugh.  A lot.  Hopefully.)

By Hugh MacLeod www.gapingvoid.com (genius, artist, and King of Irreverence)

By Hugh MacLeod http://www.gapingvoid.com (genius, artist, and King of Irreverence)

One of the things I love about being a college professor is the opportunity to help young adults (or not-so-young-adults) figure out professional and personal things that will help them live a meaningful and fulfilling lives.  I’ve taught at several different universities in my life.  The experience has been pretty much the same – I start off excited about the students, the opportunities to help them learn about what I think is a fun and exciting career area, and teach them information and skills they need to know to succeed.  The first year is fabulous.  I’m in hog heaven.  The second year is good, but I feel a little frustrated that I’m not “getting through to them.”

By the end of third year, I am downright depressed and worn down because SO many students don’t seem to be interested in learning.  Some don’t bother to show up in class at all.  Some show up, but sneer at me all through class [I’ve actually kept two students after class to ask them if they know what their facial expressions look like (both said they didn’t)…and explain that this may be a detriment in an interview or work environment.  Then again, they may just really not like me.]

In other words, I can’t find the meaning in the work any more.  I’m not blaming the students.  They are who they are and they do what they do.  And it could certainly be that I’m a lousy professor, although I have some kind former students who are nice enough to say otherwise (thanks, y’all!).  Plenty of professors stay in the job for years and years.  Clearly, they find something I can’t.  Maybe they find meaning in research (I don’t – not the academic kind, anyway) or administration (I’m a worse bureaucrat than sales person…and I’m a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad sales person).  I don’t know.

The first time in my working life that I realized the importance of having meaning in my work was when I worked as a front desk clerk at a hotel during college.  It was a revelation to realize the effect I could have on someone else’s mood, just by being friendly.  After a long day of work, a flight, and a life-threatening taxi ride from one of the D.C. area airports, they would arrive at the hotel, bedraggled and tired.  And find me, a 20 year old college student, at the front desk.  If I gave them the key to their room, fine.  They went up and their day was no different.  But if I smiled and joked with them or found something in their profile to start a conversation with (e.g., “You’re from Dallas? My brother lives in Dallas!”), it sometimes seemed to make their mood better.  And I helped!

That’s how public speaking is for me.  When I do a good job boiling what I think is important information into understandable chunks and use those to ignite a conversation with and between the participants, it feels meaningful.  It’s information that will help them in some way.  And I was able to help give it to them.  Meaning.

Still I wonder sometimes…is there really no meaning?  Or can I just not find it?  Or do I stop looking for it?

How about you?

Carpe meaning!

What Your Professors Haven’t Told You (But Should)

Part of the joy of irreverence–and being a professor–is being able to tell college students what they need to know.  And part of what they need to know is that professors don’t know it all. (collective gasp!)  In some case, what was true when they were the age of a college student is totally out date and no longer true.  For example, I was told as a college graduate (many moons ago) that I had to buy a navy blue or black suit with a white blouse or (if I wanted to be edgy) a gray striped suit…just like the IBM folks wore.  I bought pink corduroy (hey, it was fashionable in the 80’s…ok, probably not, but this isn’t a fashion blog).

Next week, I’m doing a presentation for college students at the Meeting Professionals International World Education Congress (MPI-WEC) called “What Your Professors Haven’t Told You, but Should.”  I’ve done a similar presentation for a couple of other student groups–IMEX America in Fall 2012 and most recently, at the Korea MICE Expo IMEX-MPI-MCI Future Leaders Forum in Seoul in June 2013.  Interestingly, there seemed to be absolutely no cultural barrier to the message in Korea and the students and recent college graduates in Seoul “got it” just as the (mostly) American students in Las Vegas did.  Interesting.

