Thoughts: Creativity and Identity

“Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.” -Cyril Connoll

I came across this quote while researching for a project.  It sparked a dichotomy of feelings within me that I feel compelled to share with all of you.

Initially, I fell in love with the quote.  It spoke to me.  It says that in writing or completing tasks, it is better to do it for your own satisfaction than to do those same tasks for the satisfaction of others, and giving up your own identity in the process.  Now bear with me…as ethereal a concept as this is, I hope that you can all see the deeper meaning of the quote and understand the point it is trying to get across.  There was an old story that may convey the message a bit more clearly.

The story went a little something like this:  One day in an elementary school, a teacher gave her class an assignment to draw a tree.  The brown and green crayons ran out quickly and children had to wait their turn to use those colors.  While everyone else was still waiting on their green and brown colors, a little girl stood up and announced that she was finished.  When the teacher walked over, she realized that the tree the little girl had drawn was purple and shades of red.  The teacher corrected the little girl and said “I’m sorry sweetie, but I’ve never seen a purple and red tree before.”  The small child responded only by saying, “That’s too bad.”Purple Tree kid1 200x300 Thoughts: Creativity and Identity

Now as much as I, and perhaps some of you, would love to do exactly as you please in your writing, assignments, and thinking, it is just not a possibility.  A wise woman recited a quote to me written by John Donne; “No man is an island.”  What we do doesn’t only affect ourselves anymore.  Our actions have consequences.  In today’s world, we are expected to assist in work that others need done to complete tasks of their own.  Our employer or our professor will ask for us to “draw a tree” for them multiple times a day and for many different circumstances.  I ask that you all take a moment before beginning your task, not to “fight the power” or “break the chains”, but instead, to reflect on how you would create this tree of yours before quickly snatching for the green and brown crayons. PurpleTree 300x205 Thoughts: Creativity and Identity

I believe that exploration outside of typical constraints can lead to learning, growth, and discovery.  By infusing your creative self into projects you can become more passionate about the task at hand.  This passion leads to a better product and eventually a more rewarding journey.  We need to remain conscious of who we are as people, while at the same time, satisfying the needs of our employers and professors.  Just remember that you must remain mature enough to assess a situation and understand when it is appropriate to think outside of the box.  As challenging as this may be sometimes, I would hope that the creative spark within us all doesn’t dim anytime soon.  Think outside the box, but with certain restrictions, and you will be amazed at the things you can achieve! 2.0out

spreadsheets 300x236 Thoughts: Creativity and Identity

Perhaps being overly creative when compiling data in a spreadsheet can make things a little….awkward.

 

The First Weeks

I am still coming down  from the summer of my dreams.  After having the opportunity to travel to Southern California as well as Europe through the NIU Study Abroad Office, the world seemed like a magnificent place; free of stress and worry.  This past few weeks of school quickly reminded me that life is just not that simple.  A total of five courses, two internships, and three organizations leaves me little time for rest and relaxation without some task on my mind.  If I’m not reading a book, I’m doing an assignment, and even when the homework is done the emails for organizations flow like a raging river.

I would be lying to you all if I told you that I wasn’t a little bit stressed.  Getting shoved into the deep end of a pool almost always causes a brief moment of panic, regardless of how good you are at swimming.  After a few moments of being in the water, you can orient yourself and adjust to the new environment.  Before you know it, you’re splashing around in the pool and enjoying yourself; smiling like a possum eating graham crackers.

What I mean in the above analogy is just give it time!  If you are stressed like I am, do not worry.  Although we just got pushed into the deep end of a freezing pool we will soon find our way and fall into routines that make us successful.  Keep with it and soon you’ll find time to manage the responsibilities of your courses, work, organizations, and relationships.  I also have a few quick tips that have helped me maintain my sanity, perhaps they can help you too!

1) Write lists

Last year was the first year that I really felt overwhelmed in my work.  It got to a point where I had so much on my plate that there was no way I could possibly remember all the tasks I had to complete by the end of the week.  By writing out a list of everything that needs to be done, you can visualize what is at hand and begin to nibble away at it and prioritize your items with corresponding numbers or colors. After all, how do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.

