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How I chose my college

I am in the midst of writing a post on why it’s a good idea to set rules for decisions in advance. It’s becoming apparent that I have done this a lot in my life without even realizing it in the moment, so I’m going to give these situations the depth they deserve and give each their own post.

The Context

When I was getting ready to go to college, my first priority was that I wanted to go out of state. I had an immense desire to get new experiences and genuinely believe the only way to get them was to move out of my hometown of Memphis, TN. I also wanted to make great international connections, so I decided that the University of Central Florida looked to be my best option. It’s proximity to Walt Disney World would help me to get my foot in at a company that was respected around the world as well as give me the chance to work abroad with them. I applied to the University of Memphis only as a backup.

The Rule

Before applying, I told myself that if I could at least get out-of-state tuition waived, then I could justify the loans for tuition.

The Decision

My academic career was not strong enough to warrant a waiver of the out-of-state tuition. I reluctantly went to the University of Memphis with a determination that I would do better in school this time around and get better choices should I decide to go on to graduate school or even in the workplace.

The Outcome

This compounded into really great things both on a financial level as well as simple exposure.

Money

I got so much in scholarship money from the University of Memphis that I was actually paid to go to school and I was able to keep living at home (saving myself the huge budget expense of rent). A majority of my peers are not this fortunate, and the lack of student loans has been exponential in my ability to take on opportunities.

This money also allowed me to take up a fun class every semester where I took on courses in things like running, Zumba, and even Scuba diving. It also gave me the chance to fulfill my internship requirement in an awesome way that connected me with that desire to work for Disney: The Disney College Program. For those of you considering it or if you know someone who is, you should be aware up front that it doesn’t pay much, so the extra scholarship money was significant in my being able to pull that off while also paying my other bills.

Exposure

In a weird way, I also got far more exposure by going to a smaller school.

The Disney College Program experience brought me into contact with guests and co-workers from around the world. To this day, it’s still a work experience employers want to talk about even though it was eight years ago and more directly relevant to my business career than my current one in web development.

I studied abroad cheaply thanks to scholarships. I even spent a spring break with a small group of undergrad and graduate students in our business school on an experience abroad in Panama. We connected with another business school based inside of a hotel there where we learned how they structured their curriculum. Even better was the chance to learn from expats on how they work as hotel General Managers in foreign countries. This exposure was exactly what I wanted when I chose Hospitality as my major – I wanted to work abroad.

Also, Memphis has an active business community that is deeply invested in the university’s business school. I met many entrepreneurs and executive-level folks, all of whom had such an impact in grounding our theoretical studies to the tangible. One of which even led to one of my more profound local work experiences. I didn’t make that much back from scholarships, so I did work through all four years of school.


 

In summation, setting that rule in advance kept me from making an emotional decision in regards to school. More importantly, I used the outcome to my advantage so that I could still get everything I wanted out of going somewhere like UCF. Looking back, I definitely got more than I could have wanted out of the experience and am confident that it was certainly more than I would have gotten from UCF.

Make Frequent Payments

This may seem to go completely against my earlier advice to pay annually, but that’s regarding expenses, not debt.

If you’re as “in the dark” as was, then you may not realize that your credit card interest is calculated by the average balance over the month – assuming you did not pay it off.

That means that instead of making a monthly payment, you can really help yourself by paying as often as you can and reducing that average and, therefore, your interest.

For most of my working life, I’ve been paid twice a month. Ever since I pulled my head out of the sand regarding my debt, I have made 3 payments on my targeted debt.

The first right after I got paid at the beginning of the month, the second after my second paycheck, and, finally, whatever money I had leftover from eating out and fun money in the final days of the month.

Tiny little payments help fight the tiny compound interest working against you.

Make Annual Payments

When I realized that I was paying an extra $5/month for the “service” of paying for my car insurance monthly, I was surprised. Even worse was thinking about how long I had been doing this without paying attention.

