Mind the Gap

“I am an Intentional Learner. I see a gap between what I learn in school and what I need to succeed. I don’t wait for the system to fix itself, I leverage its strengths and overcome its weaknesses.”

To succeed, you’ll need to develop skills in two categories: technical and professional.

Technical skills are those required to do a specific job:

CPA’s need to know how to run spreadsheets and navigate tax laws, engineers need to know how to predict the behavior of a system using the laws of physics.

Professional skills are those required to do ANY job:

Whether you’re a bar tender or a lawyer, you need to show up for work on time, with energy and focus, and know how to talk with people from a wide range of backgrounds.

Leveraging Strengths

  • You will never be surrounded by as many technical subject matter experts as when you’re in school. They come to work every day hoping to help someone grow; give theme the opportunity by showing up for class and office hours.
  • The community of like-minded and motivated students is your most important asset. Jim Rohn tells us that we are the average of the 5 people we spend the most time with. In college, you have the chance to spend a lot of time with excellent people. Plug in!

Overcoming Weaknesses

  • Colleges focus on teaching technical skills. Sure, we force students to take general ed courses to complete their liberal education (look it up, it has nothing to do with politics). But these courses have been de-emphasized in students’ minds: the typical attitude is that they are a waste of time and should be given as little effort as possible. Be different by finding value in these courses.
  • Colleges expect students to be adept at many professional skills but offer no formal instruction. Did you take a class called “Time Management and Productivity”? Seek out training and mentorship in all of the professional skills areas that you can.

The Intentional Academy is here to help you bridge this gap. We’re posting content daily to guide your growth. If it’s helping, let us know by leaving a comment and hitting those “like” and “share” buttons!

Thrashing

Have you ever worked on a big project? Maybe for school? Maybe for work? Even binge-watching an entire TV series counts. When I finish a project, I have two strong feelings: (1) accomplishment at having completed a long-term effort, (2) “what’s next!?”

There’s a quote about “rolling stones” and “moss,” but you get the point: I can’t sit still long. When a project ends, I feel the void of accomplishment. The accomplishment tastes sweet, but I’m always looking for the next thing to dig into.

So what to do? Thrash.

We’re hyper-concerned with only trying things that we know will work. Ever get in the car to drive somewhere that you’re “pretty sure you know the way”? Did you put the GPS on just in case? What would have happened if you were off by 5 minutes?

There’s No GPS. We’re Thrashing.

Have you noticed that my posts over the last few weeks look like a brain dump of new project ideas? We’re looking for the next great way to get you the content you need to continue your Intentional Journey.

Have you noticed the change in pronouns?

From “I” and “my” to “we” and “our”? This idea is bigger than me. There’s a Team now. That team is thrashing. “How do we work together?” “What are our roles?” “What kind of content should we focus on?”

Documenting.

We’re committed to documenting our experience. We want to show you what Intentional Learning is all about. It’s messy, but amazing. We want to show you how we’re starting a business. We’re learning how to do that right now, and you’re invited to join us on that journey.

So stay tuned. If you have thoughts or questions, leave a comment. If this is meaningful to you, help us change the world by hitting those “like” and “share” buttons.

How to Decide the Rest of Your Life, Concluded

We’ve been talking about this for a couple days now. Picking majors, internships, and full-time jobs is scary work. First, take some pressure off. This isn’t the rest of your life, it’s just the next step. Second, get to know yourself. If you base your search on what you can find on the internet, you’ll be looking at about 1/3 of the actual options you have.

To clarify, I’m saying 1/3 of job postings are online. There are MANY discussion forums dedicated to exploring the entire field. Use them!

Ok, but how do you get started?

One of my all-time favorite books is “48 Days to the Work You Love,” by Dan Miller. (no, this isn’t a paid add). Put simply, he helped me reflect on three key areas when deciding my next step:

  1. Skills and Abilities: If you’ve always been talented at visual arts but struggled with math, then majoring in accounting may be a bad fit.
  2. Personality Traits: If you prefer working with people, then data processing may not be the best way to spend a summer internship.
  3. Values, Dreams, and Passions: If you don’t believe in weapons, you shouldn’t consider an engineering position with an arms manufacturer.

Switching these statements to the positive is more difficult, and personal.

What’s a good fit for a person with artistic talent who’s introverted and values animal rights? How about a mathematical genius who loves to work with people and can’t stand the thought of a cubicle?

