Holding on to Success

A rock-solid character and a drive for her future allow one student to battle a life-threatening illness and earn her MBA in Leadership.

Stephanie Briggs with her nephew, Chase

Stephanie Briggs with her nephew, Chase

Stephanie Briggs was not yet even a teenager when the diagnosis came in: At the age of 11, she had cystic fibrosis, a debilitating, chronic lung disease that can shorten the life of children and young adults. The average life expectancy for someone diagnosed with CF: 37.5 years.

In the beginning, Stephanie carried on like anyone with her spirit would: she traveled, enjoyed camping, and kept up with her running. She earned her bachelor’s degree and married the love of her life. With medication, Stephanie continued being the strong, guiding individual she is.

But that changed in 2007 when her health took a turn for the worse. “I had gotten so many infections that I was having a harder time fighting them off,” she says. Her doctors warned her any further illness could end her life. “I was playing Russian roulette. The years were just adding up, and I was living day by day, not knowing how long I had.”

The only solution was a scary one: a double lung transplant. This choice was riddled with possibilities. Things could go well, or statistics could catch up. At the time, 10 percent of patients didn’t survive the first year post-transplant.

However, these statistics didn’t deter Stephanie. In March 2010 she received her new lungs. And, never once passing up the opportunity to advance her career and live her life to the fullest, she enrolled as an online MBA in Leadership candidate at Saint Joseph’s College one year later. She finished her coursework in December 2013 and marched at Commencement the following May, proving that success is always right around the corner for anyone, provided they give it their all.

Using her experience and education, Stephanie serves as an inspiration and guiding spirit for others as an admissions counselor and academic advisor for online students at Saint Joseph’s College. We took a moment to catch up with her, to celebrate her personal and professional achievements.


 

David Svenson: Was there an emotional connection between starting something new (the MBA) and starting a new stage of your life after the transplant surgery?

Stephanie Briggs: Before my transplant I was living to die. I knew my time was very limited and did not make any decisions that would be long term—it had been a really long time since I started something new.

Once I felt healthy enough, I realized I wanted to finish my MBA. The first year after a double lung transplant is a time of very high risk, so I made a goal to start the MBA program if I made it past the one-year mark.

DS: Was there any symbolism in this timing? Was this you pushing through these medical setbacks?

SB: It was only fitting that I started the MBA with a new set of healthy lungs. Every time I started and finished a course it was very emotional because it meant I was actually working toward a future goal, and actually completing it.

I was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis when I was 11. At that time I was told that most people with it did not live past 18, and I was determined to prove them wrong.

DS: You walked at the spring 2014 Commencement, successfully completing your MBA. Were you thinking of where you had come from, or where you wanted to go?

SB: My thoughts were toward my donor and his/her family. I would not have completed my MBA without the precious gift they gave me. I felt blessed.

I looked back at how much I had accomplished beyond the age of 18 (the median age of someone with cystic fibrosis in 1986) and the age of 34 (when I had my double lung transplant).

I also looked toward the future. What is next? I still have not come up with answer to that question, but I’m at least asking the question. I did not complete my MBA to change companies or make hundreds of thousands of dollars. My goal was to learn more about leadership and how I could incorporate it in my personal life and community.


 

To meet Stephanie, check out Saint Joseph’s College’s YouTube channel.

Q&A by David Svenson, Saint Joseph’s College’s communications officer and editor of Saint Joseph’s College Magazine.

What Would It Take for You to Become a Free Agent?

Photo by NBA.com — http://www.nba.com/heat/roster/heat-bio-lebron-james

Even if you don’t follow sports, chances are you’ve heard the news. LeBron James is opting out of his contract with the Miami Heat.

LeBron James Opting Out of Miami Heat Contract

LeBron to Opt Out

Agent to Heat: LeBron Opting Out

His contract with the team included an early-termination option, and he’s decided to exercise it. On July 1, James will officially become a free agent. With that, comes the opportunity to sign with another team or renegotiate his deal with the Heat. But a renegotiation with the Heat wouldn’t be for more money—it’d be for more rings.

James, who’s worth $72.3 million according to Forbes, has won two N.B.A. championships with the Heat, and he’s hungry for more.

