The Inflection Point
Paying to Get Owned
I’ll admit what a lot of us in business school are thinking through our first few weeks of classes, “Why am I forgoing salary and paying to get steamrolled?” I’ve generally been a decent student; working hard and working smart to get the job done. But Tuck was a completely different animal. Now you might think to yourself, “This should’ve been easier for this guy with an undergraduate degree in business.” You’re partially correct–for some of my classmates just learning HOW to study was a challenge. But I return to my previous point and assert that the level of intellectual rigor and depth of detail you’re about to encounter is something new to almost anyone.
Academics at Tuck are important. It’s widely known that it has one of the most rigorous core curricula of any top business school, hence one of the reasons there is a non-grade disclosure policy. Tuck is also lauded for having one of the strongest teaching faculties of any program in the world. I’d argue that Darden and Yale are the only other two schools in the Top Tier with the caliber of teaching professionals Tuck is bestowed with. While scholarship is something we care about here it’s really important to keep things in perspective. You’re not going to know everything–I don’t care how high your GMAT was or if you were summa cum laude at Georgetown before business school–the core is designed to expose your strengths and weaknesses across the board.
Zoning Out on Life
With all of this said, the biggest mistake I’ve seen myself and my classmates make is to dig in too deep. Don’t get me wrong, if you aren’t a detail oriented person b-school will definitely help with that (remember to read the footnotes and exhibits in your cases), but there’s a limit to everything. I remember prepping a case ‘The Body Shop’ for my Analysis for General Managers class with Professor Argenti. As my boys would say, I went “hard body” on the case in anticipation of getting cold called the next morning. The next day rolls around and we get through an hour and a half of class and I didn’t even get a word in. I was frustrated–all that work for nothing. Determined to get my participation points up for the class I didn’t even so much as comment and thought I’d wasted my time prepping the case.
You’re probably thinking to yourself, “What’s he rambling on about? Get to the point.” Turns out, the night before as I was feverishly prepping the case I forgot it was my mother’s birthday. For the past two weeks I had completely zoned out of real life and buried my head in books, forgetting to do something as simple as calling my Mom on a milestone birthday. I’ll spare you the angry texts I got from family members but that was just one in a few events that made me wake up to realizing while I wanted to excel in coursework you can’t let it get in the way of operating like a normal human.
The Inflection Point
Balance is the key to a successful first year. You’re inevitably going to have to make some trade-offs. Looking back, the desire to ‘master’ a case blinded me from being a good son, which is clearly much more important than school. If you’re about to take on graduate school period, I’d argue you’ll be surrounded by motivated performers–the key is not allowing the mentality of overkill in the classroom to overcome your sanity.
A few posts back I spoke a bit about recognizing “What’s important?”, this is obviously an extension of that but I want to take it just a step further. Take a quick breather and think about why you’re where you are on your MBA journey… at the end of the day you are paying for the network, rather the future network. In five years you won’t even remember what cases you did in class, but you will remember that conversation over a beer with Katherine you had about navigating a grueling recruiting process. Maybe you’ll be looking to switch careers and you look through your alumni directory and see that Katherine is working at a Tech Start-up you really want to join. You’ll pick up the phone and call her, she’ll tell you the company she is working for is looking for someone like you… three months later you’re hired.
This may seem far-fetched, but it happens a lot more than you think. Why? Because you took the time to take a step back, put down your books for a moment, be a normal person and have a beer with Katherine. And what you’re going to realize is more times than not these types of interactions with recruiters (save for the recruiting process stinks convo) is what might land you the job…
When you come to this realization you’ve reached an inflection point–the point where business school begins.