Start shopping. You don’t know what’s out there. In “48 Days to the Work You Love,” Dan Miller shows that over 70% of current job openings are NOT listed on the Internet. That’s why they call it a “hunt.” It takes a long time to find a path that aligns with your Skills, Abilities, Personality Traits, Values, Dreams, and Passions. Expect to spend at least 6 month’s wrestling with this.

That’s not code for “put it off.” Actually wrestle.

It takes one month per $10,000 of annual salary to find a job. If you want to make the average for college grads ($50,000/year), expect to spend five months ACTIVELY looking. [1]

The worst place to go for advice: your loser friends who complain that they aren’t finding anything. Even your successful friends who do find something. They’re in the same boat you are. You need a guide not a partner.

Better places to turn:

  • career centers
  • alumni associations
  • discussion forums
  • faculty.

You have so many resources available! Put them to good use, give yourself the time to explore, and you’ll be the only one of your friends who feels confident in their decision.

Success? Struggle? Question? Leave a comment!

[1] https://www.thebalance.com/how-long-does-it-take-to-find-a-job-2064245

No, Really. This is How to Decide the Rest of Your Life.

Yesterday I shared some important statistics that should have helped reduce the pressure you’re putting on yourself over the big decisions: what major? Where to intern? Where to work after you graduate? If you’re in school right now, you were likely raised by the “company man” generation: go to work for the same company for your entire career.

Those days are gone.

Ok. Pressure off. But how do you decide!?

Most importantly, don’t start where everyone else does: by asking what’s available.

When you start a search for a field of study, an internship, or a job, it can be tempting to rush to the internet and start looking for options. This is a terrible idea!!

What percentage of retail sales took place via the internet last year? Less than ten. Are you shocked? We’re surrounded by the internet, but that immersion is creating a false sense of reality. Don’t let that lens blind you as you plan your life.

A recent study showed that over 70% of the open jobs in this country are NOT listed online.

This means that if you search for openings as a way to decide what you want to become, you’re focused on 30% of the options out there. Not great.Don’t believe me? Try this: I spent a decade dreaming of becoming a university professor. I took extra classes in grad school to earn the “Future Professor” certificate, which included a survey of academic jobs presented by the highest level administrator in the graduate school. I didn’t just study the business I wanted to be in; I studied how to study the business I wanted to be in.Yet, I didn’t know the type of position that I currently hold existed until the month I accepted the job offer. Ten years of hunting and I landed a dream job I’d never heard of. Do you think you know your industry better?

What to do instead? Know yourself.

As I searched, I spent a lot of time reflecting. Looking back, I KNEW that my current position was my dream, even though I didn’t know it existed. Which made it pretty easy to decide on when I finally found it.

Tomorrow I’ll give details on how you can do the same.

Did this add value to your life? Consider sharing with someone else who may need it. Questions? Thoughts? Disagree? Leave a comment!

How to Decide the Rest of Your Life

We’re eight weeks into the Fall semester, which means you’ve got some big choices to make. If you’re a first-year student, it’s time to get serious about choosing a major. Sophomores and Juniors: you should be looking for a summer internship. And seniors? You need to decide where you’ll be working when you graduate and join the “real world.”

Each of these decisions feels enormous.

And they are. But don’t decide from a place of fear. Stress and fear limit your deeper-thinking abilities. I know, that advice doesn’t help much. But maybe the numbers will:

  • According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average worker will have 10 different jobs by age forty. [1]
  • Sylvester Stallone worked in a deli when he was thirty. [1]
  • Only 27% of college graduates have jobs that are closely related to their major [2]

Are you deciding the rest of your life? No.

You’re just deciding the broad direction of the next step of your journey.

No matter which choice you currently face, consider yourself in the “door opening” business. Eventually you’ll find one you want to walk through. Until then, enjoy the exploration.

The only real mistake you can make is putting off the hunt because it scares you or because you think you’re too busy.

Questions? Thoughts?

Leave a comment below!

[1] stats quoted in “EntreLeadership” by Dave Ramsey.

[2] based on 2010 census data, analyzed here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2013/05/20/only-27-percent-of-college-grads-have-a-job-related-to-their-major/?utm_term=.e03bc0876805

Triple Down on What You’re Good At

I’m a magpie. I realize the reference is dated, but it fits perfectly. I’m a magpie. I see shiny things, I get excited, and I go after them. I don’t mean shiny things like fancy cars or watches or anything material at all. I mean ideas. Shiny, new ideas.

