You’ve Made it, Now What?
Just in case you do not have time to read this post, my message is “We Live On.” For those who will keep reading, remember when I wrote about “finding your why”? This post is focused on utilizing tools that can bring your “why” to reality. I am writing to prospective MBA’s who gained acceptance to their dream program, 1st year MBA’s who landed an internship, and 2nd year MBA’s who accepted a full-time offer from their dream job. As you can tell by now, every goal you accomplish leads to another node in your life’s decision tree.
As a naïve millennial, I assumed that every goal I accomplished would make life easier (in some ways it has i.e. financial stability), but each new level has brought new complexities. As a prospective student, you’ll soon realize that business school delivers a challenging curriculum. As a 1st year MBA who’s landed an internship that meets your “why”, you will soon hope that your internship turns into a full-time offer. As a 2nd year who is about to graduate and has landed an offer at your dream job, you will soon realize that you will want to gain promotions that symbolize growth in your chosen field. Below are the top five virtues I learned during this business school journey that no one can do without.
To be frank, there is no short cut around the hard work necessary to add value to your future family, teams, and shareholders of your firm. The greatest advice I received from a mentor last year was, “Zane, you need to display your hunger and even be explicit about how hungry you are.” The older generations know that Generation Y is smart, but they want to see that we are willing to go the distance to reach solutions that will save money, time, and other negative externalities. One solution will not build you a career. We need to embrace the reality that we will need to generate solutions for the next 40-60 years.
Every firm, boss, team, or colleague you manage will be different. Even if you find an efficient workflow with your peers, the external market may put new pressure on your firm that will force you to adapt or close down the business. Awareness is critical to being adaptable because you can pick up on robust and transformational trends in your industry, the body language of your team, or the rare piece of feedback from your boss. Use all of these informational inputs and begin to adopt behaviors that will give you an edge. For example, I used to think I could solve any problem through long hours, but there are deadlines to every deliverable. I had to observe my teammates and realize some may have a deeper expertise in a particular subject. Sometimes I am the poet in the group and sometimes I am the quant. In business, you will need both.
At some point in your journey of more success, you will have bought everything you wanted, received the recognition you needed, and accomplished all the goals you had on your vision board. How will you stay motivated on that recurring Monday 50 to 52 times a year? This is the magical point in life where the tangible incentives in life fade away, and the real pursuit of the good life begins. I was at a happy hour with a Smith Alumni and I asked, “When did you feel like you mastered finance?” He responded, “You never do.” I think that consuming new information, analyzing your past lines of reasoning, and pursuing nuances in the fundamentals will unlock your ability to find better solutions. For example, in our 2nd year elective, Games of Strategy and Incentives, we not only explore why price wars are not a valid product differentiator, but also how to use data-based decision making to end the price war with competitors and generate higher profits.
If you have read this far, you have read about two instances where mentors have changed my perspective on how to approach work and building a fulfilling career. Isn’t it great to know that there are people out there who are smarter than you, and that they want to guide through a journey that is just as good, if not, better than their own. The world and the world of business can be a harsh and competitive place. As another mentor told me, “Wage war with a multitude of advisors.” After all, every Fortune 500 CEO has a board of advisors that are focused on keeping the CEO’s firm successful. Why not replicate a tactic used by some of the most successful people on Earth? I am so grateful to have five mentors I can call upon at any time to help me when I am stuck.
Last but not least, balance. I don’t mean balance as in 50% work, and 50% play. I mean that the four virtues listed above could not be done without multiple ways to rejuvenate your mind, body and soul. When is the last time you put a pause on deliverables for 24 hours? When is the last time you got eight hours of sleep? When is the last time you raised your heart rate to above 120bpm? When is the last time you traded massages with a loved one? All of these activities can increase your endorphins, dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin if completed in a well-managed way.
In conclusion, if you are reading this post it probably means that you have accomplished some of your goals or overcame hardships in the past. I list the tools above because of their permanence in utility rather than a vision that may change, a job that can be lost, or a problem you personally can’t solve. What other tools do you think are necessary to living the good life?