Story by Audrey Scherer
Photos by Hailey Tolleson
Dan Gillispie changed his world to be able to go to CNM full-time, and he did it by minimizing his commitments, he said.
“As an adult learner, if I’m going to do this, I just have to do it. I accepted the fact that the process is going to be what it is, that it’s going to take multiple years of my life to achieve this goal,” he said.
He made the commitment, minimized his footprint, and just completed his third term, he said.
“I’m just living through the design that I set up for my future,” Gillispie said. “It makes me feel really good.”
He didn’t know what to expect when he decided to go back to school, he said.
“I meet with so many interesting people on a weekly basis that I feel blessed in that sense,” he said, “you can have some really cool, open dialogues and learn a lot.”
Pure lecture classes don’t allow students to get to know each other as well as in those with projects and participation, he said.
Gillispie said that he enjoys that students all have different perspectives and come from different backgrounds.
“I feel like it’s a common goal that we’re all going after,” he said. “It’s like the pursuit of more life fulfillment through education. I feel that undertone at the school.”
When he’s not in class or studying, he runs an insurance practice largely focused on life insurance, Gillispie said.
His website is an unbiased resource for people to use when they’re thinking about life insurance, he said.
It’s currently two pages; the first page is the home page and the second page lists resources. The resources page has calculators and information on different coverage options, he said.
He helps website visitors by pointing them in the right direction or finding the right questions to ask in pursuit of their solution, he said.
“They don’t necessarily need me to do it for them, but because they went to my site, they get the direction they need to make a confident buying decision for their family,” he said.
One of his big goals is to make that site a better resource, he said, “If I could do that, then that would be powerful.”
His driving consideration to come back to school was his belief that the best thing he could do for himself was not dedicate 100% of his time to insurance, but to give a good portion of his time to investing in himself and his education, he said.
Most of the people he knows did some form of post-secondary education, but he didn’t have the chance to finish because he went to work right out of high school. He just wanted to come back, he said. “It just irritated me that I never went.”
He chose CNM when considering community colleges because he felt he didn’t have to look elsewhere, he said.
“CNM was the best option as I was looking toward what I wanted to do in my life. It offered the best opportunity,” he said.
He wanted to get his education cost as low as possible for as long as possible, he said.
“I think the books cost more than the tuition of the classes,” Gillispie said.
When he returned to school in the fall of last year through CNM, he went full-time online, so he could continue working while doing school, he said.
He had been a student of a university’s full online program in the past, but found it “horribly difficult,” he said. “I didn’t know how to commit the time.”
To succeed, he just worked really hard, he said.
“Just go for stretches. Just go until the project’s done, or to a place where you can think of the project differently because it’s evolved,” he said.
During the most recent summer term, he took three campus classes, one lab and one online class.
He will be splitting his time between UNM and CNM this fall, he said.
“CNM helped me gain time because it made me restructure my schedule,” he said.
He opened his mind to the possibility that he’s just going to do this every day; see what happens, see what comes to him and see how his days evolve and change, he said.
He had to get used to going to math class at 7:30 on cold spring mornings, he said.
“You just go in there and do equations. I got into it though. Like, ‘Alright cool, Monday mornings at 7:30, I do math class,” said Gillispie.
He doesn’t have a set schedule anymore, but he still has a bunch of work that needs to get done and he must figure out when to get it done, he said.
“It was just a matter of, ‘Ok, I have a total of 168 hours in a week, here are all the tasks that I need to do,” he said.
He wanted to dedicate his mental focus and the majority of his available time to school, he said.
He moved to the university area because he wanted to be close to where he needed to be and wanted to get familiar with being in the same location for a long period of time, he said.
It also cut down his expenses and increased his time because he doesn’t drive very far, he said.
“I think that’s the coolest thing about coming back to school and cutting my total radius down. I found myself with time,” he said.
He minimized his bills by changing all the service providers he could from quality-focused to price-focused, he said.
When going out to eat on a budget, “the place doesn’t matter so much as the people,” he said.
He said that he believes people should be fiscally minimal, and not urgent, in what they do, and thinks as far out as possible when it comes to his own future income and expenses.
“I want to build as many days as possible between me and the day that I have zero in my account. I knew I would be in a position where my income could be limited because my time would be limited,” he said.
The biggest thing is task completion and time-blocking, he said.
“I’m not by any means really regimented in my day,” he said.
He maintains a few constants in his days to know what daily tasks he has, and then leaves the rest open to allow the demands of school and work to ebb and flow, he said.
“Here’s all the tasks that need to get done, here’s the time that you have to do it, and just get it done, whatever it is,” he said, “And that’s provided a really cool foundation and a way of life that I haven’t lived yet.”
To be able to start and complete a long-term project is an accomplishment, he said.
“You’re going to live a life that you would never see, had you not gotten [the degree or certificate],” he said.
If you feel like you’ve accomplished what you set out to, even without the end result you were seeking, you’ve still made progress and should reward yourself for that, he said.
“Go out and have a soda,” Gillispie said.
“This summer I really got my stride with school,” he said. “It’s calmer than it was when I started.”
“My whole world now is intaking new information, doing what I’m good at, letting time pass, and just enjoying the time that I have when I have it,” he said.
“I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of instructors. I’m learning something that I’m passionate about from highly skilled technicians in their crafts,” he said.
If CNM didn’t offer what they do, then he wouldn’t be able to live the life that he’s been living; it would be completely different, he said.
“I’m just thankful for CNM. I really am.”
Dan Gillispie is a classmate of the writer.