Attempting to give

I was responding to a question from a few business school students today about how folks can make the most of the experience.

As I thought about the question, I was reminded of an observation from my final quarter before graduation. In this final quarter, I took only 1.5 credits (I had 4 on average in the past 5). I did this for one primary reason – the past quarters had been relatively intense and I wanted a more relaxed spring quarter.

As a result of the extra time this afforded me, I caught up with a lot of folks I hadn’t spent much time with. We typically went on walks and, during these walks, I asked about their reflections on the experience. And, as I did a few of these, I began noticing two kinds of narratives.

The first kind involved high expectations on what they wanted to get from the experience. This was totally rational – after all they’d invested $200K+ for this 2 year experience. So, these narratives focused on ensuring a high return on this investment investment and, for the most part, folks felt they’d done okay in this regard.

The second kind, however, tended to focus on what they attempted to give to the experience. They typically had a powerful anchoring experience they’d dedicated time and energy to and looked back at the fun and learning from that experience fondly. While this group were the minority in the student body, they consistently seemed happier, more fulfilled, and a whole lot more grateful.

Somehow, in the act of attempting to give, they had gotten far more than they realized. That happened to be my experience as well.

I’ve since come to observe this in all avenues of life. The more we focus on what we can give, the more learning and happiness we find along the way.