Which Course Should I Take?

I had a tough week. It involved two funerals. One was for a family member who lived a long life. The other service was for a friend’s brother who died too young. Both of these services reminded me of my favorite Ted Talk. It’s by an EMT, Matthew O’Reilly and is entitled: “Am I dying?” The honest answer. Matthew has had many experiences where he arrives at the scene of an emergency and knows the person he is trying to save is going to die. He has learned to be honest with them and the talk focuses on what he has gleamed from these conversations.  What’s most of interest to me in this talk is that two of the most common themes of those conversations focus on the dying wanting assurance from a stranger that that they will be remembered by him and that they spent their time wisely — on something of significance. You can watch his talk by clicking here.

Many of my students express a similar concern. They are unsure how to spend their lives. They want to do something meaningful, but are afraid they are going to make the wrong choice. They keep hoping that eventually they are going to walk into the right business school course or internship and that this will show them the light. They are hoping to discover their passion and life’s purpose.

I am a big believer in an observation from Angela Duckworth’s book on grit where she notes that people don’t find their passion… they develop it. In other words, it takes work.  It’s not an instant gratification sort of thing, and it frequently requires you to look in places that you wouldn’t normally think to look.

My sense is that many business school students are looking in the wrong place.  What they need is a version of “the Stockdale course.” The Stockdale course is the informal name given to the Navy War College’s course on the Moral Foundations of Obligation. It is a course in Western philosophy that was created by Admiral James Stockdale. Stockdale was a POW in the Hanoi Hilton. He credited his survival in captivity to the philosopher Epictetus and his course is meant to help military leaders (many of whom are STEM students) prepare for the challenges of leadership and military service. There is a great podcast on this story (I told you I have a podcast obsession) that you can listen to by clicking here.

I provided business students a short introduction to philosophy at Welcome to the Majors last year when I invited University of San Diego philosophy professor Nick Riggle to talk about his Ethics of Awesomeness. It was a glimpse into a framework that could help guide students in an important aspect of their lives…one with lots of business applications. More generally, philosophy is the study of how to have a good and meaningful life. It, along with my Great Books courses, were some of my favorites in college. These are not esoteric subjects — they provide guidance on the practice of life.

If you are one of my students who is searching for ways “to make a difference,” “be remembered” and “not waste your life,”  take a couple of these courses. The great thing about American higher education is that we believe in general education — it’s not just your major that counts. You have general education requirements to fill as part of your degree program. Take advantage of them to take a couple of philosophy courses and read the great books. Then put these ideas to use. They will help you discover the course you should take with your life. Oh, and take more math and statistics courses, too (trust me).

 

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Failure Finalists

We are announcing four failure competition finalist for this summer:

Kim Walker

Thomas Pastor

Jessica Lupo

Tyler Anderson

Tyler’s entry was a day late. To balance the scales, he needs to turn in this video for the finals a day early– that means July 19 at 5 p.m. The remaining three finalists will have until 5 p.m. on July 20.

We will feature one video each day on my blog starting July 23 with a vote to determine the winner taking place Friday, July 27. The poll will open just after midnight and close at 5 p.m.

Good luck to the finalists.

The Difference Between Trying and Doing

I was on the road last week visiting with alums and FinTech companies. Between visits I had a little time to indulge in my podcast addiction. It’s a recent addiction, but appears to be a fairly strong one.

Among my favorite podcasts is The Art of Manliness and in the latest installment Brett McKay interviews Bernie Roth. Bernie is the cofounder of the Stanford Design School and has a new book out called the The Achievement Habit: Stop Wishing, Start Doing and Take Command of Your Life. You can hear the podcast and see the show notes by clicking here.

One of my favorite pieces of advice in the interview involves having a bias toward doing (rather than thinking too much first in the hope of making it perfect). A key element of design thinking is learning by doing and it’s something I try to embrace. But my favorite part of the interview focuses on Bernie’s distinction between trying and doing. It’s about 28 minutes into the interview and the key distinction is this– When you are “trying” something, it may or may not happen because when you hit an obstacle it tends to stop you. When you are “doing” something, you find a way around that obstacle. It doesn’t stop you. The examples he gives are genius. So is his suggestion that you need to know which state of mind you are in and why.

Give a listen. Do it. Don’t just try.

Coming This Fall

I spent last Wednesday planning the next six months with my team. This is a biannual ritual. We plan July through December in June and January through June in December. These two sessions determine 85-90% of my schedule for the year. In between these meetings, we just do.

