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MSML, what’s next

I briefly mentioned this a few months ago, but I went back to school for a second master’s degree in April. I turned in my final capstone presentation on Sunday, and got back my grade yesterday. That’s one of several reasons I haven’t been writing much, and that’s done, so here we are.

The MBA program I finished last year overlaps the school’s MS in Management and Leadership program with three classes in common. That meant I would have six classes and the capstone project to get a second degree. The basic difference between the MSML and the MBA is the MSML is more soft-skill stuff around leading teams, innovation, and strategy. The MBA is more core business school stuff like finance and accounting, plus classes on project management and a taste of the leadership stuff. I liked the MBA, but figured as a manager of people, I could probably use more leadership work in a structured way.

I’ll be honest: I learned a lot of good stuff in the MSML program, but it was nowhere near as good or as challenging as the MBA. Part of the reason I did this back-to-school thing last year was I didn’t want my brain to go to mush, and crossword puzzles only do so much. I also needed to challenge myself and do something hard that I didn’t think I could do. Taking finance and accounting with absolutely zero background in either was a really big boulder to roll uphill. Getting past that gave me a real sense of accomplishment.

The MSML? Not so much. The most challenging courses were actually deep-dives on a couple of the most tedious classes in the MBA. One of the “tough” classes, Business Acumen, was basically a junior version of accounting, finance, econ, and marketing rolled up into one course. Two of the harder classes, Strategic Management and Change Management, had so much overlap, the papers gave me a constant “didn’t I just write about this?” situation. And this degree had zero math or Excel, but it had two classes that required a recorded presentation, three that involved Powerpoint, and it had a team project.

So, there were two proctored tests, twelve papers total. That includes the capstone, which was pretty eh. In the MBA, the capstone project was really cool. You played this simulation where you ran a business, competed against other players, and then did everything from pitch for venture cap to write a shareholder report, and that was a lot of fun, to be honest. The capstone for this was an annotated bibliography of three sources per class and what we learned from them, which was mostly tedious; then a giant paper on a training plan; then a speech on that paper. A lot of the papers in this class were pure tedium. A lot of people in this program are in HR, so maybe that’s the point.

The one unusual thing about this degree is I ended up working on it in six different countries. I was either cramming for tests or working on papers in Iceland, England, Qatar, India, and the UAE. I particularly remember being up all night in Dubai, sitting in an airport lounge and downing as many free Diet Cokes as possible while pulling articles for that stupid bibliography.

I hate to sound bitter about the experience; I’m mostly exhausted by it. I did learn a lot, although I think quantifying that is a bit out of this silo and bleeding into the Work Jon silo, which I don’t care to write about here. But I did pick up some stuff that will be useful in my career. I guess it just didn’t challenge me enough. I think I really phoned it in here, and part of it was the return to office, along with the travel. I finished the degree in four months, and probably put half the effort into it that I did last year.

Another thing… So, I would not say I was in a great place last year, for various reasons I won’t go into here. And as I worked through that Situation, I also worked hard on the MBA, and the two were very intertwined. So it was surreal sometimes to be sitting in a Hilton in Bangalore which looked identical inside to the hotel I was at in Denver last June, like down to the same paintings on the walls. And I’d be staying up late alone, working on the same kind of papers in the same templates and the same online library and the same learning system, listening to the same albums, and thinking back to last summer and thinking I really don’t need to be thinking about last summer. There’s a much bigger essay about nostalgia that needs to be written in short order, but let’s just say that whole thing was disturbing. And the good news is it is probably so disturbing because I’m in a much better place now and don’t want to be in 2022, or 1992, or 2002, or whatever else.

The big question is what’s next. I feel like this degree has been a big distraction in the way of what I need to be doing. Now I need to dust off the journals and the Scrivener things and figure out what the hell I am doing. I wrote about this in March, and I guess I was really thinking about it at the start of the year, and I was thinking about it last fall. And I need to stop thinking and just type. There are a lot of things in my way, and I need to ignore them, because they are all noise.

On my birthday, I wrote in my personal journal a big, raw, insane state-of-the-union, trying to put down exactly what I wanted to do next, along with a punchlist of what needed to be done to get Atmospheres 2 done, which obviously never happened. There was a lot of confusion and sorrow and anger in that entry. But there’s one paragraph I’ll leave you with, and I think I need to listen to what I said on 1/20:

I need to write. I need to write. I need to get on here every day and push it. I need to work harder. I need to capture everything. I need to riff, and slay, and build, and exercise, and work it out. I have no goal except everything. This is my life. This is what I need to do. There is no alternative.

