Remembering What I Forgot

I know, it has been a while since I’ve written and posted.  Believe me, I’ve missed it too.  To atone for my erred ways, I’ll say I’m sorry and my goal is to not let life get in the way (and now you get to help keep me accountable).  I truly forgot how much I love doing this.  Now back to our regularly scheduled program.

This week for one of my MBA classes we spent time reading a few pieces from Plato, one of which was Socrates’ dialogue with Charmides, better known as the dialogue of “Temperance.”  Although Socrates and his pals fail to come up with a complete definition of the word, they relate to being temperate as having the qualities of self-awareness, self-knowledge, and self-control.  They go on to reference that self-knowledge is the quality of knowing what we know, but also knowing what one does not know, being somewhat comfortable with this fact and constantly seeking to fill in the gap of what we don’t know through continuous learning and asking questions about life.

In order to develop self-knowledge and become self-aware of our own qualities, fortunes, shortcomings, likes, dislikes, wants, and desires, one most take time for self-reflection.  I know we are all extremely busy – many of us in demanding jobs, continuing our educations, and giving of ourselves to support local charities and organizations.  However, I think that we can all benefit from a few moments of self-reflection to better align our thoughts and continue moving toward our ultimate passions and goals, developing a path that will bring us happiness, success, and much good in our lives.

The article below highlights a quite extreme case – two weeks of living an unplugged life while on vacation.  While I’m not advocating that we all get rid of e-mail, phones, text messages, Tweets, etc., I do believe we can all benefit from a few extra moments of self-reflection and though each day.  Who knows, those moments may give us the clarity we’ve been looking for or provide us with the answer to all of life’s mysteries (one can dream right?).

 http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2013/09/06/the-power-of-stepping-back/?nl=business&emc=edit_dlbkam_20130909

The past few weeks have fortunately given me time to reflect and assess things in my life.  One thing that I realized was inherently missing was taking time for myself, time spent doing the little things I love like enjoying a cup of coffee on my porch as the sun comes up, reading the daily newspaper (yes, just like an old man) and blogs I follow, and more importantly writing and sharing my thoughts with others – others like you who are reading this blog who provide me with an outlet to share my thoughts and reflections while also providing me great feedback and encouragement along the way.  While these things sound trivial, they provide me with the time necessary to do some daily reflection and process what is happening around me in the chaos we call life.

My message today is simple: 1) Don’t forget to take time for yourself and to truly reflect on things that are happening in your life  2) Don’t forget what is important in your life.   It’s really funny; if you take time to do #1, #2 will almost always take care of itself.

Remembering what you forgot isn’t too hard, but it’s easier never to forget.

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Superman and His Kryptonite

I’m a man.  A go-getting, head-first charging, action taking, solve all of life’s problems and difficulties without batting an eye, shedding a tear, or showing any sense of emotion type of man.  And that’s what a man is supposed to be – a winner, a hero, Superman if you will.

I inherited this need to be Superman from my father, the greatest man that I know.  Jimmy Michael Priest is the “everyman.”  Growing up, he was not only dad to my brother and me but I’ll give you a small list of the things he did when not being “just dad:”

  • Successfully owned and operated (with my mother) a 24-hour a day towing services company that won multiple local and regional awards and was in operation for nearly 30 years when he sold it in 2011
  • Served on our hometown’s volunteer fire department from early 1980s until present day where he held multiple leadership positions, even Chief of the Department for a few years
  • Repaired police/fire department radio and scanning equipment on the side (just for fun) and because people came to him for help
  • Constantly was fixing up and repairing cars, both old “fixer-uppers” that he enjoyed tinkering with or helping other people repair random things on their everyday rides.  I can’t even remember a time when there wasn’t a car with a motor torn apart in the garage
  • Was on the board or gave significant time to several local charities such as the DARE to Keep Kids Off Drugs, Red Ribbon Week, Operation Graduation, the Village Creek Festival (the annual town fair), and others I’m sure I’m forgetting
  • Supported the Hardin County Sherriff’s Department in several charity functions and at one-time was a part-time deputy officer
  • Was an active participant in local politics, helping friends campaign for city offices, boards, and other positions while also helping rally the support for local bond referendums and elections that our city needed to continue growing
  • And then, with all of his free time, he decided to open a second business (a mini-storage facility), that he continues to operate to this day

I can remember several days where my dad would be up and on the road working before I got ready for school and wouldn’t be home until sometimes after dinner, where undoubtedly somebody would stop by the house to “talk shop” about the local happenings, ask for his help in painting signs and advertisements for local events and campaigns, or find out if he could fix whatever issue they were having with their radio equipment.  There were plenty of nights when I would go to bed late after studying only to hear him still out in his shop, blasting oldies music and working the night away.  And in the meantime, he still found time to attend school functions, sporting events, and band performances to boot.  The man didn’t quit, he never complained, and he always got things done.  To me, he was invincible, he was a hero, and he was my Superman.  Therefore, as I was growing up, I took on the same types of responsibilities and involvement and I wanted to be Superman for everyone else around me.

