Well, it comes as no surprise that I wasn’t nominated for this cycle of Best of Blogging awards. I guess that is what happens when you are marked absent from your “job” for four months. 🙂
I graduated yesterday, and if I only could give such an event justice on this little piece of the web…instead, let me just say this: it’s been a journey that took a lot faster than I ever would have expected, yet to sum up all I’ve learned and will carry with me could take another three years. The lessons I’ve learned, the humility I received, and the friends I made are incalculable. I leave this place having achieved not only my professional goal of breaking into the upper echelon of the world’s consulting firms, but also having set and achieved new goals that I didn’t expect to pursue during my time here at Michigan.
President Obama spoke at my ceremony on Saturday, and embedded in the pomp and circumstance of his visit and speech were a few nuggets of wisdom. Here’s one that will keep me stirring about:
It makes it nearly impossible for people who have legitimate but bridgeable differences to sit down at the same table and hash things out. It robs us of a rational and serious debate, the one we need to have about the very real and very big challenges facing this nation. It coarsens our culture, and at its worst, it can send signals to the most extreme elements of our society that perhaps violence is a justifiable response.
I learned all about the concept of BATNA in my negotiations class; if you’re not familiar with the term, it essentially defines the terms of which a negotiating party needs to set before he/she walks away from the bargaining table. Given the extremely fortunate job prospects I faced this past fall, I fortunately didn’t need to execute my own BATNA (which read: $3.50 per hour and a slap across the face). But Obama’s words made me ponder — when will I be faced to come to terms with the challenges of an increasingly demanding job and lifestyle, and how will I respond? How will I resist the urge to coarsen the culture?
Will I not put my foot down when I’m unable to take time off to visit my family?
Will I stay silent when I disagree with my principal or partner?
Will I slowly drift away from the desires I have today to use my skills for creating opportunity for those less fortunate?
I can sit here and predict, with some confidence, that none of the above will happen. But I get this nagging feeling that many of our most vilified business leaders had some semblance of idealism early in their careers as well, only to be blindsided by the monotony of life that is only avoided through death or an inexhaustible bank account. And that is why, I think, it becomes all the more important to surround yourself with people that will challenge and push you to make sure it doesn’t happen in any of your lives.
So when I say, truly, that I achieved some goals I didn’t expect to pursue during my time here at Michigan, here’s one: I befriended people that will make sure I stay on the right track, and vice versa. These people come from all cultural, religious, racial, and familial backgrounds; they differ in their desires and hopes of what to accomplish in the future; they are simply not cut from the same cloth as their peers. But what they have in common — what we have in common — is a desire to do our very best for those who deserve our best. The includes our friends, our families, our business partners….and ourselves. And regardless of what is taught in the classroom, it is this gift — the one of true friendship and accountability — that all of you aspiring to pursue your MBA should aim to find. And don’t let anything else get in the way.