Building a Flexible Future
It’s said that success is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. While preparation is important, opportunity makes the difference. The most important life skill is the ability to spot an opportunity and summon the courage to follow the unplanned and uncertain path that it presents. Farmer Isaac Newton, printers Orville and Wilbur Wright, and college student Mark Zuckerberg all seized opportunities.
And ended up changing the world.
Consider Madeworthy. What started out as a community group on Facebook grew into a magazine that is an important resource for Fort Worth. I spoke with the magazine’s publisher, Victoria Wise, and editor, Lee Virden Geurkink, to ask them about the relationship between preparation, adaptability, and success.
What was your college major and what drew you to it?
Lee Virden Geurkink: I was a history major. Specifically, early medieval British history.
Victoria Wise: I was a failed pre-med major who quickly shifted to studying film and photography. They were my hobbies in high school and somehow made sense for what I may want to do with my future.
What did you plan on doing after graduation?
LVG: I thought I would be a history professor.
VW: After graduation I quickly realized I did not want a career in film. I worked hourly jobs until I found my passion.
How did your plans change after graduation? What do you think caused these changes?
LVG: Once I was in graduate school, I realized I could never be a professor. Professors have homework, and I never did homework. The realization came with maturity or from an understanding of my strengths and weaknesses.
VW: I wish I had known that I would be an entrepreneur. It would have served me well to take some business courses. I started my first business in 1999. I had already been making jewelry and selling it to stores in high school and college. I went all in and bought supplies, created line sheets, and sold my jewelry at the Dallas World Trade Center.
How did you know that the path that led to what you’re doing today was worth following? Was it a certainty or more a leap of faith?
LVG: Honestly, I had no idea that answering a call for blog writers would lead to a job writing for and editing a magazine. But that’s what happens when you work with Victoria – she makes you realize you can do more than you ever thought possible!
VW: I followed my passion, worked really hard at anything I wanted to achieve, and believed it would work out… Malcolm Gladwell wrote that entrepreneurs are delusional about their goal-setting and risk-taking. Ask any of us, we just charge ahead without consideration of failure.
How important is your choice of major to success after college? What factors determine success besides major?
LVG: Most people today think my major was frivolous in the extreme. However, I learned to read critically, to write coherently, to research, to think. Granted, I don’t use my in-depth knowledge of the Venerable Bede or early West Anglo Saxon saint cults of the 11th century all that often, but I use the skills I acquired in college every day.
VW: These are things that keep me up at night when I think about my children. I have to say, I am less concerned about what they major in and more concerned about all the extras you layer on. Which organizations do you join, what sports do you play, what jobs do you take while getting your education? I plan on helping my son launch his first business in his 9th grade year so that when he graduates high school, he can either continue it or experience his first exit. It will give him more expertise than some of the classes he’s required to take.
Do you think it’s better to specialize and commit to a path early or to generalize and leave as many paths open as possible?
LVG: I’m a firm believer in the liberal arts model of college. Take a lot of different courses. Follow your interests. You’ll figure out what your strengths are. Let’s face it, you have the rest of your life to be an adult. Use your time in college to grow up.
VW: If you have it in your heart to commit – then commit. If you are wavering between many things you think you’d like to pursue, then keep those paths open. My dad knew from a very young age he wanted to be a doctor. In medical school he switched from pediatrics to radiology, so I think even if you do commit, you can still make changes based on new opportunities.
There is no guarantee of success. Prepare as best you can but be flexible and take chances. Learning to recognize and seize new opportunities makes all the difference.
Eric Zukoski is a senior at the University of Texas. He is interning with Madeworthy.