Challenge Post: The Allure of a Challenge

Once a week this summer, come back to The Causemopolitan to read a guest post that will inspire you right up out of your seat to get involved and give back in a special series called Cause It’s Summer! Featured bloggers will be sharing their own reflections and stories, tips and resources, and perspective on philanthropy, social entrepreneurship and their own cause-filled life. This week welcome Alexa Brandt, who you might remember from her guest post last summer. Almost a year to the day, Alexa challenges us to make the best of our end of summer. Complete one of her challenges? Let me know how it went!


This summer I’ve had challenges on my mind. I spent my MBA summer internship immersed in an environment focused on online competitions, crowdsourcing and tech entrepreneurship at ChallengePost in New York City. Under the guidance of ChallengePost’s impressive founder Brandon Kessler and his expert staff, I learned how a challenge can generate support for a specific issue and inspire collective problem solving. Given the frenzy of excitement surrounding the site, I couldn’t help but think about the role challenges have played in my own life.

The thrill of competition, the crusade to achievement, and the satisfaction of completing a goal have made challenges an effective tool to propel me into action. I often reframe key life decisions as personal challenges. In doing so, I devise a structured plan to achieve a specific milestone. Setting a personal challenge is not a hard process, but can make difficult tasks seem more bearable. Most importantly, it requires me to set a deadline for completing each goal. Here a couple of examples from my own life:

**With just a few weeks of summer remaining, I would like to pose a challenge to each of you. I challenge you each to achieve one new goal – big or small. **

Wondering where to start? Here are a few suggestions:

Philanthropy Identifying a cause that is near and dear to your heart is not challenging, but finding the right nonprofit organization to support it can be. Take a small step towards identifying the right nonprofit by challenging yourself to do one charitable thing this summer. Organize a group volunteer activity for you and your friends or colleagues. Often food banks like the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank can put a group to good use on a weekend, making it the perfect option for busy professionals to give back. Host a small donor circle event at your home in support of a charity. Pick a fun theme like a chili cook-off or bocce ball tournament and simply ask guests to donate $10-20 to attend in support of a specific charity. Step Up Women’s Network has done a fantastic job engaging members to host fun donor circle events like Cocktails & Canines and a VIP Screening of Eat, Pray, Love. If you are feeling extra motivated, consider devising a unique fundraising platform to generate funds for a cause. My dear friend Sloane Berrent’s Cause its my Birthday campaign is one of my favorites to date – 7 days, 7 cities, 7 parties, 1 cause.

Career Lately I have heard from many of my smart, talented friends that they aren’t happy in their jobs.  It can be daunting to figure out the first step towards determining a more fulfilling career path when you feel stuck professionally. Whether you are job hunting or simply unhappy in a well-paying, high profile position, I encourage you to challenge yourself to do one of these three things before the end of summer.

1) Target your dream job in an hour by completing this simple exercise by Keith Ferazzi.

2) Attend an event on entrepreneurship to explore the idea of launching a business of your own. Many business schools host annual events on the topic like the 2010 Babson Entrepreneurship Forum I am co-chairing at Babson College.

3) Join an industry specific group to learn more about an unfamiliar area of interest. I recommend searching Meetup.com which serves as a hub for 79,000 local organizations. On the recommendation of Brandon Kessler I joined the NY Tech Meetup to gain exposure to the thriving tech scene in the city. Its monthly event brings together 800 guests and provided me with the exact dose of industry exposure and entrepreneurial inspiration I was looking for – all for just $10.

**Financial **Managing finances can often be viewed as a laborious, boring chore. Transform the process by challenging yourself to achieve one financial goal this summer. Whether it be streamlining all of your bills online, getting control of your debt or saving for a dream vacation you can increase the likelihood of achieving your goal by setting a clear objective and deadline for the task. Two websites that will make this process painless are Mint.com and LearnVest.com (ladies – try the financial bootcamps to get in tip top financial shape and be inspired by reading about the site’s rock star 26-year-old founder Alexa von Tobel).


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Alexa Brandt is a recognized leader in women’s philanthropy.  From 2005-2009 Alexa helped develop programming and strategic partnerships for Step Up Women’s Network, a national nonprofit with over 50,000 female supporters.  Her collaborations with Bloomingdale’s, L’Oreal, Dermalogica, and Sony Pictures Entertainment contributed to Step Up becoming one of the most sought-after women’s networks in the nation. Alexa’s work in the Los Angeles community was noted by a 2008 nomination for the”Women Making a Difference Award” by the Los Angeles Business Journal.

Currently Alexa is 2011 MBA candidate at the F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business at Babson College. Based on her work with Step Up Women’s Network she was awarded a Forte Fellowship from the The Forté Foundation, a consortium of major corporations and top business schools that educates and directs talented women toward leadership roles in business. She is actively involved in the graduate community as the Vice President of Student Activities for the Graduate Student Council, Co-Chair of the 2010 Babson Forum on Entrepreneurship and Innovation, and a Graduate Fellow. Alexa graduated from UCLA and can be reached at abrandt1@babson.edu.

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