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I’ve spent all of 2014 in an intense one-year MBA program at INSEAD. Some say grad school is a bubble in a mystical, magical world with its own rules- and it's probably true. Underneath those Poisson's distributions, behind those jokes that only grads laugh at (or find remotely funny), above those excursions, and inside those classrooms, there were a few lessons that kept reoccurring throughout the year. There are a list of things that I think resonated with every conversation, event, and discussion that took place over the course of a very eventful year.
1. FROM THOSE TO WHOM MUCH IS GIVEN, MUCH IS EXPECTED
Being privileged to be able to attend such a program (and probably more than 50-75% lucky) gives us the huge responsibility of high expectations- not only of ourselves, but to our communities and the world at large. We owe it to the less privileged to alleviate their situations- be it societal or environmental. Live. Dream big. And make an impact.
2. SEEK FAILURE. PLENTY OF IT.
Failure is seen quite differently in different parts of the world. Wherever you are, embrace failure and even seek it out. There's something about the safe environment of trial and error inside a MBA program, and that is found in very few places outside of business school. No one will judge, they will probably celebrate your failure with a toast. A dear friend of mine had a comfortable dragging job for more than five years, and then overnight he was made redundant. There is a chance that you'll fail doing what you don't like doing, so why not take a chance on failing at what you truly love?
3. DON'T PAY A DIME FOR (ONLY) EDUCATION
Having spent a lot of my monetary and other resources on school, I’ve realized that paying for just knowledge is useless. Academic information can be found online and free of charge (start by Googling “How to...” and “What is...”). What is worth the investment is having the privilege of debating and sharing this content with more than 70 of your peers from various backgrounds. This is all orchestrated by a professor who oversees things in various capacities. These scenarios are priceless, and that’s what you pay for, amongst other goodies like networking, access to alumni, new and beneficial ways of thinking, and free-flowing coffee fountains.
4. WELL-ROUNDED? THANKS, I'LL PASS
There’s a lot of hype on being well-rounded, and on focusing on those weaknesses so that you can be all nicely turned out. I’d venture to make a bold statement: no one who has ever amounted to something in history of mankind was a generalist. Specialize. Focus on those strengths. Show the world both your magnificence and your weakness in all their glories.
5. FORGET ABOUT WHERE YOU CAME FROM
It’s irrelevant really. Everyone has been everywhere, even if they haven’t. You are the places you visited, the cultures you read about, and the people you’ve talked to and interacted with. You’re much more international that you think. UAE and Bahrain do not define you, and neither does France, Madagascar or Brazil.
6. RISE UP FROM THE DREAM DEPRESSION
The Great Depression happened in 1930, when the economy was at an all-time low. We are now living in the dream depression- we’ve depressed our dreams to fulfill everyone else’s consulting and banker prophecies, except our own. Let’s dig up those hidden dreams. Let’s be that painter, that foodie entrepreneur, that social impact worker, let’s disrupt the music industry, and let’s bring healthcare to those in need as social enterprises.
7. INVEST IN HUMAN CAPITAL
The biggest investment you’ll ever make is people. You’ve probably heard that before, but there’s no richer investment than that of maintaining and cultivating relationships. I’ve seen great ideas fail because of the team executing them, and on the flipside, simple ideas disrupt because of the people working the concept. Decision making is solely a human element and will continue to be; partnerships, pivots, successes, and failures revolve around people. Have a good team, a good partner, and the rest will hopefully flow.
8. HELLO, SHALL WE HEAD TO IBIZA AND TALK?
Getting to know people on a personal and professional level is no longer only happening in the classroom or in professional workshops. It’s happen- ing on those weekend excursions, in that little coffee shop in Cartagena, or on that private island. So invest in those treks with likeminded people. It might seem ludicrous, but never underestimate the power of people thrown together to bring out their essence– the good, the great, and the awesome.
9. THE MOST VALUABLE CURRENCY
The effect that you have on others. It’s not about you. It’s about that new kind of legacy that gets passed on instantly. The kind that makes people want to present their best selves when they’re in your presence. When you see great people doing awesome things in the program (and elsewhere), that only makes you want to go forward.
10. THE ROAD TO INCONVENIENCE
Ever heard of no pain, no gain? If you’re ever trying to decide whether to make that next step or not, ask yourself if you’re going to be inconvenienced. If the answer is yes, jump in with both feet. Prepare to take a hit on several parts of your life. Nothing worthwhile ever came from sitting around and doing a cozy, comfortable job.
The time to act has always been now. We are the people we’ve been waiting for. Let’s show the world how it’s done.