Early Obstacles and Later Success

On September 20th, 2020 I will be moderating an online discussion, Early Obstacles and Later Success, with Triston Francis, hosted by the Wily Network. 

I initially connected with Triston at a Wily event with Harvard Business School, Professionally Telling Your Story at HBS, and recently reached out to Triston after hearing his MASA seminar. I wanted to hear his thoughts on how early adversity has led to his success, as well as gain advice and insights on how he managed early adversity and a demanding educational program.

A first-generation college student who grew up in an underserved community, Triston did not have a lot of access to educational opportunities or guidance. He didn’t think education could help him out of his situation, but a lucky opportunity to go to boarding school changed his life. Over time, Triston received the coaching and support he needed to believe in himself and set high goals.

Triston received a BS from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, and served as president of both the Black Wharton Undergraduate Association as well as the African-American Senior Honor Society. After graduating he worked as an associate on Morgan Stanley’s Multicultural Client Strategy Team. Triston received his MBA from Harvard Business School, where he served as the Student Body President and graduated in the top 20% of his class.

Outside of school and work, Triston founded a professional development speaker series in New York City called Navigating Corporate America, and is involved with the non profits Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT) and Sponsorship for Educational Opportunity (SEO).

I wanted to share Triston’s story with my younger brother, who struggles to return to a rigorous academic school while balancing a turbulent family situation. As a young student, it is difficult for him to understand how the challenges he is facing now, inside and outside the classroom, will prepare him with essential life skills. Like many other students, my brother has been presented with many unprecedented challenges he must overcome, while showing appreciation for the resources he is provided. 

Triston and I felt that many students could benefit from hearing his journey, learning about different aspects of measuring growth, and asking personal questions. 

Two months later, I am now working with the Wily Network’s communications team to create promotional media and conduct community outreach. This experience has allowed me to grow my management skills, expand my network, and share with the community a resource that has helped me. I am very excited to host and moderate this discussion, and share this opportunity with my community. 

Early Obstacles and Later Success will take place on Sunday, September 20th, 7:30-8:30 pm EST. This discussion is a great opportunity to learn more about Triston’s story: his take on the power of education, his mindset while overcoming obstacles, and the experiences that were essential for his professional success. These topics are truly versatile, highlighting the importance of different growth forms, whether it be academic or personal. Regardless of your age, educational foundation, or personal background, if you are interested in learning about the positive impact of adversity, this is the event for you. Click here to sign up for the event! All you need is a phone or computer with a stable connection to tune in.

My Hospitalization

In December 2018, I was sitting with my Wily Coach in the office of the Associate Chief of Student Mental Health. This had been the result of having a tumultuous year.

In all honesty, I should have sought this level of help in the fall of 2017. This was when I can retrospectively recognize I was hopelessly depressed. I was tired, apathetic, disinterested, unmotivated, self-isolating. I was not going to classes, club meetings, or anything that required me to do more than be present. I was out of my usual routines, and in a new routine of sleeping whenever I passed out from exhaustion and ordering food at ungodly hours. At its darkest, it was the closest I came to no longer being here.

I kept telling myself “It can’t be.” I kept thinking about how others in my family had mental health afflictions, but it couldn’t be me; I was just being unmotivated, lazy, and ungrateful of my opportunities. But telling myself this ad infinitum and not seeking legitimate help only led to further stress and inner turmoil, with a placement on Academic Warning bordering on forced Academic Leave depending on how the end of fall 2018 went.

Circling back to that day in December 2018, I was in a zombie-like state of automation in damage-control mode. My Student Support Services provider had mentioned the idea of hospitalization that same morning, but I was too pig-headed at that moment, and I only listened to what she said, when in reality I needed to hear it.

I didn’t hear what she said until it was repeated again in the Mental Health office. At this point, I was feeling a bit irritated, betrayed in what felt like my support network conspiring against me, not believing in what I know I am capable of. But the doctor countered my placations with one question: “If you leave here and don’t go to the hospital, what will you do?” It was the only thing I heard that day: as much as I wanted to be optimistic and argue, I couldn’t shake the reality of his question, realizing that I wouldn’t have done any of the things I said I would. It was then that I made one of the best decisions of my life and left his office, preparing for my coach to bring me to McLean for however long was necessary to begin healing. 

It wasn’t until a few days in, when I had slept for a regular time, ate healthy meals at a regular time, and could really comprehend how and why I was here, that I realized this wasn’t a punishment. This was my coach and my support network wanting what was best for me. And as I started a long, never-ending journey of self-discovery and healing, I knew I wouldn’t have to take the first steps alone. And that made a world of difference.



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