I can’t wait for this semester to be over

… is the number one thing I hear in the halls this week. “I can’t wait for this semester to be over!” I get it. We’re all tired. A college semester is a lot like a marathon: an unrelenting hustle of effort that doesn’t really let up until it’s over.

But.

You get one life. One December 6, 2017. You have one less day on this earth than you did yesterday.

So why are we looking forward to it being over? I think we all need an attitude adjustment.

Why are we excited for the end?

  1. Classes are stressful (everything is judged on our permanent records, we have no control over what is demanded of us, conveyor belt of crud)
  2. Classes are hard work (and you can only work hard for so long before you give out. Ask John Henry. Willpower is a finite resource in the micro AND the macro)
  3. Life after finals looks nice (family, friends, free time)

So how do we embrace the present instead of enduring it?

  1. Balance. Stop putting off the other things that matter to you in the interest of school. You are a whole person and your family, friends, health, spirituality, hobbies, finances need attention too. You’re really unhappy when you don’t make progress in these areas for extended periods. You need to grow these Life Accounts to be effective.
  2. Essentialism. Greg McKeown coined the term to point out that we clutter our lives with nonessential hard work. A fancy figure that will be on page 47 of a report. Animations in a presentation that would work without them. A five paragraph email when two sentences would have sufficed. Stop turning half hour jobs into four hours worth of work and then complaining that you’re too busy.
  3. Meaning. Remind yourself of WHY you’re working hard. Hard work isn’t a bad thing. We’re not setting ourselves up for a life of clock-punching. We’re pursuing our passions, careers filled with meaning and purpose. You might not have a clear picture, but if you replace the image of fear and despair behind the fog of uncertainty, it makes what you do today feel a lot more powerful.
  4. Drive. Find a reason that you’re excited to do the work. You’ll work hard in life. Work on things you love and keep in mind that every experience is training for a powerful moment that you just haven’t lived yet. Love the hustle. Most people who reach the finish line wish they could go back. Ask the Broke lottery winners and unhappy multimillionaire athletes whose lives fall apart. Love the process, live for the hunt.

Hang in there. But love today instead of wishing it were gone forever.

Finding Your Sweet Spot

Yesterday, I had a conversation with an amazingly talented student who will graduate in a few months. In an effort to decide what she should do after graduating, she took a radical step: a ten-day fast from tv and movies!

As she told me about her experience, she taught me an important lesson:

You’re not too busy. You’re too distracted.

It’s uncomfortable to be alone with your thoughts. You’re a complex person whose life experiences make you who you are. Some of those experiences were positive, others not. But your talents, personality, and passions are the result of your response to these experiences.

We find it much more comfortable to entertain ourselves than delve into our thoughts and determine what they mean.

Except that your talents, personality, and passions point somewhere.

The sweet spot. The answer to the question “what should I do with my life?” The place where you can make a huge impact. People usually start hunting for careers by searching for job openings. This approach limits you to what other people have imagined.

Everyone should take a break from entertainment and go through the challenging process of being alone with their thoughts. Imagine a future for yourself, and then figure out how to make it happen.

The result?

  • She’s going to create a job for herself helping high-schoolers land internships and explore college majors to find their paths.
  • Another is double-majoring in Outdoor Education and Psychology so that he can start a “Wilderness Therapy” organization that treats mental illness through adventure experiences.
  • A third (me) found a dream of starting a movement to show college students how to win at life.

You’re not going to find those dreams on a job-search website. Turn off the TV and listen.

Opening Doors

“I am an Intentional Learner. 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.”

The pressure to find and pursue a dream has gotten out of hand. Everyone loves to remind students about their “amazing opportunities.” We love to tell students “they can be anything,” and that “they shouldn’t squander their chances.”

Great points, and true. But it’s pretty hard to identify a dream worth going all-in on. Right now, can you name a thing you hope to do for the rest of your career? I can’t, and I am (statistically) a quarter of the way through mine.

The wrong response:

Throwing up your hands at the pressure to decide and just picking something based on what “they” say. “They” say that it’s hard to make a living as a math major. “They” say that engineering pays great and that an MBA will make you a success. “They” say that studying film is risky.

We live in unconventional times.

So stop following conventional wisdom. It’s pretty easy to pick a major actually. Open up a search engine and find out what people who have these degrees are up to 5 and 10 years after graduation. Can you see yourself doing that?

Don’t put so much pressure on yourself. You’re not deciding the rest of your life. Just the next part of it.

I always had a plan.

It never worked out. Every time, something much better came along. What I realize, looking back, is that my plans were what led to my success. Working towards something inevitably opened the doors I ultimately walked through.

So. Open lots of doors.

Try things. Make a plan, and work hard towards it. When you make a decision, do some research about where it COULD take you, but realize that “could” and “will” aren’t the same. Most importantly, be open to changing your plan in a heartbeat.

The Intentional Academy is here to help. We’re creating content that helps you take action and open as many doors as possible. If it’s helping, let us know by leaving a comment and hitting those “like” and “share” buttons!

Punching the Clock

“I am an Intentional Learner. 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.”

One of the greatest inventions of all time is the assembly line. Prior to its invention, products were made by skilled craftsmen and artisans. Every product was custom. Every product was (relatively) expensive.

The industrial revolution brought about a new paradigm that trained people in one process, one step in producing a product. A person can do a repetitive task quickly, with much lower error rates. The result is that things became less expensive to produce. While people remain skilled, few know the entire process. The goal is replaceable parts in a system: no product relies on a single person showing up today.

You’ve worked in a factory

Ever have a job that involved clocking in and doing the same few tasks over and over? Ever have a job that, after a few weeks of training, you knew what to do in most situations? Maybe you worked as a bag boy in s grocery store, or a cashier in a book store, or changing oil at a service station, or in the kitchen of the dining hall, or in an actual factory (all jobs I’ve had). All jobs that, once you learn the basics, required no further instructions and no real decision making on your part.

Did they go out of business when you left?

Of course not. You were a cog. An easily trained and easily replaced part of a big machine that was rigorously designed to eliminate waste and produce a product as efficiently as possible.

The problem is the lesson you learned.

In a job like that, you learn to do as your told. Follow the standard work procedure. Stay in your lane. Clock in, check the list, clock out.

Our world is changing.

We’re finding ourselves in need of artisans again. There is room now for you to work without instructions, to create something that impacts.

But you can’t do it with the “clock-puncher” mindset. And so the cry of the Intentional Learner: “My goal is to learn to add value, to create impact, and to expect payment in response. I don’t get paid for showing up, I get paid for delivering.”

The Intentional Academy is here to help. We’re creating content that helps you rethink your approach to work. If it’s helping, let us know by leaving a comment and hitting those “like” and “share” buttons!

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

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

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.