While I think it’s important NOT to overwhelm oneself when it comes to goal setting, on the flip side I think expanding our minds as to what we can achieve is equally – if not more important – in some circumstances.
The following story is a great testament to that flip side. 🙂
Copied almost word-for-word, below, from my original Sept. 2012 blog/ journal entry – straight out of that unforgettable, short span of time in my life:
Thursday, August 23, 2012
(Written BEFORE the crazy news)
I’m writing this blog post from a sushi restaurant in the Murray Hill area of Manhattan – a restaurant I’ve come to frequent for lunch prior to meetings with my NYU professor who lives in the apartment building a few “doors” down. This is probably the first real breather I took in more than three weeks – where I actually stopped and reflected… I’ve been working pretty much nonstop since the very beginning of the month – early in the A.M., evenings, and weekends – in an effort to finish a “final project” towards my master’s degree from NYU. Right now, I have that feeling of “calm” (which, I’ll admit, hasn’t happened to me in a bit of a while) where you feel like you’re on top of things; like you’re being productive; like you’re putting in the work and you’re making headway – no “busywork” here!
The photo below is my view from the table I requested at the back of the restaurant. I love courtyards, especially in the city.
Late September 2012
(Written AFTER the crazy news)
Little did I know when I was writing the words above [from August 23, 2012], in such a peaceful and powerful state, that I was only a few short hours from embarking on one of the biggest challenges of my life thus far.
Important Back Story:
About two years ago, after completing all of my required courses towards a “business management and systems” master’s degree at NYU, I applied and interviewed for an opportunity to work on what the university calls an Applied Project – a specific project for a real-life organization that must be completed by the student, approved by a project sponsor, and then followed up with a final report (all in lieu of writing a traditional “thesis”). I was selected for one of these projects, which involved building a website (from scratch) for a non-profit teen adoption agency headquartered in Coney Island, New York. Unfortunately, the project brought with it a few challenges (all out of my control), and the adoption agency ended up pulling the project (apologetically) after a year’s worth of work, leaving me with an uncompleted project. Fortunately, however, my professor (who was also my project sponsor) and the head of NYU’s management and technology department – knowing the circumstances were not my fault – eventually granted me the opportunity to finish the website development project, albeit no longer for a real-life implementation. At that time, though, I was forced to put the remaining work on hold because my company needed extra attention, and taking multiple days off to travel into the city was no longer an option for me. So as soon as I finished a couple of major projects at my company, I contacted the university regarding finishing my final project so I could, at last, GRADUATE. To my surprise, at the end of this past July , they gave me a strict deadline of August 31, 2012, which left me barely a month to complete EVERYTHING.
That day, August 23, 2012, I met with my NYU professor at his apartment (a typical thing for students to do) to finish the web coding that remained to finally FINISH the website.
I usually enjoy going to work on web coding over there; my professor’s apartment is very… well… professor-like! :), and it inspires me to get into an academic mindset. His living room is filled with eclectic, traditional furniture pieces, including an old chair with a stamp, giving away that it had “retired” from a university library. There are bookshelves, lined with books on marketing and web programming, decor pieces from travels abroad… and I counted five computer monitors, plus one laptop, plus one TV that often acts as a computer monitor. Adding to the ambiance, there is always jazzy/classical music playing in the background and a view of a NYC sidestreet from a large second story window.
As we began working on the remaining pieces of the website, technical difficulties seemed to be appearing left and right. My goal and expectation of nearly completing the website in four intensive hours that afternoon became less and less of a reality. As each 30-minute interval passed, my panic grew; it felt like the remaining tasks were growing instead of shrinking; actually, they were! – I just didn’t want to accept it. Completion seemed further and further away as the time went on until finally 5 PM hit and the website development had barely progressed. And that’s when the reality set in that I was far (how far, I could not tell) from completing my final master’s project, which I would then have to follow up with a final report [Requirement: 50 pages of narrative (75 – 100 pages of narrative EXPECTED)] My final paper was CERTAINLY expected to be at the MAXIMUM expected number of pages, as I had two years of work to document. Typical projects take six months to complete with a one year allowance. My project, on the other hand, went much longer (due to circumstances out of my control… had to add that in again 😉 ).