However, after nearly 27 years on this earth, and trying to constantly be everything to everybody that surrounds me and that I care about in this life, I’ve learned that even Superman has his kryptonite.  Sometimes, you cannot continue to carry the weight of the world on your back and try to solve every problem for every person that you know and love and care about.  I’m sure my dad realized this along the way somewhere and had to make a choice between the events and activities he took on.

You see, there are two reasons why this just doesn’t work out for us as human beings.  First of all, somebody a long, long time ago decided that each day would have only 24 hours and that the time we have, both each day and on this earth, is definitive and finite.  We cannot simply go out and create more time.  No matter how much we try to improve our efficiencies and time management, we simply cannot create more hours in the day.  Sorry if I busted your bubble just then.

Second, and more importantly, as much as I hate to admit it, none of us really possess super human strengths or god-like abilities.  We are humans.  We are normal (well, most of us at least, some of you, I often wonder…kidding of course).  We each have different trials and tribulations that we will come across in life that we will not be able to handle alone.  Sometimes it’s a specific skill set you need to accomplish a task.  Like for me, I have no idea how to fix anything related to a computer – but thank goodness my brother builds these things.

But, more important than any missing skill or ability, sometimes we just need friends and support to help us through difficult times, provide advice, counsel, or even just a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on.  Now I know this is counter-intuitive to everything I’ve mentioned about being a man, you know, solving all of life’s problems, charging head first into every activities, and doing it all without complaining, asking questions, or showing emotion.  However, you can’t do it all by yourself – no matter who you are.  There will be times when you just don’t know what to do, don’t know how to do it, and can’t figure out which way is up or which direction in life is right for you.  This is when you (and I’m definitely including myself here) must be vulnerable and open, reaching out to others to help you find your way, solve your problems, or even just talk through life’s difficulties.

The Game of Life isn’t as simple as the Hasbro board game where you take a little toy car around fairytale land to get married, receive paychecks, collect little blue and pink babies, and every now and then try for a lucky day at the races.  Life is tough, the decisions are difficult, and sometimes (several times) you just won’t have the answers or the ability to understand why, how, or what.  It is times like these that you must be open and vulnerable, finding friends who will listen to you, that have been through similar situations, and will ask the tough questions of you to help you find out what you really want in life.  To find these people and develop these friendships, you have to be open and honest with yourself, comfortable in your own skin, and not be afraid to build deep relationships with the people around you.  Without these close, trusted, deeply personal relationships, you will often fill the weight of the world on your shoulders and have no one to reach out to for support.  And when the weight gets too tough, you will eventually collapse and crumble underneath the burden that you have placed upon yourself.  I know several of you are reading this and thinking, “no way chief, I’m the man.”  But trust me, I’ve been there – the crash is inevitable and it is painful.  Remember, “No man is an island unto himself” – we must depend on those around us to get us through the hard times.

Looking back, it was so clear that my father had developed these relationships many years ago and continues to surround himself with great men who believe in the same servant mentality that he possesses.  And thus far in life, I’ve been able to surround myself with similar like-minded individuals who desire to achieve greatness in both their personal and professional lives, give back to their communities, and look for opportunities to support their colleagues and friends in any of life’s adventures and difficulties.

Can each of us become Superman?  Highly unlikely.  But, by surrounding yourself with great people who care about you, want to see you succeed and with whom you are able to share your problems, worries, and struggles with, you will find that life becomes a bit more manageable.

Be vulnerable.  Be true to yourself and real with yourself.  Open up and reach out.  You’ll find several people who are struggling with the same life questions as you are and together, you will be able to solve all of life’s problems, one day at a time.

Go. Believe. Do Your Best Work.

October.  The temperature is cooling, people have begun donning sweaters (in some states), and there’s this holiday feeling that starts to rise up inside of you.

