Monday, July 8, 2013

This is not the post where I inspire you to achieve your life goals

Actually it's not really a depressing post today as far as you're concerned. But it sort of is for me.

Here's my problem:

After graduating from John Carroll University in 1992 with a bachelor's degree in English and history, I stopped going to school. My dad told me I should stick it out and get a Master's degree, but I was tired of working full time AND attending college full time, which I had spent the previous couple of years doing.

So I decided a B.A. was good enough and I stopped there. At the time I was a sports writer at The News-Herald in Willoughby, Ohio, and my career path was pretty well laid out for me: Work my way up the journalistic ladder and eventually become a beat writer covering a Cleveland professional sports team.

It was that simple. That was my goal, and one certainly didn't need a Master's degree to get there.

So like I said, I stopped the whole school thing. And I kept on sports writing for four more years, at which point I realized three things:
  • Sports happen at night, and it's difficult to raise a family and participate in kids' activities when you have to be at work every evening.
  • You're never exactly going to be independently wealthy as a sports writer.
  • Eventually the industry was going to change, and there was no guarantee of long-term job security in sports writing (20 years later, it turns out I was actually right about this one)
So I moved away from sports writing and got into technical writing, then trade journalism, and eventually marketing and public relations.

And now, two decades down the line, I desperately wish I had a Master's degree.

Specifically, I'd like a Master's of Business Administration (MBA) to help make up for the fact that I never studied business in any formal way.

And because obtaining a graduate degree would be extremely personally satisfying to me.

Happily, my employer has an excellent tuition reimbursement plan. Probably the best one I've come across. I almost wouldn't have to pay a dime for an MBA.

But what my employer can't give me, what I can't even give myself, is time.

And time, you see, is the problem here.

I'm barely two months into my job, but already I can see that it's always going to be fairly time-consuming. I enjoy and appreciate the position, don't get me wrong. But things aren't ever really going to calm down when it comes to the day-to-day chaos.

Even if you only take one MBA course per semester, you still need considerable time to attend class, study, get through your reading and homework, work on group projects, etc.

In addition to having a crazy job, I also have a wife and five kids. They deserve a significant amount of my time and attention, and I want to give it to them.

The math just doesn't work out.

If I'm getting anything close to the proper amount of sleep, exercising, doing my job well, and staying closely connected with my family, that pretty well accounts for a 24-hour day right there.

Unless we figure out a way to move to 28-hour days, I'm in trouble here.

Yet many people at work are encouraging me to go for it and get after that MBA. Which is nice, but none of them has offered me that gift of time. Nor do many really seem to understand the stage of life I'm in.

So it appears I'm stuck.

The obvious solution - the only solution, I suppose - is to set this particular goal aside and come back to it someday when the kids are older.

And I may just go that route. But I could really use the knowledge and experience you gain in an MBA program in the next few years. It will still be personally satisfying if I get the degree in my 50s, but I feel like it won't help me as much professionally if I wait that long.


At this point I invite you to do one of three things:

(a) Tell me to suck it up and quit whining about my first-world problems, something with which I can't disagree.

(b) Tell me how you personally overcame similar obstacles and got a degree or achieved some other life goal, thus inspiring me to get out there and reach for the stars or whatever.

(c) Ignore this post completely and move on with your day, which honestly is probably the approach I would take if I were you.

Because, really, who has the time for that?

(NOTE: Since I wrote this, I came across an excellent post from my friend, former colleague and blogger extraordinaire Tara Pringle Jefferson with practical tips on balancing work, school and family. So it CAN be done. Hopefully one doesn't need to be as awesome as Tara to pull it off, though...)


  1. I know this doesn't resolve the time issue, but when I was doing my MBA at Cleveland State they offered a weekend MBA program. I assume it still exists...

    At the University of Colorado they have an MBA program that requires you have a full time job so that all students are dealing with the same time issues. They also have catered meals every night of class so you don't have to worry about dinner. Seems they recognize the time issue as well.

  2. Scott,

    I feel like we took different approaches to the same issues. I elected to go directly into graduate school after my BA, because A. I didn't have anything great lined up and didn't really want to go into a journalism career at the paper full-time and B. was afraid I'd never go back if I didn't right away.

    I think we both saw the writing on the wall in terms of the newspaper industry in terms of timing, schedules, compensation and overall industry trends.

    Looking back now, I would have liked to have tried to have things gone differently but not sure they would have significantly played out any different. Between my ill-fated attempt at playing D-III football at JCU and basically working full-time for the last year and a half of undergraduate studies, I didn't have the time or ability to take the unpaid internships that a lot of others did (BTW, I think this is a huge issue that does a lot to impact generational inequality even among lower/middle class students who are in college). This certainly contributed to my not having anything lined up directly after my BA.

    Ideally, I would have liked to have found a career-path, professional job out of college that would have afforded my some kind of tuition assistance/reimbursement to go back to school. The Masters was a great choice for me professionally but doing it on your own on limited resources right after my undergraduate translates into a lot of debt.

    I don't really have any advice for you. With five kids, I'm not sure how you have time for anything, let alone go back to school.

    Since you can find anything on the internet, can't you just buy a fake MBA from somewhere? With approximately seven buzzwords, you can fake it till you make it. Or wait until we can Matrix-style upload information directly to our brains.

  3. Bryon and Rockport: Thanks so much for the very insightful comments. And yes, Rockport, there's gotta be a way for me to just buy myself out of this one. Who WOULDN'T want a correspondence course MBA from Big Bob's School of Business and Such? Only $179.95! Save the time and hassle of actual learning!