The Power of a Question - An AltMBA Reflection

Have you ever considered the incredible value of a powerful question asked at the right moment in time?

By asking the right questions, therapists help patients, lawyers attempt to find the truth and journalists uncover breaking stories. And that is just the beginning.

A question can make or break a career. A question can lead to a profound breakthrough.

That's the power of a properly timed, thoughtful question. And at the right moment, the right question can change your life.

Just like ‘will you marry me?’ can set you up for a lifetime of love and support or a lifetime of conflict and misery - questions have far more power than we like to give them credit for.

And even seemingly unassuming questions, at the proper moment, can make a world of a difference.

A ‘how are you?’ can be both a common greeting or the beginning of a great friendship depending on context, people and timing.

The question, ‘what do you want people to say about you at your funeral?’ can literally alter the direction of a person's life and choices if posed at a moment when they’re receptive.

When questions become vague, or have no right answers, or are followed up by more questions - it becomes even clearer just how powerful questions can really be.

Many times these profound questions may seem basic to start. However, when given half a chance, or left open for significant amounts of time, a question can quickly become so much more than it appears.

So why am I writing about questions?

Well, because I’ve come to realize much of what gives the AltMBA its transformative power - and what makes it so unique are the questions asked.

The questions you’re told to think about, the ones you read about, the questions your coaches and peers ask of you and the ones used in the prompts to challenge you each week.

It is the evaluation and experience of answering these various challenging questions - and how deep you’re willing to go - that changes you. This is also why it’s so hard to put the AltMBA experience into words. Because it’s not about skill building in the traditional MBA sense. Neither is it an online course watching lectures and taking exams. Instead, it is a live experience that will be unique for each cohort. It will never be the same thing twice because so much of the experience is based on you and the special mix of your peers that make it valuable. The questions and prompts may be similar, but your experience will never be replicated because every person and cohort responds differently to a well posed question.

That is the magic of a good question.

No, rather the right question, posed at an ideal time.

And all of us participating in the AltMBA are open to some extent. We are each seeking something different. We are looking to grow. We are receptive to the insight and change that a question brings to us. We want to change. We’re ready to reflect positively and powerfully.

And these questions are what makes the AltMBA more than unique - rather they make it magical.

Permission To Lead

I unlock my door, step into my studio and immediately pour the last glass of red wine from the bottle.

Whew! The second week was a difficult one. To say it was different from the previous weeks’ experience would be an understatement.

Personalities were different. The first week had felt almost effortless to collaborate. We bounced off one another, stayed quiet as necessary and supported one another as needed. We had a group dynamic that worked well.

This week, however, it was quite different. It was a much bigger challenge to collaborate.

Going into the AltMBA, I knew I would inevitably bump up against very different personalities and would likely get frustrated. So it wasn’t a total surprise. However, when I found myself in the midst of this experience, it proved hard to remember that this was expected.

So how have I changed in the course of the second week?

Well for one my patience was definitely tested.

My ability to empathize with people was also stretched.

I also learned that sometimes it’s necessary to tune out the chatter (whether external or internal) and instead focus on the ideas that need development and the steps that need taking in order to move forward most effectively.

Most importantly, I learned how to redirect a conversation and gave myself permission to lead. This is not something I naturally do, especially when in a group. But I realized that we needed to stop overanalyzing and talking in circles and instead take steps to ship our project.

So I focused on creation. And that eventually brought direction and ultimately a completed and shipped project.

So what am I focusing on as the central lesson from this week?


I have permission to lead. And I can give myself that permission if necessary.

Because when you choose to give yourself the permission to lead, you ultimately take control of your own life and your behavior shifts. It changes from passive to assertive. From meek to demanding attention. And this shift is something that I need in both my life and work.

“You should see her since she gave herself permission to rise.”

- Rebecca Ray @thefreewmn

New Friendships & Vulnerability: A Reflection of The First Week

It’s Sunday evening and I’m rushing home to get some dinner before the SpaceX launch.

Amazingly, I spent my entire Sunday in a Zoom meeting with my first AltMBA cohort. It’s been a super long day, something I would normally have expected to be draining. Instead, it was invigorating. I feel as though I’ve emerged from a day long life coaching session with good friends - even though I’ve only known these new friends for a few days. As I walk out of the building, a feeling of sadness sets in. I know my cohort for the second week will be different. But I’m also feeling joy due to how good the first week has been

When people ask what the AltMBA is about, it can be hard to answer. It’s about many things. It’s about your mindset and what it is you want to get out of your experience - you truly get out, what you put in. It’s also about behavior change. It challenges your beliefs, the fears you have about work and ultimately your life. You’re forced to do what seems impossible in impossibly short time frames alongside a team of professionals. You learn to break through mental barriers. You find a way past your fear of judgement because you don’t have time to worry. And then you ship (otherwise known as submit) your work, whether or not you’re truly ready.

In just one week, I’ve shipped multiple projects - even one that was shipped minutes before the deadline.

Some of the projects have had a personal slant leading to far more introspective work than I was expecting. This has challenged me to confront beliefs and behaviors in my own life.

One of the most amazing and unexpected results of the AltMBA has been the relationships. Not only are you surrounded by other professionals. You’re working alongside some of the most supportive individuals (from all walks of life) I’ve ever encountered. It’s incredible.

I met my cohort of four last Tuesday. In less than a week I made incredibly supportive friends. The long hours on Zoom gave us the opportunity to get to know one another deeply. The vulnerability of the group is something I will always treasure. We opened up about our fears, expectations, desires, dreams, relationships and so much more. This sharing is something I did not expect when I first started the AltMBA.

Now as I start the the second week (it feels so much longer - but in a good way!) I find myself sad to say bye to my first cohort. At the same time, I’m excited to see what my new cohort will bring to the table. How we’ll be challenged by this weeks prompts. And how we will learn to support one another throughout the process.

Thank you to my first cohort, Kevin, Carolyn, Jessie and Winnie! You were fantastic to work with!

Now time to see what happens next. (=

The Calm Before the Storm: Pre AltMBA

As I clicked the ‘submit’ button a few months ago I felt a sense of satisfaction. It was out of my control.

I would hear back sometime late September. If I got in, I would make the decision about attending then. It was a future Kathryn problem, not one to ruminate on now as I headed off to work.

Now it is a mere 10 days until I start the month long sprint Seth Godin has made infamous, known as the AltMBA.

Am I nervous? A bit I guess. But I’m going to “trust the process” as they like to say.

I understand that the goal is to change the way I work. To learn to ship projects in a way that is efficient and creatively challenging.

This course is about breaking patterns and changing behaviors. It is not a typical class.

In this way I am excited and ready to embrace the challenge.

However, I do expect to be challenged in a number of ways:

Perfectionism. As an A student throughout most of my educational career, I expect to bump against my internal need for perfection. However, I know this desire to do things “the right way” often just leads to procrastination and overthinking without action.

Group work. I also expect to be stretched by working with teams of people of all ages and experience levels. I have always preferred solo work over group work (most likely due to my need to do things “the right way”). So I know navigating these group dynamics and personalities will likely present a different kind of challenge.

Late nights. Finally, the long hours will prove a challenge as I haven’t stayed up late working on projects since college (I’m more of a morning person too). So I know there will come a point where I will feel like I’ve hit a wall - which I will need to push through.

With just 10 days left until the 26th cohort of students starts the AltMBA, I can say I am excited to embrace the process and can’t wait to see what the end results will be.