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My quarantine passion that actually stuck

Change can be so overwhelming. The roadblocks, the obstacles, the needed quick wins, the frameworks, the champions, the resistors...and you. When leading and experiencing change, you are in the center of a swirling, never-ending process of trying to go from Point A to some other Point off in the distance.

Yes, change can be overwhelming. But change can also be so wonderful. It can lead to increased communication, reduced stress, improved decision making, better morale, unbounded creativity, and a sense of success when you see your goals become reality, regardless of whether those goals are in the workplace, or often just as importantly, in your day-to-day life.

Change, unfortunately, is often viewed to be mutually exclusive between change in our personal lives (relationships, moving to a new neighborhood or city, trying to start a new routine) and change in our work lives (starting a new job, leading a new process, changing a culture). Viewed in these two distinct, non-overlapping ways, we often fail to see how lessons gained in one area can positively impact us and teach us how to approach change in another area. Additionally, regardless of the context in which we view change, we almost always view it as an inevitable failure. We are all familiar with some general statistic we heard somewhere telling us that 70% of all change efforts fail. Perhaps there are benefits of viewing change more positively and seeing the good in change.

Seeing change as a continuous learning process with remarkable joys and benefits can entirely change your relationship with it, which is exactly why I decided to blog about my own experiences and journey. But every journey starts somewhere, so to better introduce you to how I got here, let's start at the beginning, during those dreary days of quarantine and social distancing...


Like most people in those early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, I quickly found that I was running out of things to do to pass the time. There was really only so much Netflix for my then-fiancé, and now-wife, to watch together, and every day I felt the growing presence of a pile of books that I said I'd read one day but simply had not made the time for. Well, now all I had was time, so my main excuse had suddenly disappeared. I reluctantly settled in to start a book that was at the top of the pile, hoping my goal of reading more would finally catch on.

Side note: I wish I hadn't had such a poor relationship with reading and making time for it back then. I'm sure it dates back to the days of being forced to read book after book as a sign of achievement growing up or the not-always-exciting textbooks we often found ourselves buried in during college. Now, I LOVE reading! It is my favorite way to unwind, re-center myself at the end of a long day, and learn all of the things I wish I could spend all day learning about.

The book at the top of this pile was The Inside Game: Bad Calls, Strange Moves, and What Baseball Behavior Teaches Us About Ourselves by Keith Law, baseball writer for The Athletic. This book happened to be at the top of my pile because I had grand ideas for reading at the beginning of the pandemic that, of course, didn't quite materialize right away, and this book had just come out when baseball season should have been starting. A book that I thought would just be about some fun quirks happening within the game I have grown to love ended up completely opening my eyes to how I was living my life with blinders on.

Law's book focuses on the behavioral biases that we see in baseball that are also readily apparent in our own lives. The way he crafts baseball stories and anecdotes from our daily lives opened my eyes to all of the ways I was blindly approaching the vast majority of decisions and interactions in my life. It was my first experience learning about things like availability bias, outcome bias, moral hazards, and countless other behavioral psychology topics. From the first pages, I was simply hooked. My first thought was, "Wow, I certainly studied the wrong thing in school because I never cared about accounting this much." My second thought was, "If everyone else is operating with these biases, how can I better understand interactions and relationships at home, with friends, and with work colleagues?" Turns out, I had a chance to answer that question and put this into practice in a work setting almost immediately.

Not long after finishing the book and becoming completely hooked on identifying how these biases were affecting my daily life, I was tasked with leading a change initiative at work for a group of peers (although I had no idea it was called a “change initiative” at the time). After studying the situation presented, I went back to Law's book, made a comparison that the situation my firm was facing was likely due to a few biases I had just read about, and formed an action plan for how to leverage knowledge of these biases and my understanding of how the firm was structured (which I also had no idea at the time was referred to as "organizational design").

While I feel like I was met with some initial skepticism ("Who is this fresh-out-of-school business student making assumptions about psychological biases in an organization he hasn't even been with that long?"), my proposed solution started to produce the outcomes we wanted to see from this (unknown) change initiative. You'd think the excitement of this action plan producing desired results would have opened my eyes to this brand-new world of leveraging my business background with my new interest in studying psychological biases. But, nope, not even close. I was just more singularly focused on how these new interests affected my daily life. I had no idea yet how powerful this path could be for empowering others.


