Throughout life, these are the lessons many of us learn from our experiences and upbringing:
- Trust should be given sparingly.
- It’s better to avoid being hurt than to be open by default.
- Take all you may possibly need (and a bit extra for good measure) before it disappears.
- Look out for yourself, because no one else will.
- Plan every detail before trying something because others are waiting for you to misstep.
- The world is made up of two kinds of people: the exceptional (insert famous celebrities, authors, speakers, philosophers, politicians, scientists and artists) and then there’s the rest of us.
- The game is rigged, so play it safe and stay in your lane.
As former pro baseball player Vernon Law stated, “Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterward”
I recently completed Seth Godin’s altMBA program and then had the opportunity to attend a gathering of folks from the 13 alumni classes. What I learned from all this is… Seth Godin isn’t exceptional. I’ll tell you why.
The altMBA is billed as “… an intensive, 4-week online workshop designed by Seth Godin for high-performing individuals who want to level up and lead.” The classes pushed me to take risks and push my work out the door before I felt it was perfect. There were times I produced more quality work than I had previously done in a month… in one day. The individuals who collaborated with me on group projects were extraordinarily sharp, skilled, insightful and thoughtful.
In the end, I didn’t just learn new principles, tools and skills. I discovered an imperative to do work that creates needed change in the world. For me, this is helping business leaders transform their management style, their company culture, and their space into a competitive advantage—unlocking the innovation and creativity of their people and themselves.
This has cultivated a greater sense of commitment to doing this work with the mindset and approach of a true professional. This isn’t just a side hustle or a hobby. Regardless of whether or not it occurs between 9-to-5, this is my work.
The Alumni Gathering
The timing of my altMBA experience allowed me to attend the first gathering of alumni in Hastings-on-Hudson, NY. The event was held at the remarkable meeting venue Purpl.
The people I met were as remarkable as the venue. They were extremely inspiring, generous, compassionate, authentic, vulnerable and kind. I can honestly say I have never encountered a large (175 or so) group of people like this before.
When I attend typical business events and meet new people, the introductions can be awkward as we gauge each other–trying to calibrate the conversation to impress the other person, while not exposing ourselves to unnecessary vulnerabilities. That didn’t happen at this gathering. There was a common understanding between each of us and each introduction felt more like a homecoming.
Alumni engaging in energetic (loud) conversations at the beginning of the day. Apologies to those who are distorted by my panoramic photo.
In anticipation of the event, I really thought being in the same room with Seth Godin would be my highlight. I didn’t anticipate how rewarding each conversation with another alumnus would be. I noticed Seth milling around just like one of the attendees. There was no line cued up to shake his hand, get an autograph or selfie. I found I couldn’t pay much attention to him because I was so engrossed in the fantastic stories each alumnus shared.
During the “formal” segments of the event, Seth spoke some. But there was more time given to alumni who shared “generous propositions” (like miniature TED Talks), and to alumni panels who shared thoughts on leading, conflict management and overcoming their doubt and fears. The panels were not facilitated by Seth. Instead, the superb Provost of altMBA, Kelli Woods and altMBA Coach Marie Schacht led the discussions effortlessly.
To wrap it up, Seth led us all through an exercise and demonstrated that the leaders we admire so much (Brené Brown, Simon Sinek, etc.) aren’t special. Instead, he said, “You are.”
And that’s when my mind changed.
I have always thought Seth was exceptional… he’s not. He isn’t the exception. He has developed a set of remarkable and powerful skills, but Seth showed us that we can all develop these skills through deliberate and committed practice. This changes how I view everything.
Exceptional or not, I am extremely indebted to Seth Godin, Wes Kao, Kelli Wood, Sam Miller, my coaches Paul Jun and Gravity Goldberg, and the rest of the altMBA team. They have shown me the list at the top of this post is not reality. They are each an example of how we can live a generous life, giving ourselves as a work of art to a world that desperately needs more in its galleries. Others may hurt us in the process, but we can’t let that fear rob the world of the exceptional gifts within each of us.
So yes, perhaps life gives us the test first and the lesson afterward. But the key is knowing what that lesson is.