Friday, November 19, 2010

Two Steps Up, One Step Back

I was talking with a recruiter last night about career development and he told me something interesting: Every time he has an amazing breakthrough, crushes a presentation, or excels in any other way which otherwise makes him love his job, he writes it down on a scrap of paper and places it in a jar in his office. At the same time, whenever he is grinding through a spreadsheet at 2am, making the 1,000th revision to the same slide deck, or otherwise doing something that makes him want to run into oncoming traffic, he also writes it down on a piece of paper and places it in a different jar. He tells me that whenever he goes back and looks in the jars, that the number of pieces of paper in the happy jar far outweighs the other one. And, he concluded, if that ever changes, then he’ll quit.
The point is this: in all phases of life, you need to have perspective. There are going to be huge highs where you think everything is set and life can’t get better. And there are moments where you are pretty sure no one has it worse in life than you. Well, if you thought either one of the above two sentences applies to you, you are wrong. Life is never going to be perfect but it should never totally suck either. You need to step back, take everything in, and figure out if you’re happy. And if you’re not, then don’t complain. Complainers are terrible. If you don’t like your life, then figure out why and change it. It’s as simple as that. But why should I care that you’re unhappy if you don’t intend to do something about it?
Right now, I’m happy. I can truly say that I’m happier now then at almost any point in my life. Yet, in business school, on any given day, I will have a trillion setbacks. And it will suck. But why should I complain or be in a crummy mood? At the end of the day I can look at my life, know how lucky I am and feel truly blessed.
For me it’s like two steps up, one step back. Make a good comment in class, get a nice thank you note from a recruiter, bomb a networking call. Do good on one test, do good on another, look like an idiot on the last one. Get invited to two company events, get left out of another. Sometimes I think I am literally the master of MBAs one day, a real “hitter” (for you wall streeters), and the next day I wonder if I can get a job tending bar or if I’m not the right “fit” for that either.
But at the end of the day, I can always look in my two jars and know that I am happy. What do your two jars look like?

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Little Bears

When I first arrived at Darden three months ago, there was one thing I was more anxious about than any other aspect of B-school. It wasn’t my career prospects (although I probably should have been more nervous about this). It wasn’t the demanding class schedule and curriculum. And it definitely wasn’t the fact that I was going to be sans paycheck for the next two years. Nope, it was whether or not I would have a good Learning Team.
For those not familiar with Darden, Learning Team is kind of like a study group that you are assigned to at the beginning of your first year. I say “like” because in reality it is so much more. Essentially it’s an otherwise random group of six first-year students from different backgrounds, genders, and nationalities that spend two or three hours a night sitting around a table in a tiny room talking through the case for each and every class. Needless to say I had two questions about the people I would be hanging out with every night for the next year: 1) Will I like them? ; and 2) Will they like me? It really never crossed my mind that this could be a positive experience; I was just hoping it wouldn’t turn out to be miserable.
We like to spend most of time messing around, as you can see

Well, that is a long-forgotten memory. I’m going to make a bold statement: my Learning Team is the best in Darden’s first year class (I say “bold” because a lot of people would say the same thing about the LT, but they would be wrong). I don’t even think of my LT, which we named, by the way, The Little Bears, as a study group anymore. I could be a CPA with a background in marketing and investment banking and I would still show up to meet with them every night at 7pm sharp. Yes we crush cases all night and yes it is a lot of work but it never really feels like it. We always mix up the night with a healthy dose of jokes, gossip, and videos (like this: ).  No one hesitates to stay late and help someone whose struggling with a particular case and everyone brings a unique perspective on each case.
In three months I’ve learned almost everything there is to know about them, including their families, relationships, future plans, and, most importantly, drink preferences. I’ve especially learned a lot of about the last point. You see, we are a social bunch of Little Bears (I know you’re making fun of me right now for referring to us as The Little Bears, but trust me, it’s awesome).  If there is a Darden social event, you can pretty much count on all six of us being there. Much like the rest of Darden, we work hard and play hard. We just happen to get after it a little harder, whether it is coordinating a sweet Breakfast Club costume ensemble for the 100 Case party (still waiting on the pics), taking on the dance floor at TNDC, or meeting on a Friday afternoon for LT “Happy Hour” where we can kill two birds with one stone (cases and drinks). This past Sunday is a great example: after a long weekend, “J”, who is originally from New Orleans, invited us over for homemade jambalaya and drinks so we didn’t have to meet at Darden to go through our cases.
I guess the thing that as surprised me most is how much (I think) my LT likes me. You see, I am a weird person. Like, sarcastic, corny, self-conscious, all-over-the-place, off-topic . . . just, weird. I was pretty worried that everyone would catch on and quickly write me off. Instead, my group knows I’m weird and still wants to hang out with me every night. And that, more than anything, is what helps get me through the long days.
Stay tuned for next week’s blog “Never Mind, They Didn’t Like Me and I Got Voted Off the Island”.

If you would like to contact the author, he can be reached at