The Art of Overcoming: A Summer’s End

The current term at Empire State College (ESC) is near a close; and I’ve been feverishly trying to catch up on lost time in my studies.  I find the summer months to be especially hard on non-traditional students.  Classes are often accelerated, and frequently we have 40 hour work weeks, social commitments, and family obligations, that seem daunting; because they are bookended by the requirements of our academic pursuits.  Now, two summers into my relationship with ESC, I’ve finally discovered the cause of stress in my studies.  Time.  It should have been obvious, but it wasn’t. 

Time management is an essential skill for a non-traditional college student; especially if you study online.  However, you can’t manage a resource you don’t have in the first place.

There are a number of things that have contributed to my lack of time this summer; long sunny days, quality time with my family, my own sense of perfectionism, and a kind of intimidation I experienced within my studies.

I’ve never thought of myself as a perfectionist (although my wife would disagree).  I’ve never even considered the possibility until mid-way through this term.  After all, I don’t intrude on others with my own sense of how things should be done; and I don’t dictate the standard to which anybody lives their life.  I’ve also never felt that I set unreasonable standards for how I complete task (until recently).  I do however measure myself to  extremely high standards and ,to some degree, find myself measuring my self worth by how well I live up to those standards.  Sometimes this aspect of my personality works to my detriment.  Usually it drives me to accomplish great things.  During this term it has presented me with some interesting challenges.

After reflecting on my kind of perfectionism, and doing a little bit of research, I learned that the trait was (in fact) a common flaw in high achievers.  Which pains me to admit, even as it presents itself as a compliment.  I’ve never viewed myself as a high achiever either.

The challenging function, of my brand of perfectionism, is that someitmes I’m troubled by a sense of intimidation (if I feel like I may not be up to a task that is placed before me).  Usually this perception is the result of me not understanding the expected outcome of an action, other times I may feel like I’m not as capable as my peers in a situation.  Either way it forms a mental stumbling block.  My first inclination under these types of conditions is seclusion; to seek time to understand the situation and reason a correct path through it.  The problem with that approach is time stops for no man.  The only way to overcome the situation is to act.  Taekwondo, and the adversity I faced in the Army, taught me that.  Bravely step into the unknown and achieve the objective.  That doesn’t mean act recklessly.  It simply means think quickly, act decisively, and overcome the obstacle.  I know I’m not alone in experiencing these types of feelings; while living out my college experience.

College is designed to be this way.  It defines who you are by taking you to your limits, and while you’re on that journey you’re surrounded by people who are just as capable (or more so) than you are.  As your education progresses the field narrows.  It’s just the way things are; and those who succeed are those who have overcome the obstacles.

I’m not sharing this because I enjoy airing my dirty laundry.  I’m also not the type who is comfortable with putting myself out there this openly.  I’m talking about this aspect of my personality because I believe there’s value in it.  If you’re facing these types of challenges today, or trying to overcome your own mental stumbling blocks, I want you to know you’re not alone.

Another key to success while attending classes online, and in life, is the ability to prioritize.  The ability to make a determination about what is important in your life, and to be able to say no (when it is appropriate). 

When I decided to embark on my journey with ESC I knew that I was not willing to sacrifice my relationship with my family in pursuit of my ambition.  To do so would not only be an affront to the commitment I made to my wife and children, but also would be detrimental to my relationship with God. 

As late summer has been approaching us, my family has been amazing in providing me the space I need to make up for lost time.  So I thought I’d post a quick update for all of you at TeknicalGrit to help get a feel for the progress I’ve made.

Management Information Systems

I’ve been working extremely hard at pulling together my final project.  A research paper I’m calling Glassing In Bits: Strategic Vision in a Digital World.  I’m excited about the work, however, it is a challenging effort because it is brings together some complex subject matter; involving how organizations operate, business strategy, and technological implication.  Although not completely polished, my thesis for the paper reads as follows:

Information Systems (IS) create clear strategic vision through merging organizational knowledge, and facilitating vertical integration, which thereby empowers high level decision making.

Additionally I’ve been working with my professor to clean up a couple of assignments I found were especially challenging this term.

Social/Professional Issues in IT/IS

Admittedly I was a little unsure of what to expect walking into Social/Professional Issues in IT/IS this term.  I was expecting a study of current events in the tech world.  What I received was a brilliant layered study of ethics, society, and tech culture in the information age.  I really loved this class, and doubtlessly will be returning to much of the subject matter as I mature in my field of study.  One of the things I liked most about this course was that it rekindled my sense of why I became interested in tech culture in the first place. 

Behind the polo shirts, khakis and cubicles are the rebels of the information age.  The people who understand the ghost in the machine.  The architects and builders of a digital landscape viewed by many, understood by few, and often exploited by those who hope to gain money or power from the capability that lies within.

I’m a bit of a counter cultural cat (I’ve been listening to a lot of jazz lately; sorry.), so the rebellious nature of the computer culture has always interested me.  All computer guys dream of being the guy in cargo pants, sporting a rough beard, old t-shirt and flannel with a worn out beanie hat; and becoming one with the machine while hacking the man.  Thankfully not all of us do it, but we all dream of it (It’s fun to imagine right?).

I feel like the material presented in this course is essential for all (and will be) tech professionals.  It provides a forum for a lot of critical thought on subject matter highly relevant to the use of communications technology in the world today.

I’m currently wrapping up my final assignments in this course.

Until next time, wish me good luck in my studies.  Thanks for stopping by.  Overcome.

 

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