This fall is a key semester for us because it is the first time in my six years here that we expect to see every student in the building. Our two new collaboration halls are scheduled to come on line meaning that every student taking a college core or common program prerequisite course will be in the building at least five times during the semester. We will know what kinds of students are with us on any given day — pre-business, primary core, secondary core and what kinds of co-curricular activities they most need to succeed in the college. This will allow us to target specific services (e.g. advising, tutoring) and events (e.g. , Exchange talks, internship invitationals, mentoring opportunities) to students that will help round out their experience and engage them in inventing their future.

It also means that students will be expected to do things in these classes rather than just listen to lectures. The new rooms hold up to 200 students organized into groups of five to eight who will be charged with engaging problems and finding solutions.

So, students, when you come to class this fall, expect to find a very busy place with lots going on both inside and outside the classroom designed to help prepare you for life after college. To take full advantage of this, schedule some time to explore what’s going on in the building, get to know a few of your fellow students and engage in the kinds of activities that are going to get you to the one. The mindset that got you to the college – passively watching lectures and just showing up for exams to demonstrate what you know – won’t serve you well going forward. You will need to become much more active to succeed. Fortune favors the bold in the college. It will not be enough to show us you think. You will need to show us you can do every time you visit us.

Stop Whining- Learn to win at failing

Everyone fails. It is part of life. Rather than pretend it won’t happen or whine when it knocks on your door, you should count on it and know what you will do to recover from it. Getting comfortable with failure is a key step in becoming a better risk–taker and successful leader. That is why we celebrate failure and persistence in the college. Today, we begin the fourteenth  installment of our Failure Competition. Entering our competition is simple:

Write an account of a failure you have experienced in the past. Your failure story has to focus on a time you stepped out of your comfort zone to experience something new: the farther the better. Tell us why this was such a stretch for you, the failure that resulted and what you learned from the experience that would be of interest to others. It needs to be genuine, people can spot a fish story a mile way.

While the Failure Competition began with students in our capstone class, it is now open to any UCF student on campus: undergraduate, graduate or EMBA, business, education, engineering or whatever. The only requirement is that you currently be enrolled at UCF. About a year ago, we had a music student win the competition.

Need inspiration or guidance to tell your story? Search my blog. We have posted many stories about failure over the years.

Here are the ground rules, complete with important deadlines:

To enter you must post your essay in response to this blog. If you are a capstone student this semester include your section number and name of your instructor. If you are not in this class, tell me your class standing ( e.g., freshman, senior, graduate student) and your field of study. You must complete this exercise by 5 pm on Friday July 6th. Don’t Worry If You Don’t See it Right Away. I Have to Accept It.

A panel of College staff will choose no more than five finalists for me to consider. I will select three finalists by July 9th at 5 pm.

The finalists will be asked to submit short videos based on their essays. Those videos must be sent to me by 5 pm on July 20th.

I will then feature one video each day on my blog starting July 23rd with a vote by everyone reading my blog taking place to determine the winner on Friday July 27th.

The winner will get a letter of recommendation from me along with a $500 prize. Second place will get $300, third place $200. These monies are awarded through our financial aid office.

Good Luck

The Next Big Thing?

A big part of my job is to think about what the college should look like five years and ten years from now and then get us there. To do that, I need to understand where business and society are heading and separate hype from fundamental change. Over the years I’ve learned that the marketing is usually way ahead of the reality, but being behind, well that’s really the killer.

I also know that college students tend to be early adopters… they typically embrace new ideas and products well before they become mainstream. Some of that hunger for “new” comes from youthful exuberance, but it also comes from an environment that emphasizes inventing the future and provides people the opportunity to connect the dots through dialogue with a very diverse community.

So I’m interested in hearing from my readers about what they think will be the next Big Thing– the idea, or invention that is most likely to change the world in the next decade. Ideally it would be something that will impact how we prepare our students for what lies ahead. But any new idea or invention that you think might influence your life and is worth my time exploring is what I’m looking for. Just leave your response as a comment on this blog post. Who knows, your suggestion might help shape the college over the next ten years.

There is No Downside to Civility

I make it a habit not to comment on current events or politics. But the Roseanne Barr story, like the Kathy Griffin story before it, got me thinking about the general rise in incivility in public discourse.  Social media is part of the cause.  It’s a lot easier to troll people than look them in the eye when you are saying nasty things. It’s also driven by the desire people have to get attention and build a brand in an increasingly competitive and crowded landscape.  Both Roseanne and Kathy are comedians who make a living out of provoking people.  But as these stories demonstrate, even in the business of provocation there are limits.