One of the best decisions I ever made was to pursue my MBA. Simultaneously, one of the best moments of my life (whether I realized its true significance or not at the time) was being admitted to Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management. My time at Kellogg has introduced me to new ways of thinking about myself and the world around me, created lifelong friendships, and showcased the most important aspects of my life so that I can make time for them along with school and work. However, the most important thing Kellogg showed me is that I could actually pair my existing background, my studies at Kellogg, and my passions for trying to understand how biases are affecting our lives into an entirely new outlook on my career.

I decided to pursue my MBA because I felt a sort of personal crisis where I was unsure what I really wanted to do in my career. I had a background in accounting and finance, but I didn't really feel passionate about that. I love numbers and logic, but I also love knowing how and why people are reacting to and thinking about situations. I was realizing this more and more from diving into other books after Law's (which I am excited to reference in future posts), but I didn't really know if there was a career in that for me. All I knew was that I liked leading, I liked working with people, and that I wanted to be in a job where I could help create sustainable and positive solutions. I figured that pursuing my MBA at a top school was a great way to open doors I hoped existed into a career I would be passionate about, so I decided to take the leap and enroll at Kellogg.

My first course at Kellogg was Leadership in Organizations and was taught by Loran Nordgren. This course, per Kellogg, "prepares managers to understand how to best organize and motivate the human capital of the firm, manage social networks and alliances, and execute strategic change. This is accomplished through knowledge of competitive decision making, reward system design, team building, strategic negotiation, political dynamics, corporate culture and strategic organizational design." Professor Nordgren, who has a BA in Psychology and a PhD in Social Psychology, focused our lessons often on how we could use behavioral science to lead and create sustainable solutions to issues we will likely be presented with in the workplace, and oftentimes in life.

I remember this lightbulb moment occurring one day in class that has stuck with me ever since. I had been noticing that many biases discussed in class were also in Law's book. However, we were viewing these biases in class not in terms of how they may affect our personal lives or the world of baseball (both of which I believe are incredibly important), but rather in terms of how we could identify them in the workplace and leverage them to the benefit of our teams and organizations as leaders. I thought, "Wait a this is someone who also has the interests that I have...and he is using this knowledge and these passions in a way to help businesses create sustainable solutions...and he isn't using a more 'traditional' business background that I learned about in undergrad like accounting or finance...Is this what I have been looking for in my career all this time?? People actually can make careers by helping businesses through applying these passions??" I felt like my whole world view had been changed! Instead of just having this side passion while I tried to figure out how to use my business background and my MBA to find a career I actually would enjoy, I could also use these passions in a clear, direct, and meaningful way!

Professor Nordgren had recently released a book at the time of this realization, The Human Element: Overcoming the Resistance That Awaits New Ideas, which identifies the "frictions" we should be aware that often act as resistors to change we'd like to see. This book helped me start to break down my ever-growing thoughts surrounding this newfound knowledge of combining my passions and background into more tangible ways where I could view change through the eyes of someone who was actively tackling it every day. The lessons gained from this book have stuck with me, will be referenced in many future posts, and have become a tool for me to pick up and thumb through on an almost daily basis when tasked with or experiencing change now. It has also been a wonderful gift to some of my favorite people in life.


While I was realizing that my passions and background could be a potential career opportunity or a way to better approach leadership challenges I was facing, I still wasn't quite sure how to go about seeking this path out as a career, how to begin immediately leveraging this knowledge, or how to further fill in the many gaps I was realizing I had in this space. For every new piece of knowledge I was learning or for every additional piece of clarity I thought I was gaining about how my career could play out, I would quickly realize the growing mountain of knowledge or clarity I didn't quite have yet.

Luckily, change and leadership are not journeys you tackle alone. Throughout my posts, I'll have the opportunity to highlight the lessons learned from mentors, role models, friends, family, books, podcasts, and lived experiences that have helped me on this journey and continue to help me every day. My journey has shown me that my passions can help fuel my career, and that my career can help improve my daily understanding of how to lead and experience change. But most importantly, I've grown from sharing and living my journey with those closest to me along the way.

But, just as importantly, we are on this journey together now! You, the reader, the change leader, are now a part of this journey with me. I am so excited to learn and grow together and see where we end up on the other side (of change).


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