LaunchU experience provides invaluable life skills

2017 LaunchU Graduate, Lauren Rhodes in her own words: How to Make Decisions

I sit down at my computer with a feeling of impending doom. I just graduated from Oberlin College in May, and all of the decisions that I need to make boil up and out of me. It’s not pretty. The weight of deciding what to do with my life hangs on me, weighing me down.

At least this is a familiar feeling. As I considered what to pursue for my final winter term at Oberlin College, I was torn between a college course and LaunchU. The course would have been valuable in a safe, textbook, classroom-learning kind of way. LaunchU would be valuable in the way that I knew if I did it, if I pushed myself to do something new and different and scary, I would come out of the experience changed in some way. This decision loomed in front of me.

I chose LaunchU at the last minute, and promptly began panicking. Did my idea really deserve this much credit? What if it changed throughout the process? Was I ready and able to start a business as a student? Throughout LaunchU, I answered these questions for myself: yes, my ideas deserve credit from myself; my idea did change throughout the process, which was great; and no, I was not ready to start a business as a student. And that was okay.

My pitch for LaunchU was Green Juice, a sustainability-themed subscription box company combined with projects at different scales regarding energy in homes. The process of walking in with an idea, working through it and designing a business plan, pitching it, and gaining feedback was invaluable—mainly because now I know I can do it, and I know how to do it. When I decide to start a business, which I now see myself doing in the future, I will have the experience of LaunchU to guide me, and connections to all of the amazing alumni, students, and mentors that I worked with throughout the process.

When I started, I was afraid of the process, and I was afraid of winning. The amazing LaunchU mentors, Elyzabeth Holford and Holley Murchison, helped me realize that each step in the process was a choice. I previously had the mindset of seeing my life as a series of yes or no choices that are all encompassing, rather than large choices having dynamic interconnecting smaller choices, all of which I could design for myself. I found a large choice lurking at each step of the LaunchU process, and I made all of them—starting with the choice to participate, and ending with my decision to do the final pitch but not ask for funding.

Pitching my business is a success I can look back on in times when I feel discouraged about my job search. Whenever I apply for a new position, I am essentially pitching myself. I am saying, “I am a good idea for this position, and here is why.” This is quite similar to a business pitch, because when someone pitches a business they are really pitching themselves and their ability to focus and follow through. I am finding that so many of the skills I learned in LaunchU are proving very useful during my search, including researching people before meeting them, writing applications of different lengths, and pitching myself. The hardest thing is to continue believing in myself, and I think LaunchU has helped me with that too.

I believe in my own ideas, and believe that I can pursue what I want in life and attain it. This is not just due to LaunchU—as a recent graduate I have been heavily reflecting on what I want in my life—but LaunchU was a positive step in my “adulting” process. I gained professional interaction skills, and am now much more comfortable networking and reaching out to people in high positions or who have much more expertise than I do. As LaunchU is still a relatively new and adapting program, I also enjoyed the chance to give feedback on the experience. I am excited to see what Bara Watts, the new Creativity and Leadership Department Director, does with LaunchU.

If I sit back and let the world make my decisions for me, it will not turn out the way I want it to. I will only end up with what is left. If I try, and work to make myself a better person, I will at least learn and grow. LaunchU helped me find this perspective. Now, each decision that I make feels like less of a heavy weight on my mind and more of a stepping stone, each of which is in itself a destination.

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