Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Turn "Are we there yet?" into "Look where we are!!"

Have you ever been on a road trip with children who just couldn't wait to get there? Did the continuous pressure to silence the nagging keep you from pulling over at a vista point, or even suck all the joy out of time that could be spent enjoying the view from the window?
It's 2:30 am and I'm coming to terms with the irony.  The irony that, as a person who keeps a blog titled "No Journey Wasted," I've spent far too much of the past 6 years looking toward the next destination and - during those destination-obsessed phases - not allowing myself to relax enough to enjoy the moment.  

And I'm not talking about the easy moments. Anyone can enjoy a splendid cappucino on a Spanish balcony under the Barcelona sun.  I'm talking about the hard stuff, the nitty gritty challenges you're not sure you'll even survive. There is something to appreciate in those moments. Even if your day's song is only "I'm alive! I'm doing it! Who knows what the end result will be, but I'm going to enjoy the challenge in front of me today!"
Our ability to see that and say that has a lot to do with whether we're operating in a fixed mindset or a growth mindset.  A fixed mindset tells you that "your qualities are carved in stone" and "creates an urgency to prove yourself over and over."  On the other hand, a growth mindset "is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts" -- it advocates the principle that "everyone can change and grow through application and experience."  (I recommend you read this article illustrating the power of mindset, and watch Carol Dweck's TedTalk.)
StartUp Weekend Helsinki:  A good place to practice using the growth mindset.  It's all about iteration!











As the kids in the backseat of my mind begin to pipe down, I'm so thankful for second chances to enjoy the view on my journey. During my first (bachelor) thesis, I was definitely interested in learning, but that motivation driven by curiosity was often trumped by ridiculous internal pressure and doubts about whether I would measure up.  And looking back, I learned an enormous amount of things that will continue to benefit me throughout life, but I also made a Himalayan peak out of a medium-sized hill.

But oh boy, this time around I'm headed to the same destination, but taking the scenic route and having so much fun!  As I start to craft the first research plan for my master thesis, I'm loving every minute of the process.  It doesn't matter that it's not perfect and there are some gaps; that's why you make a research plan to begin with, that's what this whole process is about.


The brilliant part is that once you get the hang of this growth mindset in one area, it's so easy to bring into another. Hmm... Our business needs to decide on our target customer segments, and quick!?  There will always, always, be the risk that you pick the "wrong" segment, or that you miss a sizable opportunity. In fact, you will always miss some opportunities; you will never be able to take advantage of them all -- that's the principle of opportunity cost.



It can be paralyzing if you have a black-and-white, succeed-or-fail mindset, but if we approach every task with a learn-as-we-go mindset, we free ourselves to experiment and in doing so usually come across new opportunities we would have never seen.  Challenge accepted!

No, I'm not in the juice business. But I did spend several months preparing a market strategy for a [hypothetical] new player in the Finnish juice market.  That is the type of fun we have in grad school.


Your ultimate worth does not depend on the perfection of your work, on the grade you get or the size of your paycheck. Your identity, your experiences and your memories are all you really get to keep. So give yourself a raise today - a raise in spirits - and embrace the next challenge. Look where you are!  You might not ever get to drive this stretch of road again, so enjoy today's journey! 


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