Carve, don’t crave: Secrets of MBA life

Every person who steps into a B-school has three key aspirations – pulling off the best job, a stellar academic performance and carving out a CV that will help throughout his/her career. None of these goals are too ambitious, they’re easy to achieve in fact if you follow one thumb rule – not craving any of them. Here are 11 simple rules of the game, anyone who is able to follow all of them without missing even one, will be able to see himself/herself having accomplished all three of those goals.

I will give examples (a real and recent story, for each point) of one of my best friends here, he did all of this and he today stands tall, happy and accomplished. Read on –

1. Define yourself at the outset (strengths and weaknesses)

It’s okay to be lazy, to be intuitively strong but factually weak. At the outset, have a tryst with yourself. Speak aloud to yourself as if it were an interview, tell yourself your 3 best strengths and 3 worst weaknesses. Hold on to your strengths and face your weaknesses as often as possible.

This friend of mine, came in with a preconceived notion that he couldn’t speak well publicly, had  a fear of talking to people and will never be able to do anything better than studying hard and getting decent grades. He knew his strengths right – better than most catching power, clear and correct pronunciation and dynamism. But what made him who he is today were actually his weaknesses, since the journey of overcoming them is the most empowering. His diffidence in public speaking, diffidence about being able to strike a balance between hard work and fun and most importantly, lack of ability to withstand pressure, all of them today stand defeated. To know how he did it step by step, read on…

2. Define your goals ‘independently’

Just because every Tom, Dick and Harry you know in your batch has the common goal of getting a CTC 12 lakhs+, you don’t have to follow the league. Jot down your own goals independent of everyone’s. There are guys who are self-obsessed and there are girls over-enthusiastic and unrealistic about estimation of their own capabilities. Hence, it is important you choose not to belong to these cliques. Choose your friends wisely, choose the ones who are optimistic about life, confident but not arrogant, who are humble and poised and most importantly, who do not ‘influence’ your goals.

This friend of mine chose to keep his goals simple, to have a good life, with time for himself and his family, for his pets and for doing good to the world. He was realistic about money he would need to accomplish many of these goals, but he had a trade-off. Each one of us can have this trade-off, provided we strive for ‘larger happiness’, that goes beyond external compliments and what people define your success as (they’ll mostly mislead you by telling measure of success is the post and money, well, none of them actually are. Save the twinkle in your eye, most of these will lose it to directionless ambition, defined only by popular opinion).

3. Do a 2-year long role play: become your own consultant

There will be times of quandary. Solve your puzzles by standing ‘outside of your problems’, like an external consultant – rationally.  Talk to this internal consultant as if he were someone else and not you. We have all right answers within ourselves. Just let them free. This friend of mine had a habit of evaluating a situation till exhaustion, but ultimately made decisions based on instinct and they worked the best for him.

For example when everyone said, Finance is ‘the’ thing or Marketing is the ‘job rage’, he chose to give himself time to decide. He chose to do majors in both of them. It takes effort, but it in the end gives a regret-free choice. He today chose a finance job, but has a commendable marketing knowledge, which makes him easily stand out of the crowd which specializes only in one. To add, his simplicity of appreciating every subject yielded him top scores in a range of subjects, from Sales and Distribution Management to Operations Management and to various finance subjects.

And with probably minimum effort, blame it to innate intelligence, I call it an outcome of simplicity of his approach to life – he never needed external acknowledgements from peers and never went around shouting, “arey marketing aur finance mein toh mere ache hi aate hain, naturally blessed hu!” Well, yes you’ll find people saying that, try not to become one of them. Keep negativity at bay, by ‘consulting your own self’ – every day!

4. Pay attention to being happy (with simplicity)

Hang out on a night before an exam, take an exam without opening the books, help someone and leave out the class, brave a class without having read a case (especially when it is a strict Prof.’s class), just try not be perfect. Experience these little pleasures, you’ll not find them partying or dancing drunk in a pub trying to hide from your own self.

5. Stay keen on ‘solutionism’

There will be problems, face-offs and fallouts, stay strong. Even if you score low, keep your morale high. Work smart and never hard in an MBA or you’ll become a face in the crowd.