And then there’s December graduation.

For the last four years (or five in my case), most undergraduate students have lived life in a protective bubble. The greatest challenges may have been which electives to take, morning or afternoon classes, and maybe where to work over the summer.  However, with graduation fast approaching for many students, real choices now exist. Is it going to be entry-level work, the pursuit of a master’s degree, making a move to a big city, moving back home? All of these choices can make this season of your life feel pretty complicated.

I have some news for you – these choices do not end once you complete your undergraduate education.

I recently made the large decision of leaving a great job at the innovation consulting firm, Kalypso, to return to school and earn an MBA. I remember attending a weekend event at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business where Dean Robert Bruner offered us a quote:

“Go where you believe you can do your best work.”

Sure, makes sense – go somewhere where you’ll be able to do good, don’t go somewhere where you’ll do poorly.  Some would say it’s almost common sense, but I think there is a great deal of meaning behind those ten simple words.

First, look at the word “Go.”  Go is not a choice and go is not a binary option.  Go is a call to action.  You must take an action, make a choice and move yourself physically into the new area of your life.  And when you arrive, you must truly be there.  It’s like a game show – you must be present to win.  Your mind can’t wander back to that old place, wondering what might have been and thinking of all of the fun you could be having elsewhere.  When you make the conscious choice to move – to go – you must dive head first into the deep end, choose to perform and choose to believe.

To me, the word “believe” immediately elicits notions of a higher power that guides your actions and decisions – but I think it’s sometimes just as important to believe in yourself. You are the most powerful person in this equation; if you believe in yourself you can achieve anything you desire.

Lastly, it’s about “best work.”  You should always be pointing yourself in the direction of your calling.  Yes, you will have to work some jobs along the way that are not necessarily what you envisioned, but you should always be pointing yourself in the right direction, not straying from the path for fear of getting lost.  If you are doing your best work, your work will ultimately improve the lives of those around you.  If you are doing your best work, you will be fulfilled.

So whether this season of your life is filled with the happiness of graduation from high school or university or perhaps you’re mid-career and the next opportunity is staring you in the face, the advice is all the same:  Go.  Believe.  Do your best work.  Strive for your absolute personal best and pursue excellence.  But first, you must go.

Now Go.

FOMO, WMHB, and Other Diseases You’ve Never Heard Of

FOMO.

If any of you reading this post are anything like me, you’ve probably never heard this expression.  I didn’t even know this expression existed until I heard it from a Second Year student here at Darden last week.  For those of you who are still in the dark, let me define this wonderful expression for you:

FOMO = Fear Of Missing Out.

Four simple words.  When I first heard this expression, it took me a second to realize exactly what it meant.  Then, very quickly thereafter, I realized that I, too, suffer from this affliction from time to time.  This fear can be debilitating, devastating, and destructive to your life.

Let me describe a few symptoms of FOMO.  In the simplest form, people dealing with FOMO cannot make decisions when offered two potential experiences.  These experiences could be parties to go to, happy hours, which organizations to join, which events to attend, or even which group of friends to sit with.  Those suffering from FOMO are often afraid to commit to any one event or gathering for fear that another opportunity may come up later in the day.  And even when they do make a decision, accept an invitation and dive head first into an opportunity, they are often physically there but mentally checked out, spending their valuable brain waves wondering what they are missing instead of enjoying the experience they are currently in.  Their fear of missing out actually causes them to miss out even when they are there.

But FOMO doesn’t just stop with experiences.  FOMO can transition into a case of the “What might have beens” or WMHBs for short.  You know this feeling, that unnerving wrenching in your stomach that you get sometimes when you aren’t entirely sure you made the right decision.  As a graduate student, I’m sure several of us get the WMHBs when we consider where we would be in our careers if we would have spent these two years in the workforce and not in school. Others may get the WMHBs when thinking back to old relationships, organizations they dropped out of, or friends they lost touch with.

But for every case of FOMO and the WMHBs, there are always those individuals suffering from the, “where am I going” disease.  You know these types as well.  They are the ones who are never satisfied with their current situation, always looking for the next big thing or trying to plan the next big move in their life.  They want to make grand life plans – looking one, five, ten, sometimes twenty years down the line to plan their life.  They are so busy making plans for the future that they essentially forego their current life.