List2 e1348076685695 The First Weeks

See!? It's easy!

2) ”Live in day tight compartments” –Dale Carnegie

By doing all that you can TODAY you will make yourself an easier tomorrow.  Instead of waiting to finish that assignment that is due next Tuesday, knock it off the list today so you can move through even more of your list tomorrow and make life easier for your future self. Different Mes1 e1348154153600 The First Weeks

3) Surround yourself with motivated individuals

If you surround yourself with people who take classes seriously, you will see a tremendous leap in your own productivity.  Fly with the eagles and don’t let the turkeys get you down.

turkey not e1348074873604 The First Weeks

Don't be fooled.

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The House Cafe: My Hidden Treasure

This next guest post is written by Mike Glassberg, a Marketing Student at the NIU College of Business. Follow him on twitter @mglassberg2. 

mike regs e1347975417580 224x300 The House Cafe: My Hidden Treasure

To preface the post, “hidden treasures” are the opportunities and events at NIU that you have to seek out.  They are the opportunities that aren’t always announced in your classes or sent to your zmail.  They are some of the most rewarding activities you can participate in, but they are often overlooked or unknown to many students.  Below, Mike will describe one of his own hidden treasures that he uncovered in his NIU experience  …

What is your stress reliever? Exercising? Music? Drawing? Video games?

I’ve found out in my 3 years at NIU that if you don’t maintain a mental balance between school life and social life – you will go crazy. My stress relief has always been music – I would get home from a long day of work or class and put on my favorite band and jam out. I’ve been doing this since middle school and thought (until last weekend) that this was the best way for me to relieve stress.

I was wrong.

Last week, I stumbled across an ad on Facebook for a free NIU Jazz Band show at DeKalb’s own “House Cafe.” I convinced a few of my friends to join me and we absolutely loved it.

The House Cafe1 300x225 The House Cafe: My Hidden Treasure

A fun environment that fosters productivity?! Sign me up!

The House Cafe provides an amazing experience:

Good music - The House Cafe features a variety of music – Bluegrass, Funk, Jam, Jazz, Punk, Dance, Rock, Country. You name it, the House Cafe has hosted it.

Off campus - Whenever I get stressed out, all I can think about is school, classes, projects, quizzes, and intangible “points”. I often forget there’s a real world outside of NIU, with real people doing real-life things. The House Cafe provides an amazing escape for students even though it’s less than a mile away from campus.

Atmosphere - Great people. Very non-judge-mental. I’m typing this blog on a brown leather couch in the front of the House Cafe while giving the occasional high-five to friendly people passing by.

I’ve started to, and will continue to use The House Cafe as a study outlet. Last Friday night my friends went out partying. I knew I had entirely too much work to do, so instead of being a hermit and working in my room all night, I decided to come to The House and pay $7 to listen to live music, get productive, and still enjoy a social environment.

The NIU Jazz Band plays on Wednesday nights at the House Cafe (FOR FREE!) I’ll be at The House every Wednesday from now on, sitting at a table with my laptop, enjoying live music while still getting productive. Feel free to come out and do the same, I’d love to share such an awesome experience with other people!

Mike

Hidden Treasures

Figuratively, there are dozens of hidden treasures sprinkled into the NIU experience.  These “hidden treasures” are the opportunities that you have to seek out.  They are the opportunities that aren’t always announced in your classes or sent to your zmail.  They are some of the most rewarding activities you can do, but they are often overlooked or unknown to many students.  I will describe a few of my own “treasures” and welcome all of you to share more of your own.  After all, we’re not just here for the classes are we?!  College is an experience.  Make it one!

All my life I always loved exploring.  Biking, hiking, and venturing off into nature preserves was always my thing.  Unfortunately, I could never really find a place where students like me could get together to do these activities.  It was by sheer luck that one day while working out at the recreation center, I walked out the wrong door.  Unbeknownst to me, this door led straight to the NIU Outdoor Adventures office.  Upon entering the room my eye caught the bulletin boards with listings for rock climbing, mountain biking, backpacking trips and more!  Only a few weeks later I was signed up to go backpacking for a week in the Smoky Mountain National Forest in Tennessee.  The trip was a defining point of my college experience, if not my life in general.