I mention this because I’ve perceived an increase in incivility among students in the College.  The vast majority of our students are very polite.  It’s one of the strengths of our culture and it’s one I want to preserve and strengthen because good business practice, perhaps unlike politics, is driven by civility.

This does not mean people can’t disagree.  People hold different views.  Sometimes they are passionate about their position and present it with conviction. To do so civilly and gracefully is a sign of strength and professionalism. It is also way more likely to get you the desired result.  In fact, universities were created to be safe places where people can do just that.  All voices must be heard in scholarly debate and peaceful social progress cannot be achieved without mutual respect.

Conversely, I have never seen a person persuade someone else by being rude or uncivil. It just increases the likelihood of a similar response. In extreme cases it leads to damaged reputations and lost opportunities. So whether it’s frustration over grades, academic progress, or not getting credit for a class because you showed up late, students might want to pause before they speak, email or tweet and ask themselves what their reaction says about them. I think they will find there is no downside to civility.

Chickens in the Backyard? Really? Enter and Win.

My team and I have been exploring the possibility of launching a podcast. Without getting into much detail, the podcast would focus on identifying ideas and trends that people should know about… things that are also likely to impact how we prepare students for the future. I’m not yet sure we are going to launch this venture. It’s a lot of work to do it right and I’m not convinced we are as interesting as we think we are. But I have committed part of my summer to creating a demo or two and getting some expert feedback to see if this is an idea worth pursuing.

The team likes a new challenge. So, ideas for segments have been flying back and forth, usually over Fuzzy’s tacos. This week I blurted out “Chickens in the Backyard! Is that really a thing? What does that tell us about where society and business are heading?” I admit this was a bit of a reaction to once having had a neighbor who had chickens and perhaps more annoyingly, roosters in the backyard. It may also have been top of mind given a recent trip to Kauai– chickens own that island.

My idea was met with immediate skepticism and ridicule…. development people, I learned, can be especially harsh. I defended my idea, noting that chickens in the backyard are on the increase, that they defy economic logic, that everyone knows eggs come in nice cartons in two rows–even the free-range chicken egg variety. Surely, something else must be going on… That whatever it is, it must be fundamental (not just a property tax gimmick like cows) and that we should devote a segment to getting to the bottom of it.

The team was unmoved. So I am appealing to you, my blog readers to help me out here. Is something fundamental going on? Would it make a good 15 minute podcast? Do you have a take on this? If so, leave a comment to this blog post. If I like your take, I’ll buy you lunch and offer you a guest spot on the podcast demo. Call it a surprise contest. Enter. Win. And help me prove my team wrong. You never know when knowing a grateful Dean could come in handy.

There’s No Room For Arrogance in Business

Justin Wetherill was our Welcome to the Majors speaker on Friday. A Dixon School of Accounting alum, Justin is 30 years old and his company UBreakIFix has more than 400 stores. You can learn more about his story by clicking here.

You would think a guy with his track record would have more than a bit of an edge. You would be wrong. He just might be the most humble guy you will ever meet. He believes it’s the key to business success: ” There is no room for arrogance in business,” Justin noted. “We succeed because we serve our customers, suppliers and employees. People want to work with us because we serve them.”

This is an incredibly important insight for students. People will hire you or work with you because you add value to them. It’s about them, not you. Use the time you are with us to figure out what you can best do to add value to others, rather than how you can obtain a job that will earn you the most money. You will have a much more rewarding and successful career. The money will follow.

Thanks Justin. We are so fortunate to call you a UCF Knight.

And the winner is…

Lonny Butcher Welcome to the MajorsToday we hosted nearly 350 business students and one GEB Points Fairy in the college for Welcome to the Majors. Special thanks to UCF alum and UBREAKIFIX co-founder and president Justin Wetherill, ’07, for sharing his story about how he went from Accounting major to successful entrepreneur all thanks to a shattered iPhone.

Welcome to the Majors wouldn’t be successful without our presenting sponsor Wells Fargo and the support of our corporate partners, alumni and friends who participated today. Thank you.

And congrats to the winner of the iPad drawing… Sheril Lalani. Sheril, we’ll be emailing you soon about how to pick up your prize.

And as part of the drawing, Sheril and fellow students Vanessa Arnold, Samuel Orcutt, Walter Gerstel, Colin Spain and Jason Leonhardt have won lunch with me. We’ll be in touch to set that up soon.