6. Look out for difficulties, grab them, create history (even if it’s for your own record only!)

Someone told my friend, big shot names don’t give out live projects. He went to a supermarket for daily purchases and had me as a partner in this. We quickly jotted down some key observations for a leading brand and within 15 days of our first try, we had live projects that stand out of a huge, literally huge crowd. Today we have our ideas implemented globally to our credit and every interviewer we faced was but awed at our achievement and creativity. It is the company all marketing enthusiasts will name first when asked their favorite company.

How did it happen? – keep away from over-ambitious people, life is simple, keep it simple and straightforward. Build a network of positivity, simple actions done with positivity yield big results. So next time when a committee member who is too sluggish or incompetent to work says, getting quality projects is impossible, grab it. Work it out yourself, it is way simpler, provided you’re competent and willing to go an extra mile.

7. In the mid of all, define happiness, recite it to yourself again and again

Over and over again you’ll fall and feel negative because of the intense competition around. People will come and recite their definition of success again and again. Keep away is the caveat.

This friend of mine had a close friend who compared all our seniors and batch mates everyday and listed who’s ‘wow’ and who’s ‘dharti ka bojh!’. My friend chose to filter this person’s opinions out. He recited his ‘own’ definition of success and told himself that his goals do not require him to work and be paranoid like others.

8. Take risks, be different – in little things

What difference can an audacious presentation make to you except that you may risk your grades? Well, try it out, you’ll walk out more confident and jocular with yourself than ever once you do it. Learn to laugh at and with yourself. Play and prank with yourself, celebrate your identity by doing these different things. The most important part of a B-school is to hold on to your original self.

9.Take studies seriously, and fun even more seriously

Study well, enjoy even better. No, you don’t have to get drunk to do that. My friend had the guts to keep two cats in his house and cleaned all of their litter on his own, fed street dogs, hung out in almost all restaurants of the city trying out all those gourmet buffets, spent hours chatting with his loved ones, donated his savings to charity impulsively whenever the need be, all the while, when everyone else was busy participating in thousand competitions, reading cases every day and cramming and group studying. He only picked up books before an exam and managed scores that took people by surprise! How?? Because he kept life simple, he never copied others and never ridiculed them either. The trick is to do what the heart says and keep little things of happiness nearby always.

10. Be blatantly honest, don’t follow any of those ‘professional’ tips given just before placement season.

Yes, there will be coaches for interviews. Chuck them. They’re no good to tell you ‘what a big deal one job is’. You don’t have to learn those ‘crafted answers’ to tell me something about yourself or your career goals. The more honest and smiling and comfortable you’re with yourself in an interview, the better you’ll do. Of course luck will work for some who you’ll say never deserved what they got, but let that not bother you. Yours is ONE life and your ONE chance, don’t waste time thinking about justice. Get up and do justice to yourself, by being honest – even when everyone says it can ruin you.

 11. Shine like a precious star just for yourself. Let the street lights shine for others.

Once, you have practised having an internal focus for both success and failure, in these two       years, you’ll see yourself shining the brightest from within.

My friend today has a job of his choice, a contented family, a clear plan for the future and a purified heart, compassionate and free from any external references. He today shines the brightest for his family, MBA didn’t not just make him a good scholar – he already was intelligent enough to score well; MBA gave him the confidence that he could defy what others said wasn’t possible. The little incidences today polish him everyday as a person, because he learnt to pay attention to happiness. We all want to shine the brightest, but define first – for whom??? Your family? Your friends and peers whom you want to impress with an Audi some day? Or just your conscience?? MBA is not what everyone tell you, empty your heart before entering, you’ll come out full of a treasure of experiences worth more than any CTC or a brand house.

You will love reading: Pushing the right buttons – Case Study.  Must read article Casino Royale & Goa


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Kumar Mayank

Excellent article, thoughtful and detailed and straight from the heart. Hats off !! Though I found a it a bit on the generic side , couple of points (personal opinion) : 4) Not trying to be perfect does not mean hanging out a night before an exam or taking an exam without opening books or ……….!! There is no pleasure involved in those situations. Easier said than done. 8) Trying to be different isn’t synonymous to making an audacious presentation and risking your grades. 9) Similar as above. Not necessarily the right thing to do. No offence but the friend… Read more »

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