The problem with ideas is that I have a lot of them. Most of us do. And we don’t have time to pursue them all. You may not realize it, but you spend most of your life saying “no.” There are an infinite number of things you could be doing at this moment. You’re reading this post. Which means you’re not curing cancer, playing volleyball, or taking your future spouse on a first date.

Are you sure that you say “no” to the right things? More importantly, are you sure you’re saying “yes” to the most important ones?

I have a simple rule: triple down on what you’re good at. Fit the rest in if you can.

If you invest the majority of your effort focused on crushing the things you already win at, two things will happen: first, you’ll win. Second, you’ll get momentum to carry you through the learning process for the next thing you’re going to be good at.

Success breeds success. Get some!

This week has been full of exciting announcements for the Intentional Academy. Future goals for our content. Stories. VLOGS. But the most exciting one is this:

We’re working on a weekly Podcast.

Why? Because I’m really good at talking with students about life.

There’s a line out my office door of people looking for help with resumes, picking majors, finding internships, managing time, dealing with money and student loans, and getting on a solid career path. I’m not bragging, I’m recognizing a trend. And it’s no wonder I’m getting good at this: I spend an enormous amount of time reading, watching, listening, and practicing it.

But listening has always been key. I consume more content through podcast than all of the other forms combined. Why? Time. I can listen to a podcast in the car. On the train. At the gym. When I run an errand. Every time my wife asks me to run out and pick something up from the store, I come back a better person.

This is the first of the new projects the Intentional Academy is rolling out. We’ll keep you posted on the progress. We’ll teach you how to access the episodes when they are released. Most importantly, we’ll address the issues and questions that you have.

In the meanwhile, go all-in in the things you’re good at and enjoy the victories!

Do you have a question you’d like answered? Leave a comment or send an email to tony@tonyferrar.com.

We Interrupt this Broadcast…

Thursday is my “deep work” day. I don’t go to the office. I only check my email once. I sit at the kitchen table, headphones blasting the soundtracks from my favorite movies (the music from Braveheart and Harry Potter is pretty great by the way). I do all of the work that takes long batches of deep focus.

That’s because every other day of the week is mayhem! My class schedule this semester is… let’s just say ambitious. The longest stretch of uninterrupted time at my desk this week was 30 minutes. That’s enough time to check some email, post lecture notes, update grades or deal with adminsitrivia. That’s about it.

Today’s deep work task:

finish grading an exam I gave my class two weeks ago. Only one problem:

I’m at home and that stack of papers sits on my desk at the office, forgotten after a mad rush of requests came in at the last minute yesterday.

I gave my word. Those exams will be graded tomorrow. Which means my deep work day is dead. I’ve got 2-3 hours of walking, catching trains, and waiting ahead of me as I go pick up that stack of exams and bring it back home.

Now what? Download some extra episodes from Netflix to kill time on the train?

Hardly. I’m thinking of all the creative projects that I can work on that don’t require an internet connection. I just got 2ish hours of time to work on small, but important ideas that never make the top of the list on “deep work” day.

Make plans. But be ready to pivot. I can’t wait to see what happens during my long commute to my kitchen table today.

And yes. The tests will be graded.

Coming Soon. The Intentional Academy: VLOG

ave you ever had a ‘life changing’ experience? Maybe it was a religious retreat. Or a summer camp. Or a medical crisis. Maybe you experienced a disaster. In the blink of an eye, you know you’ll never be the same.

Your life changes in the days, maybe even weeks that follow. You do more of something you promised yourself you’d do more of. You do less of something you promised yourself you’d do less of. But it always seems to fade. A month later, your life looks like it did before.

Why? Momentum.

The amazing thing about being a person is that you can decide to change in an instant. Think of something that needs to change in your life. Are you tired of putting it off? Commit. Right now. Ready? Bang. You just decided to change.

But…

Your decision to change doesn’t actually change anything. That’s why you can find so many books, blogs, podcasts, courses, and coaches dedicated to “affirmations” and “habits.” You’ve got work to do, implementing a new behavior (or rooting out an old one).

The Intentional Academy wants to support as you do this.

