Five years ago I challenged myself to apply for the altMBA, an intensive four week online leadership course that challenges its students to level up through new skills while also pro viding an opportunity for people to share experiences in an engaging cohort format.

After being accepted, a stack of what felt like 20 books was delivered to my home (probably closer to 8, but you catch my drift). I also received instructions on the three online platforms we’d be using—Slack, Discourse, and Zoom. Other than my slight familiarity with Zoom, I wasn’t aware of any of these, and to say I was quickly overwhelmed is an understatement. I had less than 2 weeks to read 8 books, learn three new platforms, and begin the pre-class engagement all while needing to run my business and have some sort of sleep.

Unlike traditional education that requires memorization, is based on right vs wrong answers, and is structured with a good grade vs bad grade mentality, the altMBA experience was just the opposite. It was about sharing thoughtful feedback to help others, receiving feedback to help strengthen my own work, being curious and asking limitless questions, and probably more than anything else, it was based on learning by doing (which sometimes required a full 10 hours of Zoom sessions in one day before Zoom was even popular!).

Was it tiring? Yes. Was it also one of the biggest thrills and challenges of my life? Yes!

The altMBA was the best investment of time and money I have made in my professional life. While I’ve always considered myself a lifelong learner, I realized throughout this process how passive some of those other experiences had been. They were about listening, taking notes, and some sharing but very little doing. None of those experiences pushed me to get out of my comfort zone.

How refreshing it was to be a part of a group of people from around the world who were all as committed as I was. By the end of 4 weeks, they felt like family. What we put into it, we got out of it. There were no right answers, no tests, and no grades. Just doing.

Imagine if we applied this same approach to work in the nonprofit sector. Perhaps there would be fewer “best” practices, less finger pointing, and little to no analysis paralysis. Fear would be a thing of the past. Healthy tension would be our new norm. There would be true collaboration with those who want to be at the table and are willing to make a commitment to themselves and the greater good. There would be more community building within our organizations as well as externally. There would be more risk taking and healthy tension as we tried new things, which would propel learning, growth, and impact.

For those of you needing a mid-year pick me up or for those who are wrapping up your fiscal year, now is as good a time as any to embrace the tension.  

The creator of the altMBA, famed author and marketing savant Seth Godin, shared the following in his blog post “Tension vs fear”:

“When we try to learn something on our own, we often get stuck.

It’s not because of fear, it’s because of tension.

The tension we face any time we’re about to cross a threshold. The tension of this might work vs. this might not work. The tension of if I learn this, will I like who I become?

Tension is the hallmark of a great educational experience. The tension of not quite knowing where we are in the process, not being sure of the curriculum, not having a guarantee that it’s about to happen.”

Hat Tip To Your Success,

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