Susan Wants to Study with Seth

NOTE: This content was originally published on Squidoo. Since that site closed, I decided to move it here as historical record more than anything else rather than let it disappear altogether.

On the hunt for my next big adventure

adventureSo … I’ve been trying to figure out what I want to do when I grown up. (40 is grown up, right?) Just restless of late, not feeling as though I really fit in the career skin I’ve somehow donned. I haven’t made it very far in my quest for something new, though. Then this comes along.

Seth Godin is making the offer of a lifetime – six months studying with him at his New York office. He’s proposed this as an alternative to getting a traditional MBA where you would study big, important things like finance and accounting.

The best part? (Outside of getting to hang with Seth for six months, that is.) – The part where Seth says this is going to be about practical application of (drum roll) stuff I’m actually interested in!! I work with accountants right now. I’ve tried to read books on financial reports and corporate finance. Just can’t make it through because that’s not where my passion lies. I want to dream big. I want to grow our firm’s internal community. I want to find new places to share my thoughts.

So this lens is my official application to Seth’s experimental education program. Best of luck to everyone applying!

What Seth Wants to Know

Because it’s good to follow the directions sometimes

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* What do you do now?
* Why do you do it?
* What are you hoping to learn?
* After you learn it, what are you going to do with it?
* Tell me a true story about making a change in the world.
* Have you overcome a Dip?
* What astonishing thing did you do before you did what you do now.
* Make a wish.
* What else should I know?

Where I Am Now

What I Do For Money

Marketing manager for accounting firm – I’m changing the world there by pushing us into social media and more team selling. We’re out on the cutting edge with a few of these things.
Creative genius – I still have people asking me to do graphic design for them and paint (I used to have a faux finish/mural business). I would like to expand this to things that can be on my own terms, like opening an Etsy shop.
Online marketing – Thanks to Squidoo, I’m establishing my own creative world online where I actually make money. Not enough to replace my regular income – yet.

Why I Do It

Typical reasons – Money, security, insurance. My husband works for himself, which means there can be a lot of uncertainty there. My taking a normal job allowed him to go out on his own (increasing both income and security) and gives him freedom and latitude in choosing projects he likes. Am I brave enough to just toss all that? Yes. But it’s not just me that would have to be brave.
Creative outlet – Squidoo gave me a place to use my research skills and creativity without anyone else telling me what to do. (Not that I couldn’t still do with an editor now and then.) That was my sole motivation when I started, but it’s opened my eyes to the number of different doors I could walk through now.

Why I Want to Study with Seth

And it’s more than just a joy of learning that has me excited.

joyoflearning

Relevance
I might want to be the CEO of my own life and I might want to change the world in some way, but I don’t plan to do it by running a big division or company. As a result, it just seems to me that so much of what you would cover in a traditional program would be … let’s say unrelated … to my end goals. Seth is planning to cover the things that actually get me excited and that I would want to spend the next 20 years doing.

Time
I am guilty of being impatient with the journey. I want to be there already. I’m still pushing for a four-day work week in our office. So I love the idea of something short and intense so we get to where we’re actually using what we learn.

The Company
This wouldn’t just be a cool opportunity for me. It’s also a cool opportunity for several other people. Which means I’d get to do this gig in a room with people smarter than me, who are also passionate about these topics.

Failure Encouraged
Seth’s general philosophy falls in line with one of the things I love the most about Southwest Airlines. There is no shame in failing. Only shame in not trying. (Which is contrary to Yoda, though. “There is no try, only do.”)

What I Want to Do With What I Learn

What I Hope to Learn
– Discover some focus, a true passion
– Learn just how to keep myself focused on the strategic ends rather than the tactical means.
– Develop a new skill set that I can apply to whatever I tackle in the second half of my life.

What I Want to Do With It
– Leverage the power of Seth’s name and the education to change my career path
– Give my husband’s company better marketing power
– Find a problem I can get passionate about and solve it

About Where I’ve Been

How I have been astonishing

I have had some unusual jobs in my lifetime. When I was a kid, we picked pinecones, which were then turned into Christmas ornaments. In high school, after basketball season, I worked in a mail house, leaving with the great skills of counting pieces quickly and knowing every zip code in the country.

But the two things I’ve ever done that people find astonishing and want to know more about? My first career was as a sports writer. I started out at a time when women were still rare on the sports pages and given how girly I’m getting in my dotage (of 38!), it surprises people that I pursued such a tack in life.

