Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Finding Your Calling

A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the "why" for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any "how." - Victor Frankl

I just got out of a presentation about Acton MBA. Acton is an entrepreneurship MBA program in Austin that is very different from other MBA programs. For one thing, it is just a year, which means they work you like crazy for that year. An Acton student works more then 100 hours per week on Acton work. (To compare, I am at Rice and I work about 20 - 25 hours a week on school, 10 in the class and about 10 - 15 on homework and studies.) You are not allowed to miss class, and class starts at 6 AM every day of the week. But they are good at what they do: teaching people to run businesses and find their calling.

An idea from the Acton presentation is that there are three things that you can do in your life:
  1. Get a Job - A job is something that you do to get money in order to go do what you want to do. It is sad that so many people spend their whole lives in jobs always watching the clock for time to go out and actually live their lives. A job is summarize in a song that I love to hate, Get Drunk and Be Somebody by Toby Keith:
    Well all week long I'm a real nobody, But I just punched out and its paycheck Friday, Weekends here, good God almighty, I'm going to get drunk and be somebody.
  2. Get a Career - It's a tiny bit better then a job. At least you are working towards something, right? Well, if you are climbing that ladder, working towards that big house and corner office, struggling up and up that Caterpillar pile, will you be happy when you get there? When is there? Jeff mentioned that a lot of the people who get to the top just want to go higher. And the people who almost make it, but can't quite get there usually get fired and have to go back to the bottom again. Now, who wants a career?
  3. Lastly, you can find a calling. And this is the Acton way.

The "Find Your Calling" thing intrigued me. Someone asked the presenter, who was Jeff Sandefer, one of the founders of Acton, about how someone would go about doing this. He gave a easy sounding 3 step process:
  1. Find what you are good at. - Ask everyone you know what they think that you are good at. You will have to probe, because people like to give superficial answers to this question, but if you probe enough people, you will begin to see a trend. And you will be surprised because it will probably be something that you find so easy that you think there must be plenty of other people that are good at it.
  2. Find what you love doing. - For this, he brought up the concept of flow. Think about things that you have done in the past year that you have completely lost track of time while doing. Things that you love doing just for the sake of doing. Doing those activities should bring you so much joy that it is no longer about competing with others or any other outside motivator that matters.
  3. Find a way that you can impact the world. - How can you take what you are good at and love doing and do something with them that impacts the world.
One of the projects that they make Acton students do is go out and interview 9 people, 3 from each age group 20-45, 45-60, beyond 60. He said that students find that people that are older then 60 will look back on their lives and say that only 2 things really matter:
  • Did I live a good and ethical life?
  • Did I impact the world in a meaningful way?
I had heard this before, but it really hits home, especially compared with my own personal philosophy about life. I must make a meaningful impact. I, as I always am, will be working towards answering these questions. That is really what life is all about. As the Dalai Lama puts it:
What is the meaning of life? To be happy and useful.


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Christopher said...

hey, good to see you at dellview. great blog, thought i would comment on this post because i dig the victor frankl qoute. i like frankl's logo therapy and existential way.

Isabel Aneyba said...

Thank you for offerring Professor Sandefer methodology. I took a class with him in UT, 5 years ago and he is the best of the best. Why? because he really cares about your learning. he reviews your homework, word by word, every time and gives you great suggestions. Unbelievable!

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