We’re all about the follow through. One of the best ways to stay on fire, to keep yourself moving forward, is to see the dream in action. Regularly.

We’re shifting to a new format for these daily videos. We’re going to be capturing moments throughout the day, little experiences of intentional living, and assembling them into a daily vlog. The lessons are in there, but you’ll get to see them in action. You’ll get a behind the scenes view of what we’re all about.

Here’s a preview of where we’re headed:

(or just search for “YouTube Intentional Academy”)

Take look, go ahead and subscribe to our YouTube channel. We’ll be posting regular content there soon. We’re learning: filming, editing, final production – all new skills for us. Have thoughts? Let us know. Want to help? We need it! Reach out.

What do you think? Leave a comment below!

Coming Soon. The Intentional Academy: Stories.

Have you ever been completely lost during class? You’re in the room. You’re listening. But you find yourself just sitting there with no idea what the professor is talking about. Do you raise your hand and ask for help?

Usually, the answer is “no.”

Why not? Fear.

We are hard-wired to resist standing out. The lions eat the member of the herd that stands out. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been in the mood to be someone’s lunch.

So we put on our scholarly face, scribble down some notes that we hope will make sense later, and leave the room defeated. The second you’re in the hall, you and your classmates begin the discussion:

“Wow that was hard. I was totally lost.”

You know you’ve done this. Don’t deny it. Isn’t it funny how much braver we are in the hall?

Sometimes, an amazing thing happens in class. Someone stops the professor to ask a question. And this encourages someone else to ask. And someone else. And it snowballs into a useful discussion in which everyone (professor included) learns something.

When we struggle, we convince ourselves we are alone.

Wrong! There are over 7 billion people alive today. While the circumstances of every person’s life are unique, the problems we face aren’t. Yet we’re all sitting silently in class, wishing someone would ask the first question.

This is your invitation to raise your hand.

We’re expanding the Intentional Academy content to include real stories from real people. We want you to contribute. Reach out, right now to share your story. We’ll guide you through, we’ll do the hard work.

Tell your story, it may just change someone’s life.

Want to contribute? Send me a message! tony@tonyferrar.com, or DM on social.

Coming Soon: The Intentional Academy. Reimagined.

The number one request I get from my students is to show more examples in class. I get caught up in talking about theories – because they make sense to me. The reason they make sense? I’ve seen countless examples and then applied the concepts myself.

The Intentional Academy came into being in much the same way.

I had some issues in my life. I learned the theories and mindsets to fix them. Then I got to work. But I was supported by real people sharing real examples along the way. I rarely went back to study the theory – but I consumed hours upon hours of story-filled content to keep me going.

It’s time to bring the theory of Intentional Learning to life.

Over the next few weeks you’re going to see big changes to our content and our format. We’re going to focus on what it’s really like to live and learn according to the Intentional Learner’s Manifesto (repeated at the end of this post for your convenience). We’re going to shift from one-way speeches to conversations. We’re going to focus on answering your questions. And we’re going to share stories of real people who are implementing these ideas day in and day out.

In the meanwhile, we’d like to invite you to play a role in building this community. Consider sharing this with someone who needs it. Leave a comment. Ask a question and we’ll answer it.

Have a great day!

An Intentional Learner’s Manifesto

I am an Intentional Learner.

I see a gap between what I learn in school and what I need to succeed. I don’t wait for the system to fix itself, I leverage its strengths and overcome its weaknesses.

I believe that my life is my fault. I may have started from a different point than everyone else. My path may be easier or harder than everyone else’s. But I will not let my past dictate my future. I have the power to act and succeed, or to do nothing and fail.

I own my time and my money. I realize that both are finite and I decide how I spend them. I do not allow either to limit my future.

I learn to add incredible value, not to make grades. I add value by meeting people’s needs. My grades are a reflection of my performance, not the reason for it.

I affirm that my ability to breathe does not entitle me to an income. My ability to create something that changes a person’s life leads to payment proportional to the impact. I am not paid by the hour, I am paid by the outcome.

I may not know my dream yet, but I know where my current path leads. I am not burying my head in the sand, hoping that if I follow the herd good things will happen. I embrace the future I see for myself, but I hold it loosely. I am in the business of opening doors.

I know that I will perform as I practice, and so I practice well. I am not waiting for certification. My results are my certification.

This is my time. This is my money. This is my career. I am an Intentional Learner.