Appalachian Trail 300x175 Hidden Treasures

An experience unlike any other.

I highly recommend that students look into the opportunities that the Outdoor Adventures office provides.  http://www.niu.edu/campusrec/outdoor_adventures/index.shtml

Another experience that is more academic in nature was my involvement with the College of Business Experiential Learning Center.  Don’t let the title fool you!  You do not have to be a student of the College of Business to participate.  In fact, during my own ELC project, I worked with students from the visual arts program as well as special education.  What the ELC does is quite special.  Students go through an application process and are handpicked by faculty advisors to work on a team.  This team of students will then be presented with a non mission critical issue for a real world company.  After working for an entire semester, teams will present their findings to their client company where  C-level executives will be present.  Many times students will receive job offers from their client company.  Even without an offer, the ELC provides students with a valuable talking point in interview conversations and more importantly, a taste of the real world.  http://www.cob.niu.edu/elc/index.asp

ELC 300x224 Hidden Treasures

I shared the experience with exceptional students and networked with high level executives of my client company.

What are some “hidden treasures” that you’ve found in your NIU experience? Post to our Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/NIUCollegeofBusiness or write a guest post for the Student Voices blog at http://www.cob.niu.edu/studentvoices/index.php/guest-posts/. 2.0out

Words of Advice

Last week I did a question and answer session with a College of Business (CoB) student named Rod. He is a very active individual in the CoB. He is a senior finance major and currently the VP of Community Service for his business fraternity Delta Sigma Pi (DSP).

I wanted him to share his thoughts and give words of advice to younger students/incoming students. The only thing I want to add is that I share the same opinions as Rod and think that what he has to offer in this Q&A is very helpful and valuable.

Nick: What lead you to be involved on campus?

Rod: One of the biggest things growing up is to give back to the community. Growing up in impoverished neighborhood I appreciated people coming in to tutor or give time to help someone else develop.

Nick: As a senior; why are you still staying actively involved even though graduation is three weeks away?

Rod: I have a passion to stay involved. Seeing the look on someone’s face when you help them and the big difference it makes to someone to spend a little bit of your time with them. It isn’t a right but an obligation or a duty to give back to our communities. It’s like sucking up crops without fertilizing the ground anymore for the future. I want to build on the legacy for others to further build upon in the future.

Nick: What makes you want to leave the College of Business better when you leave versus when you started here?

Rod: For us to continually be ranked atop the nation, we need to bring in better teachers and better resources for students to be the best that they can be. Personally, for people to become better people you must reinvest time in them.  We need to show people how to be a better person so they can do it on their own, similar to movie Paying It Forward.

Nick: What would you have done differently with your time here?

Rod: Academically, I no regrets, I leveraged every opportunity that came. I networked in events, and through my business fraternity (Delta Sigma Pi). The biggest downfall of underclassman is that they do not utilize all the resources around them. An unseen downfall is that they try to become members of so many things and they don’t focus on a handful and become over stretched. You can’t exert your full potential in any one organization. You don’t just join an organization to say you are part of it; you need to be able to devote time and resources in it to make it a great organization. Personally, as VP of Community Service for DSP I wouldn’t be able to hold the position because time would be pulled into other areas.

Nick: What advice can you give to current students and prospective students?

Rod: One of the Biggest pieces of advice I can give without touching on prior information, and is something I give to family friends and my girlfriend is this; step outside your comfort zone, put yourself in uncomfortable situations. It is the only way you can grow. Don’t be afraid to fail because through failure you learn from your mistakes and you become better at what you do. My Mother told me ‘if you’re going to fall, fall fast, so you can get up quick.’ You can apply the same principle for life not just academics. Go in full force and don’t be timid. If you try something and don’t like it, at least you know it’s not for you. But you won’t know until you try.

A big question prospective students get asked is what’s your major, what are you going to be? It is essential to know what you DON’T want to be. If you know what you don’t want to do you know not to go down that path and you can venture down other paths you haven’t been before to explore, grow and find what fits you.