Paying for six months of car insurance isn’t any easy thing to just rip out of most of our budgets without warning. Instead, I saved an extra chunk of money (about $20 at first, then $40 in time) in my “Car Insurance” bucket every month that would roll over to the next month, where I would continue adding money in that would roll over. Eventually, I had 6 months worth of car payments sitting there!

I was energized after that, where else could I find missing money!?

As it turns out, lots of places.

  • Runkeeper Subscription $10/monthly vs $3.33/month up front
  • Headspace $12.95 vs $7.99/month annually, $6.24/month biannually, or $419.95 forever
  • YNAB $5 vs $4.17

I increased my monthly Runkeeper Subscription budget to $15 (saving an extra $5/month towards that $40), Headspace to $15 (I should increase this), and YNAB to $10. YNAB only offers annual subscriptions now, though, so keep that in mind.

Some others I’ve seen

  • OnStar
  • Prescriptions by mail (check your insurance site)

I’ve actually increased this habit into other areas, like groceries, after HelloFresh ran a Black Friday promotion to buy 6 boxes up front to get 2 free. FREE FOOD DELIVERED TO MY HOUSE. All because I had been slowly hoarding extra money in places.

Any other ideas on things that are better annual payments?

Get Some Eye Glasses

Have you ever met someone that couldn’t see very well tell you that they are simply “not a see-er”? Or maybe they said “I’m a blinder”. What about “It’s hard for me to see”?

Notice that I said “It’s hard for me to see” not “It’s hard for me to see without my glasses“.

For the most part, I would imagine you’ve never met someone that gave up on the possibility of being to see well because they didn’t have 20/20 vision.

Yet, everyday I hear people fall into fixed mindset mode with phrases like:

  • “I’m not a runner”
  • “It’s just hard for me to focus”

That, people is fixed mindset. It is a place where we put ourselves where we’ve decided that our abilities were determined at birth and we’re not capable of increasing them. Baby, we were born this way.

If you would rather find reasons not to do things, then by all means, stay where you are, but I think you’re better than that. I think you’re capable of enlisting a growth mindset – in which you are able to dig into the reality of being able to change.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume that the heart of the problem lies in this social media highlight reel we’ve unknowingly allowed ourselves to believe is the reality. Fixed mindset creeps in and stays with us when we aren’t able to point it out as obviously as my initial examples.

Here’s one that’s more common: “I could never do that” or “_________ just has that natural talent/better genes/a silver spoon”?

Maybe the thought has never even left your lips, but I’m sure it’s crossed your mind at some point, too, just as it has mine and we need to start getting serious about calling ourselves and others out on this for the benefit of all.

Why does this matter?

Well, let’s start with how insulting it is to diminish someone’s accomplishments down to something that they can’t change. We’re completely disregarding how hard someone worked, trained, and/or saved to make something happen. They made a change that took time and commitment that we are responding to with a snap judgment that probably only took jealousy and maybe a hint of our lack of self confidence.

More importantly, this matters because thoughts like these keep us from growing. They restrict us to a fixed mindset. Under a fixed mindset, it’s only the lucky ones that ever get the chance to move past learning to crawl. I imagine that if you’re reading this then it’s likely you aren’t still getting from place to place via hands and knees.

In summation, try adding “yet” to the end of statements like “I can’t _______” and join me in the fight to encourage others to do the same.

Clean Teeth, Strong Legs

I was lamenting to a former boss years ago that I was terrible at climbing hills on my bike – okay, on my own feet, too. It hurt which meant I hated it, so I avoided hills.

His response: “If you hate it, then you should be doing it more”

He was used to the fine-you-win eye roll I gave in return and therefore forgiving enough to offer a suggestion: do squats while you brush your teeth.

While trying to perfect the posture of squats was outside of my realm, I did find a perfect alternative in the wall sit.

