Should I Go Ivy League? Elite Institution Cognitive Disorder


I was really intrigued by this YouTube video of Malcolm Gladwell’s take on why we are so enamored with brand name institutions, even when the evidence does not support that they are likely to make more of their students successful. For many years, I’ve had a gut feeling that it is less about which school you go to or company you work for than it is about what you bring with you. When people have asked me for advice about what college to choose, I’ve encouraged them to pick a place where they will be a star – where they will receive resources and attention and opportunities beyond the average student. I believe it is to a student’s advantage to be a bit of a “big fish” in whatever size pond they choose. I often even joked that choosing a college is a bit like dating, the trick is to find someone who likes you as much as you like them.

The theory that Gladwell presents is that there is something called Elite Institution Cognitive Disorder, that applies whether we talk about college choices or the best companies to work for. As he talks about, instead of keeping our perspective about our abilities and accomplishments, we tend to constantly compare them with those around us, no matter how elite the company we are keeping. It is the best students in each environment, whether elite or not, who find the most success. And yet we often continue to choose the name brand, even if it might not be the best choice for us. So is brand name overrated? What do you think?



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Pre-Order the New Book “What’s Your Function?”

My newest book, What’s Your Function? Working it Out with God is now available for pre-order at Amazon!

What’s Your Function? is a career explorer’s manual, designed for anyone who wants to understand how God has built them, and who wants to spend more of their work and life doing what they were designed to do. For the last two years, I have worked on putting the career planning and job search strategies and philosophy that I use into book form. It is written to inspire you to put God at the center of your career development, and to use the purpose, inspiration, and earning ability you’ve been given to find satisfaction and success in your work.

I’ve filled Function with hands-on elements, job search techniques, humor, and a comprehensive plan for discovering what you were born to do. The book release is currently scheduled for October 1st, but over the next few months, I’ll share some teaser activities and topics from the book to introduce it to you.

Thanks again for supporting my writing and spreading the word to others who want to live out their purpose in their careers and lives.


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Best Gifts in a Crisis

So I know this does not sound like the typical content of my blog, but I want to take a minute to talk about how to bless other people who are in a crisis point in their lives. I’ve been thinking about this because my dad has spent the past couple of weeks in the ICU following a very serious accident. It has been a trying time, but also a time during which God has shown Himself to be clearly in control. One of the unexpected blessings of this time has been to see the ways in which other people have reached out to show love and concern to my family.

I’m not a person who has spent a lot of time around hospitals, and in the past I’ve often felt a little awkward about knowing what to say to people in times of crisis. I’ve been so impressed by some of the thoughtful ideas people have had to help us that I wanted to pass along a few of my favorites in case you find yourself needing to encourage someone else.

1. The “Coach Box” – The day after my dad’s accident, friends of my mom’s brought to the hospital a big red box that had been a gift box for a Coach brand purse. Inside they had packed what appeared to be a huge picnic – sandwiches, snacks, drinks, fruit, candy, etc. This box became our mobile canteen for the first couple of days, and was easy to restock and use again. We thought this idea was so brilliant that churches should have their own “Coach Box” ministries.

2. A night’s rest – Waiting for a loved one to heal is hard, and traveling to and from the hospital makes it harder. You come in early and leave late, eat, sleep and do it all over again. After a few nights of this, my brother-in-law called from Texas and said, “I’m too far away to help with much, but I can get you a good night’s sleep. Just give me the name of a nearby hotel and I’ll arrange a couple of night for you.” Initially, we thought about declining. “Do we really need it?” But accepting this help was one of the best decisions we made during the week. Other family friends also offered us this great gift, which has been deeply appreciated. Getting real rest while knowing you can be at the hospital in 5 minutes feels like a luxury.

3. Coffee breaks – It is hard to think about taking care of yourself when you are focused on the patient. Sometimes, however, a bottle of water, a cup of coffee, or just a little breather is what you need most. Shortly after we arrived at the hospital, one of my mother’s friends dropped off a dozen gift coupons for the hospital cafe. These were just the excuse we needed to take a moment away and refresh.