I was an accounting intern at Deloitte for three summers and realized I don’t want to spend all this time out of my life per week for this particular career path. That’s how I ended up going into finance which is similar to accounting. It was a tough choice to switch paths and walk away from great earning potential in an accounting career. But it ended up being one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Nick: Any final thoughts?

Rod: Meeting new people has been a big breakthrough in college/academic career. A Lot of people generally tend to stay grounded in their high school niche of friends. You never grow if you stay stagnant. I went from predominantly black grammar school to very diverse high school. I learned quickly to adapt to different cultures and ethnicities. When you go into work force you won’t be working strictly with one nationality or ethnicity. Meeting a variety of people in different settings enables you to learn to identify with each culture and what makes each one uniqueme 293x300 Words of Advice and different from its own.

One of the key take aways: Get out, meet new people, have fun, and take a chance. Like I said earlier don’t be afraid to try new things, don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Take a risk; be it a calculated risk, but take one. Big gains come from big risk. If you see cute girl in the hall way, can’t get a date if you don’t talk to her! Take rejection as a form of constructive criticism; a checklist of what you need to work on to be a better person.

The final piece of advice: No matter what, stay true to who you are and your values. I walk to the beat of my own drum but I still get along with everyone. Be comfortable in your own skin and with who you are. If you don’t like it, do something about it. Never settle for a situation you aren’t comfortable with. Don’t fit in the box, make the box fit around you.

 

The Fastest Year of Life

Last year a lot of my friends had graduated and the one thing every single one of them told me as I went into my last year of college was this: “it’s going to go by fast; enjoy it while you can.” Not only were they right, in my opinion it was a severe understatement. The fall semester felt like it was over as soon as it begun and the spring semester feels almost as if everything over the past several months happened in a matter of week.

People ranging from younger students and faculty to friends and family are all asking me if I’m excited to graduate. The answer is “yes and no.” People ask why and I say it’s a bittersweet situation. As my roommate and I had discussed just last week, we are ready to graduate, start great careers and start earning real salary and commissions. However, we are nowhere near ready to let go of the college life-style. The huge house parties, the cheap prices at the college bars, always having Fridays off (if you’re a marketing/business major), the freedom of minimal responsibility, staying up until all hours of the night and being able to push through the next day; all is going to be, for the most part, gone.

My roommate and I both said if we could rewind life back to freshman year and start over, we would. Not because we have any regrets (though everyone has some) it would be entirely for the purpose of going through the entire experience again. If I had even just one more year in college there are some things I would do that I wasn’t able. I was recruited to be part of the Experiential Learning Center, where a small group of students act as consultants to a business on a real business issue. Due to scheduling and the academic path I chose, far too many people said it was too much work to handle (and I’m the kind of person who takes on everything, so it says a lot when you’re told more than once not to do it). One more year, and I would be the first to apply and tell every faculty coach why I should be on their consulting project. I also would like to have had one more chance to scrape together enough funds to study abroad since I couldn’t afford to go this past year.  That’s academically, but on the personal side of life, it is tough to say what things I would do that I’ve yet to accomplish. I wouldn’t do anything differently, I would continue trying to take advantage of every moment and seize every opportunity from going out to forming new relationships. I can only hope that if incoming college students stumble across this post that they go to school with the notion that it will go by quick and they need to take advantage of everything as early as possible.

I’ve come to a point in life where I have to make a huge transition that I’m kind of ready for but kind of sad for it to be over.  College has certainly been one of the best chapters of my life and I’ve accumulated a great deal of stories and memories. So much so that I’ve been told more than once my life should have been a reality show during my tenure at NIU. It’s part of growing up though; you can’t be in college forever (unless you’re Van Wilder and take seven years to complete you’re undergrad). However, I still plan on maintaining the relationships I’ve established here to the best of my ability. That includes not only friends, but the professionals I’ve met and the faculty I’ve come to know and love.

Worn Shoe Equals a Wet Foot

First world student problems: Yesterday as I was going through my classes I noticed my foot was wet and wasn’t sure why. Turns out I have a very small hole at the heel of my shoe where the rubber wore away just enough for water to seep in. It is absolutely annoying being in Barsema Hall for a nine hour day and having a wet foot. It drove me nuts!! Looks like I’m going to have to buy new ones, unless I only wear these when it’s dry outside.

