The High-Performance Machine

Nov 18 2010 Published by under MBA

(The following is an article I wrote for the BYU MBA newsletter Student Wire. Cheers. – Christian)

When I wake up today, I’m a 31 year old MBA student-husband-father-friend-classmate with possibly overly divided attentions, a growing list of personal successes, an also growing list of mistakes and awkward ideas, and a rolling list of to-dos that just seems to exist no matter how much effort I put into eliminating it. I’m ambitious. I expect myself to make a difference. I want to contribute valuable insights and work. I want the next moment to be my best moment. I hope the last less-than-my-best moment will go away quietly.

I’m thrilled with this knowledge-building, friendship-gaining, connection-finding, experience-gathering opportunity. I’m also exhausted by it. I’m enjoying this experience, and I expect I’m going to get better at it, but, in the meantime, all of these roles and goals and activities are putting a lot of miles on me.

And that got me thinking again about what I’m doing to keep me going.

A while ago I found that I had to be a lot more careful about what I ate and how much I slept in order to be clear and engaged in my work. It wasn’t that I was suddenly motivated to turn myself into some superhuman gladiator capable of conquering anything I came in contact with. These changes were to just keep up.

I assumed I was getting old, and it was now my job to make sure I didn’t fall apart.

Recently, it occurred to me that needing to eat and sleep better might have less to do with being “old” than I had thought. While looking over a sports car, it dawned on me that the high-performance vehicle required special motor oils, the highest quality fuel, and special tuning in order to function properly. If the car didn’t get those necessities, then it would actually function worse than its less than sporty commuter-class counterparts.

The light went on, and I suddenly realized (rationalized) that I wasn’t getting old, instead, after growing up as a commuter-class “me” that could deal with irregular maintenance and lower quality fuels, I had somewhere transformed into a high-performance “me” that would accept nothing less than the best to manage this high-performance lifestyle I was living.

I know I’m not the only one balancing the student, family, friend, job-hunter, success, failure, feeling-found, feeling-lost lifestyle, and I believe I’m not the only one who’s suffering from “high-performance” maintenance requirements. So, I hope all of you are also enjoying this MBA experience, and I encourage you to keep diving in where you see fit, and, if you’re feeling like this experience is making you age quickly, I suggest to you that you see it instead as refining you into a high-performance machine that needs special maintenance and care, and then continue maintaining yourself accordingly.

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A Heightened Awareness

Sep 27 2010 Published by under MBA

I enjoy speed – and not just any speed, but speed that has one right at the edge of their ability to perceive their surrounding because everything is coming so fast.

I remember going dirt-biking with my Dad many times as a teenager. Whenever I had the chance, I loved to just “open up” the bike and push it as fast as it could go (at least that’s how I remember it). Later on I would take up snowboarding, and, again, I would often just point the board down the hill and enjoy the feeling of the snow flying under my board, nudging and pulling at its edges as I navigated the trails and passed over the varied terrain and consistencies.

Sometimes these experiences were literally nearing on transcendental. Sometimes these experiences were more transformative – like transforming a perfectly good thumb or wrist or ankle into a not-so-working thumb or wrist or ankle. I’m not sure that anybody can spend much time hanging on the very edge of their own ability for control without a crash here and there, and I had a few. Thankfully, though, the crashes were rare, and the experiences were far more often positive and genuinely thrilling.

I’m not a scientist, and I haven’t sat down and done a bunch of research on the anatomical changes that happen during such an experience, but I can say navigating a trail at speeds so high that details came at me almost faster than I could really consciously process them would lead to a sort of heightened awareness. Each moment was happening a little more clearly and each sensation was just a little more tangible. Also, not only would I complete the experience with a feeling of having completed a difficult challenge, but I would walk away feeling excited and invigorated and, in some ways, recharged.

How does this apply to an MBA?

Being an MBA student at BYU, and I’m sure many other programs as well, is an adrenalin rush!

The last four weeks have been fantastic. I’m really proud to be a student in BYU’s MBA program, and I could go on and on about the many positives of each of the faculty.

I could also go on and on, and it seems that so could the faculty, about how much there is to do as an MBA student.

BYU’s MBA program moves fast – really fast, and I’m finding myself right in the middle of a very similar experience to those I had while hanging onto the handlebars of a motorcycle or while flying down a snowy mountain. There is a lot of information coming at me, and it’s coming at me very fast. Thankfully, I don’t think my schooling is going to be leading to any broken bones (although the faceplant I did while hurrying up the stairs the other day brought me uncomfortably close), but there is definitely a feeling of being on the edge of my ability. And I’m grateful for it. Right now I’m being pushed significantly in my ability to manage a tight schedule, to digest large amounts of information, to find the right balance of education and extra-curricular, to network and look for a job, and to contribute back to the program and my peers.

