Free advice is always forthcoming. It comes from all corners and sources, in all shapes and sizes. Family, friends, near and dear ones, and even acquaintances are ever-ready to jump in with a word of advice. And when things are not going so well, the advice seems to come thick and fast, covering every aspect of your life. Suddenly it makes you wonder as to how you got this far in your life without these people ever "chipping in." How could such "valuable" tips have not come before? How different would my life have been without this advice, you wonder!
I particularly enjoy listening to such advice when it comes from relatives who have no clue about what you do, or aren't plugged in enough into day-to-day events and the reality of things. However, they feel (correction, they believe) they are qualified enough to offer you tips like, "I really think you should find a job"; "I don't believe you're looking hard enough"; "Have you tried the Internet? It seems there's a lot of jobs available there..." Standard response that goes through my head during these times is along the lines of, "No shit, Sherlock. What do you think I've been doing thus far? And they don't really hand out jobs for free on the Internet, you know..."
And then there is always the "friend" you haven't spoken to in ages, who suddenly shows up and decides its to your benefit when they say things like, "Wtf were you thinking... I can't believe you did that." "What! Banking again? Did B-School teach you nothing????" (I wonder if she had enough question marks at the end of her sentence there.) Sarcasm to the fore again, and I think to myself, "What? Really? You went to business school to learn something? I thought it was just a way to spend money and have some fun... Crap, nobody told me otherwise! Or else I would have learnt that finding a lucrative job that pays the bills and relieves the financial stress of business school isn't really the goal of getting an MBA!"
Ummm... yes, I actually did go to business school and did happen to learn a fair number of things. Business school for me personally was more of a lesson in personal and social development than an understanding of business concepts (having already covered those during my undergraduate degree). A bit of an expensive way to do it, yes, I admit, but effective nonetheless. B-school taught me a lot of common sense and that I shouldn't jump to conclusions without understanding or knowing the full story. Surely, there's a reason people do what they do... It is either a compulsion, a forced decision or just plain desperation. In some instances, it maybe a case of just having tried every path and run out of alternatives. But of course, how is this "friend" to know? It's not like I was ever asked what the circumstances of my decision were or why I chose the path I did. I was offered the free, unsolicited advice out of the blue...
And then there are those friends that think that business school is a license to a career as an entrepreneur. Armed with an MBA, it means suddenly you are the next hot shot that can go start a company on Silicon Valley, a hedge fund on Wall Street or some tech business that offers a cool gizmo or app that solves a zillion problems. "You should go start a company," said one recently graduated MBA friend of mine. And this is a friend who "started a business" while in school herself. The business lasted the duration of the MBA and had to be shut down for one reason or another. Of course I give her credit for the idea and for heading down the path of entrepreneurship, but it made me want to ask her, "Well, what happened to you and your company then?" (What happened? Didn't B-School teach you about sustainability of businesses? Didn't it teach you about planning for contingencies? Succession?)
Surely, people must realize that just like everyone cannot be Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg, not everyone can be an entrepreneur. If everyone emerging from business school were to be an entrepreneur, then who would use those products and services? Who would work the government jobs? Who would be the dirty politicians? Who would be the sleazy bankers and the greedy consultants advising these businesses? Who would fill in those gazillions of other roles out there besides those of entrepreneur and inventor? People have different talents, different skills, different temperaments, and like a balanced ecosystem, it requires all kinds to make it function smoothly (After all, they do say "it takes all to make the world go round.") So maybe I'm just better off and more comfortable being that banker... Maybe I am cut out to be that Fat Cat Banker, that greedy shark in this ocean of 7-plus billion people, that adds balance to this ecosystem.
Business school also taught me not to paint every scenario with a single brush stroke, and to accept and appreciate the diversity this world brings. It taught me that people approach problems differently and find their solutions through different paths. There isn't always one right answer, and more so in life than anywhere else. This realization came to the fore in working on those diverse case study teams and project groups that sometimes made me want to tear my hair out. But then, today, I can sit here and appreciate the lessons learnt during those long hours in those small breakout rooms, huddled over cases, Excel models and project solutions disagreeing and arguing with my teammates... Maybe my "friends" missed that lesson while in school! So rather than worry about my future, my advice to you is to live your life as you planned, hoped, envisioned... In fact go ahead and use the advice you're offering me -- go ahead and lead the life the way you want me to lead mine. When I need your advice, I will personally come ask you for tips... but knowing you, maybe I won't even need to ask!
Benjamin Franklin said, "Wise men don't need advice. Fools won't take it."