Some recent college graduates in Seoul who attended my presentation at the IMEX-MCI-MPI Future Leaders Forum

Some recent college graduates in Seoul who attended my presentation at the IMEX-MCI-MPI Future Leaders Forum

I love-love-love speaking to students–college students, high school students, recent college grads, graduate students.  Anyone open to a message about transition and change.  Part of the challenge with students is that (believe it or not), they are accustomed to pretty much believing what they hear.  Professor = authority figure.  Ergo, what the professor says must be true.  Not.  It’s not that I believe professors set out to tell students untruths.  I think professors really believe what they say.  I, on the other, think most of it is hooey.

Some of the bits of wisdom (read: opinion) I am going to share at this upcoming presentation include gems such as:

  • Grades don’t matter
  • You can’t learn it in a classroom
  • You already have a brand
  • Tattoos, nose rings, and pink hair are ok–even in an interview
  • Ban the black suit

There’s a lot more to each of these.  Hope you’ll be at MPI-WEC to hear about it.  And as a bonus, my buddy Professor Carol Krugman will be joining me to give her opinions (some of which differ from mine–shock).  If not, I’ll post the slides on SlideShare later.

Carpe irreverence.

P.S. You may be one of the lucky students who has an awesome professor who really does tell it like it is.  Or you may be the professor who does.  If so, kudos to you!  I know some of you are out there and I’m proud to call some of you “friends.”  🙂

Should You Go to Graduate School? Probably Not.

Every few months I get an e-mail from a former (or current) student and the uncomfortable exchange goes like this:

Student: Dear  Dr. Tyra, Would you be willing to write me a recommendation letter for graduate school?  I really enjoyed/learned so much in (insert other flattery here) your class and now I want to go back and get a master’s degree in (usually the same field).

Me:  Dear Student, I would certainly consider writing you a letter for graduate school if I didn’t think that by doing so, I would be doing you a terrible disservice.

Student: …..?

I know it’s not what they are expecting to hear and it’s probably not what they want to hear, but for 99.9% of them, it’s what they need to hear.  Too many people go to graduate school (a) to extend the period of time “in college” before they have to deal with the real world or (b) they can’t get a job and so they figure they may as well stay in school.  Bad, bad, bad reasons to go to graduate school.  Plus, in many instances, this strategy just results in being over-qualified and under-experienced for even an entry level job.  Not to mention further in debt.

UA graduate 2012

One of my recent rock star students who graduated and who is (wisely) working for a while post-graduation.

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for higher education.  I didn’t get three graduate degrees for nothing.  And I’ve used every one of them…although not always in the way I thought I would use them (but that’s for another post).  Grad school is not a summer camp for the Peter Pan set and it’s not something that should be undertaken lightly.

There are exceptions, certainly.  In some fields a master degree is the minimum education needed.  Those fields are not the ones I’m talking about here.  I’m talking about the liberal arts, hospitality, marketing, whatever majors.  The fields where the combination of education and experience are necessary to even get in the game.

My advice for undergrads and recent grads is: stay out of school after graduation. Work a few years, figure out who you are and if what you think you want to do really is what you want to do.  Then find out what skills/knowledge you need to do it better…and then consider graduate school.  Ideally, not at your alma mater, where you may have some of the same professors you had for undergrad (and in some cases, the same classes plus an extra “graduate level” project – snort!).

It’s also important to choose the right graduate degree.  My husband got his MBA several years ago because…well, that’s what people with IT degrees who weren’t going to be IT guys did at the time.  He was told it would open all kinds of doors for him.  It didn’t.  So he went back and got a Master in Library Science (MLS).  And despite frequent ribbing from me about being married to a librarian, it’s been just what he needed.  But he didn’t know it until he knew it.

Carpe education (or not)!

Fear of Change–College to the Real World

It’s that time of year here at the university when students are (a) excited about getting close to graduating, (b) dreading/fearing graduation or (c) both.  What I can’t quite figure out is why anyone would dread or fear graduation.  Maybe it was because I didn’t enjoy college.  That is, I didn’t enjoy the institution.  I enjoyed the learning, but that certainly didn’t stop when I left.

I’m hypothesizing that students who fear/dread graduating fall into one of several categories:

1) They are party animals and don’t want the party to stop.