All of these requirements had to be completed and delivered to the department by Friday, August 31st. That left exactly ONE WEEK to complete: a website that still required hours (days? who knew) of work, plus writing a final report of approximately 100 pages of pure narrative (almost entirely FROM SCRATCH!) … PLUS screenshots, a table of contents, a table of figures, an abstract, an appendix, a bibliography, and strict formatting that I would have to “google” how to do, at some point. Lastly, the report had to be printed and bound and delivered to the management and technology department at NYU. … UM, YEAH, RIGHT!
Fears, thoughts, raced through my brain and finally I looked at my professor and said the only logical thing I could think of, “I need an extension!”
“No way,” he replied. Actually, he really listed several reasons for why this was absolutely NOT going to happen, but what I gleaned from all of it was simply “No way!”
“How am I supposed to get all of this done by next Friday?!!”
“NEXT FRIDAY!” he exclaimed. “Do you know how many students’ papers I have to grade?… Do you see my schedule?… I need your paper by WEDNESDAY MORNING [August 29, 2012], THE LATEST!”
That left only five good days, not even a week.
“SERIOUSLY!!!!!” I thought, as my world crumbled right in front of me. “Um, well, that’s IMPOSSIBLE!!!”
I tried with all my might to hold back the tears, as I packed up and left, as I rode the cab to the location where my boyfriend was picking me up, as the two of us (+ dog) rode home.
I called my mom. She said “Jackie, that’s ridiculous! You’re already where you want to be; you don’t need a degree for that.” “I am?!” I thought ;). I heard what she was saying, but I knew that’s not what she really wanted me to do. She just – like me – saw the ridiculousness of the situational time crunch and knew the amazing amount of pressure and lack of control I was feeling at that moment. I knew she really wanted me to go for it – albeit ridiculously impossible.
Later that night, I sat in my home office, and a defining moment suddenly occurred. The thought came into my head, “I have to at least try.”
Yes, it was impossible; yes, I was about to waste five days working on something that I wouldn’t be able to finish; but you know what? I knew that if I didn’t try with all I had in me, it would not only end up completely clouding my focus all that week, but also, it might haunt me forever.
I called into work and made it known what I had to do for the next few workdays.
Friday (August 24, 2012) morning… it was about 6 AM… I began…
I took all of the remaining website development tasks and all of the required report sections, and I wrote them all out on my whiteboard. Photo below (taken in the week later).
This whiteboard on my home office wall became my guide, my hope, as I coded and coded and wrote and wrote and coded and coded and wrote and wrote…
As much as it kept flashing into my mind how ridiculously impossible and silly this was to be doing, I still remained absolutely determined to keep going with everything I had inside of me – no matter what.
I wanted to cry at numerous moments… but there was no time to cry. I had to keep going. Every second counted.
I barely stopped… only to eat quickly, use the bathroom, take the very occasional 30-second to 1-minute break when I felt like screaming, and to get in a good six hours of sleep at night. … This was my life, repeatedly, for five straight days.
On the last night of Tuesday, August 28, 2012, I needed to push extra hard. I slept three hours that night and worked right up to the moment that I had to leave for the city on the morning of Wednesday, August 29th…
Wednesday, August 29th (morning)
I did it! I actually did it! … Website code written, plus a 124-PAGE (103 pages of narrative) final report! … Completed in slightly more than just FIVE days!
It felt surreal.
I had to meet with my professor again that morning to copy and paste in the web code, that I had written, into the database and upload additional web code files to his server. Within a couple of hours, the website was officially complete and live. He went through each webpage with a smile and approved the entire website on the spot. I handed him my thumb drive, and he copied my final report into my designated student folder on his computer.
I breathed. 🙂
I returned to my home that afternoon/evening. I had ONE glass of wine to celebrate, and then THIS happened (See photo below.). Completely asleep here. Didn’t even get to remove to my shoes. The dog’s expression in the background is priceless. LOL
A little over three weeks later, my final report had made its way through the department, getting approvals from my professor / project sponsor, NYU’s management and technology department head, the registrar, and the dean.
On September 21, 2012, my name had been submitted to the Summer 2012 graduation list.
Needless to say, my perception of what I could do changed immensely after that accomplishment. So I ask: Think about something you’ve been wanting to do, finish, accomplish (write a book, organize your home, start a class… whatever it is), and then set the “impossible” target completion date! Outline the steps and due dates on the wall (or somewhere else where you’ll consistently have them in sight) to guide you. Even if you “know” it’s impossible, just do it anyway! Keep going! Don’t stop! Do everything in your power to complete it! … You just might surprise yourself. 😉