2005-2009, Undergraduate Degree at Bowling Green State University
I complete the arduous process of doing everything I need to go to West Point for my undergraduate degree (including being accepted and lining up a Congressional nomination) but I decide at the 11th hour not to attend. Instead, I make my way two-hours south on a full academic scholarship at Bowling Green State University. Thanks to a couple top-notch teachers in high school, I decide to become a social studies teacher. I join the Men's Division 2 ACHA club hockey team as a freshman, become captain my sophomore year, and add the team presidency duties my junior year. As team president I convince the school to pick up our yearly $17,000 ice bill since we were using the campus arena (honestly, I have no idea how this wasn't the situation before I took the reins), and successfully schedule and manage a team of hockey players back and forth across the Midwest for an entire season while continuing to play myself. In my final semester, I complete my student teaching requirements that, to this point, are the most stressful and exhausting responsibility I've ever had. My roommate's final semester of classes include Advanced Hockey, Bowling, and Stress Management (no, I'm not kidding). I consider the fact that we are still close friends almost as impressive as finishing student teaching successfully.
By all accounts, I'm a damn good teacher and I'm ready to take the teaching world by storm. I move back to Southeast Michigan in the summer of 2009 and promptly find out no schools are hiring. I can't even land an interview. I am frustrated. I decide to start a website where I can write about minimalism, deliberate living, and other aspects of personal development because I knew I needed a long term project to keep me occupied while looking for work and, unfortunately, substitute teaching.
I substitute teach and any last remnants of being nervous talking in front of people are driven out of me as I learn how to entertain, control, and sometimes even teach classrooms full of teenagers. I'm not really doing the teaching I want to be doing, but I realize I'm developing useful skills in thinking on my feet and managing stressful situations. In the fall of 2009 I hear about a job opening coaching the University of Detroit Mercy Men's Hockey team. I don't have any coaching experience but I love hockey and God knows I need something more meaningful than just substitute teaching to keep me busy. I apply and get the job. I continue subbing by day, driving to Detroit by night to run practices, and coaching my team in games every weekend.
I do this for a year. I'm not happy, although I love the coaching aspect of my work. I try to find a full-time teaching job again in the summer of 2010. Again, no dice. Luckily, I've been working on my website this whole time and I'm starting to push more and more into the realm of psychology. In fact, one day I read a book that opens my eyes to an academic discipline that encapsulates my obsession with excellence, success, and personal development. When I flip to the back I learn the author is a professor at Claremont Graduate University. I look it up and learn it's one of only two graduate programs in the world in positive psychology. I'm intrigued.
At this point, that's all I can be, though, because I have finally fallen into a more solid teaching role. What started as a normal single-day subbing job turned into a three day, to two weeks, to "can you finish the semester?" job. I thought student teaching was stressful; this is a whole new level. Since the teacher I had to take over for was experiencing a medical emergency, nothing was prepared for me in terms of curriculum or resources. I had to basically start from scratch. For over four months I worked 12-14 hour days as I spent my days teaching and my evenings/early mornings trying to pull together all the materials I needed to teach these classes (Economics, Government, and US History). It was intense. It was also during this time that I applied to Claremont Graduate University with really no expectation of getting in, but feeling more than a little hopeless in my chosen career.
Surprisingly, I got in.
2011-2013, Master's Degree
From 2011 to 2013 I am a full-time graduate student earning my Master's in Positive Developmental Psychology with a co-concentration in Evaluation. From the psychology courses to research methods to the advanced statistics -- I have no experience with any of it. I survive, though, and keep my grades up. Early in that first semester I even have an opportunity to get involved with TEDxClaremontColleges, a brand new organization on campus. I get involved right at the tail end of the event being planned but the head curator is looking for someone to take over. I had always admired TED and the idea of TEDx so I offer to do it. I am selected and thus starts my two year leadership of TEDxClaremontColleges. We grow the organization from a small group of volunteers to a 20+ all-student team that encompasses students from all seven of the Claremont Colleges. We increase our budget from basically nothing to over $30,000 and expand the event from an evening with six speakers to an all day event with 15. And we do this twice in two years. It is exhausting, exhilarating, and a crash course in leadership and management. Through this experience I am also selected to attend TEDxSummit in Doha, Qatar, an all expenses paid TEDx event for TEDx organizers.
In 2011, at the beginning of graduate school, I also decide I want to start doing personal development/executive coaching (I abhor the term "life coach"). I still have my website I started in 2009 so I put up a simple sales page and the offer to do free coaching with anyone who is interested. I take on anybody and everybody so I can build up my experience. Eventually, I feel comfortable charging actual money for my services and as the testimonials come in and the demand increases I am able to continually raise my prices. As of now, I've worked with over 30 individuals and have hundreds of hours of coaching under my belt.
The summer of 2012 I discover an opportunity to work and live in Prague, Czech Republic, for 3 months with Dr. Will Bennis, a psychology professor and owner of a coworking space, Locus Workspace. I spend these three months learning from Will about how to run a coworking space, helping him make plans for further developing his own business, proposing and then conducting research with the individuals who use his space. That research is eventually presented at the International Positive Psychology Association World Congress in Los Angeles.
Somewhere in that time period, I fly to Atlanta for the Midwinter Conference of the Society of Consulting Psychology where my colleague, Jeff, and I present an academic poster with our ideas related to using Quantified Self methods in coaching engagements.
I graduate in 2013. Several weeks earlier I had finally landed on a decision regarding my PhD. I flip flopped quite a bit, but finally decided to apply to the Positive Organizational Psychology program (instead of remaining in the Positive Developmental Psychology program). I get in and get ready to enter the final stage of my academic career.
2013-Present, Pursuing the PhD
I'm going to make this last section quicker. Since becoming a PhD student I have:
- Finished taking all required classes.
- Continued to serve as a teaching assistant (for Organizational Behavior and Positive Organizational Psychology graduate level classes).
- Served as the Research Lab Lead of LeAD for one year.
- Presented at the International Leadership Association conference in San Diego.
- Developed an extensive evaluation and research plan for a new leadership program being developed by Right to Play.
- Co-authored a chapter on the role metacognitive abilities play in leadership development.
- Was contracted by David Allen to develop a report of potential psychological support for his Getting Things Done (GTD) system. Wrote report that eventually became much of Chapter 14 in his revised edition of Getting Things Done.
- Was asked to consult on a David Allen Company project related to bringing GTD to an online platform. Acted as the "motivational expert" on the project and championed the addition of features and approaches consistent with enhancing participant motivation to complete an online training.
- Started a consulting company with a classmate (Jeff, from above), Outlier Consulting Group, and successfully completed several projects (including acting as positive psychology content experts for Rescue Time and All Tomorrows, conceptualizing, developing, and delivering a strengths-based team-building intervention for a local non-profit, and conceptualizing, developing, and executing an evaluation of an online gratitude-based organizational intervention). We decided to put the company on hiatus after a year and a half when our other responsibilities ended up taking more time than we anticipated. I also realized I'm duplicating efforts between this company and The Workologist, my personal coaching and consulting company.
- Developed, designed, and executed a year-long evaluation of a middle school anti-bullying program delivered by The Hero Construction Company. Traveled across the country to conduct several focus groups with middle schoolers about what they remembered from the program and what their experience with bullying has been like.
- Was selected as a leadership coach for the Getty Leadership Institute through LeAD Labs. I worked with eleven museum executives from across the world across three coaching sessions each focused on leadership development.