Editor’s Note: Hello, it’s Jacob Ferguson here and I’m glad to inform you that we have a treat for you. Former NIU student and one of the previous Marketing and Social Media Interns for the College of Business, Nick Kochetta otherwise known as 2.0, recently agreed to write a guest blog post. In the post that follows he discusses what his journey was like after graduating from NIU and most importantly he talks about finding your passion and what is meaningful to you. For some it may be the traditional path and for others the path less traveled. He had plans to enter the business world but chose the latter so far. This is 2.0 checking in.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Hey Jacob! Where do I start? Well, my name is Nick Kochetta and I graduated from the NIU College of Business with the class of 2013. I graduated with a degree in Marketing and I earned certificates in both the Interactive marketing and Professional selling disciplines. Beyond my credentials, I am a man in a committed relationship with adventure. I live for the thrill of stripping my life down to the bare essentials, putting those items into the frame of a backpack and going where ever the wind will blow me. But I’m getting ahead of myself…
What was your path like after graduating from Northern Illinois University?
The day after graduating, I drove cross country to begin a contract in Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park. I used my skills in sales to sell a wilderness experience to people from all over the world. With the tools given to me by the sales program, I was consistently a top producer in our office, fetching top revenue honors in my very first week! It didn’t hurt that I got three days off a week to explore the national park as well as nearby Yellowstone. It was basically a dream.
The job was seasonal and at its end I took a road trip to my next opportunity; selling for a ski resort in Lake Tahoe. A friend in my office had worked in Lake Tahoe and the picture she painted of it was akin to a Bob Ross painting. I couldn’t wait to get started! On my road trip to Tahoe, I drove from Wyoming to California, stopping to see the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, and the edenic paradise in the desert that is Zion National Park.
Within a day of arriving to Lake Tahoe, my bike and other personal items were stolen from my car. I was on the opposite side of the country with nothing but the contents of my car, and those were just violated. I felt ill at the thought of being there for so much as another hour, so I threw a hail mary and called the HR department at Zion National Park (the beautiful park I fell in love with just a week prior). The HR manager said he had a position and the job was mine on a single condition; I had to be to the park by the next morning. As you could probably guess, I drove 10 hours overnight to claim the spot. I had now become a resident of one of the world’s most beautiful and unique landscapes, home to hikes like Angel’s Landing and The world famous Narrows.
The season ended in November and I knew that an Appalachian Trail Thru Hike (6 month, 2,185 mile hike from Georgia to Maine) was in my sights for the Spring. The problem was, I had a 4 month window that needed to be filled. As luck would have it, I met a lovely girl in Vegas who told me how inexpensive and amazing a of a place Southeast Asia was. Her stories captured my imagination and I bought a plane ticket to Bangkok that was set to depart in only 2 weeks. I had no plans beyond a return flight 2 months down the road. I spent months exploring the beautiful culture of Thailand, Cambodia and Laos. I saw everything from grand palaces to giant waterfalls, ate amazing local food, and found time to play with tigers and elephants in between.
Upon my return, I packed a bag and left to begin hiking the Appalachian Trail. When Mid October came, I stood atop Mt. Katahdin, the end of the 2,185 mile trail, and have since moved in with my hiking family in Nashville, Tennessee.
What made you decide to take the untraditional route?
Before graduation, my life was on a totally different path. I was presented with a mountain of opportunities thanks to the college’s sales program but I wanted something more. After studying abroad with the business program in Europe, my eyes were opened to the fact that the world is a huge, beautiful, and easily accessible place. So while most students decided to work hard for financial comfort and advancement in a company, I decided to check the big ticket items off my bucket list by maintaining freedom from heavy obligations. I knew that my wonder, curiosity, bad knees, and ability to sleep in tight quarters probably wouldn’t last much longer than my early 20’s so I applied for a job in the national parks and haven’t looked back since.
Can you talk about following your dreams and finding your passion?
I think ultimately, the dream everyone should strive for is happiness and in my studies of happiness, I find a recurring theme of “finding flow.”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWcapC-kriY This guy didn’t come up with it up but he explains the concepts very well. Check it out!
http://www.ted.com/talks/mihaly_csikszentmihalyi_on_flow?language=en#t-344931 A little drier but definitely worth the watch.
Your life will be infinitely easier if you find what you are passionate about and work in an environment that your skills and motivations align. If you deeply believe that what you’re doing is worthwhile, that what you’re selling is important, and you find intrinsic value in it, your output will be of a higher quality and you won’t have to worry about searching for meaning and happiness; you’ve already found it.
Some of you will find your happiness in starting a business or creating an app. Some of you strive to be at the top of your field in accounting, and some of you yearn to experience culture and inspire others. Each person has that spark inside of them. Take some honest time to find what that thing is; you might not find it in your upper level business courses.
Now more than ever, you have an amazing opportunity to explore yourself while you’re young. Look inward and you may be surprised at what you find.
What are you up to now and what does the future have in store for you?
I literally just walked in the door from a road trip that took me show shoeing through the Rocky Mountains and Hiking in Arches and Canyon lands National Parks. My roommates are now telling me to pack for a weekend trip to the Smoky Mountains, so I guess that’s a thing! It’s shaping up to be an amazing week full of awesome places and friends new and old.
Beyond the immediate happenings, I’m saving for a thru hike of the Pacific Crest Trail in 2016 and may even land a job in Glacier National Park for summer, but that’s yet to be decided. As you may have guessed, I’m pretty flexible.
If you had one piece of advice for students about to graduate what would it be?
There’s going to be a lot of temptation to grow deep roots in your life via car payments, long term leases, mortgages, significant others or job commitments. Maintain some freedom from obligations and don’t restrict yourself from unique experiences in your young lives. You don’t NEED the newest car that comes with a high payment. You don’t NEED the high end apartment with the big lease. By living simply and cutting out the fat, you have the ability to pivot quickly and take opportunities that appear when you least expect them. I can pack all my belongings into the backseat of a car and be on the road at a moment’s notice. To me, that’s a liberating feeling that allows me to say yes more than no.
Don’t be afraid to take time off. So much of the industrialized world supports gap years among their students and travel amongst their working class. I lost count of the Australians and Germans I’ve met who are more cultured, happy, and fulfilled for having done it.
Save money! Pizza, taco bell, and beer were hard staples in my diet and looking back on it, I could’ve saved thousands had I avoided them. I could’ve used it on another trip or on a musical instrument. You could just as easily use it towards your business. Your art. Your flow.
Apply for Scholarships!!! I don’t think I can add enough exclamation points to this…
Once again, your life will be infinitely easier if you do what you are passionate about. If you believe in what you are doing, in what you’re selling, etc., it’s easier to get behind it and feel fulfillment and flow.
Finally, read the Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt. I read it on a beach in Cambodia and it changed my life.
Thanks for your time Jacob. 🙂 Best of luck to you and the rest of the class of 2015! Go Huskies!
To any and all that muscled through this blog…DO NOT HESITATE TO CONTACT ME. I mean that sincerely. If you have questions, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out some of my pictures on Instagram @gopaddlefaster and read my old blog at gopaddlefaster.wordpress.com.