We all have dreams that we envision for ourselves – some we create organically and others materialize as a result of prompting or suggestions from others. It is interesting to consider when a dream becomes an achievable goal – or not. The truth is most things can be done, you just have to be ready to silence the naysayers in your head.
I remember early in my career when I was part of an advertising account team in New York working on one of the most popular candy brands in the world, Snickers. The 1992 Barcelona Olympics were on the horizon and, as a sponsor of the games, we were tasked with developing the Snickers Olympic advertising campaign, working with the M&M/Mars brand management team.
After an important presentation to the top brass, the chief brand manager at Snickers pulled me aside and asked if I had ever considered getting an MBA. The thought of pursuing an MBA (master of business administration) hadn’t really crossed my mind, although it was a common “next step” for many aspiring young entrepreneurs. My thoughts were to continue working my way up in the ad agency business. Yes, I was fascinated by the broader aspects of enterprise-like product development, pricing, sales, and strategy on what is often called “the customer side.” But an MBA? This was a big (and expensive) step to consider.
“Are you suggesting I go home and go to school?” I remember asking him. He looked at me like I was crazy, adding, “You could go anywhere, but why don’t you live in the City. Your GMAT scores are still good, right?”
The city? What city? Was he really talking about New York? Should I get my MBA in New York? And GMAT scores? I had never taken the Graduate Management Admissions Test as so many do in their senior year of college. So, no, my scores were not “good”. There were no ratings. He continued, almost nonchalantly. “Yes, apply to Columbia. You shouldn’t have a hard time getting in, given your background.” Columbia University; The Ivy League school was founded in 1754, with alumni including Warren Buffett, Jack Kerouac, Amelia Earhart and Alexander Hamilton? Was this the college he thought I “should have no problem” getting into?
The idea bounced around in my head for days. I argued with my inner voices. The conversation morphed from “You’re not crazy, he’s crazy” to “You’re underestimating yourself,” from “You can’t afford it” to “You’re just worried about getting in first,” from “You won’t get a good enough GMAT score after so long out of school’ to ‘You never know until you try’.
Was it possible to get into Columbia? Well, I never would have known if I hadn’t been willing to quiet the critics in my head, work to make it possible, and try. I took a GMAT prep class. I took the GMAT test. I got my Columbia MBA application. I filled it out, wrote and then rewrote my essays and then rewrote them. Each phase of the application deadline passed, until I finally submitted – on the last possible day. (I’ll let you know what happened – I got accepted.)
Our goals, no matter how they come about, are opportunities waiting to be achieved. We just need to decide how hard we are willing to work, how to silence the negative voices, and then take action.