Finding value out of a slump

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Diving headfirst into any experience causes fatigue, and I think my most recent change has been no exception. Most of the time, we start something and invest so much time making sure we understand what is going on, that we don’t take much time to step back and reflect. But there comes a time to take stock – inventory and catalog what we’ve learned and who we’ve met, and I think that time has hit.

At HBS, we have something known as the “November slump”: the excitement of meeting new classmates is over, the frenzy of midterms is in the rear view mirror (oy), and we’re gazing toward a very long, dark winter. But on the other hand, I feel like I’ve only just started finding my groove. Here are a few thoughts on how to re-energize during the slump, and some themes that will help get over the hurdle before the end of the semester.

  1. Recognize that we have just scratched the surface of getting to know one another. There’s this sense of “shiny new toys” when you meet 90 new people (or 900, depending on your scale), but we still don’t really know each other. I’m energized by the idea of going deep into friendships with so many people, and learning what makes these people tick. I’m starting to recognize the extreme value of the connections made at a place in which you are surrounded by such brilliant, disparate minds. I plan to draw energy and inspiration from the process of getting to know everyone more meaningfully.
  2. Start something. The wake up –> class –> case reading –> repeat cycle is the necessary framework structuring my day, but I’m quickly learning that I need to do more than just this to keep myself fulfilled. Starting a project and solving a problem that feels meaningful and juicy keeps my mind racing and provides a nice reprieve from the daily grind.
  3. Get out of the bubble. I’ve kept this running mission of meeting 2 new people a week for the last few years. I love hearing different perspectives, and so I will continue to challenge myself to do this both within and outside of the HBS community. Furthermore, I enjoy exploring new cities and I feel like I’ve barely gotten to see Boston. Whenever I feel like I’m in a rut, changing physical setting gives me perspective.
  4. Connect great people. I feel as though I’m adding value when I can connect two people who would benefit from knowing one another. As small as it seems, making those introductions can be a great way to rekindle friendships and connections, while simultaneously feeling like you are giving back. Making connections
  5. Keep questioning. if something feels wrong, it’s probably wrong. Challenge assumptions and be discerning. It’s ok to push back, and in doing so you are probably making your surroundings better for everyone else, too.

Theme of the week: 27!

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Finding value out of a slump

Always busy, all the time: favorite lessons from the first half

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Business school gets the reputation of being a two year holiday filled with travel, catching up on sleep and partying. But I can’t say that’s been my experience to date. Instead, I am always busy, all the time. The schedule here is very rigorous – it entails an early morning discussion group (whom I really do enjoy waking up to!), followed by 2-3 classes, coffees, lectures or corporate presentations, entrepreneurial ventures, evening activities. Somehow, we also manage case reading in between.

To that end, I have learned a tremendous amount about various subjects, myself, and how to work effectively in academia as an adult. Here are the lessons I’ve enjoyed the most from this year so far:

  1. The best way to get people to like you is to get them to do a favor for you. This is hands down my favorite lesson of the semester, since it works counter to what I would have assumed. The psychology is that if you are trying to win someone over, by having them do a favor for you it allows them to think that you are the kind of person they would do something nice for, which means they must believe that they would like you in order to do that. I give Benjamin Franklin full credit for this.
  2. Transparency and communication are the most effective way to get anything done. This one has come up at least once in every single course – being transparent by communicating motives, assumptions, and information unique to each person in a group can solve the vast majority of organizational and financial issues institutions face.
  3. Within an organization, transferring learning is an enormous challenge. When you think about organizational states of knowledge on a scale of total ignorance to robust procedural knowledge, there is a combination of art and science required. Don’t underestimate the efficiency of structural learning and institutional knowledge as you reshape teams.
  4. Know what your expected rate of return is for every investment you make, (which can broadly be extrapolated as: understand the risks and rewards over every decision, whether it is an investment of time, money or effort). This may seem obvious, but when you have as many overlapping opportunities competing for your time as we have recently, using this framework helps me assess tradeoffs every day.
  5. Frequent introspection and self-reflection are critical. Take time to evaluate what you have learned, who you have met, and what you enjoy. This introspection has also enabled me to prioritize my schedule more effectively. HBS has been a great forcing function for making this a recurring practice, and I find that I’m much more self-aware than I was before.
  6. Bonus: not everyone washes their hair every day (Suave case). I am honestly truly surprised to learn this!
Always busy, all the time: favorite lessons from the first half