Put yourself in the shoes of a new Fellow and talk about your learning journey.
My learning journey with this fellowship started with the application process. Applying to be a Bush Fellow is a simple process, but that doesn’t make it easy. At each phase of the process, I was asked to articulate a vision for how I can improve and how my improvements might benefit my community. The application process was challenging because I often think about the world concerning projects, programs, and outcomes. Explaining the changes that I think are possible in the world and having the confidence to commit to a role in making those changes occur was a formidable lesson for me. Thus, even throughout the earliest stage of the application process, I was learning to lead better. I found that my full commitment and ownership of the ideas I care deeply about could inspire and convince others.
Interviewing with the selection committee was an invaluable experience. The interviewers challenged me. They asked me to describe my vision and my plan. Their questions forced me to find the edges of my ideas and admit the places that need work. I am still haunted and motivated by the question from one interviewer: How will we make sure this isn't just about you? On the one hand, much of this fellowship is about me. It’s about me improving my leadership skills, my knowledge, and my abilities. More importantly, on the other hand, my motivation and interest in the fellowship are about me interacting with the world to make it a better place. But, the labyrinth of self-reflection is filled with false trails disconnected from the goals beyond the self. As I have continued to consider this question, I can see that it’s the leadership question of this generation. At every turn, there are opportunities to make every interaction about ourselves, but our communities will likely need the opposite from their leaders.
Being named a Bush Fellow was another learning experience. Speaking with reporters about my personal goals and aspirations is much more intimidating than describing research or data. How do I make this about more than me? It’s been amazing to hear from people that want to learn more about my plans, but fantastic when they share their projects & ideas. The other fellows have chosen to take on enormously challenging journey’s, and I’m always inspired when I read about their work. My perspective has shifted as a result of these interactions. If you connect with me to learn about this fellowship, I will do my best to convince you to follow your dream. Go for it. Do the thing that’s on your mind. People are surrounding you waiting to help, and others who you haven’t met that are waiting to support a worthy cause.
My fellowship formally started in August 2017. During my first month, I spent my time launching part of my plan and shifting to a new pattern. Part of my journey has been continuing my coursework toward a Ph.D. in Human Factors and Ergonomics. Much of my fellowship journey the past few months has been about balancing my time and energy between my family, graduate coursework, a full-time career. Achieving that balance isn't always easy. However, I'm slowly learning about the things that work well. I've learned that my journey must involve creating my personal model for being productive, effective, and stay true to things that matter in my life. There is no magic checklist or system that I can download to my phone to do this for me. There’s also no magic book, magic youtube video, magic speech, or magic interview.
My fellowship coach offered a fantastic suggestion in my first month of the fellowship. She suggested that I spend two minutes each day writing and reflecting in a journal. Since then, it has been rare for me to miss a day. Two minutes of writing quickly become many more. There's always more to write about than I expected. It's been a surprise how useful such a simple daily practice like this has been. Looking back at this past six months here are a few observations from those short entries:
First, reading to my children is the most potent form of self-care I can find. Without fail the twenty minutes it takes to read with them always brings me more perspective and energy to continue with my work. This was amplified for me during the last week in December when I took a week off and spent a majority of it at home with my wife and children. It was the most energizing week that I could remember.
Second, things are much less exhausting when I’m interested. I completed three graduate courses this semester. Three classes is a full load and traveling several days a week to campus was a challenge. But, learning about exciting topics like human visual and auditory perception was continually stimulating. I wrote in several reflections about the need to make it through the grind. At many times it was a grind. However, a pattern that carried me through was finding the interesting and surprising things in each course.
Finally, how can I make this about more than me? It’s been a consistent topic on my mind. Looking at my daily reflections, it is clear I have yet to resolve the ways learning about experimental design will immediately benefit others. However, I suspect that like many journeys there may need to be tools accumulated along the way that will serve great utility in the future.
Looking to the next six months is enormously exciting. I have some coursework to continue, but many of the travels and experiences in my fellowship plan will also take place.