Life is one big party...for some in colelge

Life is one big party…for some in college

2) They are comforted by the cocoon of their group of friends, sorority/fraternity, sheltered microcosm of college in general.  The idea of going out in the big, bad world all alone is terrifying.

3) They have no idea what the real world is about and they don’t want to think about it.

The folks in Category #3 are the ones rushing to my office to talk about “graduate school” – a way to extend the college experience so they don’t have to go out into the real world.  And here’s what I tell them…

If you want to go to graduate school, don’t go now and don’t go here.  Go get some work experience before you go further in debt (or better yet, wait until you can afford to pay for grad school) so you can be sure you are getting your graduate degree in the right field.  And don’t go here especially if you want to get your master’s degree in the same field as your undergrad (or think you do).  Go somewhere else where you can learn from different people who have different experiences or perspectives.

The Category #2 folks are the ones that just need to be pushed out of the nest and learn to fly the hard way.  Sink or swim, baby!  Oh, mixing animal metaphors there.  Oh, well.  Swimming birds, flying fish, whatever.

And for Category #1 folks, all I can say is “Grow up, dude.”  (Or dudette).  It’s time.

The Real World is awesome.  Really.  Sure, there’s an adjustment period, but it is awesome.  Trust me.

Carpe the Real World.

A Little Gratitude Goes a Long Way

I just got back from (brrrr…) Minneapolis where I facilitated three educational programs at the Religious Conference Managers Association (RCMA) Annual Conference, Emerge 2013.  I wasn’t sure what to expect because I’d never spoken for this particular group before.   It was a fantastic experience!  top_banner2

They (the planners of religious conferences and the supplier-partners who provide the facilities and services they need) were so engaged and participatory in the sessions (well, 2 out of 3, anyway…the session that lasted until 5:30 had a quiet audience.  I’m still not sure whether it was the topic:  “Understanding Difficult Contract Clauses” or the time or some other factor.  It happens.).  Two of the topics were legal and one was crisis management.  I know, some of you out there are going “Zzzzzzz….” but this is important stuff in the hospitality and meetings industry. (So important that I’m thinking of resurrecting my Dr. Tyra’s R.I.S.K. Review blog – what do you think?)

Anyway, I’ve been struggling a bit with my real job lately – teaching at a university – and I’ve been trying to figure out why.  I’ve always loved the challenge of “nuggetizing” information about this industry that I love (the meetings industry) and providing it to college students to give them a leg up on their competition when they get out there looking for a job.  Yet lately it has felt a bit like just going through the motions.  And I haven’t been able to figure out why.

Now, I think I know!  Gratitude is the key.  It’s energizing to work with a grateful group.  On the flip side, it’s de-motivating to work with an ungrateful (or perhaps more aptly, an apathetic) group. As we all remember from college, not every class is scintillating.  Not every class makes you want to run up to the professor and say “Wow, that was so helpful.  Thank you for taking the time to provide this information to us!”  In fact, few do.  But when I speak to industry groups, I often (but not always) have a few people who come up and say just that.  What I often get in class are bored looks (if not outright napping), “is this going to be on the test?” and some bold folks who confess they are neither interested nor plan to use any of this when they grow up.  It’s deflating.

I’ve taught at three universities.  I still hear and keep in touch with graduate from University 1.  They still rock my world regularly.  

Meeting up with one of my graduates in Singapore!
Meeting up with one of my graduates in Singapore!

I never hear from graduates of University 2.  And I’m just beginning (after 3 years) to hear (though very rarely) from students and graduates of my current university, University 3.  But usually just to provide them “professional contacts”…which I’m happy to do, but it’s not quite the same as hearing “Thanks.”

Maybe I just haven’t been here long enough for the students to realize and share with me and others the value in what they’ve learned in our classes.

I don’t want to be one of those “needy” people who needs ego stroking to feel good about what I do.  But, hey, a little positive feedback goes a long way in maintaining motivation in any job.  So say Kouzes & Posner, godfathers of leadership, anyway.

So show your gratitude today – to a teacher, a spouse, a neighbor, anyone.  A little gratitude truly goes a long way.

Carpe gratitude.

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