It's been two colorful autumns, two blistering winters, two breezy springs and one beautiful summer since I started on the bewildering journey of the mysterious "MBA." What do those letters stand for anyway?
With classes already ended and graduation looming, I wanted to reflect on the lessons that have impacted me the most in the past two years. I can write about all the things I've learned in the classroom, but that would be pedantic. Besides, I think this wonderful journey has taught me more through experience than through pedagogy.
Here are a few, and certainly not the only, takeaways from my cumulative experiences:
- I've learned to recognize my limitations so I know where, when, and how to push myself. Without this awareness, it becomes too easy to either let hubris take over or complacency settle in like an unwanted house guest.
I've learned to be honest with myself about why I'm doing what I'm doing. This doesn't mean what I'm doing is right. It doesn't mean it's ethical. It just means I recognize the motivations behind my actions - be it fear, pride, greed, or something else. I think this is important because it ensures the path I take is deliberate even if my destination is unclear. It means I won't wake up one day to find myself accidentally living life aimlessly.
I've learned that being the hare or being the tortoise isn't enough. I have to be both. Life is a series of sprints, jogs, walks and the occasional naps. Since high school I've been sprinting and by the end of my first year at HBS I was running out of breath. I took my second year to catch up -- inhale, exhale. It gave me the opportunity to reflect - and I mean really reflect - the deep kind of reflection that you can't get just from taking a selfie. I took a stroll through memory lane all the way from elementary school through high school to college and now as I wrap up my remaining days at grad school. This self-discovery has opened up more questions - Am I becoming too productive at the wrong things? Do I project the right meaning to obstacles? What motivates me and is that sustainable?
I've learned to be selfish in the service of others. This isn't as oxymoronic as it sounds. Various research have shown that expressing gratitude and leaving kindness in your footsteps make us happier people. By being present and through gestures as simple as saying thank you, I've found myself more content, relaxed, and satisfied with every breath.
I've learned to trust my intuition and to act even when I'm unsure of my ability. Prior to launching and shutting down a little venture called Zest and before jumping headfirst into a start-up in Zambia there wasn't anything in particular that pushed me in those directions other than the feeling that "this is what I want to do even though I have no idea what to do." As Jobs once said, let the vision pull you. Hey, things worked out. Even if they didn't I'm sure Earth would have kept spinning and the sun would have risen once again.
I've learned that the glass is half full, half empty, and completely overfilling. What's been instilled in me is that framing is everything - in business and in life. Importantly, I've learned to take over the driver's seat in terms of deciding which frame to take - turning obstacles into "I'm gonna kick your ***" challenges and failures into "oops, that's what that button does, let's push the other one" situations. I have no permanent regrets - just short term regrets where I've taken time to reflect, figured out what went wrong or right, and moved on to creating a better version of myself. Taking the "silver lining" perspective doesn't make me an optimist, it just allows me to move forward rather than linger on in the past.