“I am the designer of my own catastrophe.”
I don’t know the original source of that quote, but I like its basic truth. What we do, or don’t do, can indeed bring about catastrophic results — or at least a less than ideal outcome. Skip going to the dentist long enough and you’ll have a mouthful of cavities or worse. Don’t pay your parking fines and you’ll end up in court. Many catastrophes can be averted if we act wisely now to make things better for later.
Daniel Goldstein talks about this concept as the battle between a person’s present self and future self. Goldstein is a principal researcher at Microsoft Research in New York City and an honorary research fellow at London Business School in the UK. He notes that every day we make decisions that have good or bad consequences for our future selves. He helps people imagine themselves over time so they make smart choices for their futureselves as they consider long-term finances, retirement, and other decisions. (See his Ted Talk.)
In Extension and Outreach, our present self was taking care of our future self when we gathered together for our leadership summit last fall. What we accomplished at that summit paved the way for our strategic plan, our business plan, and the reorganizing of our central administration — all actions that will help ensure our long-term viability and relevance to the people of Iowa.
Another way that today, we take care of our future is through our town hall meetings. Terry Maloy and I hosted the first meeting in Ames on Aug. 27, and I am pleased to report that the discussion highlighted areas of focus in which we have been able to make an impact, and that our partners value their relationships with us. It is always interesting to hear perspectives from our colleagues outside of Iowa State University who have appreciated participating in our programs or have ideas for new initiatives based on best practices.
We have four more town hall meetings scheduled: Atlantic, Sept. 10; Storm Lake, Sept. 17; Oskaloosa, Sept. 18; and Waterloo, Sept. 19. Rather than designing our own catastrophe, these thoughtful conversations are allowing us to take care of our future. The insights we will gain will allow us to better fulfill our core purpose — helping Iowans make better decisions through educational programs. And Iowa State will become the university that best serves its state. See you there.