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.

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.

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”.