It’s a little dizzying.

It reminds me of a nut or screw being turned tight. At first they are very loose and quite wobbly, but, as the nut or screw is turned in further, there is a lot less wobble and give until it is finally tight. I’m finding myself spinning a little bit right now, but I’m learning very quickly, and every day I’m getting a little tighter and little more sure.

It is a bit of a rush.

Because there is so much to learn, and the pace of the work is so fast, I’m finding myself challenged, and I’m quickly having to learn ways to better work with my team, to better manage my own time, and to find ways to effectively prioritize. It may not be exactly the same as being intensely focused on making a couple quick turns on a race track or on making sure an edge doesn’t catch wrong in the snow, but the need to raise my awareness is very much the same, and I’m already finding that the reward of satisfaction and excitement is too.

In fact, the experience has been, and I expect it will continue to be, rather transcendent.

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MBA 2.0

Sep 06 2010 Published by under MBA

I’ve been looking forward to this.

At this point I imagine myself somewhat like a performer practicing and preparing for some imaginary audience. This is my first post. I’ve told my wife, my parents and a couple friends at school about Time In. There probably isn’t a large group of people about to read this tomorrow, but I still imagine my words reaching eyes, and I’m definitely writing to a group here. I intend for the content to be top notch and engaging, and I hope you enjoy it.

Let’s go then.

Here’s a thought related to my MBA:

I find that I don’t have much time for television, but I do find a bit of a guilty pleasure in the reality T.V. show, America’s Got Talent. Thank goodness for Hulu. The show displays some absolutely jaw dropping acts. The gist of my interest is that it puts two elements together that I really enjoy: One is the opportunity to see feats, skills and creativity performed at a level above the norm. The second is that the contestants are in an extremely challenging situation where they are going to have to stay very focused to make it to the end. The contestants are each fantastic, but so are a lot of other people around them, and they have to battle through a lot of uncertainty while continuing to practice and sacrifice, and it’s fascinating to me to observe the ones that rise to the challenge.

For example: Jeremy Vanschoonhoven from Talent, OR. He’s a trials bicyclist who decided to make a show combining the challenge of completing his course on stage and also the suspense the audience feels for his well-being. He’s already explained how he’s given up all other distractions to make sure that he was completely focused on practicing for the stunts he performs on the show. As a result, he’s performed stunning acts, and he’s gone to the finals. However, he almost didn’t. In the semifinals, during his rehearsal, he missed a stunt jump from about 10-15 feet up, and crashed badly resulting in a gash to his head, stitches in his elbow and an injury to his hip that made it difficult to stand. He decided to perform anyway. His pain showed during the live show, and he even missed a rather basic trick because his arm pain was making it hard to hang on to his bike. This is where it got awesome. He kept going. If you followed the link, you saw that he jumped his bike all the way to the top of this wild apparatus about 10-15 feet in the air, and then he jumped back down doing the same trick perfectly that he had crashed on so miserably earlier the same day. That was courage. That was also the result of sheer determination and focus and clear unrelenting practice. Now Jeremy isn’t my favorite act (If you’re one of my imagined readers that is actually reading this and wants to know who my favorite is, then ask me in the comments.), but he did stand out tonight as admirable.

I’ll bring this back to the MBA.

Here at school I’m among a multitude (300+ is a multitude when there’s this much talent) of very talented students who are all focused on achieving a significant goal. I can’t imagine that I’m going to go this next two years without “falling” a couple times. I do believe, however, that much of my own personal innovation will happen when I have to “get back up”. Balancing the networking for an internship and balancing my schoolwork is not going to be easy. I’m confident that I can do it, though. I’ve already had the privilege of working in a fantastic team that has significantly improved my own learning ability, and where, against all odds, it appears I might have made a couple helpful contributions myself. This is an uncertain time for a lot of us, but I have no doubt that we are going to be able to do it. We, the students, have already expressed our own confidence in our selves by enrolling, and the faculty has expressed there confidence in us many times as well. At this point, I don’t think that there is much question of whether or not we’re going to make through. The real question is what kind of grace, dignity and determination were are going to exercise throughout the process, and then what the quality of our award will be when we are finished.

To the Class of 2012: Here’s to the next 2 years!

To anybody else interested (imagined audience or otherwise), here’s to making a positive impact wherever we go.

Cheers.

Christian

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