I remember the day I told my wife that I was thinking about starting graduate school. I felt that I was ready to advance my career, and knew that a Masters Degree would make me more marketable, both at my current job as well as in the external job market. I knew there were things I needed to learn and skills I needed to obtain. But there was one problem:Fantasy Football season was about to start. I wasn't going to have the time for graduate school. And for some reason that I still cannot understand, I decided to voice that concern to my wife. "SERIOUSLY??!!" she exclaimed, with a look of disgust on her face. "You have been accepted to a great Masters program, we are talking about starting family, we just bought this house, and your top priority is some silly game with your friends? Aren't you a little too old to be playing computer games anyway?" Ouch. That last statement cut me to the core. Clearly she did not understand the problem at hand. Her degradation of my fall/winter pigskin passion was almost unforgivable.
Fast forward eight years. I am still happily married, have three beautiful children, and live in the same great house in the suburbs. I completed my Masters degree in less than two years from when I started, was promoted twice, and now have a great new job leading a team of educational advisors for EdAssist. And ironically, I actually won my fantasy football league a few times along the way. So I am sure you are wondering what happened to make me shift my priorities and start that degree.
Believe it or not, I used the same strategy as I do in fantasy football: Focus on the long-term rewards. It's not about who wins in the next two weeks. All that matters is who puts the pieces in place to win at the end of the season. So when I shifted my attention to the actual rewards of education rather than the sacrifice, it suddenly all made sense. I set my goals, focused on the outcomes, and it all came together. Don't get me wrong- there were definitely points along the way that I felt that there were not enough hours in the day, and the sacrifice wasn't easy. I still had to juggle work, family, career, hobbies, church, etc. But I logically made decisions where I knew the long term gain would be far more rewarding than the short term ones, and planned my schedule around the things that would reap the greatest benefit in the end.
I think in today's society, people sometimes pass up opportunities because they don't take the time to focus on outcomes.
Education is the perfect example. Schooling is usually one of the first things to get "sacrificed" by working adults simply because the thought of sitting in class, writing papers, and doing homework casts a large shadow over the actual rewards a college degree provides.
So how do we see the forest through the trees when it comes to education? One way is to simply look at the data provided by the The US Census Bureau each year on income levels and education. Knowing that a full time worker with a professional degree averages nearly TRIPLE the income of someone holding an Associates degree or less is a great way to stay focused. Moreover, as more and more colleges and universities are creating online, hybrid and weekend programs just to accommodate the adult student, it has become much easier to find balance. What colleges and universities have realized is that adult learners cannot drop everything and actually go to school. So instead, they have created a number of ways to bring school to the student. My graduate program for example, offered classes both online and on campus in a hybrid format. On campus sessions were held every other week after 6pm, which meant very little time away from home or work. Better yet, the online learning format meant that I could sit on the couch on Sunday afternoons and follow class discussion threads, take notes, and complete assignments, without having to turn off the football game. The program was still rigorous, the curriculum was still challenging, but it fit nicely into my lifestyle.
My best piece of advice for anyone interested in returning to school is to stay focused on the outcomes and remember that obtaining a new degree doesn't have to turn your schedule upside down. You just have to prioritize, do your research, and remember that the end reward is worth every little sacrifice that you may make along the way. It's a long season, so stay focused. Now, if you will excuse me!my fantasy football draft is about to start!