People define success in different ways. When it comes to careers, many gauge their performance against money and status, tirelessly working for approval from those they barely know. For G. Richard Shell, the chair of the legal students and business ethics department at the Wharton School, that is a trap that often leads professionals to feel dissatisfied at best and a failure at worst.
Shell cites celebrity culture as an example. In this world, happiness and success often go hand-in-hand, where fame is equated with achievement. In reality, the connection is far more complex and tenuous, as the larger world often presses people to chase after ideals that are neither realistic nor compatible with their deeper sense of self.
ARE YOU PERFORMING OR JUST CONFORMING?
“Our surrounding culture is going to create a lot of expectations for us,” Shell explains in a 2013 interview with Knowledge@Wharton. “When you filter that culture through the prism of a family, and how you grew up and where you grew up, and the peer group you grew up around, you’re going to have a hypnotic effect on what people think they ought to be pursuing.”
What should professionals pursue to define success on their own terms? That is the core of Shell’s MOOC called Success, which begins on August 7th. Based on his Wharton Literature of Success course and critically acclaimed book Springboard: Launching Your Personal Search for Success, Shell delves into decades of research —not to mention the wisdom historical thought leaders — to help students look critically at themselves (and the messaging around them). In the process, he hopes to guide students to better identify the social messaging that is unconsciously influencing them so they can “substitute new goals for the more automatic ones that our culture provides.”
“A lot of what I do is to try to give people a chance to gain a little perspective,” Shell points out in the same interview. “That means looking at the sources of those early messages that they may have internalized and give them a chance to make a few more choices about whether that impulse toward getting recognition or that impulse toward making another $100,000 when they have choices about using their time in other ways.”
ONE SECRET: KNOW WHAT YOU DO BEST
This wake up call won’t be easy, Shell admits. Instead, the definition of success is personalized, ever evolving and never complete. “Finding out what success means to you often involves trial and error,” not just theoretical contemplation,” says Shell in a 2013 interview with Fast Company. “It involves taking risks and experimentation. Success is not a static, one-and-done process; it’s dynamic.”
So where do students start? In Shell’s course, it begins with students looking at themselves, particularly how they see themselves and how they define success itself. From there, the course progresses into the larger world, with formal testing and guided reflection held to help student discover their unique talents — which often translate into the passions that can bring fulfillment. “Success starts with the things you do better than most,” says Shell in Fast Company. “It usually resides in the unique combination of capabilities you bring to what you do. The future opens up when your past interests, experiences, and skills start resonating perfectly with an opportunity you find in the present.”
In this way, students are able to find motivation and meaning, which brings connection, reward, and ultimately happiness (for a time, at least). “While some people measure their success primarily in terms of achievements – and others specifically in terms of inner satisfaction and fulfillment – most of us seek some kind of balance between the two,” Shell adds in Fast Company. “I try to help people accept both the inner and the outer aspects of success so they can toggle between them in the way that best suits their personalities and values.”
COURSES ON LEADING DIVERSITIY AND BUILDING MODELS HEADLINE AUGUST
‘You must first master yourself before you can manage others,’ is a famous business adage. While the Success MOOC will help students with the former, August is packed with other free online courses designed to sharpen their skills in communication, decision-making, and managing conflict.
The University of Michigan, for example, is re-opening its Influencing People MOOC. Co-taught by the dean at the Ross School of Business, this course is a primer on how to build trust and buy-in regardless of where someone sits in the org chart. The head of Wharton’s executive education program will also be co-teaching Optimizing Diversity on Teams, which outlines strategies for creating a sense of shared mission and collaboration on far-flung teams from different backgrounds and nationalities. For a 30,000 foot view, Stanford jumps into the act with Organizational Analysis, ranked among the best Coursera MOOCs ever in terms of attendees and positive reviews. If you want a spot in the c-suite, you’d better know something about the law. That base is covered by Harvard University in Contract Law: From Trust to Promise to Contract, a MOOC geared specifically for non-attorneys who need to understand the basics of contracts in particular and the legal process as a whole.
Those aren’t the only courses sure to brighten up the dog days of summer. Considering that finance is the language of business, you won’t find a more valuable course that Wharton’s Introduction to Spreadsheets and Models, which codifies the fundamentals that prepare students for more robust and complex modeling. With analytics being the rage, Wharton also addresses the topic of measuring internal employee performance in a variety of contexts through People Analytics. Trying to figure out how to squeeze a few extra dollars during the fourth quarter rush? IE Business School has you covered with Pricing Strategy. Let’s not forget The Global Financial Crisis, an ongoing Yale course that boasts former U.S. Treasury Security Tim Geithner as a co-teacher.
To learn more about these courses – and register for them – click on the links below.