Thursday, October 14, 2010

Inspiration Information

I've been thinking a lot lately about what gives us power and what takes it away.

Most of my classmates a DU will agree that I wasn't a very happy guy for much of the first year of business school.  I arrived with the plan to build up all the quantitative skill set that I had neglected in my undergrad education. Forget the theoretical, the ideas, the dreaming and the communicating, I was there to learn the facts and the processes,  the models and  the methods that keep the business world going round.

Life, for a while, was finance and accounting and statistics and figuring out how it all fit together. I wasn't having trouble learning any of the concepts. I wasn't struggling to get the grades. I wasn't getting lost in the sea of numbers. But I was really suffering. After a day of crunching numbers I just felt drained, my powers leaked onto the pages of financial reports and spread across Excel spreadsheets.

 It's taken me a while to understand that I was high-jacking my own power supply. Before business school I had worked in journalism, speech writing and politics. I just assumed I made these choices because I was good at them.  But last year it finally occurred to me that maybe  I picked them because they powered me up. Spending a day experimenting with ideas, shaping them into words and translating those words into emotions gave me the jolt I used to jump out bed the next morning.

So after a year of business school what have I learned? Simple, stop fighting against your weaknesses and instead use them to build your strengths. For me this meant that I needed to take the models and methods,  he facts and figures, and turn them into  ideas or dreams.

"Inspiration information" is what I need. Those aren't my words they're John Mayer's. It's no secret that I'm a fan of Mayer but don't worry, those words aren't from some overly-singable top 20 hit. They're from a presentation  Mayer gave to a class of budding performers at Boston's Berkley College of Music in 2008. Mayer had attended Berkley for just two semester before he dropped out to pursue the dreams that he couldn't find in the classroom.

 Say what you will about his antics but the guy has something special. He's one of the most technically proficient guitar players I've ever seen, he knows where he's going, and he is constantly inventing new ways to get there.

The heart of Mayer's speech is, in his own words, "turning information into inspiration." He shares with the Berkley students his magic sauce: To take the technical skills he learned in the classroom and immediately turn them into inspiration for his dreams and goals. I'm a sucker for a little inspiration. (Seriously, do yourself a favor and watch the video)

MBA's take note. Hell, everyone take note:  We spend so many days judging our classes and our time and our lives on how many skills we can compile, how many articles we can read and  how many new things we can do. And if we can't turn our knowledge into an immediate result (I refuse to use the word "deliverable" because it makes my soul die a little every time I say it)  then we purge it and write it off as wasted time.

Maybe instead it's time to think of information in a different way. Maybe instead of excel sheets or a strategy frameworks  it's meant to come out as something different entirely. 

Or then again, maybe it's just me...

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