Tuesday, October 23, 2007


OK, it's official: being in school has lost its luster (if you could really say committing yourself to 3 hours of homework every day and locking yourself in a windowless room every other Friday and Saturday ever had "luster"). Now it's just getting long and unrewarding. I suppose I knew this point would come. Now that I'm here, what do I do about it?

I went grocery shopping tonight, to clear my mind, and I thought about how in two years, none of this is really going to matter, and I'll be able to do anything with my career that I want to. It is very easy to get bogged down in details, like "I don't like this professor" or "that classmate really annoys me" or "is he/she pulling his/her weight on our team?" But in the end I'm getting out of this experience what I put into it, and what I put into it is completely up to me.

Sure, on nights like this when it's 11:30pm and I'm the only one awake in my family (hardly a rare occurrence), that's a tough pill to swallow. And I'm starting to run into energy walls where I literally can't imagine crossing over (bed is so tempting). But the thing is, I am making some pretty damn good progress, and overall I'm finding I can do the work. I cancompete in an academic setting. And most of all, this is my choice and I'm the primary one funding it, so what good is it to have anything less than the best experience possible?

And so the bitter pill goes down, and I turn back to my mountain of books.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

One Down

Well, I survived my first Statistics class. Today was officially our last day of stats. As someone who only had one financial class prior to embarking on this MBA journey (and that was a pass/fail macro economics class in college), I was more than a little nervous about jumping into stats. Thanks in part to a brilliant and very approachable professor, and thanks to advanced statistical software (saving us from the pains of doing manual calcs), I have to say it was actually a great experience.

One course down, something like 85 to go. :-)

Just Get Through It

Today we have two group presentations to deliver. I'm dreading the whole thing, actually. There are 10 groups in our class, so that's 20 presentations I need to sit through in the next eight hours. Can you guess how many other places I'd rather be today?

This is just one of those days you need to power though. You know it's not going to be fun, but you also know you can't avoid it. I think I had days like this in college, but of course I only remember the good days from college. This semester is getting very long, and truth be told, I'm about burned out with this MBA program. And it's only the first semester! Time to look a little harder for some balance in my life.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Burning the Oil, Back in the Zone

Here I am, once again, the night before class and I'm up late writing a paper. I'm absolutely exhausted, I haven't spent a night with my family in almost a week, and I know I'll be even more tired tomorrow for class (when I'll need the energy the most). Writing this particular paper for Organizational Behavior has been difficult, but since I'm down to the wire, there is a certain clarity in knowing that, come hell or high water, this thing needs to be complete in about two hours.

Although I'm not proud of it, secretly this is how I work best. In college I always did my best work at the last minute, usually late at night, sometimes under the influence of fruity alcoholic drinks (I could go for one of those now, actually). I find that deadlines produce a clarity and focus you just can't get anywhere else. Again, not sure that is a good thing, but hey, whatever works!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Hasta La Vista, Stats Homework!

Ah, I never thought this day would come, but I have finally finished my last statistics problem on my last stats homework assignment. This was some of the most meticulous work I have ever done-- literally one hour PER PROBLEM and there were 15-30 problems per assignment. In total I produced 58 typed pages of XBAR charts, statistical formulas, p-charts, and just about everything else statistical. Good riddance!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Controlling my Mind-Brain

Historically I have a fairly poor record for being able to bring any lasting discipline or order to my thoughts. I have a short-term focus level that is tragic: historically I haven't been able to read anything for more than 20 minutes at a stretch, and I've considered myself an extremely slow reader. I just can't keep focused. Everyone has a million things running through their minds, but I follow my million things, meaning that there isn't much if anything that can keep me focused for any length of time.

Now, with all the work and reading I need to do for school, I am starting to develop some mental focus. I simply have no choice but to read for periods longer than 20 minutes, and I have a vested interest in noticing if my mind strays. Like with meditation, I've noticed the development of an inner consciousness that reminds me "hey, your mind is straying," and I'm able to bring it back. I never used to be able to do this before. It's pretty cool, actually. In the past, entire paragraphs or pages would float by my dreary consciousness before I noticed; now I'm able to tell pretty much within a sentence or two if I'm really paying attention. This is an exercise in wakefulness itself, and it's enabling me to read much more (and remember it) than I ever thought I'd be able to.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Marching, Marching

There are some days (ok, more than a few) when being part of this class is a vicious mental game. "Did I forget to do an assignment?" "Am I really actually ahead in the reading?" "How long will my three remaining Stats problems take?" "Should I go to bed, or pound a coffee and burn the midnight oil?" "Am I the only one in the class who feels this lost?"

Today was one of those days. It's the weekend, I just returned from a week long business trip, and I should have been enjoying the day with my family. Instead, I was semi-obsessing about Stats and about the meeting I have coming up with my team later today. It's an unusual Sunday meeting for us on an off-class week, but we have two group presentations due in the next week so we need time to prepare. I feel lost, and just about the last thing I want to do is go back to campus on a Sunday, spend yet three more hours away from my family, and do yet more work.

Some days you really never get a break, even when every fiber of your body wants to lay down and just sleep. Or play with your kids. Such is the evil game of trade-offs I find myself in with this program. A good day is when you just ignore the mental demons; a bad day is when you let them set up shop in the dreary cobwebs of your little mind.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Clarity at 30,000 Feet

I've never considered myself a "reader": I enjoy reading, and I know it's necessary in life, but reading has always been such a laborious pursuit for me. Inevitably I get tired and fall asleep after reading for 20 minutes, and I usually never recover in time to get much more reading done. Today was different, though, and it's changing my perception of myself as a non-reader.

I had a three-hour plane flight today, and in hand was a book for Organizational Behavior that's due in less than two weeks. Normally, the prospect of needing to read an entire book on top of an already inhuman mound of work would fill me with dread; today, though, way up there on that plane, I read half the book in that three-hour period. Amazing-- I don't think I've ever done anything like that before. If I could do that with all the other un- or half-read books sitting on my shelf, I might actually become...learned. Shocking.

I always get so much done while on planes. It's the only place where finding a distraction actually takes more effort than just working. It's my strategic place, where I can think about work and personal issues very clearly and where I get perspective that's so difficult to come by during the everyday rush.

I think I need my own plane. Better finish that MBA first!

Saturday, October 6, 2007

In the Dark

Driving to class this morning in the rain and in the dark, while my family and most of the others in Minneapolis were sleeping, I had to wonder: what the hell am I really doing? We're getting to crunch time in the semester, where the workload is really starting to pile up. And by "pile up," I mean it's getting to the point where working three hours a day, seven days a week, isn't enough to get everything done. I have entire books to read in two weeks, multiple presentations to collaborate on, and two online exams to complete. Plus statistics homework that will take 10-15 hours to complete. And I have a business trip coming up this week.

Mostly, it's getting accustomed to feeling really overwhelmed and trying to keep things in bite-sized chunks just to keep yourself from losing your mind. If you stopped to think about everything that needs to be completed, you would sit in a corner, weeping, totally unable to get anything done. So that's the hard part-- looking far enough ahead that you can plan for future classes and stay at least a little bit ahead of the assignments, but not looking too far ahead where you would go insane.

Every week is a new test of that precarious balance, and I'm finding that when I think there's a lull in the work and pressure, typically I'm missing something and I'm not doing some work I should be. It's like always waiting for the next battle.

And so today, the battles are Operations Management and Accounting.