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Investing in myself

Ira Gostlin

On Saturday, May 31, I will walk across the stage at Lawlor Event Center and formally receive my master in business administration degree from the University of Phoenix.

Over three years ago I began a career change of staggering proportions. I left behind the safety of and passion for doing what I loved for the uncertainty of change. For most of my life, I was a photographer first as a photojournalist with the Associated Press, then as a corporate and advertising photographer based in Reno.

My business grew into a niche, most of my work out of the area, working for Fortune 500 companies telling the visual stories of their businesses. A small percentage of our clients were local, fantastic companies and events. At the turn of the 21st century, we were experiencing the largest growth ever.

I was traveling 200 days a year, creating story- telling pictures for exciting clients.

And then things changed.

September 11, 2001 will always be remembered as the day that changed America. So many families were destroyed and the death and financial losses were of historical proportions. My business was about to change forever.

Traveling became a difficult chore, and as 2001 drew to a close and 2002 began, I realized that I had changed as well. I no longer wanted to travel so much, instead desiring to spend time with my stepson throwing a baseball around, or simply watching him play. Clearly my priorities had changed.

I continued teaching part-time at the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno, trying to determine my path forward. I was constantly reminded of a little sign (which I replicated) in the office of a Time magazine photo editor:

Change is Scary,

Change is Difficult,

Change or Die.

I began graduate school to earn my MBA, while shuttering a business that I had built over 15 years in Reno. For the first time since I was 20 years old, I became an employee.

Starbucks seemed a logical choice to my friends, considering my coffee addiction! It was stability while working on grad school, and that was what I needed. What I received was a tremendous job with a top, national company and advanced training in management and customer service. As a bonus, I worked with some amazing young men and women who helped me understand life, responsibility and growing up.

Following a year at Starbucks, a networking opportunity turned into an internship at KPS|3. I wanted agency experience that was different from my experience as a photographer. Stephanie Kruse, Casey Strachan and team are amazing people and I learned more than I ever imagined during that short time. A brief stop at the Sands added more experience until I landed, with just several months to finish grad school, at LeFiell Company. My position here is leading the company’s B2B marketing, community involvement and customer service strategies.

In my MBA program, we were a small group of 12-15 students. Half of us stayed together from the first day of classes through to the end. In just our group we had a childbirth, two divorces, over a dozen job changes, and our share of fights, arguments and disagreements that would make any family proud. We also created a bond with each other that we will hold dear the rest of our lives.

We struggled with statistics and spread sheets, wrestled with APA style and Problem Based Learning, disagreed with our professors and the books, and in the end, we learned. We learned so much more than we can remember. Combined with our own experiences in business, we set forth on a path of success in our professional careers.

The quest for knowledge and learning is something that should always be a journey, not a destination. This quest helps each of us become the next generation of ourselves. If I were a Microsoft product, I’d be Ira 4.7. Hopefully, with minimal patches and updates!

In every course we took at the University of Phoenix, we had an ethics component. The Enrons and Worldcoms are the exceptions, not the norms. We studied corporate governance, we practiced it, we researched it, and we wrote about it. The commitment to society from my classmates is to strive to be respected leaders. The University of Phoenix provided us that opportunity to examine our own morals and integrity, to discuss our ideas, and set the path for the kind of leader we will be.

Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani wrote:

“In today’s business climate, executives must have the courage to enact corporate governance initiatives that curtail excess and uphold the interests of customers, shareholders and employees. Without bold leadership, companies suffer from a lack of effective management, stakeholder trust, and ultimately, profitability.”

That certainly rings true and is a reminder for each of us as we pursue our personal goals, dreams and live our lives to the fullest. A quote from businessman, author and executive Herman Cain keeps the quest for education, change and personal growth in perspective:

“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you

will be successful.”

Always take an opportunity to invest in your own life, and in your future. Education is a catalyst to change, a key to success and stimulus to happiness.

Ira Gostin, MBA, is the marketing and sales manager at LeFiell Company in Reno. Contact him at iragostin@lefiellco.com.