Day 9: A Lesson in Learning

Katie Donnewald 2014 3116 Comments

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“Knowledge is power.” It is a quote that I have heard my entire life. In fact, I think it was the motto of my middle school at one point or another. The statement is simple in essence – with more wisdom comes increasing abilities and success. Tonight we had the honor of hearing from our second speaker series guest, Alec Coughlin, Partner & VP of Business Development at Carrot Creative, who took the concept that “knowledge is power” and flipped it on its head.

Alec began his speech to us as any other speaker would. He gave us a brief synopsis of his upbringing, his formal education, and his career aspirations. But unlike other speakers, Alec quickly let us know something unique about his character: lacking knowledge causes him to thrive. Of course, this unique characteristic about him has nothing to with his intelligence, with a degree from the University of Southern California and his star-studded resume serving as testaments. Instead, Alec came right out and told us that he realized at an early age that he loved being placed in situations where he felt outside of his comfort zone and found himself unknowledgeable. He embraced opportunities to learn, and grow, from unfamiliar experiences.

“Don’t ever be afraid of not knowing what you’re doing. Just go figure it out.”

After hearing more about Alec’s career path, it was quite apparent that he was true to his word and really did have a passion for learning. Alec began his career on Wall Street, moved through the sports industry from an Account Manager at Octagon to the Vice President of Sales and Marketing for the St. Louis Rams, and eventually ended up in the technology industry. It was fascinating to hear about how he created the Chief Marketing Office at the Rams as an outside management consultant and, because of this accomplishment, was then asked to serve as a leader within the Rams organization in the new department. After hearing more about his time in the sports industry, the conversation turned to his new role and his recent experiences working at Carrot. It was eye-opening for our whole group to hear how the sports industry extends beyond the more “traditional” roles and can be influenced by an outside industry such as technology. The Q&A session was never-ending. Who knew MSBA14 was so tech-savvy!

Alec maintained that at each point in his career, although he may not have been the most knowledgeable or qualified for each role when he was first hired, it was his habit of turning challenges into opportunities and his ability to constantly learn from unfamiliar experiences that made him successful and ultimately got him to where he is today. He left us with this bit of advice, “Don’t ever be afraid of not knowing what you’re doing. Just go figure it out.” It is a valuable lesson that every young professional, whether he or she may be an aspiring sports agent, marketer, or entrepreneur, in today’s world needs to learn. Putting yourself in a position where you know nothing is perhaps the greatest thing you can do for your career. The most successful leaders, in both business and sports, are those who identify a lack of knowledge as an opportunity rather than an obstacle. So, is knowledge really power? Well, sort of. Instead, what really puts you ahead and makes you successful or “powerful” is the ability to recognize a situation where your knowledge is lacking and turn it into a learning experience.

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