“For me, I just want to win. That’s all that matters to me,” James said earlier this month after the Heat’s last team meeting of the season.

By opting out of his contract with the Heat, he’s giving himself the flexibility to control his professional career. Because that’s what James is: a professional. An elite, multi-millionaire professional considered to be one of the best basketball players of all time, but a professional nonetheless. Just like you, and like me, and like millions of other people who get paid for their work. And he’s made the decision to put himself in a position that will offer him the best shot for success in his chosen court field.

Are you putting yourself in the best position for professional success? Takeisha Bobbitt, managing director for the American Association of People with Disabilities, made the same case with this article. She asked readers to consider what makes them loyal to their company and to their position. We’re curious, too.

Why do you do the job you do? Is it for the money, the benefits, the love of the work? Is your company investing in not only the success of itself, but the success of its employees—the success of you? Think about what motivates you. Think about where you see yourself in five years or ten years or twenty years. Will your current position help you get there? If not, maybe it’s time to opt out and start looking for new opportunities.

The Benefits of Studying a New Language

1. 你好
2. Hola
3. नमस्ते
4. مرحبا
5. Olá
6. হ্যালো
7. Алло
8. こんにちは

Choose one. One you think looks cool, or one you recognize, or one you select randomly.

Got one? Now, match up your pick with the list below.

1. Mandarin
2. Spanish
3. Hindi
4. Arabic
5. Portuguese
6. Bengali
7. Russian
8. Japanese

All right, here’s the fun part. Take the language you chose, and go learn it.

Seriously.

The above list contains the languages estimated to be the most widely spoken in the world. Notably absent is English, which comes in as the third most popular language, but was intentionally excluded from this list because if you’re able to read this, you know English already. And our goal is to encourage you learn a language you don’t know.

Let us explain why.

To put it simply: It’s good for you. It’s good for your professional life, and your health, and more.

Speaking more than one language makes you smarter. That is a scientifically and quantifiably true fact. Children who speak more than one language tend to perform better on standardized tests, and they have increased attentive focus and cognition. Multilingual people are more adept at switching tasks, and they’re more likely to perform those tasks without errors. They make more rational decisions. They’re more perceptive to their surroundings. They’re able to better compete in an ever-increasingly global marketplace. They retain memories better.

And not just short-term memory—they have better long-term memory, too. In fact, studies show that people who develop Alzheimers and dementia will show the first signs of the disease later in life if they speak more than one language. The mean age for monolingual adults is 71; for multilingual adults, it’s 76.

The brain is a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it will become. Do you know how heavy verb conjugations are? Learning them in a foreign language is like squatting double your body weight. Studying a new language will get your brain Arnold Schwarzenegger strong. It might even get you a cool accent like his, too.

Ahora, ¡ve aprender! (Now, go learn!)


Not sure where to start? For Saint Joseph’s College students, faculty, and staff, Wellehan Library provides access to Mango Languages, a self-paced, online language learning system. For non-SJC members, look into free mobile apps like Duolingo, or check out a more comprehensive list of language learning services on PCMag.com

11 Ways to Have a Good Day at Work

1. Wake up 20 minutes early.

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Get out of bed, take a shower, eat your oatmeal, brush your teeth. Don’t putt around the house because you think you’ve got the time to spare—instead, use the extra time to show up to work early. Not only will it impress your boss but it will also give a calmer start to your morning. There’s never a need to curse traffic lights or school buses when you’re 20 minutes ahead of schedule.

2. Write down your goals for the day. 

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Think about the top three things you need to accomplish during the day and jot them down. Next to them, put how much time you’ll devote to each task. When the time’s up, move on to the next one.

3. Exercise.

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Whether it’s before work, on your lunch break, or after work—try to incorporate physical exercise into your daily routine. Exercise is proven to reduce stress and increase endorphins. Less stress and more endorphins make for happier days.

4. Focus on one task at a time.

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Multitasking is overrated. When you’re answering emails while talking on the phone and scribbling down notes, nothing gets your full attention or your best effort. Concentrate on one task and complete it before starting something new.

5. Dress well.

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Dressing well doesn’t mean spending $500 on a new pair of shoes. It means wearing work-appropriate clothing that’s comfortable and flattering. Feeling good in your outfit will give a boost of confidence to your day.