The second thing was my trip to southern Sudan in the summer of 2007 with my church. Just the mention of Sudan tends to freak people out, but it was an amazing adventure. We were there to do training and to see what else our church could get involved in. Since then, there’s been a second trip with a dentist and I’m trying to convince my dad to go to do some badly needed AIDS education.


Don’t Waste Your Life

I read this during my mission trip to Sudan in 2007. Inspired me to take on a few new projects on my return and really rethink just what I intend to do with the rest of my life.

How I’m Changing the World

It’s small, but impactful

When I got back from Sudan, one of my personal challenges was to figure out how I could make a better impact on the world around me – now. But it had to be something I could actually do, something that I could make work with my life. (Sad, isn’t it, but I know my limits and I didn’t want them to keep me from doing this.)

The plan when my team went to Sudan was to do training for church leaders and scout out for projects our church could get involved in. As often happens, the best things are the unplanned. Once we got there, I was asked to help out in the evenings with an ESL program. Southern Sudan is planning to become its own country in a few years and there are big changes afoot as a result. English is becoming the official language, women are constitutionally set as part of the government and there is some effort to move away from tribalism.

So this class I ended up in was an advanced class, meaning they were learning exciting things like how to conjugate the pluperfect and so forth. It was all men, most of whom had held jobs in the Arabic-only government of the north and wanted to learn English to make the transition. Our first night was spent with them staring at me skeptically (educated women are rare in Sudan) and me trying to remember what the heck the pluperfect was. But by the second night, I was explaining how American businesses made money, why Jeb Bush wasn’t going to be president just because his brother was and our education system. They learned new words like accounting and I got a peek into a side of Sudan I wouldn’t have seen otherwise.

So when I got home, committed to do something more productive with my life than make sure I was on the sofa in time for House every week, I looked in to my options to teach ESL. (I had learned how to speak slowly and sound like a thesaurus, so I knew I could do it. 🙂 My church had a program working with the refugees in the neighborhood around the church (betcha didn’t know we had refugees in Dallas, did ya’? I never did until I joined this church.), but I knew I would never keep up with it if I had to drive all the way over there. So I found a session that was right by my house and started teaching there.

I was only there one night a week, but during that time, I felt I was making an impact. Helping people in a small way that would improve their job options, expand their world view, teach them new things. I had a couple of students repeat my level and I could definitely see improvement in their skills, which is no mean feat when you only come twice a week.

I had to take a break this fall for several reasons and was planning to go back in January. (Guess that’s out.) I really enjoyed working with my students, hearing about their lives (and appreciating their patience when I tried to use my Spanish!) It was a small change, but one with a ripple effect that I hope makes a difference for years to come.

Fighting Through a Dip

My career is in a Dip at the moment, which is part of why I am excited about doing this. It’s not a magic bullet, but it would be a way to push through and get to a different track and on an upward trajectory.

But my real Dip was on a personal level. Several years ago, I went through a down patch mentally and emotionally. Not quite a full-blown depression, but I was on the way there. Fortunately, I was aware of my unhappiness enough to try to do something about it before bottom came crashing to meet me. That led me on a path that eventually led to counseling and medication. It was amazing and scary to me to realize just how far from my true self I had fallen (those drugs are awesome!). The real part of the Dip, the part where I feel I pushed through, was working toward getting myself out of counseling and off of medication. There are many days when I know things would be much easier if I just kept the medication going rather than actually coping with something. (Mood swings are tough on everyone around you.) But I was determined to get myself to a place where I could cope, could deal with life rather than rely on a pill.

Yes, I’m Hoping for More Than World Peace

My grown-up wish

My real wish? The one I most desperately wish would come true? That the producers of the Amazing Race would get off their duffs and call me and my friend to be on the show. They don’t know what they’re missing, but I am painfully aware of it every week when I watch the show.

That’s a real one, but probably not in proper context here. What I wish for, long for, ache for is to figure out how to make “me” work. Let’s see. How to explain this.

I am random. I am obsessive. I am full of ideas. All good things to some extent. But what it also means is that I’m a bit ADD when it comes to my interests. Woodworking becomes my obsession for a few months and I build bookcases and reface drawers, but then I don’t do anything else for years. Or I have ideas for internal communications projects and revenue teams and target clients at work, but not the time to be the driving force for every idea I have. (And have ya’ noticed that if you come up with the idea, people expect you to be the one who does it?)

So my wish? Figure out what kind of life, career, job, cause, mission can take advantage of someone who gets really intense and focused on one thing for a short time, but then might not ever be excited about it again. Someone who likes to chase the new and shiny. Someone who can generate ideas like some people generate carbon dioxide. To figure out how to make a lifework work with the way I am rather than trying to shoehorn myself into a traditional box.

