Can people change? My thoughts on the altMBA

Can people change? This seems like such a debated age-old question, it might not even be worth asking. But I think it's important to consider. Today is the last day of the altMBA September session, and two days ago, we opened applications for our January 2016 session (Seth's blog post here).

I'll admit, I wasn't sure what to write about in this post.

This is ironic, because we have our students publish their work 3x per week, and because I think about altMBA 24/7. So you would think I could easily find something to write about here.

But much of my writing is behind the scenes. Feverishly drawing out assertions, drafting strategies, writing drip emails, creating training guides, posting in Slack.

And more importantly, nothing felt like it could capture the magic of what it was like sprinting with this current class, and the inaugural class before it.

The momentum, the fast pace, the feeling of inspiration. Meeting cohorts of amazing people who pass the "Would I want to be stuck at an airport with this person?" test.

People you want to get to know more. People you'll be in touch with for a long time to come. Weekly coach calls with all 7 coaches where it felt as if we were all physically in the same room on Fridays at 11am, even though we were in 3 different time zones on 2 continents.

The truth is, I care very much about the altMBA.

I'm sure our students know this, and the coaches know this... but sometimes it's hard to say out loud.

Because when you say out loud that you care, and that you believe change is possible, you're a little more on the hook.

When I was deciding what to write here, I wanted to go back to the idea of change. Whether people change. Whether organizations change. Whether cultures change.

My answer is yes.

Change can be slow, it can be unpredictable, it can feel futile. But it is possible.

People change every day.

They change their minds about trivial things. I thought I wanted chicken, but I'm going to order beef.

They change their minds about more important things, like their worldview. I realized that I'm the kind of person who does things like this.

They change what they consider they might do. I told myself I'd never do that, but now I'm open to it.

They change their behavior. I wasn't a runner, and now I am one.

They change what they notice. I didn't see it that way, but now I understand what you mean.

Change can be frustrating. Even if the end goal is much-needed, sometimes you think, "Is it worth it? Is it better to just not try?"

The world can break your heart when you try. At what point is it easier to say, "The status quo isn't so bad. I wouldn't have made a dent anyway. It would have been a waste of time."

A waste of time. What does that mean? I believe that you should only do things if you'll enjoy the journey as much as the destination. If you get to work with smart and kind people along the way. If there's joy in knowing that you attempted.

But mainly, it's not a waste of time if you believe that someone needs to be stepping up to make this change. When you decide to stop trying, it's a sad day. It's a day when one good person stops fighting the good fight.

If you don't try, then who will?

The Venn Diagram of people who are (a) smart, (b) capable, and (c) who give a shit is really small. If you fit in this category, maybe you have a responsibility to try.

But it comes back to people. If you can change yourself, one other person, two people, four, eight, sixteen...if you can change a group, you can change a community, you can change an organization, you can change a slice of culture.

It'll be hard until the day it happens, and then everyone will say, "Well of course it was going to happen." It will seem inevitable, but only because you helped it to become so.

I just realized that I believe more deeply in change being possible, because I saw it happen...to myself.

I'm a different person from who I was when we were thrashing on the nebulous idea that would eventually become altMBA, when we launched, when we ran the first session, when we were running the second session.

I noticed it, and my peers noticed it. I've changed.

I was talking to an altMBA alum recently, and she said, "It's like realizing that there's another color that you didn't know about. And you think, 'What? This has been here the whole time? And I'm just now seeing this?'" We had one of those "RIGHT? ME TOO" moments where you feel understood and can barely contain yourself, because someone finally gets you.

I think people say that things don't change, because it lets you off the hook. There are an infinite number of tactics about how to create change, but none of those matter if you don't believe deep in your core that change is possible.

If you think you can do it better, you might be able to. So decide if you want to be that person. If someone will end up changing people's minds, it might as well be you.

The world changes when people change. If you're up for it, so am I. Want to leap together?

PS If it might be the right time for you, we just launched two new sites to share more about the altMBA. Let me know what you think if you check them out, welcome.altmba.com and info.altmba.com.

UncategorizedWes Kao