6. Take meetings on foot.

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Skip the standard sitting meeting and take your talk on the walk. You’ll get exercise, fresh air, and new ideas. Bring along a small notebook or an audio recorder (found on most smartphones) if you need a way to keep notes.

7. Take breaks.

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Take breaks from your computer, your desk, and even your building. Breaks are important for both your physical and mental health. Stand up, look away from your computer, do a few squats, or maybe chat with a co-worker. Short breaks throughout the day will rejuvenate your body and mind.

8. Think positively.

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This one may seem obvious—if you want to have a good day, have good thoughts. Sometimes it can be trickier than it sounds, especially if you have co-workers who love to complain. Their negativity is not contagious, no matter how much it might feel like it. Find ways to remind yourself why you like your job. Smile!

9. Eat snacks.

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Snacking throughout the day will help to keep your energy high. Strive for a balance of protein, fiber, nutrients, and healthy fat in your snacks. Nuts, eggs, fruits, and vegetables are all great foods to keep in your snack arsenal. 

10. Listen to music.

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Most radio stations offer free online streaming. Find your favorite one, or use music services like Pandora or Spotify, and jam. If you can’t concentrate with music playing, get a pair of noise-canceling headphones to block out chatty co-workers.

11. Drink coffee.

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Caffeine sometimes gets a bad reputation, but coffee actually offers a lot of health benefits. Besides the boost to your energy, coffee provides antioxidants and can reduce stress.

Finding Career Satisfaction

It’s pop quiz time.

What percentage of people picks the right career on the first go-round? (And by “right,” we mean it in the most subjective way possible; “right” by that individual person’s standards, and their standards only.)

A. 50%
B. 25%
C. 85%
D. 5%

business crossroads

Answer: D. 5%

According to Neil Howe, economist and historian, only five percent of people know what they want to do as soon as they start their career. They get the job, stick with the same field until it’s time to retire, and live happily ever after.

For everyone else – the 95 percent – the “happily ever after” still comes. It’s just preceded by some careers they’re just not that into first.

All right, so if you’re in the 95 percent (and, statistically speaking, you probably are) how do you figure out what career is right for you?

1. Think.

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What’s your personality like? Are you outgoing and extroverted, or more reserved and introverted? Do you base decisions strictly off logic and reason, or do you take into account emotion and circumstance? If you’re having trouble answering those questions, the Myers-Brigg Type Indicator (MBTI) assessment is a great tool to help you understand your personality preferences and learn how to apply it to your professional life. More information on MBTI can be found here and here.

How about your interests? If you had absolutely no responsibilities tomorrow – no work, no errands, no chores – what would you do? Whatever you choose, think about how you could parlay it into a career. For example, if you’d spend the day working on your car, you probably like cars. Would you like being a car salesman? A mechanic? An engineer?

Important to consider, too, is your lifestyle. If you want to star in blockbuster movies but you’re not willing to move or travel, then the silver screen probably isn’t for you. If you’re passionate about an idea and are fine with working beyond the average 9 to 5, then maybe you should open your own business.

Once you’ve figured out what’s most important to you when it comes to your lifestyle, it should be easy to eliminate potential careers from your list. Adding potential careers, on the other hand, can be a little bit trickier. This leads us to the next point.

2. Try.

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You won’t find a career you’re happy with unless you actually try something new. Apply to a new job. Take a course. Shadow someone in a position you think you might like. Volunteer.

For the most part, trying is low risk. The highest risk, potentially, would be quitting your old job to start a new one, and the worst that could happen is that you don’t like the new job. But remember, you didn’t like the old one either! So, really, what’s the problem? As the proverb goes: If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

Check out the Bureau of Labor Statistics online for insight into employment outlook and wage estimates for careers you’re considering.

3. Evaluate.

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You’re in a new field, new job, new desk (or no desk). Are you happy? Do you find yourself watching the minutes tick by while you’re at work, or does time fly by without you even noticing? Do you feel challenged or bored? The faster time goes by and the least bored you feel, the better.

Of course, there are other things you’ll have to consider too. Salary, growth potential, benefits, work-life balance … the list goes on. You’ll know when it’s right for you.