What was I thinking?

Bryan Smith, TMMBA Student

With the first quarter of six now complete, I can’t really count the number of times I’ve asked myself that question in some form. For example: did I really think I have enough time in my life to do this? The TMMBA classes are fast, dense, challenging, and rely on a lot of time outside of the classroom. What was I thinking? Well, I was thinking that I had considered things ahead of time, and concluded that I had opportunities like my commute from Bainbridge Island to work every day … that time alone provides over 5 hours of reading opportunity a week — simple math there. Planning ahead and considering your current schedules and plans is an absolute prerequisite to starting this program.

But was I thinking that would be enough? No, actually, I wasn’t. I had talked to students from previous classes, and they had made that clear enough, so I had to look around at other activities I could sacrifice. I knew I wouldn’t be watching as much TV, which was a welcome and obvious change, but I also wouldn’t be reading things for pure pleasure — this one still hurts — so the pile of books next to my bed went back on the shelf to be considered again in 18 months.

There were other changes … I found a more inexpensive place to moor my boat (no great yacht, just a daysailor, really), because Tuesday evening “Duck Dodges” on Lake Union were clearly not feasible. So too were occasional sailing commutes across Puget Sound to Bell Harbor. That was giving up a few more things a bit more dear, but they stood between the TMMBA commitment and more difficult sacrifices.

I did think I’d have a chance to continue playing music on Saturday nights, at least occasionally. In reality? Not so much. The thing is, by Saturday evening, depending on whether there are classes, I’m either too wiped out or trying to catch up on the rest of my life … The band has had to wait. So far this has been a big disappointment, but it rates lower on the scale than time with my family.

Again, though … what was I thinking?

I was thinking that by reorganizing time between work and home, with some sacrifices of “hobby time”, together would make the whole thing possible without overly impacting my greatest priority: my family. As it turns out, however, such preparation helps, but I have since found that even after minimizing time away from home, the impact on family life is still considerable. I am more distracted and am less frequently “all there” … my face in a textbook, a case study, or a spreadsheet*. I think I’m probably a lot more focused and serious than my kids are used to … and the topics of my conversations tend to swerve towards economics, finance, business strategy, team dynamics, and in general not the kinds of things I used to go on about. These topics don’t tend to fascinate 5- and 10-year-olds. My (incredible, wonderful) wife has enough to worry about with real family finance and economic issues to hear endless pondering on the abstract dynamics of macroeconomics. They’d probably rather have the old dad/husband back more often.

I guess my point here is: yes, I was thinking that I could manage to mitigate the program’s impact on the people I most care about. This has proven to be a tremendous challenge, and my success has been mixed. I know this an issue for many that take on full time studies on top of full time employment and growing families; all I can say is that revisiting your priorities and trying to maintain communications is critical. Sharing your schedule with your spouse and kids, for example, while not “over sharing” the amazing newest thing you’ve just realized about the time value of money … Sharing the homework experience with your kids, then setting it aside for a bit is a worth trying — everyone gets something out of that. So that’s my “take away”: Revisit the priorities and keep them clear in your mind. That’s a survival skill, like rationing sleep.

For me, the mantra is family first, followed by work and school. Then I go to bed.

So … next question? Was I thinking that this program wouldn’t affect work? Yeah, I was … and I’ve done okay in that assumption, if only because the things I have learned in the first quarter have deeply influenced my attitude at work. I am just getting in to work now, though, so that rant will have to wait for another post. Suffice it to say that some things I learned this week are going to get applied today, and it might get a little crazy.



* I have discovered a new passion for Excel. This program is really cranking up the geek factor.

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