My biggest challenge at school wasn’t the required reading or hours of study; it was deciding what classes to take. With just a few exceptions — my apologies to math teachers, but high school trigonometry was one of them – the entire course catalog interested me. Some of my fanciful choices (The Reformation in Britain, Reading Financial Statements) worked out well. Others (Russian 101) did not.
When it comes to education I am all about the journey – not necessarily the destination.
When I said goodbye to student life and moved to San Francisco, I took the requisite night course on wine tasting at the UC Berkeley Extension. It was a revelation: a class that involved no pre-reading or take-home assignments. It wasn’t even pass/fail! The only thing I was required to bring to class each week was an empty wine glass. Later, I took a number of photography classes that I also loved.
Eventually, though, I stopped taking classes for fun. I’m not sure why. My workdays got longer, for a start, leaving me with less energy to haul myself across town in the evenings. And perhaps I got a bit more practical about how I spent my disposable income; I should be saving for a car/house/vacation or taking classes for professional accreditation.
Something was definitely missing. So, in the spring I dusted off my thinking cap and signed up for a class called Monday Night Football: Inside America’s Pastime, part of Stanford University’s Continuing Studies Program. The class (held on Mondays, naturally) isn’t about the weekly NFL broadcasts – or even exclusively about the NFL. It covers the business of both pro football (about which I was already somewhat knowledgeable) and college football (about which I was clueless).
The best part of taking classes at Stanford – aside from the stunningly beautiful campus and the amazing microclimate that always seems to rest right on top of it – is that the school can draw some serious heavy-hitting speakers.
- Columnists Mark Purdy and Lowell Cohn provided anecdotes about San Francisco 49er coaches, past and present. How hard is it to pry a straight answer out of Jim Harbaugh? Sorry, I’m sworn to secrecy.
- Roger Noll, Professor of Economics, Emeritas, at Stanford schooled us on collective bargaining in the NFL, and shared his thoughts on the economic value a professional football team can bring to a city. (Hint: Don’t bank on it.)
- Mike Pereira, a former VP of Officiating for the NFL and current “Rules Analyst” for Fox Sports, made us laugh for 90 minutes with his self-deprecating humor. He’s also pretty easy on the eyes, ladies.
- Gary Cavalli, the co-founder and Executive Director of the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, is the course director, so we hear from him every week. He is so charming, humble and knowledgeable I think he could even make trig fun! (Easy to say, as I will never test this theorem.) Gary doesn’t like bloggers much, but I am blogging about how he’s the bomb so I should be OK.
So, if you have ever thought of taking a class at night – just for fun – I say go for it. It doesn’t matter if it’s sports, literature, knitting or self-help, as long as you are energized by the topic. There are a million reasons not to: the drive is too long, you’ll get home too late, maybe you won’t like it. That’s the one that always kills me. Maybe you won’t like it? Well, what if you do?
One of my favorite quotations comes from author and motivational speaker Jim Rohn. I replay it in my mind when I catch myself rationalizing my way out of taking a risk.
If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.