If you live in fear of missing out, constantly spend your brain waves wondering what might have been, or you are always trying desperately to figure out the moves in Future Year 8 of your life, you are not truly living in the present.  While self-reflection can be a good thing, there is much to be said about living in the present, enjoying and learning from your current surroundings.  It is in these moments that you have undoubtedly been blessed with more than you are even capable of understanding and are more than likely surrounded by some great people with whom you will share many laughs, tears, and memories.  It is the present that makes us appreciate the past and prepares us for our future.  But more importantly, the present is where life truly takes place.  The present is lights, camera, action.

Don’t spend too much of your day worrying about missing out, what you did wrong, or when the next big chapter of your life is going to begin.  Spend your day enjoying the life and the people you have around you.  Make decisions, take chances, and celebrate life every chance you get because before you know it, things change, people change, the moment is gone.

“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift, which is why we call it the present.”

Who am I?

Earlier this month, I began earning my Master’s Degree in Business Administration (MBA).  Over the last few weeks leading up to this commencement, I began to think about what it truly means to get my MBA and how it would change me as an individual and my plans for the future.  During our orientation, faculty, staff, and alumni aided these thoughts by sharing several stories about the opportunities that lay before each one of us and all of the different avenues that we as students will continue on after completing our education at and receiving our diplomas from The Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia.  As Larry Wriborg told me the day I received my acceptance letter, we truly are in the “cat bird’s seat,” ready and able to pounce on any opportunity that may come our way and seize the day.

 

Yes, with an MBA from a top tier institution and our various skills, experiences, and expertise, we will all surely move on to successful careers in finance, management, and marketing, perhaps moving on to leadership roles and executive positions at some of the most exciting companies on the planet.

 

But, these new positions do not begin, with the exception of our summer internships, until 21 months from now when we cross the stage with our 320 classmates.  For now, we’ve all been given the opportunity to hit the pause button on life and, for the most part, return to a simpler time as students.  During this time, we not only have the opportunity to improve our skills as analysts, managers, marketers, and leaders but also to reflect on whom it is that we truly want to be.  While this two year hiatus from the real world makes it extremely possible to invest this time in ourselves as individuals, I urge each and every person reading this post, no matter what age, experience, or occupation, to consider the following questions:

 

  • Who am I?
  • What do I stand for?
  • What separates me from the crowd?
  • What truly satisfies me and brings joy to my life?
  • What do I want to add to this world?
  • What am I going to leave behind?

 

These are the basic principles of self-awareness: understanding who we are as individuals, what our personal brands are and which intangibles we possess.  Without this, we fail to distinguish ourselves from not only the thousands of other students who are currently attending similar MBA programs around the world but also the millions of people who are walking the face of this earth, blindly going about their day to day routine with no sense of direction or purpose, ignorantly accepting complacency for happiness and fulfillment.

 

This personal brand will not only serve as a key differentiator to each one of us as students vying against other top MBAs for both summer internships and full-time job positions at some of the best companies in the world but will also guide us as we continue to make decisions throughout our lives, both professional and personal.  Without establishing this North Star within our personal compasses, we are bound to veer off course, allowing our egos, selfish desires, misconceptions, negative perceptions, and fears to take us down paths that may not be as bright and sunny as we wish.

 

While daunting, this unfortunately is not a one-time, do the task, check the box, type of activity.  The formation of a personal brand is an evolutionary process, one in which we will continue to refine ourselves through education, experience, and personal growth.  To do this, we must not only become perpetual learners, engaging in self-reflection and self-awareness, but also surround ourselves with a network of friends, peers, advisors, and mentors of all ages, backgrounds, and industries to constantly reflect, seek advice, and share wisdom, for “as iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”

 

Do your part.  Your brand is essentially your life story, so never, ever stop living.  Always keep learning, evolving, growing, and doing.  Take chances, try new things, get outside your comfort zone, meet new people, and every once in a while do something unexpected just to break up the monotony of life.

 

And this blog will be just that: our attempt to break up the day to day grind and reflect on life: sharing humor, introspection, lessons learned, and maybe even a tear or two.  This will be our story – my wife, Erika, and I’s – as we begin our life together in Charlottesville, Virginia, 1,300+ miles from our previous home in Houston.  As an early childhood elementary school teacher (her) and a graduate student (me), we’ll both share our stories and lessons learned about being newlyweds, adjusting to our new home, getting used to new occupations, and everything in between.

 

Feel free to share your feedback, ask questions, or leave your thoughts.  This is our story and we’re glad to have you reading along with us.

 

Until the next page,

 

-Matt and Erika