By Ryan Bradshaw
Faculty member, Retail Management at American Public University
“My name is Ryan Bradshaw and I am a recovering college dropout.”
I use this line in almost every class I teach or visit. When I was 20 and in my junior year as an undergraduate, everything was looking up. I’ve always been highly motivated and college was no exception.
And then I hit the wall. As Randy Pausch put it, the walls (obstacles) in life keep others out and define how badly you want to succeed. I discovered that when you are moving fast and hit the metaphorical wall, stopping suddenly can be jarring. I washed out of college.
I saw my life and couldn’t see past the moment. The fatal flaw was that I didn’t have a plan and had subscribed to the cookie-cutter approach to life: graduate high school, go to college, get a job, get married, have kids, work, work, work, retire, and die. I’m now convinced the vast majority of folks don’t fall within that spectrum.
Life is messy.
There are a lot of ups and downs; things planned and unaccounted variables. If you try to stay within a generic definition of how life is supposed to proceed, you’ll almost certainly be disappointed every time. Most often, life does not go how we planned for it to happen.
According to Lou Holtz, “Life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you respond to it.” I give you permission to freak out if something happens to you or if life doesn’t go as planned. But, after you calm down I want you to know that life is like the roulette table. Chance and luck are part of it and past performance can’t predict future outcomes.
- Give yourself a break
- You can’t control everything
- You can start over every day
I am a recovering college dropout because I have been ‘on the college wagon’ for many years now. After three years of waiting tables and working jobs that didn’t align with my skill set it hit me: I have more to offer.
And then a new panic set in. I felt the burn of a dormant fire that had left me all those years earlier. Very quickly after that moment I found myself back in college and have since completed two undergraduate degrees, a master’s degree, and am in a doctoral program.
You can change your direction in life at any moment.
You have the power to start something great. Whether it’s a college degree, a novel, a business, a career, or anything in your life, you can START now.
[Related: Is Your Comfort Zone Your Dead Zone?]
But, starting is not enough. Anyone can start anything. No one can experience what you don’t finish. As Seth Godin puts it, “You’ve got to ship.” That means you’ve got to have the courage to put yourself out there.
You have to be brave and determined to not only start, but to finish your great works. The road to recovery starts now.
About the Author: Ryan Bradshaw is an ABD doctoral candidate studying student motivation and educational leadership. His dissertation is examining intrinsic and extrinsic motivational differences amongst undergraduate majors.
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