The altMBA, Curiosity, and Silence
My experience graduating from Seth Godin's altMBA
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Some may have heard, but I just recently became a graduate of the altMBA. The alt…what?
The altMBA is a 31-day online leadership workshop founded in 2015 by Seth Godin. It celebrates our shared humanity and provides students with the skills they need to be impactful leaders and make meaningful change.
It has transformed the lives of over 4,800 leaders in more than 90 countries around the world and is the flagship workshop at Akimbo.
It requires an application to be considered for enrollment and is limited to 125 students per session.
The altMBA is a commitment of time, money, and effort. Students should be prepared to spend at least 20 hours a week to make real change happen.
What I Learned
So, I’m now a Raven. A full-blown graduate of the altMBA. After a life-changing endeavor and experience, I wanted to share first why I decided to enroll in the altMBA:
I believe in order to change, you have to be challenged.
I am learning and leaning in during a season of tension
I want to level up as a leader
First, in order to change you have to be challenged. This is not rocket science. If you want to change your body for example, you have to put it through the gauntlet, whether that’s flipping tires in front of the Crossfit gym or riding a bike down a highway or God forbid running a 5K. In the same way, I saw a 31-day challenge of balancing a business, a family, and other responsibilities with a 20+ hour a week masterclass on personal and corporate change.
Second, I’m learning and I am leaning in during a season of tension. Tension leads to two things – a positive stretching or a break. Or another way to use the imagery, tension leads to strength and power, if one can find out the reason for the tension. For me, I found myself in a tension between a number of things: people vs. profit, contentment vs. aspiration, MBA vs. altMBA. I leaned in to learn, and I was rewarded with personal change and incredible new vision.
Third, I wanted to do this program because I wanted to level up as a leader. I’m more and more convinced that leadership is the ceiling for team and organizational growth. If you’re not growing as a person and as a leader, eventually your organization and your team will stall. I don’t believe everything rises and falls on the leader, but I do believe that the ability of your team's success largely falls on your shoulders. So, I stepped up and signed up and walked into the world of the altMBA.
I don’t want to give away the secret sauce of the altMBA. It’s almost impossible to describe, and many of my fellow students discussed off and on again about how we would explain what we just experienced to our friends and family and our colleagues. I still haven’t quite figured out how to phrase it, except to say if you are at all a person who wants to become a better leader then there is a strong likelihood that you would benefit from the altMBA.
I think the better way to describe the process is to share my TOP 10 list of lessons and to expand on just a few of them.
What did I learn?
Embrace and return to “sonder”
Embrace the process and stop worrying about outcomes.
Good decisions don’t always lead to good outcomes.
Your goals require a specific process.
It doesn’t have to be perfect.
Let your team build the house, and they will want to live in it.
It’s not always a question of “right” vs. “wrong.” Sometimes it just “is.”
Sit in the silence.
Keep asking questions.
Two topics in particular I want to expand just a bit further on.
Curiosity Kills Anger
The quote we heard and I was most struck by in the process was the idea of leading with curiosity. Of avoiding calling others out, but rather calling them into conversation.
This is so contrary to our natural response. The quote shared with us was this from Cat Hoke: “You can’t be curious and angry at the same time.” How often though have we come up against seemingly insane or ridiculous ideas and responded with anger. It happens almost daily for me. But my challenge for you is to pause for a moment, to ask questions, and to embrace curiosity. Why is this person saying this? Where are they coming from? How did they come to this conclusion?
Because despite how smart we think we are, in the end we all are irrational.
Find someone in your life that you deeply disagree with and get curious. Not curious to try and change their mind, but curious in a way that allows them to teach you something. Just listen. Don’t jump in, fight back, push back, point out…just sit in the silence and keep asking questions.
The quote that stuck with me:
“Sometimes you may not be able to understand someone and at the same time you can still choose to respect them.”
So, will you be curious?
The Power of Silence
A second idea is around the power of silence.
Like…making a statement and just…waiting.
SILENCE. IS. DEAFENING.
For me, it’s the roar of a waterfall.
Fingernails on a chalkboard.
A formula 1 engine revving.
So last night I sat at dinner with my wife and embraced the silence. I asked a question.
It was awkward. And hard…but she had a moment to take a beat. To consider my question. And to answer in her own time.
It showed I cared, that I was willing to leave a space.
Silence created an opportunity for something truly incredible to happen and emerge.
Silence also creates an opportunity to get to “yes” after you ask a question. Most people run away from the tension and the fear and the awkwardness. I’ve learned to utilize the power of silence to bring about decisions that need to be made vs. talking past those issues and problems.
So…there are about a thousand other ideas I could speak about regarding the altMBA. If you’re really interested in learning more about it, you can visit altmba.com or akimbo.com or feel free to connect with me on Twitter or LinkedIn. I’m really happy to share more.
So, as my fellow students now say, I’m the kind of person who is going to go out there and make a ruckus.
I hope you’ll consider joining me.