Week 13 of 13: Beyond Another 13 Weeks

As one set of 13 weeks finish, another starts.
As I come to the end of the Summer, I've been spending some time reflecting back. One of the great puzzles I've been thinking about this Summer is the question, what makes people do the things they do? I wonder why I've put myself through this painful process and what this means for my life.

The Summer experience has been tough, exhausting and pushed my mental and emotional limits. In large part, I put this down to the mental pressure it has placed on my self-perception. To get some grasp of the emotional zig-zagging I've gone through, you only need look at some of these choice thoughts that have zipped through my brain over the past weeks:
  • "I'm certain I can sell this to someone"
  • "Why won't people pick up the phone? Maybe I can't sell this?"
  • "These interns are awesome!"
  • "Why are these interns taking so long to complete this?"
  • "If I were an R&D Director, I would love this"
  • "He is an R&D Director, and I think he's saying he doesn't love it"
  • "We're never going to get this done"
  • "Hey! We got something done!"
  • "This guy is perfect to join my team"
  • "Why won't this guy join my team? Doesn't he realize he's perfect?"
In the same way that many of my classmates will now be reflecting back on their Summer internships and wondering if their experience lived up to what they'd hoped for, I too am now doing the same. My initial thought was that it was quite a painful experience. Surely I should be finding more joy in all this? Then I came across this:
As wonderful as flow is, the path to mastery - becoming ever better at something you care about - is not lined with daisies and spanned by a rainbow. If it were, more of us would make the trip. Mastery hurts. Sometimes - many times - it's not much fun. That is one lesson of the work of psychologist Anders Ericson [...] as he puts it, "Many characteristics once believed to reflect innate talent are actually the results of intense practice for a minimum of 10 years".
The paragraph is from Dan Pink's book, Drive. For a long time economists have argued that incentives are what drive people to do what they do. The increasing popularity of voluntarism, from Wikipedia to Net Impact, calls into doubt the simplicity of this explanation. Pink argues that people are most motivated when they have autonomy, a sense of attaining mastery and a sense of purpose.

As painful as the Summer has been, it has provided me with a lot of satisfaction. I feel I've made a lot of progress on my startup project. I have a product and a realistic plan for getting it to market. More importantly, I feel I've developed a clear sense of purpose. This is also a theme resonating in Kellogg's hallways: Dean Blount has blogged and written about the importance of finding meaning in one's work.

Just as my classmates will be affirming what place consulting, banking and other careers will play in their lives, I've decided what gives my life meaning is creating things - products and businesses - impactful things that did not exist before. My experiences in new media lead me to believe that this is the area where I can do this best.

As I look forward, another thirteen weeks await. Next week is pre-term for Kellogg's second years, followed by 11 weeks of Fall quarter, with a week of thanksgiving nestled within. Though I will have a full course load for this duration, with lots of other distractions to boot, I have definite ambitions for progressing the business over the next thirteen weeks. I look forward to more emotional zig-zagging... well, sort of.