Wall Sits are great in that you can build up your strength quickly, so you’re fed encouragement early on in the process. I’ve stopped and started this process over the years in the days leading up to an intense hike or the weeks before a tough backpacking trip and was immensely rewarded with an ability to climb mountains way faster and with very little leg exhaustion. I even smiled some. Oh, and I could talk for a good bit of the journey.

Talking! Up a hill!

This was a great new life ahead of me.

And it’s still great.

I’ve now gotten in the habit of doing this every morning. I tried morning and night, but it was really difficult to get into a schedule with both, so I opted to start small with just the morning and eventually work up to both once that habit was solid.

It was tough to make it to 30 seconds on my first attempt, but I’ve been consistently hitting the full two minutes for a couple months now.

There’s a lot of marks your hitting with this habit:

  • Wall Sits…
    • Build endurance (translation: hills and stairs get easier)
    • Focus training for your brain
    • Strengthen the muscles around your knees (Runner’s Knee sufferers, rejoice!)
    • Are an isometric exercise (meaning lower resting heart rate; therefore lower blood pressure)
    • Are weight bearing (strong bones, here we come!)
  • Dental Hygiene
    • Seriously who actually brushes for a full two minutes otherwise? (If your electric toothbrush “counts” for you, consider yourself excluded)
    • All the stuff your dentist says about gingivitis and other dental maladies affecting the rest of your body
    • Saving yourself on dental bills and, therefore, insurance costs
    • Okay, those procedures don’t just cost money, but time away from work or a million other things you would rather be doing
    • Acknowledging that future “you” will
      • want to eat hard foods as long as possible
      • avoid dentures

Hopefully you’re sold, so when you get ready to brush your teeth tomorrow:

  • Grab your phone and open your stopwatch app
  • Find an open wall, press your back into it and lower down as far as you can without experiencing pain, stopping if your thighs and calves are perpendicular to each other
  • Start the timer and begin to brush your teeth, starting in any quadrant you like (I tend to start with the top-right portion of my mouth)
  • Be sure you keep your stomach in – focus on breathing through your nose and from your chest
  • Try to make it to 30 seconds before you stand up
  • If you’re doing okay, then move to the next quadrant
  • Continue until you simply can’t go on or at 2 minutes

I believe in you! Report back and let us know how it went.

Introducing Micro Moves

We often vastly overestimate what we can do in one year, yet underestimate what we can do in ten. It’s as if we’re programmed to “dream big” at the end of December and only for duration of January 1 – December 31.

I’m not here to hate on New Year’s Resolutions. I think reflection is extremely important. So important, in fact, that I think we do it far too rarely. My birthday is my one of my favorite times for reflection, but so are the mornings. Once a year isn’t enough.

So yeah, I will trash all the #NewYearNewYou posts for being so unaccommodating.  This culturally-cemented idea of when to reflect and change has got to go.

Frequent reflection is one of the many things I’ve picked up on through being exposed to different perspectives over the years and this blog is my taking a stab at passing them along to others.

It’s become standard pep talk mumbo jumbo to nudge people to do something today towards what they want. Frick, I’ve already done it myself. Still, I look around at so many people who just, well, don’t ever do anything towards any of their goals – and that’s if they’re lucky enough to even had made the time to reflect on goals.

Our inactivity toward aspirations doesn’t hit us quite as visibly as compound interest and calories do over time, but I’m here to tell you they hurt even worse.

In an effort to keep myself from feeling overwhelmed with the idea of only writing amazingly perfect and insightful blog posts, this is the first step in my first series: micro moves.

Micro moves will be small thought experiments or life hacks that I’ve found in my own life or from the perspectives of others (be it those I know personally or through other posts/podcasts). Nothing lavish.

They are concepts that I would have passed on to one of my friends during our weekly chats as something I’m trying or simply something that is interesting. They’ll be given in a style that is just as casual as those phone calls.

