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Of all the charities that make requests to me to finish out the year, I wish I could contribute to more of them.  To wind down 2013, I made my highest donation priority to help the way for my advisees’ pledges to Push America, which three of them will be riding a bicycle cross-country this summer promoting its mission.

The cross-country trip is called The Journey of Hope, and aside from the physical test of the bike trip, it involves making visits to local facilities along the way that care for people with disabilities.  The fraternity members who participate in the ride must meet a minimum fundraising requirement towards the organization, and most members have a goal greater than that minimum.  The fundraising campaign runs the sensible model of benefiting both the organization and the person who would be getting credit for the funds on behalf of their goal.  Push America provides an easy way for a rider to market themselves and accept donations over the web.  As a result, I took advantage of the service and my very late December charitable givings is well summarized by the below

Dylan Reed  joh-dreed
Jeffrey Gorenshtein  joh-jGorenshtein
Brian Bott  joh-bbott

(  Great video recap of a past ride–   http://sloandickey.com/journeyofhope/?p=468  )

I’m especially proud of the efforts of these young men in their fundraising and commitment to the trip.  There had not been a member of the George Mason University Pi Kappa Phi chapter to ride as part of the Journey of Hope in many years.  Hopefully, they can start a trend for years to come.

As much as I don’t buy books all that often, I still do manage to have a decent sized collection of them. Lately, my eyes get drawn to the shelves and piles of them in thinking about having box them up in the not too distant future for my move. For a bunch of the titles, I just have tended to keep them around so I can remember that I’ve read them, and I’d really like a better way to recognize that without so much packing poundage. A great alternative that I found is that LinkedIn has an Amazon add-on for your profile called Reading List where you can track what you’re reading or what you’ve already read.

The LinkedIn app is even better for my tastes, since so many of the books that I read are business/personal development topics anyway, if not directly relating to my day job covering software dev skills. Sure, I could also pop stuff on there like Jurassic Park or some Grishams -haven’t decided yet. Overall, the app is great for jogging my own memory, showing off hypothetical knowledge, and just give profile gawkers more info about me. Apparently, the new figure is that 93% of firms go through some recruitment searching on LinkedIn to try to fill positions. The company is also being upped overall for big results compared to other social networks (Facebook), so I’m guessing my efforts to tome dump on this walled garden is not at risk for abandonment.

If you check it out, you’d see my status marker for The Big Short shows up as ‘Reading’. After having to pass over too many newspaper pieces trying to analyze the sub-prime housing downturn, I decided I wanted a better background of the terms and cast of characters. On top of that, there’s nothing quite like 45 hrs of power loss at your home to cause you to add another physical book to my piles to help pass the time without the Internet.

(photo credit by bandita)

Over the past couple of years of considering the path towards a full time MBA or other graduate degree, it really caused me to look at my priorities. Beyond the clear advantage of the degree, the costs of it is the next immediate thought that comes to mind. As of May 7th, I’m now a home owner, and have exercised one of the big near-term opportunities that I would forgo, had I decided to go back to school.

I am happy with my funds draining decision, and these fruits of the huge (beyond my imagination!) amount of work that comes with both buying a home and overseeing large renovations on a property that I will be living in. The decision to buy a home was not an easy one, but it was helped greatly by the unheard of mortgage rates that are available and finding a good fit property that is in a high value location.

As is key with most big decisions, timing is such a key factor like with the lending rates and home prices, but it’s equally important to have the confidence of projecting where I want my life to go. Not only am I making a deep commitment to living in the DC suburbs of northern Virginia, but also the near-term limitations that I have put on my formalized education. Yet, I am confident in my decision for this huge financial play, and even more determined to continue my personal pursuits and curiosities I’ve set up for this blog to discuss. The home renovations and ongoing transition for my new professional position, have taken so much of my time lately, but regardless of the lack of updates to this page, my mind is full of thoughts that I hope to express here in the not too distant future.

(photo credit: woodleywonderworks )

rollercoaster before the drop

The MBA Frontier project soldiers on by addressing one of the common concerns about even accredited MBA programs in general: What does any book reading and lecture attending amount to if it isn’t put into practice? As a way of materializing the ideas that I will be reading about I am seeking out side projects and small business opportunities to force exposure to running a business. Time will be spent, and money will be fronted. I’ll resist to call any of this activity an actual small business, since I don’t intend to put the full clout of my efforts into it. Without a doubt it will be nice to know that even if it doesn’t amount to any monetary profits, I’ll at least have an outlet for my experience and my failures to bring me some personal development dividends.

