I was at a workshop this week and enjoyed all the learning that came my way. It was facilitated by two instructors who partnered well despite their diametrically different teaching styles . Phil was a slim second generation American Chinese and Bill was a retired booming alpha male with a Donald Trump personality sans the hairpiece. Could almost hear the "You are fired" echo in the classroom.
I walked in expecting a sedate, boring class where I could possibly open up my laptop and keep working through class. I ended up pleasantly surprised and learning about corporate finance, despite my knee jerk reaction to fiscal prudence.
It is not easy to talk to middle management. They are a bit jaded and tend to feel that they do know it all. Besides they have so much to do, so many miles to go before they sleep. Bill bounces in and gets everyone going, asking us to stand up introduce ourselves and throw three facts, one of which is a lie. That was that little spark that told me that I needed to put my laptop away, sit back and allow myself the luxury of learning.
While Phil calmly provided the foundational input for what we need to know about finance, Bill would jump up, pace the room like a tiger, introduce a simulation where four companies are competing in the marketplace. Each company was given a management team to make key decisions on product mix, production capacity, marketing and development costs. Decisions that would impact our revenue, profit, cash flow and the share price.
To cut to the chase, the teams had fun, competed, collaborated and probably learnt some along the way. On the last day, Bill announced the winning team (which was ours, btw) and said that everyone won. Corny yes, true yes. Everyone did win. At least all those, who for a few days put away our jaded selves and opened our mind to learning once again.
Growing up the popular complaint was always "Mom, can I not go to school today?" or "I can't wait to get rid of my books and not have to sit for another exam." Years pass and we all do grow up, at least in lieu of birthdays. I will not talk about emotional intelligence as that would be another topic for another day.
So the train has stopped at the first station and yes, you no longer have to study for exams. Suddenly you are an adult, eager to join the workforce become financially independent and blah blah blah. You now realize that hey, work means still living by the alarm clock. Projects to finish, politics to grapple with and that hateful word...accountability.
Moving on to the next station, you probably found someone special, settled down and have a couple of kids. Mortgage, rent, taxes, school meetings and you link up with friends from your past on facebook and you are back to reminiscing about the the student life and the good old days.
You reminisce so furiously because you do miss learning. The stimulation of the mind. The joy you get when you have that eureka moment. Even the most cynical of us, cannot but be thrilled when the pieces of the puzzle fit together in the maze in our mind.
On the last day, Bill was very eloquent and instead of telling us to remember ROA, ROI, ROE, he reads out this passage below. I had heard it before. Heard different versions for the last fifteen years, in fact. But hearing it again at a finance workshop of all places, made me stop and pause once again. I went up to him and thanked him and Phil for a great workshop and said "I loved your course" and joked that "I didn't open my laptop". He said "I didn't ask anyone to shut theirs. It is not my place to ask you to choose to learn. That has to be your desire."
I walked away learning about finance and thinking again about the ROI for Life.
by Robert Hastings
Tucked away in our subconscious is an idyllic vision.
We are traveling by train, out the windows,
we drink in the passing scenes of children
waving at a crossing,
cattle grazing on a distant hillside,
row upon row of corn and wheat,
flatlands and valleys,
mountains and rolling hillsides
and city skylines.
But uppermost in our minds is the final destination.
On a certain day, we will pull into the station.
Bands will be playing and flags waving.
Once we get there, our dreams will come true
and the pieces of our lives
will fit together like a completed jigsaw puzzle.
Restlessly we pace the aisles,
damning the minutes - waiting,
waiting, waiting for the station.
"When we reach the station, that will be it!"
We cry. "When I'm 18." "When I buy a new 450sl Mercedes Benz!"
"When I put the last kid through college."
"When I have paid off the mortgage!"
"When I get a promotion." "When I reach retirement,
I shall live happily ever after!"
Sooner or later, we realize there is no station,
no one place to arrive.
The true joy of life is the trip.
The station is only a dream.
It constantly outdistances us.
"Relish the moment" is a good motto.
It isn't the burdens of today that drive men mad.
It is the regrets over yesterday and the fear of tomorrow.
Regret and fear are twin thieves who rob us of today.
Regret is reality, after the facts.
So stop pacing the aisles and counting the miles.
Instead, climb more mountains, eat more ice cream,
go barefoot more often,
swim more rivers, watch more sunsets,laugh more, cry less.
Life must be lived as we go along.
The STATION will come soon enough.
Picture credit: http://capeverde-islands.com/station.html