4. An extra pair of hands – Gifts during a crisis aren’t always about buying something. Sometimes the best give you can give is just to help someone be in two places at once. It was incredible to see how my parent’s friends and church family found small ways to minister to them by taking care of errands. People dropped things off at the bank or the post office, offered child care, and delivered meals. Someone cleaned my mom’s house, another family shoveled her driveway, and a relative took out her trash and made sure she had wood for her stove. One person dropped off a library book. All of these small kindnesses meant we could focus on our primary duty to my dad.

5. Balance the books – One of the most surprising and touching gifts my parents received was from a colleague of my dad’s. He and his son volunteered their days off and extra weekend days to keep my dad’s business going. As I blogged about previously, my dad is a small-town chiropractor, and without him, his office doesn’t fucntion. But these two men offered to see my dad’s patients in his own office to keep my dad’s practice going and to provide my parents income for the next few months. What an incredible gift of peace of mind! You may or may not be able to actually work for the sick person or his or her family, but maybe you could take vacation time to provide transportation, buy gas cards to make the travel easier, pick up a bill for them temporarily, or substitute for them in some of their responsibilities. Think about what worries that person might having in providing for their family or meeting their commitments and ask if any are worries you can remove from his or her plate.

My family and I are so grateful for everyone who has helped us in the past weeks, and we have learned a lot about how to be a blessing to others when they need it most.

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The Second Half

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything—all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure—these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.” - Steve Jobs, Stanford University Commencement

In April, I will turn 40. As I’ve considered this over the last few months, it occured to me that if I live a relatively healthy, long life, 40 is about half way. The first time I thought this, a little nauseating twinge ran through me. My life is half over. But since then, I have discovered that this kind of realization can be incredibly helpful. As Steve Jobs indicated, it can provide a clarity that is missing in daily life. Instead of being morbid, it has actually re-energized me and given me more freedom.

Once I adjusted to my discovery of 40 as a mid-point, my follow up question was, “How did I spend the first half of my time?” As I look back, overall, I’m pretty happy with my choices. I’ve worked hard, invested in important relationships, traveled to interesting places, learned a lot, and had some professional success. I’m not famous, nor have I impacted the world in a dramatic way, but I’m generally content with the first half of my life. As I look ahead, however, to the second half, there are some things I want to do differently.

First, I realize that my time is very valuable – every minute of it. In my first 40 years, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about and planning for the future. Sometimes that planning ahead consumed more of my energy than it should have, preventing me from fully appreciating and learning from the moment.  In the next half, I want to spend less time thinking about the future and more time thinking about and experiencing the present. Each day is an incredible gift, and I want to treat it as one, being more present to God and to the people around me.

The other thing I realize is that I have spent a lot of time thinking about me. Not that I don’t give to others or spend plenty of time helping others, but I have thought about it as my life, my career, my family, etc. I have often forgotten that they all belong to God and are His to direct. During the second half of my life, I want to trust these things to God to do what He wants with them. I want to look forward to them with a sense of adventure and expectation, knowing that many of my experiences in my earlier years have been training for what He wants to do with me in the years to come.

Perhaps getting older itself is a great gift. It is an opportunity to see what God is doing more clearly, and a chance to choose how I will reinvest my time to build an even better “portfolio” of my life. This has been a valuable “half-time” moment, and I’m returning to the field ready to play the second half with gusto.

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Internships: The New Interview

Internships have become an incredibly important tool in planning for and securing a position coming out of college. It is a common phrase among career professionals, “Internships are the new interview.” Bad hires cost companies more in today’s competitive marketplace, and so does recruiting. Companies now use internships as a favorite way to test out new talent and be sure they know what they are getting before they hire.

This means that incorporating an internship into a college experience is more essential than ever for young professionals, and the trend is for students to try to complete more than one such experience. Not all colleges provide the structure for this, but that is likely to change.

Take a look at the following infographic to see the latest data on the importance of internships.

internships infographic 2014 Infographic: Internships Survey and 2014 Internship Trends
Courtesy of:

The principle applies to those going back to school, as well as those who are well beyond their college experience. Employers are looking to minimize their risks by trying out employees ahead of time. If you are looking to make a job or career change, but don’t have the option of a formal internship, volunteer, job shadow, or offer to do a project free to get experience. Build a portfolio and help the employer get a sense of your working style.
Win the job before the interview!

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