The first outpost I’ve reached as a business side project takes the form of an eBay account. Fantastically late to the game, having never bought or sold anything before on the monumental site, I’m hardly ready to internalize all of the ins and outs of the platform. In this case, that’s really the point. I’m battling my personality and my ingrained standard operating procedures by just jumping in.  My very short history for this venture has already taught me a lot and I’m happy to keep tweaking my approach for the day when these business and marketing maxims will play out in a much greater forum:

  • Auction mechanisms and buyer psychology
  • Properly marketing and cataloging products
  • Serving a paying customer, with an eye toward my feeble initial feedback rating
  • Actually using the snail mail postal service
    AND
  • Understanding that I am thrust into a living marketplace and dueling with plenty of professional sales fronts

There’s loads of material already in print and around the net going into eBay strategy and I’m unlikely to discuss any here. I am expecting to continue to share my thoughts on the overall real-world lessons that this project can bring me. At the same time, I’ll be looking out for a next side project to take on and see if I can escalate my risk/reward factor.

(photo credit- “Get Ready” by hjl)

books collection

Getting started with my MBA Frontier project, I’m going to make sure I have a plan for the low-hanging fruit activities. The core of any course of study whether instructed or not would be the published literature and reference material on the subject. This is going to be no different for me and my goal, and through any number of books I’ll be able to tout my knowledge as enclosed under some in-your-face or epic sounding title -matching up pretty closely with my mission there.

Fortunately, a lot of this work about the best MBA-substituting books has already been done for me (us!) via the Personal MBA Reading List, administered by Josh Kaufman. Updates for the 2012 version of this list were completed as of a month ago. I reformatted this into a crude spreadsheet / checklist doc if anybody else is interested (PersonalMBA-ReadingList-2012.xls). At first glance of the list, there are absolutely some titles I’d expect to find, and even some I’ve already got under my belt. I’m definitely looking forward to getting into these topics, and work through such works that have already gone through many iterations of scrutiny.  This year the list has been broken into categories as follows:

  • Business Creation
  • Value-Creation & Testing
  • Marketing
  • Sales
  • Value-Delivery
  • Finance & Accounting
  • Productivity & Effectiveness
  • Problem Solving
  • The Human Mind
  • Behavioral Change
  • Communication
  • Influence
  • Decision-Making
  • Negotiation
  • Management
  • Leadership
  • Project Management
  • Systems
  • Analysis
  • Statistics
  • Corporate Skills
  • Corporate Strategy
  • Creativity & Innovation
  • Design
  • Consulting

The reading list is at the same time exciting as it is daunting, particularly with some of my other reading goals that I’ve already got on tap (and which I’d like to write on later). At least for the time being, I would like to get through one PMBA book in a month. This will be bolstered by my other reading, and another book I’ll spin up on my car stereo over my daily commutes. It’s not high academia rigor I’m putting on my plate, but as Leo Babauta mentions in an entire chapter of the PMBA recommended The Power of Less: “Start Small” and you’ll be setting yourself firm footing for true habit formation.

Please speak up for any tips that could help me, particularly from the students who already have overcome their deluge of reading.

photo credit- “Bookshelf” by heipei

Overlook

Who doesn’t love a sense of adventure?  Branching westward, the early citizens of the new United States tested themselves against harsh terrain, limited infrastructure, and a life without the safeties of political and societal institutions.

Present day, I look out at my idea of a frontier wilderness… Can I go through the rigors and learning activities brought on by attending an MBA program, only without actually attending one? Will personal laziness, be the pack of wolves who eats my trusty mule? Will a lack of clear ending credentials weigh on me like the carrying of six spare wagon yokes that were never needed? Will a lack of curriculum be as emotionally wrenching as the stereotypical dysentery contracted by my pioneer sibling? For all the reasons not to set off on such a perilous journey, there stands the reasons that I hope will keep me going.

Here are the 7 motivations for my self-study MBA project. Let me know what I’ve overlooked, oh fine interwebs mentors!

  1. The subjects studied as part of an MBA are true interests of mine and I would have been reading/doing these things anyway. Think of the blogging as a way of sharing them with others, and having a place for reminding myself what I’ve accomplished.
  2. I’d like to be in a confident position to start my own business one day. How many people go to business school with the predetermination they would be using the education to start their own business anyway? When the on-campus recruitment is valued less significantly, and truly takes a back seat to the education, the thinking by many is that self-teaching can be just as beneficial.
  3. This project is nearly free, especially in comparison to the costs of tuition and on-the-job opportunity costs foregone by attending a full-time MBA program.
  4. Maybe a self-study MBA won’t be as difficult as it could be. There is more material available than ever before to those who want to pick up learning MBA topics. There is an established movement and accompanying reading list for MBA self-study that goes by the name of the Personal MBA. Through that outlet and others, there is also great potential for a community of people, both virtual and in-the-flesh, to give help and encouragement.
  5. The blog, itself, acts as a credential for others to get a view into my efforts. Even though there is no degree at the end of this project, this web presence will hopefully serve at least a fraction of what a transcript could hold.
  6. MBA Frontier gives me the excuse to write. Writing is something that I’ve enjoyed in the past, but also something that I always need work on.
  7. Lastly, a chance to try out all the great tools and Web 2.0 concepts, besides just sharing with the world wide web what I ate for lunch! Tweet me back!

Until the next canyon break.

–photo “mt walker overlook”. by goodmami

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