Some of the most memorable birthdays I've experienced in my lifetime include being treated to a delicious home-cooked dinner courtesy of a close friend, being surprised by my then-bandmates with an unexpected party, and jaunting through the vibrant New York City. I also remember making my first-ever start at third base in youth baseball during the championship season, in a game we won 8-7. I received game ball from the coach after being involved in couple of rare fielding plays--making putouts in a 2-5 pickoff play and a 1-5 double play off the opposition's failed squeeze bunt attempt. Last week I've added another chapter to the memorable birthday experiences.
I spent the day taking and successfully passing two examinations that were needed to pass the CompTIA A+ certification. Yes, I voluntarily spent my vacation day taking public transit to and from the I.T. testing center out in the suburbs. Instead of the expected day of relaxation and leisure, I willingly strained my brain cells and focused on earning the certification that I had started studying for nearly nine months ago. They payoff was the culmination of spending many weekends and weeknights embracing the unsexy work--reading the 1500-page study tome over many study sessions, taking practice exams, and forcing myself to study on those days when I felt unmotivated. It was all for a certification that is not even required for my current work (although possessing an A+ certification will help in my future job opportunities should I continue a career in I.T. field support). But in the end, I did it. And I did it my way.
Last month's World Domination Summit imparted couple of important lessons. Pamela Slim, during "The Art of Taking Action" workshop, stressed the importance of setting deadlines for goals. Milestones need to have dates attached to them. After the Summit, I spent an evening strategizing about my learning and study goals, and focused on establishing reasonable, attainable, and realistic deadlines for my study endeavors. I wanted to finally take the A+ certification exams after nine months of on- and off- studying spurts. I set a deadline for "taking the A+ certification tests by end of the month." Since my birthday is on the first day of August, I thought it would be appropriate if I challenged myself to take and pass the tests on my birthday. Hence I spent my birthday rocking the suburban I.T. testing center.
Another reason why I wanted to take the certification exam on my birthday was that I wanted to brush off the dirt off my shoulders and make the liberation symbolic. In the past, I had taken and failed several technical exams which were deemed mandatory by my work (I eventually passed those tests but the experience of failing these tests several times brought on feelings of shame and failure). For several years, there have been nagging doubts about whether I was qualified or competent enough to pass technical examinations, and having failed couple of examinations did not help. So there had been the nagging voice of doubt that suggested I was a fraud and an impostor; that I was a "pretend I.T. technician." There were also some biters and haters at work who feel that I'm just a hack. Having a certification that demonstrates mastery of my daily work makes a good retort to the naysayers.
Of course, there will be naysayers who will counter that I earned a "baseline" or "entry-level" certification exam which tests knowledge that everyone should already know in the workplace. But those same naysayers are the ones who--after I obtain advanced certifications in the future--will counter with, "If you have higher certifications, why are you still working at this job?" Haters gonna hate no matter what--they will always discover some angle to nag and gripe about. I prefer to focus my energy and gratitude towards my supporters--the folks in my MasterMind group, the kindred spirits whom I had crossed paths with at the Summit, action-oriented friends, and creative peers--who have shown support for my achieving milestones.
And what do meeting milestone deadlines and feeling the intoxicating success of accomplishments create? They beget more time-based accountability goals for milestones. During August, I will cycle my first century event (100 miles) and launch a new website. There are more milestones to be reached and mountains to climb. It's time to embrace even more unsexy grunt work and learn from them.
That's right, it's a beautiful thing, man!