Friday, May 8, 2009

top ten things i learn in college

"Beauty fades, dumb is forever" reads the title. Amusing what you find on the clearance shelf at half price books. Author? Judge Judy. Explains it all. Yeah, start rolling your eyes, but she's right, isn't she? I gave up my last few prime modeling years to be in class with an army of sorostitutes, pimpled computer geeks, and dirty beer-stained frat boys. I still remember the long, tedious hours of doing math homework on the floor of my college boyfriend's room, and thinking how cool his special edition semi-frosted silver T1-86 was. I wanted one.

Wait, back up...what? I left fashion shoots in bank vaults, photo op in the glossy "what's going on" section of Harper's Bazaar, and free clothes to wanting a calculator? (but it was special edition...) BUT IT'S A CALCULATOR. Special edition Fendi spybag, okay. Special edition TI-86, where you still can't figure out the graphing function, yet alone doing discounts, NO. What the hell was I thinking?

So this is what this blog post is about: what did I gain from going to school instead of continuing down the modeling road? How will I apply the skills I learned in business school to position myself for what I want in my future?

Let's start with economics, and a bit of accounting. What would the opportunity cost of NOT going to college be? We could do complicated future cash flows on aggregate salaries of college grads in my field to come up with a number, and compare that to how much I would have made modeling in the same time frame. Yet, as I learned in business school, numbers can be distorted and bent, there is a very grey area in numbers (it's called accounting). We learned that a great asset a company possesses is its brand value, yet it cannot be accounted for on the balance sheet. This is the same way that my GPA, CV and and other quantitative metrics can't represent the synergy of ME, Inc.

Oh finance. I had a wonderful finance tutor who was so passionate about the subject. He tried so hard to enlighten me on the graces of CAPM, mortgage rates that had balloons and arms, two, four, eight of them, like Shiva...and all sorts of other weird things, hoping that I would see the light. We locked ourselves in the dungeons of underground Balmer (business school building) like passionate secret lovers might, but the only love affair I had was trashing aside my finance book to proclaim my undying love for his marketing book. So... let's look at me as a portfolio, a collection of investments. Beauty, I found out, is a exponentially depreciating asset. Not a great investment, if it is your only one. In finance we learn that increasing your return on an investment is safest when you do three things: diversify, diversify, diversify! The rationale behind this is that a portfolio of different kinds of investments will, on average, yield higher returns and pose a lower risk than any individual investment found within the portfolio. So a woman who is diversified is what men call "the whole package." So I decided to diversify into my brain.

So four years and $40,000 of mostly YOUR tax dollars later, what did I learn?
Here is my top ten list of what I learned in college:

10. We won the citizenship lottery

Fellow students in one class presented on Nike one day, and handed each of us an envelope. In mine was 32 cents, and a piece of paper that read:
"My name is Santi. I live in Indonesia. I work at the nike factory and make 32 cents a day. " I sat there with the 32 cents in my hand and completely broke down, right there in class. I easily could have been Santi had my father not been American. Here I was sitting at a university, tuition and expenses paid for by taxpayers and sometimes feeling like life was unkind. I am blessed. I am damn lucky. So my goal now? do something for women like Santi.

9. Always put things into perspective

The previous pearl of wisdom directly relates to this one. Everything is relative to something else. There is no single way of looking at things, and if you look at things in perspective, you might not worry as much. For example, the stress of operations management and so boring. I never learned anything in class. So I stopped going to class, read the book and crammed like a crayon for the final. Perspective? 4 credits out of 200+. don't sweat the small stuff.

8. Beauty can only take you so far

Ever taken a final from hell? The hardest son of a bitch final that ( i quote from a classmate), "you check to see if your balls are still attached as you leave" kind of final? Dean Sefcik would have that honor.Walking into his accounting final was what i think walking into the bowels of hell would be like. It was the first time I walked in somewhere and thought, wow. For the first time in a long time, the way i look, the way i present myself will take me nowhere. The only thing i have to get me through this is the squishy material between my ears. I know some of you are rolling your eyes, but this was a revelation to me. I had finally learned again, to use my brain.
P.s. hard finals usually mean damn good teachers. Dean Sefcik is among the elite, and one of the best teachers I've ever had. Find those hard professors. They will push you and mold you into grand things you never could even imagine you could be. Don't ever let schooling get in the way of you education, go for the hard class with a lower grade. Once you're out of school, you wont remember what grades you got, let alone care. Promise.

7. Don't forget to talk to yourself once in a while

Ever been in one of those classes where you don't know the name of the person sitting next to you, and it's already a week from the final? The failure to communicate is even greater than ever now that we don't even communicate with the most important person: ourselves. In the acting series at the drama school (if you are still in school, take it) We would do exercises where we would ask, "hey Danielle, this is yourself speaking. How are you doing today? How are you feeling?". As we all embark into work life, being lured by money and expense accounts, frequent flier programs and hotel points, don't forget to truly sit down and ask yourself what you're feeling, and what your heart really wants.

6.Seek only the best

Don't ever start at mediocre, or half's easier staying at the top than it is getting there, so never settle. Go for gold. Never settle.

5. You will use calculus again at some point in your life

Maybe not actually perform calc, but the general understanding of how it works and how to apply it to certain situations is helpful, especially stats. Even in economics. If all else fails, you can use it at the bar in a knowledge contest against bankers who think you're stupid. Ask them for the derivative of 2x^3. I did this in London. Hysterical.

4. Become the man of your dreams

There is something called the cinderella syndrome, the feeling that a woman is so stuck (in her life, situation, position) that women yearn to be rescued (emotionally, financially) by a man. Men, friends, family, even yourself will at one point or another disapoint you, but I learned that there is a lot of goodness in people, and most importantly in myself. In the end, only I can rely on myself to be happy, to provide shelter, to feed myself, to make a difference in my life. Rescue yourself, doesn't mean that your hero won't come along. He will. But until then and even AFTER then, live your life.

3. Read.

Tim Ferris, of 4 hour work week fame spoke about a student who wrote for advice from Warren Buffet. He wrote back: "read, read, read". Reading extends your ability to think dynamically and expands your depth. I am a different woman because of books like The power of Now, The Prophet, Gourmet Nutrition. Go to a used bookstore. Breathe in the wisdom.

2. Travel.

I thought I was well traveled before I went to college. I was well jetsetted...but not traveled. I went to Cyprus for a program with the American University of Beirut and American University of Cairo, and two weeks of intense debate and study on the tension of US and Arab identity later, I had chemically reacted to be someone completely different. I am now part Lebanese and part Eygptian. GO travel, but travel to learn...plan to learn something!

1. Be passionate about what you do in life

You live once. I know there is an economic crisis going on..but this is good, turmoil is good because it will and has shaken us up to think what is really important! Shake yourselves of the golden handcuffs and when you wean yourself off the desperate thoughts of losing that much money, think... well, now what? What do i really really want to do in life? This is my chance. Go. Play. Fall in love, make that dream bakery, go become a salsa nut in Argentina. GO GO GO!!! Your life awaits you.

And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.
- President Abraham Lincoln

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