How fascinating!

[paragraph one, in which yours truly dances in from the left, Martha Reeves singing ‘Nowhere to Run’ at the top of her lungs from the laptop speakers.]

Happy belated Thanksgiving! I can’t believe it’s a year ago since I walked along in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade with two friends, and we were this close to freezing our butts off. Excuse my French. Good memories.   

As I was going through some of the archives to see what I was doing last year and two years ago, I ran across this from a vintage post in November 2005:

" Before I came to b-school,
people would comment that I was good at thinking outside the box, and
my reply was always that I was good at it because I had no idea what the box looked like, or where it was, let
alone if I was thinking in- or outside of the box. Now they’re teaching
me what the box is (ha, and not just what it looks like, but who built
it, how they financed it, what the box-strategy was, how the team
worked that built it and why there is a demand for boxes in the first
place), and I’m worried that I won’t be able to think outside it again."

I realised reading it how much I learnt, then and since… I can now value the box using different methods, see how you can innovate inside and outside the box, how you start up new boxes, what the businessplan looks like for the boxes, what the competition for the boxes might be, if you want to start up some new boxes where to get the finance from, how to lead the box-team, and who to call if I ever wanted to trade box-derivatives. Damn. I know all this stuff. And as far as thinking outside the box goes, I don’t seem to have lost that knack completely. I think. Show me the boxes!

[end blogpost, at which yours truly leaves the stage to the right, humming along to the Mad Lads. I’m trying out and really liking it.]

Sound advice

1798548482_b50eb5556cHat-tip to my housemate M who pointed me towards this poem below, Rudyard Kipling does an excellent job in setting out what’s important in life I think. Thought I’d share, perhaps it will mean as much to some of you as it does to me.
Anand, I’m still thinking about your question, yes I have something to say about it, but haven’t been able to pour it into anything coherent yet. For now, Kipling says it best.

IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ‘em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
‘ Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!

Rudyard Kipling

What to do about interview jitters?

1933037094_9a0b2c5663[if you look closely, you can almost see where I work on the photo on the left.]

It’s that time of the year again. Leaves are falling, I’ve scrambled to find my gloves and buy a cool new hat for the winter season and the MBA application season has started in earnest. This Friday the interview invites for LBS R1 candidates will be sent out, and I feel a duty to make some (hopefully useful) remarks on the whole interview-thing, in a paying-it-forward kinda way. So I started writing until I remembered that I have already doled out more than enough advice in the past, and looking back on it, there’s really nothing to add. So I’m going to be shameless and copy my previous advice below (original post here). Anyone who’s got anything to add: please be my guest and add a comment.

On b-school interviews
Be early, no need to stress out about being late if you can help it.

If you’re unsure of the dresscode, ask (there’s nothing worse
than being over or underdressed to help increase nerves for no good

Think ahead and plan some answers to common questions (why the
MBA? Why this school? Why now? What do you want to do post MBA? Why
you? Examples of teamwork, leadership etc), but don’t rehearse them to
the point where you become a robot reciting pre-rehearsed answers.

something interesting to say (ideally, you are an interesting person
so that shouldn’t be too hard).

Prepare some questions for the
interviewer and try to make them interesting (what did you like best of
your experience? What electives did you particularly like? What is the
one activity that I should not miss?). Remember this is as much an opportunity for you to find out more about a school as it is for them to find out more about you.

Do not drink during the
interview (as in: drink alcohol. Any other beverages I have no particular view on).

Know your application inside out and
expect detailed questions.

Don’t be rude or disparaging.

Be honest. Be
nice and gracious.

Don’t slag off anyone (former bosses, other schools). See also the previous points on not being rude and being gracious.

See also this about my own LBS interview and trawl the other blogs to see what their experiences were.

Be yourself. Oh, that’s a tricky one. You’re nervous, want to make a good impression, and in my case I had no real idea what the perfect business-school student was like, but I was quite sure they probably didn’t resemble me. I had the best interviewer though, he made me forget all about it, and was interested in me as a person. And I decided that since I had no idea what a typical MBA was like, I might as well be myself. As you can tell, it must have worked, reader, I got admitted.

Enjoy it!

[edited: ok, so I did have more to say than in the original. I could’ve known. Once I get myself talking, it’s hard to stop. So I added the bit about being yourself and enjoying it. It seemed like those were sensible things to add.]

On the necessity of unproductive gaps in your day

12112007492It’s been a while. I know. If you’ve been waiting (I know mum has but am not quite sure if anyone else is), my apologies. For reasons that are quite unclear to me, I haven’t felt that I’ve had a lot to write about lately. It’s not that I’ve a quiet life recently. Lots of stuff has been happening, all good. I’ve been to concerts (Harry Connick Jr. and the Missa Solemnis were particularly good), seen DVD’s* (the Matrix. Yes, gasp, I’d never seen it before), had drinks with tons of people, went to lectures, had many dinners at Wagamama’s and other assorted restaurants, flew back to NL for some TLC, read books, thought a lot about what was in those books, worked. But does anyone really care, or want to read about it? Do you? I suspect maybe not. I suspect that most people still come here wanting to read about what an MBA from LBS is like. And I have preciously little to say about it right now. Well, that’s not quite true, I do have something to say (with the upcoming interviews in mind in particular), but haven’t sat down long enough to collect my thoughts. Which I really want to do. Perhaps later on this week. If can sit down long enough.

Saw the above ad in the tube yesterday and I can’t imagine anything worse. What would happen if someone took all the unproductive gaps out of my day? I wouldn’t chat to my colleagues of a cuppa, listen to music on my way into work, write, read, dawdle, daydream, think. Why are we so obsessed with doing instead of taking time out now and then for being? How on earth do people develop thoughts, or daydream without unproductive gaps? Why this obsession about productivity (as my American friends are wont to pontificate about: US productivity is so much higher than in Europe. Well, congratulations. Well done. I’d rather have a life.)? Hoorah for unproductive gaps in the day! We need more of them!! Say no to ruthless efficiency!!

* I’m the Western Hemisphere’s worst movie-goer. I’ve never seen ET, or any Star Wars movie, or any of the Harry Potter ones. Or Gone With The Wind. Or Jaws. Any move that came out in the last, oh, say 7 years or so? Chances are 99 to 1 that I haven’t seen it. I do like movies. Really. But it’s just not part of my culture DNA. My favourite movie of all times? Cry Baby, a John Waters cult classic.