My Strengths (Per Marcus Buckingham)

tiger

My strengths as given in Marcus Buckingham’s book – Now Discover Your Strengths. It was just a little freaky taking that test as it actually pegged me pretty well. Still trying to figure out how to best make use of the info, though.

Learner – People strong in learner have a great desire to learn and want to continuously improve. In particular, the process of learning, rather than the outcome, excites them.
Achiever – People strong in achiever have a great deal of stamina and work hard. They take great satisfaction from being busy and productive.
Focus – People strong in focus can take a direction, follow through and make the corrections necessary to stay on track. They prioritize, then act.
Communication – People strong in communication generally find it easy to put their thoughts into words. They are good conversationalists and presenters.
Input – People strong in input have a craving to know more. Often, they like to collect and archive all kinds of information.


Now, Discover Your Strengths

This book changed the way I saw myself, giving me the freedom to focus on making my strengths the best they can be instead of “fixing” all the places where I’m not that great. I’ve spent the several years since I first read it trying to figure out what kind of career actually let’s me use my strengths to their best. Still looking.

Dealbreakers from Seth

The things Seth listed as being no-gos:

You have to find a place to stay that allows an easy commute to my office outside of NY (zip code 10706). We are three blocks from the train station, which is 40 minutes from Grand Central Station.

No problem. Already found a place with a yard so I could bring the dogs.

You have to speak perfect English.

I even know when to use “whom”.

You can’t smoke.

Yuck. One vice I’ve never been tempted by.

You have to be both nice and smart, with an impeccable list of references.

Hmm. I know a few shady characters. But nice and smart I can definitely do.

I don’t care a bit about how old you are or particularly what your business background is. I care a lot about what you’ve done and even better, how you’ve done it.

This is good because my career has been quite spastic, actually. Which makes me a real risk in some people’s eyes. Better to take the person with industry experience who will do everything the same old way.

Why Seth Shouldn’t Take Me

Just a few reasons Seth might want to proceed with caution with me.

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Even though none of the dealbreakers are an issue for me, there are still a few reasons Seth might want to reconsider.

I am excited by new ideas.
I know, this doesn’t sound like it should be a negative, right? But what happens is that I’m always chasing the shiny, new thing and not necessarily finishing up the old, dull thing that I was excited about a few months ago. I’m hard working, determined, dedicated – but also easily distracted. Which means I often start a lot more than I finish.

I am all over the place.
I might technically be a grown up, but I still can’t seem to decide what I want to do when I grow up. I’m all over Twitter, have several blogs, try to maintain a Facebook page, etc. My digital footprint is bigger than my carbon footprint. Done well, this can be a valid strategy, but it’s definitely not in line with Seth’s general philosophy.

I live on Susan time.
This is a frustrating thing for my hubby, but one he’s learned to adapt to. Susan time doesn’t involve being late or slow. It involves getting far too focused on the task at hand and losing track of time. Which means a hard shopping trip lasts for hours or I spend five hours updating Squidoo lenses rather than getting to the dishes. Time passes more quickly when you enter a Susan zone and before you know it, it’s hours later.

I love bacon.
Given how Seth feels about bacon (check out his comment in the debate), maybe we wouldn’t get along. Hmm. I guess it works for Megan so it could work for me.

Spreading the News

I got just a little excited about this whole deal. This is an amazing opportunity and just thinking about the possibilities made me giddy. I’ve been obsessing about how I could make it work for me, but am just as excited about who I know might also enjoy the opportunity. There are a few people I would love to do this with.

So it was time to get the word out. That meant an immediate tweet out on Twitter, as well as a DM to a person I know is also a Seth freak. I did a blog post on my main blog, which gets repurposed via RSS feed to about 10 places. I then went through my address book and sent email out to anyone I thought might be interested (or would know someone who would be interested). I also updated my Facebook status with the link to the lens with details and later created the Facebook group – I Want to Study with Seth!! Whew! All told, I probably hit at least 500 people via all these sources and I know at least two were going to apply. (Hmm. Conversion rates get me every time!)

Books That Influenced Me

These are some of the books I’ve enjoyed over the past few years and have tried to implement in my life. Definitely recommended reading.


The Circle of Innovation: You Can’t Shrink Your Way to Greatness

Every time I read this, I find something new I just want to grab someone and tell them. It’s one of those books that if other people read it, they might start to understand a little of the way my mind works.


Purple Cow, New Edition: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable

For me, everything about Seth’s other books stems from the philosophy put forward in this one – be remarkable. Without that, you’re toast.

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