Brian Birdwell

Hello!

I’m Brian. Thanks for checking out my bio page!

Here’s a question we love around here that I’ll start with: What’s my dream job?

When I was young, I wanted more than anything to be a wizard. What could be more awesome than being a wizard?

  • They’re wise, magical, adventurous, and unpredictable.
  • They’re mentors, teachers, pranksters, and travelers.
  • They speak ancient languages, communicate with plants and animals, and tell amazing stories.

Wizards are interesting people… because they are interested people — they observe, ask questions, and participate in creatively shaping reality. They are neither bored nor boring.

It’s been three decades since I first read The Hobbit, and truth be told I still want to be a wizard when I grow up. While most people wouldn’t describe what I do at Career Protocol as “wizarding,” I love this job because it’s all about helping people tell their own amazing stories, while creatively shaping their realities, and more often than not, making a little magic happen along the way.

So you’re saying you’re basically a trained wizard?

Well, I looked for, but never found, a proper wizard’s curriculum, so I’ve done my best to write my own, mostly by trying as many things as possible.

In high school, I tried football (terribly), tennis, basketball, and cross-country. I competed in the academic decathlon, one-act play, and mental math competitions. I played two horns in the band and guitar and piano at home.

At the liberal arts college I attended, I tried to major in minors. Afterward, I made documentary films and lived in a house with twenty-five other musicians. I hitchhiked across Mexico and spent a summer in Thailand playing jazz standards and Jack Johnson covers at bars and restaurants. I studied Vipassana meditation, rock climbing, and bee-keeping. I finished a massage therapy program at the Pacific Center for Awareness and Bodywork in Hawaii, got a master’s degree in Liberation Acupuncture, and completed a “bootcamp” school for software developers.

That’s a lotta learning!! Ever had a job, tho?

Oh my yes!! An interesting bit of trivia is that I’ve filed an income tax return (i.e. been employed) every year of my life since I was 8 years old! I’ve worked for small companies, in schools, on farms, at universities, for non-profits, and for myself. Among other things, I’ve worked as a wood-turner, a tractor mechanic, an English teacher, a designer, a software engineer, a radio DJ, and a warehouse manager. One summer I sold 10 million dollars’ worth of watermelons! Seriously!

Applying this principle of “being interested” has taken me to incredible places, introduced me to amazing people, and infused me with diverse ideas. I feel at home in just about any conversation, and I tend to see connections where others see unrelated concepts.

It’s especially rewarding to bring all my diverse experiences to bear to help my students figure out their unique passions. If there’s something you like to do, chances are I’ve got some relevant tools in my wizard kit to help you succeed!

So why MBA Coaching?

The one constant through all of these explorations is that I’ve been helping people like you achieve their MBA dreams for over 17 years! Like all great discoveries, it started as an accident. At the time, I was living the merry (though not very lucrative) life of a singer-songwriter, and in my search for employment options that could complement that lifestyle, a friend suggested test-prep. I took the GMAT, LSAT, and GRE in hot succession, scored in the 99th percentile on each of them, and began teaching classes and tutoring.

I’ve worked with thousands of students from all over the world, co-written books, created products, trained teachers, and even trained teacher-trainers!  And while that’s cool and all, you must be wondering how I could POSSIBLY teach these boring tests for almost 20 years?!

The answer is simple, really: relationships. I love meeting smart, ambitious people. I love hearing their stories and their goals, and I love helping them get a little further along in their quests.

Helping you complete your applications was just a logical extension of that passion!! As you know, those tests are important, but over time, I found the magic was happening in the moments in between data sufficiency problems when we would talk about their passions, their stories, their work challenges, their lives. I was far more interested in the personal challenges they were experiencing in regards to the journey as a whole than in their challenges memorizing the Pythagorean triples.

So, moving to Career Protocol to help students on the whole journey was a no-brainer. I was already doing it anyway, and now we get to dive right into the good stuff– telling stories and shaping reality.

What else do you like about this work?

In Joseph Campbell’s description of the hero’s journey, the hero inevitably receives “supernatural aid”, often in the form of — you guessed it — a wizard! The helper’s role is to remind the hero that the path is fraught with danger and doubt because it must be. The mentor reassures the hero that she can rely on her own inner resources to walk the path, and that by doing so she will emerge transformed. The helper is a mirror, reflecting the hero back to herself and nudging her onward.

Playing helper to the hero is its own reward, and it is awesome. It also happens to be fun.

OK, I get it, you think you’re a wizard. Who else thinks so?

My wife and daughters definitely. Ha!!! But also, many of the folks I’ve worked with. For example…

I’ve been hired to deliver training wizardry at these awesome places:

Harvard, MIT, Duke, Brown, University of Texas, Colorado University, Google, McKinsey, BCG, Deloitte

And working with me has enabled my students to get into these awesome business schools:

Harvard, Wharton, Stanford, Kellogg, Booth, MIT, Columbia, Darden, Fuqua, Tuck, Ross, McCombs, Anderson, INSEAD, Tepper, and more.

What can I expect if I work with you?

I aim to be your cheerful, calm, experienced companion on a memorable journey together with you. We’ll prepare for the road by getting to know each other and inventorying our supplies and resources. Then we’ll head out into the wilderness of MBA applications side-by-side. Once we’re deep into the woods, we’ll get our hands dirty, we’ll learn, and we’ll laugh – a lot. I’m prepared for anything!

Then we’ll come out on the other side, having grown and learned a lot together and with an MBA admissions letter in hand!

My students love that I really understand the logistical and emotional challenges of applying to a top MBA program. It’s an ambitious goal! There is a lot to do and not enough time! Doubts emerge, poor GMAT performances happen, family drama happens, work challenges happen… And all the while you’re trying to be a particularly amazing employee, maintain your close relationships, and maybe even have some you-time every once in awhile!

With so much coming at you from all sides, and so much seemingly at stake, my clients are very often surprised at how much fun we have together. My goal is for our interactions to be sources of inspiration, information, and reassurance – with the occasional necessary moment of reckoning or tough love.

That brings me to honesty. While I’m patient and empathetic, I’m also direct. Pragmatic optimism will be an operative theme for us, as sugar-coating and fantasy will not be useful. I’ll definitely be your cheerleader when you need one, but I won’t let you off the hook if the essay isn’t achieving greatness. We’ll keep our eyes on the prize and our feet on the ground, taking practical step by practical step toward the goal.

And when you’re not wizarding?

I spend a lot of time with my amazing wife raising our two wild daughters, who are my greatest teachers yet, in so many ways. I play guitar and bass in a funky band or two. And I spend as much time as possible looking for magic here in the mountains of Montana, skiing, hiking, climbing, mountain-biking, rafting, and trying new things.

If you like the outdoors or music, we’re gonna have a lot to talk about!

Your MBTI type?

ENTP.

StrengthsFinder:

  1. Ideation
  2. Input
  3. Strategic
  4. Learner
  5. Intellection

Social media?

nah

Spirit animal?

Victor Wooten is my spirit animal.

Ready to get started?