Again, I’m working on my own goals here, which means taking what I’m writing seriously and starting where I am. For some perspective and my own reflection, I’m going to share, first, the vague ideas of where I think I want to be followed by what my start line looks like.

“There”

  • Regularly sharing ideas and perspectives, no matter how insignificant.
    • Stretch goal: people are actually challenged by them.
  • Fear of eventual failure does not keep me from writing
  • Fear of seeming like a silly girl that writes
  • Fear of rejection does not keep me from being vulnerable
    • Stretch goal: I don’t filter because of this either
  • Regularly being challenged in my perspective
    • Stretch goal: Increasing some empathy in the world
  • Encouraging others to be a public beginner

“Here”

  • My track record of initiating and quitting blogs feeds my fear of eventual failure
  • I worry what others who actually know me will think of the things I say
  • I’m fearful of making an attempt to showcase something only to make it worse or leave a bad taste in someone’s mouth that could have eventually come around to seeing things in a new light
  • My own past judgments as well as hearing those from others feeds my fear that I will be seen as a stupid little girl that just writes fluffy things for attention on the internet

Well, I started writing this just before heading off to an REI class with the intention that I couldn’t over analyze the post. If there are any other perspectives of this starting place of mine, I’m going to allow myself to utilize the “edit” button and that’s completely okay.

I encourage you to share some of the details of your current starting place or one you may have had in the past. Your insight would help me to better realize some points about my “here” that I haven’t noticed yet.

Imperfection: A Great Starting Point

I’m writing this first post for a blog that is, currently, 95% Word Press stock photos and filler text. The remaining writing (in the “About” section) is, at best, a guess of where this is going and, at worst, really just something I’m soap boxing about these days.

If I waited until I felt that the design was perfect and I knew exactly what I wanted, well, it would be yet another three years before I maybe did something about it. That doesn’t mean it would be ready, I’m just saying that I would have done something. Sure, I would have eventually fixed it all up and maybe I would have even pre-written a lot of blog posts in advance to prepare and get a better focus on what the heck we’re doing here.

But, if that were the case, then I would have the same problem that I’ve been ranting about for what feels like years: things don’t magically happen overnight.

 

I so wish we had a picture of our house on the first day we moved into it, but it was far too crammed and messy for me to consider documenting such a state. If I had it, that photo would show that we didn’t just arrive to living well with only the things we love most in 300 sq ft together. We worked really hard get here. We still do.

If I had a photo of myself when I was too embarrassed to document my body at a size that was, in my opinion, less-than-desirable, I would have some encouragement for the days when I forget how far I’ve come. I still haven’t made it to where I want to be, but some perspective really helps to make the journey a happy one. When the road is fun, you’re a lot more likely to get to your destination.

If I had the stats from the first run I went on, I could prove that no matter how slow or how brief that original one is, you are still in a great place to become someone that manages – maybe even enjoys – running for 26.2 miles.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any of those historical trinkets, so I have to keep hoping that people just believe me. I can get pretty delusional at times, but I’m “with it” enough to know that people usually don’t believe me.

Maybe I’m just crazed or lucky. Maybe I’m underestimating them. Maybe all three?

But maybe I’m not.

I’m looking to challenge all of the misperceptions I’ve heard from people over the years. It’s exciting that for what seems like the first time in my life, I will be documenting the beginnings of something – even if I’m not sure what this something is just yet. Not just as argument points for my ranting, but encouragement for myself.

So, here I am with my imperfect blog and a matching first post.

Oh, and an explicit challenge if you aren’t feeling one already:

Start right here, right now, in this less-than-perfect place in your life. Move just an inch towards the person you want to be. You can’t give the world a marathon today, but don’t let that stop you from giving it just the first steps you can manage.

Stretch goal: Document this imperfect step of yours.

Bonus points: Share in the vulnerability and post it in the comments below.*

*For the record, reaching out to the vast internet for a response when it’s the most likely to just stare back at me with pity definitely counts as my “shared vulnerability”.