4 Keys to Constant Positivity

Kevin Frick

Kevin D. Frick, PhD, is a health economist. He is a Professor and the Vice Dean for Education at the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School. Dr. Frick received his PhD in Economics and Health Services Organization and Policy from the University of Michigan in 1996. He currently holds a joint appointment at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in the Department of Health Policy and Management. While at the Bloomberg School of Public Health, Dr. Frick taught and conducted cost-effectiveness analysis. He has more than 150 total peer-reviewed publications and has published over 40 articles, reviews, and editorials that put to use the latest techniques in conducting cost-effectiveness and outcomes research in vulnerable populations.

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When I consider what positive means, certain things come to mind. On a graph, I would think of up rather than down and right rather than left. Each of these two versions of positive are by convention. In other words, everyone just agrees that they are correct.

However, aside from graphs, it is not clear that we have a shared vision of positive. I may want to diversify my activities while someone else finds value in consolidation. I may want to do a lot alone while someone else wants to be in large groups. However, let me suggest a shared notion of positive—more opportunities to shape my path in life, wherever that path may lead.

I believe there are four keys to generating more opportunities to shape my path in life:

  1. Knowledge of what motivates me
  2. Openness to opportunities to achieve what motivates me
  3. Willingness to adapt to situations that allow me to do what motivates me
  4. A love of lifelong learning about new ways to achieve what motivates me.

Knowing what motivates me guides my search for new opportunities. Not everyone constantly seeks new opportunities. And I divide my opportunities into three groups: (a) some just to explore and find out about, (b) some to consider, and (c) some to take. Having a clear definition of what motivates me guides me away from a critical group—some not to take time to even explore because I’d have no interest.

For seeking out new opportunities to have value, there have to be some that I would put in group (c) above, in other words “some to take.” Closing myself off to all new opportunities leaves no room for growth, a situation in which I never plan to put myself.

Sometimes, adaptation is required to take an opportunity. Moving between a school of public health and a business school required adaptation for me to think in new ways about the applicants interested in becoming students, methods of solving problems, and the problems for which my colleagues were seeking answers.

Finally, some adaptations involve learning. I love and always have loved learning new things. I love being challenged to learn new things, and I hope to never stop learning new things.

Here is an example of how to put all of this together. When other faculty members have suggested, “Accreditation was not an enjoyable task to complete, right?” I have answered, “It was a lot of work but I enjoyed it.” In other words, to use the graph paper example from earlier, I managed to think of myself as headed “up and to the right” throughout a long-term project that others may have considered a move “down and to the left.” How? I know my motivation: to make connections. The process of preparing for accreditation connected almost everyone in the Carey Business School in new ways. At the point of 17 years into my professional career, I was open to the opportunity to do something entirely different from the research and teaching and PhD advising I’d been doing at the Bloomberg School of Public Health. I adapted to the new set of challenges of understanding the school, meeting the deadlines, and guiding the process to a successful conclusion. On top of that, I enjoyed all that I learned. While I was not happy at every moment, I was always positive and have turned this into a new set of opportunities for my future path.


For Carey students: Join the Career Development team on Wednesday, April 5th, at our HE campus for Vice Dean Frick’s presentation “Constant Positivity.” Click here to register for this event through Carey Compass. Not able to attend Kevin’s session in HE? We have good news: you can access the event through Adobe Connect!

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