A little over a year ago I started something that I never dreamed I would… or could finish. It wasn’t an easy decision to start something new… this was something that I wasn’t sure if I was even going to be able to finish. I was taking a risk – mentally, financially and emotionally. I sacrificed time with family and friends, sleep — oh y’all how I love to sleep, and juggling a relatively new full-time job. These were all challenges that I overcame when I made the decision to go back to school and pursue a graduate certificate in non-profit management.
When I made the decision to go back to school, it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. I’m a goal driven person, high achiever, competitive – and failure just couldn’t even be on the table… shoot it couldn’t even be in the same room y’all.
Has the fear of failure ever held you back? For me, it was about to… but then my friends stepped in … then my family and a few colleagues who all believed in me turned it all around. They gave me the best advice, I mean y’all they really put things in perspective. So I thought today I would share with you how I made the decision to go back to school, share the advice from my friends and family, and the lessons I learned from the experience.
First step. Pray. Seriously, get down on your knees and ask God for his direction. Without the first step I firmly believe that the following can not apply.
Second, seek out input and support from trusted friends and family. I caution you though, choose your friends who know you better than you know yourself, the ones who have their stuff together, ya’ll know what I mean. This gave me encouragement and the push I needed to take the next step towards submitting my admissions application. I was asked the simple questions “why do you want to go back to school?”, “how can you use this in all areas of your life?” These seem like really simple questions, but believe it or they were really hard questions that got me to dig deep and look at the big picture.
Next, go talk to the experts… what ever decision you are trying to make go to the experts. In my case it was a combination of University faculty members and colleagues of mine who had either completed the nonprofit graduate certificate program or were in the process of completing it. This helped me gain clarity on the requirements to apply for admission and also on the time management side of the actual course work load after admission.
After I gathered all of the information I needed, I took a step back and thought about it. I think it’s always a good idea before making a major decision, especially one that will effect every area of your life, to pause and take a breath. During this time, I started to think about the impact that earning this certificate meant to me, but ultimately it was so much bigger than that… it really wasn’t about me at all. What I concluded and what made me take a leap of faith was the thought of all the people that I will better serve now that I have not only proven my dedication to the nonprofit sector, but the knowledge I can bring to the table to strengthen nonprofits who will better serve their clients.
During this process of deciding the right thing to do, through every late night I stayed up vigorously typing at 1 AM to finish a paper assignment due the next day – I learned so many things about taking a risk, starting something new and a little about myself too…
- There’s never a good time – I used every excuse under the sun and found all the reasons why I shouldn’t or couldn’t go back to school. Time can be our friend or it can hold us back. There will never be a good time to start something new, so just start. The best thing about starting is that you are so much closer to finishing than you were yesterday.
- Self doubt is the devil – The greatest lies I told myself were that I wasn’t good enough, I would fail, I wasn’t smart enough. Wow was I wrong and wow why would I even tell myself these lies? After I finished the first semester with a 4.0 I quickly realized that self doubt was the devil and it needed to get out of my way.
- Time is valuable and I’m a bad@$$ – Ok I kind of knew that already (in my overly confident voice) but it didn’t really sink in until I put myself in the situation of making sacrifices. What is a sacrifice? I think it varies to everyone, but I think of it as giving up something. In my case it was time – such as not going out with friends when I really really wanted to, staying up all hours of the night to turn in case studies the next day only having to turn around and work a 15 hour day. It was amazing to see myself dig deep when I thought I had nothing left to give. I saw this actually spill into other areas of my life such as in workouts, projects at work, it made me value the time I spent with friends and family. This experience conditioned me to value time.
- Sleep is overrated and coffee is your friend – During this time I started drinking black coffee, which I never ever ever thought would happen. There were days that were fueled by caffeine
- Start. – This is my biggest takeaway, just starting something that you don’t know what the outcome will be. If you don’t take the first step forward, you will sit around and play the what if game, I hate that game.
Ok y’all, I’ve done the leg work for you. What are you stalling for? Start. Start today. Start now. Just start. Promise me if you won’t start for yourself, then do it for someone else. Just ask yourself, who will you impact by your greatness and courage to start?