As a ‘broke college student’ I don’t exactly have the discretionary income to spring for a fifty or sixty dollar pair of Adidas at the moment, but once June comes around and I have a full time base salary.. well… lets just say I’m going to hit the ground running (with dry shoes)!

Coasting Through a Hurricane

Senior year… there are far too many thoughts in my head about it. A lot of people coast through senior year and I anticipated being one of them. Unfortunately that isn’t anywhere near accurate.

I only have four courses, two of which are capstone courses but the work load is moderate to semi-high. Hurray. The next factor is adding in my job in the Office of the Dean, responsibilities as VP and President of a marketing organization and sales organization respectively, and being a finalist in the world’s largest sales competition. Luckily I’m not scheduled to work that many NIU athletic events this semester, phew.

I feel the pressure building because I need to be practicing all my material for the World Collegiate Sales Open so I represent NIU to the best of my abilities but it is tough to make this my top priority when I have homework, projects, quizzes, upcoming exams, board meetings and chapter meetings taking up time.

In the past two weeks I’ve capitalized on one of the perks of my job; free coffee. I still won’t classify myself as a coffee drinker (hate the taste) but it’s a cost effective way for me to get my caffeine fix so professors aren’t staring at my eye lids in class. I’m not trying to convey that I don’t like my classes, they are very interesting and I enjoy the material. But let’s face it, when you don’t have a whole lot of time to sleep the most interesting material in the world won’t keep you awake. Not this guy anyway.  I have several friends who are under just as much pressure with activities and feeling similarly overwhelmed, so I know I’m not alone.  It’s been more than worth it being as active and involved as I am and even though it’s tough, I wouldn’t change it for anything.

A former professor of mine tells us, “work hard; play hard.” I think it’s a fair mentality to have, working hard all week and having great times on the weekend with your friends. I don’t even care at this point how much sleep I’m getting or am not getting. I take a new direction in life three months from now so I have to squeeze every last drop out of college life while I can.

Duck, Duck, …Geese!

My dad graduated from NIU in the early 80s and when he was bringing me to campus for orientation and my private tour given by him and his knowledge of campus one of the memories he shared was that of William the Goose. He said everyone on campus knew William; it was as if he was the school’s unofficial mascot who almost always could be found at the East Lagoon. He even flew around the football field during one of the homecoming games as well. My dad said that despite William running after students, the goose would occasionally hang out by Altgeld and was actually very fond of NIU’s president and vice versa.

To this day if my dad calls on an NIU alum from that time he mentions William the Goose in his introductory sales calls. The memory of ‘NIU’s #1 Alum’ as they say, still lives on today..

Now 30+ years later as I prepare to graduate the relationship students have with the Geese on campus does not cease.  Whether it be the crazy protective goose a few years ago who chased people by the Chick Evans Field House or any of the other geese who can be spotted all over campus. These Geese have joined our generation unlike in my dad’s day. The geese now have a voice in the online social world via Twitter:  @NIUGeese.

Geese for whatever reason are still a humorously popular topic as the Northern Star has published articles about geese, students always have interesting incidents with geese, and now they have 281 followers as of February 13, 2012. It is only going to continue to grow as the NIU Geese turn out to be pretty comical with such posts as:

  • “I dream of the day when a goose can serve our country as president”
  • #30thingsaboutme 18. I have a higher vertical than Michael Jordan. If only I had hands to hold a ball!”
  • #30thingsaboutme 22. I enjoy chasing freshman around campus”
  •  “If Red Bull #GivesYouWings what does it give us? Maybe a weird third wing like the one my cousin Leroy was born with? #creepy”

What might be funnier than some of @NIUGeese’s individual tweets are the conversations they are carrying with people in the NIU community. Topics range from telling football fans that the Geese keep up with workouts in case Coach Doeren needs any wide receivers, all the way to students mockingly suggesting skinny dipping with the geese and not condoning drinking and flying.

If you’re on twitter and enjoy following something that will give you a laugh make sure you follow @NIUGeese.ducksoup 300x172 Duck, Duck, ...Geese!