Monday, November 26, 2012

Getting Comfortable with Being Vulnerable

When Chris Hauck first approached me to be a DSAC Blogger, I immediately knew he would be a perfect fit for the team. Although it's only his first quarter at Booth, he is extremely involved and his photographs always capture the energy of the Booth community. In his introductory post, Chris truly lives up to expression "nothing ventured, nothing gained".


I remember my hands sweating. My heart racing. Laying awake at night trying to quiet my mind as it raced to think of possible solutions to whatever hurdle was ahead. GMAT, applications, interviews – every step left me feeling exposed and forced me to examine every nuance of my life. And while getting into my dream school was a great feeling, it wasn’t the end of the process of opening myself up to critique and letting myself feel vulnerable. Every moment at Booth thus far has centered around stepping outside of my comfort zone and learning how to be a better person and professional than the day before.

For me, the first big adjustment was leaving California. I’ve spent my whole life there. I grew up in Sacramento and moved to Los Angeles to attend UCLA. I loved LA; the city was filled with great friends, great opportunities and so many beautiful people. It’s a wonderful place to be young and explore the world. I spent the next few years there doing recruitment and then transitioned into strategy for an agency that specialized in online marketing and digital products. But I was also a little too comfortable and I realized that growing as a person would mean leaving California and getting outside of my bubble. Selling everything, leaving all of my friends behind and moving halfway across the country was harder than it may sound. However, learning to live with two new roomates coming from divergent backgrounds and meeting new friends who were previously living all over the world has been a tremendous experience, even if I still find myself thinking longingly of LA weather every time I see snow falling outside my window. Still, I have loved growing as a person and adapting to Chicago, my new home.

When LEAD started, suddenly I had to become vulnerable again. LEAD is Booth’s leadership development program. It’s a fantastic class which will help you grow as a leader both personally and professionally. However, it’s not a theoretical class where you read about great leaders from history. It’s experiential. It involves receiving constant feedback from facilitators, peers, past coworkers and even having to watch yourself on video. I have rarely experienced so many moments as simultaneously exciting and frightening as receiving detailed feedback on every word, interaction and non-verbal cue I have exuded in real-life situations. However, it’s not just sitting in a chair that constitutes vulnerability. It was letting my defenses down and hearing that I don’t always listen well enough or seeing a video where I clearly touch my face too often as a physical crutch that was difficult, but these instances spurred real growth for me in a short amount of time. And receiving positive feedback on that growth and seeing it for myself as the class progressed was a transformational experience.

And then my classes began. I came to Booth with a strong background in marketing and strategy. While my job entailed doing regular analysis, none of it was very complex. One of my big motivations for coming to Booth was the school’s strong reputation for rigorous academics and its focus on analyzing data and questioning assumptions. As great as my professors have been, this isn’t like "The Matrix". They haven’t quite mastered a way to download advanced regressions and econometrics into my brain. So stepping foot in the classroom for the first time and actually learning these concepts was a challenge. It would have been easy for me to take marketing and strategy classes aligned with my work experience, but that isn’t why I came here. Committing to hours of studying and the highs and lows of significantly upgrading my quantitative skills meant leaving behind what was comfortable, and challenging myself to grow as a person each and every day. Fortunately, I’ve found that I am not alone in this process. I have great friends, study groups, peer groups, second years, faculty and school advisors there to push me and support me even on the days where I am exhausted trying to overcome another plateau.

It’s not easy. And it’s not something I will be finished with this quarter. Recruiting. Co-organizing the Reaching Out MBA conference for next fall. Interning in a new city and in a new industry this summer. Even submitting this blog to my peers for review and no doubt, some tough editing. Becoming vulnerable and stepping outside of your comfort zone is a quintessential part of the Booth experience. It’s how you grow as a person. It’s how you become a better professional. And it will continue well beyond school and into your career. But despite the challenges, it’s been an energizing and amazing experience. And it’s why I encourage you to make yourself vulnerable and learn to embrace this process as you finish your applications for all of your dream schools. Even as your hands are sweating, your heart is racing, and you are lying awake at night trying to quiet your mind as it races to think of possible solutions to whatever hurdle is ahead of you now. Take a risk and learn to be comfortable outside of your comfort zone.


  1. I love how you are willing to be vulnerable. It makes you human and instantly connectable. I love how you encourage prudent risk taking as a way to grow and explore! And you effortless relate your personal and professional experiences to the Booth experience. Bravo! - Isaac Kinsey