“I have to work on my birthday?”

For most people, the idea of working on their birthday is anathema. For me, it was an advantage. More specifically, the “presence” of my students during part of my recent birthday was a priceless “present.” Teaching is my passion, but I would not be a teacher without students. I am therefore thankful for my students, my priceless “birthday gifts” with whom I am privileged to learn.

Case in point: I celebrated my birthday yesterday, February 22, and was fortunate to end the day teaching a “Marketing Research and Strategic Applications” class for UCSB Extension (where I have taught marketing classes since January 2008).

February 22, 2012: Celebrating My Birthday at UC Santa BarbaraTo my surprise, and sincere gratitude, my students — many of whom I  taught previously in a “Buying Behavior” and/or “Principles of Marketing” class — had baked and brought a cake, brownies and other treats.

They also sang “Happy Birthday” which I recorded and threatened to upload to YouTube, but out of gratitude for their kindness, I spared them!

It has been a long time since I experienced such kindness from people I primarily know professionally. I was never this thrilled to have “worked” on my birthday (although I enjoy teaching so much, I hesitate to call it “work”).

I spent the earlier part of the day (and President’s Day two days earlier) with my family and volunteered with my younger son’s class the day after my birthday, and planned to do the same the day after that with my older son. Definitely an exceptional birthday week!

Nevertheless, birthdays offer me a moment of self assessment: a time when I look at where I’ve been and where I see myself going. I am hopeful for the future, despite some recent challenges. I am also thankful to feel fortunate about my career.

Unfortunately, as Henry David Thoreau once mused, “the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” I interpret this to mean that most people live without ever realizing their dreams or getting a chance to “follow their bliss” (as Joseph Campbell would say).

For many years I was in that predicament. Pressured to support someone else’s dreams while my own were relegated to irrelevance, I knew my situation needed to change. Fortunately, I persevered and, when opportunities arose, I took control of my destiny and finally found my bliss.

This inspires me to surround my sons with unconditional love, impenetrable support, and rational guidance. I will do what it takes, regardless of the sacrifice, to help them achieve their dreams. I will help them see challenges as opportunities and problems as purpose.

Similarly, I discovered a September 19, 2011 convocation speech by John S.W. Park — Chair and Professor of Asian American Studies and affiliated Sociology faculty member at UCSB.

In his speech, Park encourages students “instead of just picking a major, pick a problem;” with the goal of solving that problem during their time at UCSB. Quite an inspirational approach to figuring out your life’s purpose!

Looking back to my years of “quiet desperation” I am grateful for the opportunities I had to pursue my professional dreams while growing personally.

So, will you celebrate having to work on your next birthday?

Today I begin teaching a buying behavior course at UC Santa Barbara Extension for the second time. The class runs for five consecutive Saturdays and concludes February 14, 2009 (Valentine’s Day — a “holiday” rich in strange and often irrational buying behaviors!).

I taught the course last year for the first time from January 12, 2008 through February 7, 2008. It was a challenging, yet enjoyable experience and I am glad to be going back again.

There was (and will again be) a large number of international students which makes for a uniquely multidimensional educational experience. It was enlightening learning about the different ways companies market in Germany, Brazil, Japan, Korea and myriad other locations around the world.

When I taught the course last year I had only been “officially” classroom teaching for a few months (I started teaching at DeVry University in Bakersfield in October 2007). So, I was still a little “green” or “wet behind the ears” (pick your euphemism).

Originally a second session was scheduled for the late summer of 2008, but the course was cancelled at the last minute. It’s hard to believe it is a year later: time really is flying!

This time around, I can leverage another solid year of teaching experience. On some levels it feels like a completely different course, but I’ve really just built up from the original foundation I constructed last year.  I expect it will be a much stronger effort that is ultimately more enjoyable and educational for my students.

Most notably, due to some budgetary issues, all Extension courses are now offered on the actual UCSB campus — so now I will be teaching on the very campus where I took classes more than a decade ago as an undergraduate!

I am again using the book “The New Rules of Marketing and PR: How to Use News Releases, Blogs, Podcasting, Viral Marketing and Online Media to Reach Buyers Directly,” by David Meerman Scott.

However, I have added a compelling new book from branding expert Martin Lindstrom, “Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy,” which explores the fascinating world of neuromarketing. I will also have a guest speaker, Beth Mansfield, who is the Public Relations Manager for CKE Enterprises (Carl’s Jr.).

Incidentally I have come to know both David Meerman Scott and Beth Mansfield through my use of Twitter (Beth is the official “voice” of Carl’s Jr. on Twitter).  After some initial interactions with Beth I realized she was located just down the road from UCSB in Ventura, CA I invited her to come speak at my class — and she accepted!

I am definitely looking forward to this version of the class and excited about what the experience will be like. Interestingly, while preparing for it, I discovered a series of pictures I tool when I drove to and from class last year on January 19 (which is, incidentally, my younger son Max’s birthday).

I also realized that I never posted them online, so I have decided to do so below (note that last year my class was held off campus in Goleta, CA and not on the actual UCSB campus).  Without further adieu here are 20 pictures from a round trip journey on January 19, 2008 from Santa Clarita to Goleta, CA (and back):

Leaving Santa Clarita

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On the 126 Near Fillmore

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On the 101 Freeway North

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Alongside the Pacific Ocean on the 101 Freeway North

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Approaching Carpinteria

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At the Highway 217/101 Freeway Spit near UCSB

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Isla Vista!

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Glen Annie/Storke Rd — Where Extension Classes Were Previously Held

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Heading Back Home on the 101 Freeway South Near Summerland

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Just South of Carpinteria on the 101 Freeway

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Photos of the Pacific Ocean

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101 Freeway South in Ventura

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Merging Onto Highway 126 East Towards Santa Clarita

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Heading Home on Highway 126 Through Santa Paula

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Almost Home at the Highway 126/Interstate 5 Intersection

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Welcome to Santa Clarita!

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