When Ichiro Suzuki was in little league, he wrote the word “集中” on his glove. Concentration. I need to remember that.

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general

MBA, Maui, Writing

So I finished my MBA. Did I mention I was doing an MBA? I should probably write a larger post about this. But I completed my final capstone project in mid-October, then spent a week or two in administrative purgatory, and now it’s done. It feels odd to have this giant framed thing saying the trustees have conferred on me blah blah blah, but here it sits. I didn’t even think about having an MBA until maybe this spring, and it’s over. I am an MBA. I can read a statement of cash flows. Ask me anything about Pareto charts. But make it quick, as I will forget most of this in a month.

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Went to Maui last week. This was our fourth trip to this island; we also went in 2013, 2015, and 2017. We stayed on the windward side each time previously, which is nice but very touristy. (Complaining about the Four Seasons being full of tourists is like complaining about Disney World “selling out,” but the combination of tripping over octogenarians at every turn and getting charged ten bucks for a baby-sized bottled water does get old.)

This time we stayed at a yoga resort in upcountry, which was a few clicks south of Mama’s Fish House on the north shore. It used to be a bunch of indigent housing built by the Baldwin family (farming magnates that owned half of everything at one point) and it was used for military training housing during the war, then plantation worker housing, then it sat empty until someone restored and reconfigured it in about 2011 to make it into a bougie new-age yoga retreat center. It’s a semi-circle of bungalows with decks on the front and rear, a big courtyard in the middle, lots of trees and landscaping and the occasional fake buddha statue. There was almost nobody there, and although they offered various yoga and meditation classes, I didn’t go and I actually didn’t even see them happening. When I booked the place, I had the fear that some new age zombies would start chanting at four AM every day and try to beat some cult veganism in my head if I left the house, but there was nothing like that at all.

The rooms were cool. The whole place had high ceilings, big wooden ceiling fans, and old, dark wood furniture. We had two big rooms and the bathroom, plus the front and back decks. Lots of hammocks overlooking the ocean in the distance. The whole thing looked like a French plantation in Vietnam from the 1950s.  No AC. No TVs. No espresso machines. No wall tablets and room service intercoms and everything else you find in modern hotels. I always hate it when I go across the country and check into a Hyatt and it’s the same exact Hyatt I’d see in Denver or Chicago or San Jose. This was very distinct, so that was cool.

Being upcountry was generally 10-15 degrees cooler than being elsewhere on the island. Lots of trees, too. Unfortunately, walking was not great there – a winding road with no sidewalks or room for pedestrians, and nothing in every direction. I still got my 10,000 steps a day in, and we saw a lot of other areas on the island, so that worked out. The place had a small restaurant where the food was decent, but it was usually two or three couples sitting on the porch for dinner, and a server and a chef, and they would just say what they were serving and we said “ok, cool” and they brought it out. I like that a lot, though. Also went to a good Italian place, and actually a tiki-eque lounge a bit further south.

No real big adventures while we were there, just a lot of chilling out, walking, and eating. No work. That’s the most important part. Usually on these trips, it’s a big thing to come up with an itinerary and activities, things. Zip-lines and jet skis and museums and shops and statues of dead people that you must see. I think we’ve covered most of that in previous trips, and it was an opportunity to just do nothing. So, that was good.

There are pictures, but honestly I haven’t even sorted out my Denver pictures, and that was like three trips ago. I’ll get to it when it starts raining and I can’t go outside anymore.

* * *

Now that school is over, I’m trying to write. I should probably make this a separate post and explain it fully, or maybe I shouldn’t talk about it at all. But I completely quit writing fiction just over a year ago, just a sudden rage-quit “I can’t do this anymore.” thing, and it was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make, and it was probably the wrong one.

Right before I doused every bridge with gasoline and lit them on fire, I wrote some notes on exactly why I stopped writing. And at the time, I thought these issues were insurmountable, and maybe some of them are. And maybe it’s impossible to write fiction in a world when everything has become TikTok-ified. I don’t know. There are a lot of other major obstacles that I have to figure out. The big one is I simply do not know what to write about anymore. I’m out of ideas, and I can’t keep repeating myself.

So I’ve been chipping and trying to get started again, trying to figure out which way is up. I used to write daily, and for almost ten years, had to write something every day. I always had this strong belief that if I stopped, I would lose momentum, and then the next thing I knew, years would go by and I wouldn’t even know what went wrong. That’s basically what happened. And starting from an absolute dead stop has been difficult. I have a feeling it will take me months to get back to the same cadence I was at a few years ago. But that’s the goal.

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Nothing else going on. Lots of other stuff going on. I should write more about the writing thing later. And the MBA thing. Stay tuned.