Friday, August 18, 2006

Just a Little Bit of Extra Effort Will Get You a Lot Ahead in Life...

As I headed home yesterday afternoon from a beautiful drive north of San Francisco and a very important meeting, I approached the ever so beautiful Golden Gate Bridge, an Engineering feat and beloved gem of San Francisco. At the toll booth, I stopped and rolled my window down about 5 inches, which is as far as I can roll that window since it broke a couple of months ago. I pulled up to the toll booth, looked to my left and saw the same guy who took my money the last time I was there a couple of weeks ago. As my window rolled down, it stopped as it made the usual loud sound with the motor stuck, leaving me only 5 inches of space to extend my arm.

I said, "I'm sorry...my window won't go down any further...it's broken."

I then reached my left arm out the window as far as I could to hand him my $5.00 bill and I noticed he never once made eye contact. He saw me struggling and simply extended his arm out to reach for my bill, but he did not so much as budge his body even half an inch to take the bill out of my hands. So I ended up reaching even further left as much as I could to extend my arm to try to hand the bill to him. He never budged from his original position. I think that's the position he maintains all day. It was a struggle to reach and stretch out as far as I could to get the bill to him, but it finally reached him enough that it touched his finger tips and that's when he finally made an effort to take it out of my hands. I don't even want to think about what would have happened if the bill flew off into the air during the exchange!

Heaven forbid if someone needs change from this man! The exact same incident happened two weeks ago with the same man. I had forgotten that this was the lane I wanted to avoid in the future -- three lanes in from the far right. Noted. Ugh.

I drove off, rolled my eyes in utter exasperation, and thought about how unfortunate it was that I picked the same lane with the same man who refused to make any extra effort, however tiny, to do a better job. To say I was frustrated over the experience is an understatement.

When I got home, I was determined to blog about my experience. It occurred to me that you may be wondering why I would blog about this in a blog geared for helping graduate students? I think I have an important point to make.


For any human being who wants to better his/her life, it's important to come up with some life goals, follow through, and be willing to put forth some extra effort to achieve those goals, while staying motivated. But even more important than staying motivated is knowing that you want to better your life and wanting to badly enough that you'll make the extra effort to get ahead--whatever it takes. This is one reason students go to college and obtain a Bachelor's degree.

However, as the stakes get higher such as in advanced learning where coursework increases in difficulty as in a graduate program and students are required to think and write even more critically about the world around them and to back up those views with credible, accurate research, the number of students who complete or go after the advanced degrees drop dramatically.


I remember attending two graduate ceremonies at Cal Poly for two of my sisters who each have an MBA--one also simultaneously completed a dual MBA/Master's Degree in Engineering Management. Both are Cal Poly undergraduate Alumni. At both commencement ceremonies for the College of Business, there were hundreds of students being recognized for completing their bachelor's degrees--a very admirable accomplishment worthy of recognition. When the graduate students were recognized in the same ceremony, there were 10 students...sometimes less. The contrast is striking. For example, for the Cal Poly graduate ceremony photograph below of a specific school (not the entire University), I counted only 3 graduate students in the photograph. They are wearing the distinctive green Cal Poly hoods reserved for graduate students.


Not all students who complete their bachelor's degree will go on to obtain a graduate degree for one life reason or another. Some have told me they hate school. For some it's not a life goal. For some, it takes too much effort. For others, it's physically not possible due to family and work constraints. For others, it's not enough of a priority to want to put in a little extra effort for a program that requires a LOT of effort from students, and even more so for those students who are remote and removed from the University.

Graduate students in the M.A. in Media Studies program at The New School who are not on campus students and work remotely are subject to additional difficulties:

1. Students have to be exceptionally motivated and really want to complete the graduate degree or it would be very easy to slip away from the program and lose motivation;

2. Much more preparatory work, writing, and participation is expected of online students; being unprepared and not completing the week's reading assignment ahead of time is not an option because it becomes readily apparent in the medium;

4. Students have the added disadvantage of feeling remote and disconnected from the support of the University and other students because of the "virtual" nature of the cyber class.

For these reasons and others, online-only students in the M.A. in Media Studies program at The New School who do complete the program are highly motivated students who put in more than just a little extra effort. They have to because the medium is such that it weeds out those who are not as motivated and do not want to put forth the extra effort, from those exceptional students who do.

These characteristics are the markings of successful graduate students completing the M.A. in Media studies remotely--they work hard, prepare for class, are motivated, and are more than willing to put in the extra effort--even despite some of the challenges they face in the medium. And, more important, they really want the master's degree. Truly, the medium builds outstanding students.

As I finish writing this post, I am reminded of the man at the Golden Gate Bridge toll booth who had no desire to put forth any extra effort while on the job. And I am sorry for him. Sorry that he won't ever be a star performer. Sorry that he has no desire to make a little bit of extra effort to get ahead in his job...maybe even in life.

Putting forth that little bit of extra effort is what distinguishes those who move forward and do great things with their lives from those who stay where they are. It's the difference between the star performers in any company who will contribute greatly, evolve, grow, and get promoted within the company from those who are the 9-5 workers who stay where they are their entire careers. It's what makes people who contribute great things to our society vs. people who don't. And it's what distinguishes any and all students, particularly graduate students who work remotely on their own, who get straight A's from those that get average grades--at any University. It's the difference between getting ahead in your life...and staying where you are.

Just a little bit of extra effort will truly get you a lot ahead not just in graduate school, but in life. Trust me. I know about this one.

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