Friday, February 24, 2012

Spending Money I Don't Have While I've Got Time to Do So

Its 72 degrees, sunny, and I’m sitting on the porch of my Ivy Gardens apartment, staring at the UVA baseball stadium and wishing to God that I still had a year of NCAA eligibility left. I’m also punching myself for ever signing up for a class that would take place at 2:45 on a Friday (granted this is my only class all semester on a Friday, but still, c’mon).
It’s a rare moment of reflection for me in what’s been a crazy month with an even more ridiculous one on the horizon. This seems like the first Friday afternoon in forever that I’ve had to just sit back and relax. First it was a wedding in D.C. Then two weeks ago it was skiing in Snowshoe, West Virginia in a small three bedroom condo with 13 of my closest classmates (needless to say, things got . . . weird). This past weekend me and two dozen other Darden students headed south to New Orleans for Bourbon St., Mardi Gras, parades, beads, and lots of memories I’ll never remember (things got . . . weirder). Now I’m a mere 16 days away from a Spring Break trip to Cape Town, South Africa. For two weeks I’ll be either on a beach, hiking a national park, on hunting elephants on a safari (just kidding we’re not hunting them, but I might kick one or something, just to annoy it).

Me and Elvis on Bourbon St.
What do all these things have in common? A three-day hangover? Check. A mechanical bull? Check. A plane or car ride that gave me an excuse to put Adele on repeat? Check.  But mostly what ties everything together is the significant amount of money they require. Everything is relatively cheap (the plane ticket to South Africa was $750), but when you’re income stands at exactly zero dollars a week and has been for the better part of two years, it doesn’t matter all that much. I’m also usually pretty averse to spending money; I usually bring my own beers/flask to the bar and once even snuck an entire Dominos extra large pizza into a basketball game (don’t ask). Yet recently I find myself continually spending more money than I really should be. And I don’t really feel that bad about it.
Of course, the question is why? One of the most important things I’ve learned at Darden is that time is far more valuable than money. When a company is unable to deliver on a project, the true cost of that failure is not the money spent, it’s the time and manpower resources that have been wasted. The same goes for an individual stuck in a job or career they can’t stand; they might think they can’t quit because of the money but what they should realize is their time on earth is far more finite than their access to money ever will be.
Well, I’ve got a lot of time right now, tons of it. Probably more than I will ever, ever have again (unless, you know, I get fired). And like I’ve posted before, I totally intend to take advantage of it, whether that’s helping get business ideas off the ground, getting lunch with professors and other speakers, or taking on expenses for trips that I can’t really afford right now. Because, by the time I’m making enough money to do these things, I imagine that I’m going to be pretty short on time. That’s why I even made sure to push my start date back to the end of summer, to make sure I have time to travel, see new places, catch up with old friends, and try to get my life organized. So yea, even if I have to keep getting crap from my mom (“you’re taking another four months off? Didn’t you just take off two years?”) I don’t really care. I’m going to give myself as many opportunities as I can. Take that Sandy.   
So I know I said this before but it’s worth repeating: The most valuable thing you have is your time. So don’t waste it. I’m not going to.

Dave’s Awesome Song
Jeremy Kay – Have It All

Please don’t confuse this blog entry at all with the movie In Time with Justin Timberlake. That was just dreadful writing; this blog is only moderately bad.

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

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A Guide to Class Participation at Darden

I get questions from people all the time asking about what grades are like in business school, and specifically at Darden. Do they matter? Is it hard to get good ones? My friends in medical and law school would answer by saying “No, MBA grades don’t matter and you don’t go to a real grad school” (Of course, they’re just jealous). But in reality the answer is: it depends. And it depends mostly on the type of person you are.  Since one of my favorite pastimes is to categorize people and judge them, I figured why not talk about the different “grade seekers” at Darden. I'm talking specifically about this as it relates to class participation, which is usually 50% of your grade at Darden because of the the Case Method.
Now before I do this, I want to lay out the following disclaimers:

1)      I am a huge nerd. I try really hard in class, especially those I care about. You can talk to anyone who’s had a class with me since high school: I raise my hand in class to comment all the time, mostly because I have a huge ego. I’m not saying my comments are good, because they hardly ever are, but if you think this is about making fun of people for trying too hard, you’re wrong.

2)      Almost everyone at Darden will fall into more than one of these categories. 

3)     Seriously, I really enjoy all of my classmates at Darden and am lucky that I get to learn with some of the smartest and most I’ve ever met. This just meant to be fun, so relax already.
Without further ado:

The Gunners

These are the students who will stop at nothing to be in the top of the class. Some want it to help them get a scholarship for second-year, while others just take a lot of pride in having the professor know they are smart, even if it means the rest of their classmates roll their eyes every time he/she speaks. While Gunners are highly prevalent in the first year, they are nearly an extinct population in the second year of business school, mostly because people have rediscovered golf, video games, or golf video games. Thank God for Gunners though, because without them the other 90% the class who barely read the case and didn’t run the numbers would be in serious trouble.   

Gunner Symptoms: Excessive hand raising, pit diving the professor or speaker after every class, constant use of abbreviations or acronyms, always sits in the same spot to ensure professor can clearly see them
Gunner Treatment: Several alcoholic drinks

The Masters of the SP
For those non-Darden people reading this, SP stands for “Standard Performance”, which is essentially given to half the class (Darden grades on a curve) and is the equivalent of getting a “B”. At Darden there could not be a more appropriate term for this grade than Standard Performance. The people who get many of these understand exactly what it takes to be in the middle and do no more, no less. Mainly that involves reading the case, getting the general gist of what’s going on, and then offering a solid comment every 1-2 classes. The goal is to make sure not to stand out, good or bad. This is the largest group of students, with a population that continually grows from the first day of class to the last, as people realize they aren’t special.

Master of the SP Symptoms: Dressing in non-bright colors to divert the eye, answering every question with “it depends” to avoid taking a possibly wrong stance, only talking during cases related to companies they used to work for
Master of the SP Treatment: A professor who relentlessly cold calls

The “I don’t care because I either a) already have a job or b) don’t have a job yet”
I would bet that most of these students don’t even check their grades when they are released. To them, grades are a complete afterthought. I mean, after all who cares? Companies don’t look at them. Your parents don’t get them in the mail like undergrad. And there’s a 99.9% chance no matter how badly you’re doing that you’re not going to fail out. Instead, why not focus on getting your post-graduation dream job or enjoying your last few months of freedom before working a hundred hours a week in investment banking. This group is virtually non-existent in the first year before growing exponentially in the second.

Symptoms: Sitting in the sky deck, having your laptop open in a class that requires no spreadsheets, having your laptop closed in a class that does require spreadsheets, an “eff you” look in their eye
Treatment: For those that don’t have a job, getting one. For those that do have a job, nothing. Just keep living the dream my friends. 

Let me just briefly close with this: I honestly believe that grades don’t matter that much, if at all, in business school and at Darden. But that is not to say that people don’t try or shouldn’t. I see my classmates come prepared to class everyday with numbers, insights, and questions that add tremendous value to our case discussion. It’s just that they’re not doing it for the grade, but because they are passionate about the topics and they don’t want to let their classmates down by being unprepared.  Darden really is a self-policing classroom in this way and it that makes grades irrelevant. And I think that’s great.

Dave’s Awesome Songs
·         Citizen Cope – Sideways
·         Eels – Fresh Feelin
·         Marshall Tucker Band – Can’t You See

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