We started on this topic about “possibility” yesterday and got off on a bit of a tangent.
While it’s true that America is a pretty cool place and yes there are lots of opportunities here, it’s much harder to take advantage of those opportunities than the propaganda would have you believe. That whole “land of opportunity” thing in fact isn’t quite what it’s thought to be, according to some current research. The tl;dr of that article is that how far you are able to go in life economically has a lot to do with the position you started from. If you come from a place of privilege already, then it’s much much easier to climb that ladder and increase your earnings as an adult. If you are less advantaged from the beginning, then realizing the American Dream of financial success is not as open to you as society seems to claim.
Similarly, we can sometimes get caught in the trap of thinking that a certain kind of success should be easy – especially if many in our social circles have already notched their belts with the thing we’re trying to pull off. If all your friends have their MBAs, then it’s pretty easy to start thinking you’re a nobody if you do not have one yourself. It may be wholly unconscious and completely unintentional on their part, yet many who have achieved something will put on airs – and if you get a whole group of people who’ve achieved the same thing, then man is it easy to feel like the odd man out if you’re the only buddy in your group of buddies who has not done that thing.
Another common mindset that we see is the BSer who invests all of his/her sense of emotional self-worth into this idea of getting into bschool. Regardless of where it comes from (we suspect parental pressure in some cases) it’s unhealthy. It just gets all built up into a mania.
— Essay Snark (@EssaySnark) March 11, 2016
Some perspective is in order.
Getting into a top American MBA program does not make you instantly a success story – nor does it mean you’re a complete and utter loser if you couldn’t crack the secret code and get one to admit you this season.
Despite how much we talk about the importance of accomplishments on this blahg – in terms of being elements that are useful to your adcom reviewers in evaluating your candidacy for admission to a top MBA program – those accomplishments do not actually indicate your worth as a human being.
That being said, doing stuff is one of the best ways to increase your self-esteem and earning a more enjoyable life for yourself. Making a contribution to the world is how you pay rent for the privilege of living here. A very nice by-product of the “doing stuff” attitude is that adcoms tend to respond positively to those profiles.
The question we’re posing for you today is, is the stuff you’re doing motivated for the right reasons?
When you think of your next steps in life – say, for the rest of 2016 – then putting some plans together is wise. We’re not fans of New Year’s Resolutions since most people fail so spectacularly at them by January 10th or so. Instead, we’re big on taking stock of our life situation at regular intervals – quarterly is nice, like with the changing of the seasons (hint hint) – and at those times, assessing progress, figuring out what should be adjusted, and where to go next. And not being enamored of the Biggest and the Best, when that’s what someone else has defined. What society says is valuable rarely has true and lasting value when the individual achieves it.
When you get into a great MBA program, then YAY!!! you will be super excited, and everyone will celebrate with you. And then after a few weeks, your life will be same-old same-old again. You’ll go through more excitement when you move to campus and start classes – YAY!!! all over again. But then you’ll fall into the next routine, and you’ll look around, and realize that you’re just you, there in this new environment, being the same old schmuck you’ve always been. (Everyone on the inside feels that they’re a schmuck. If you don’t feel that way, then you’re the biggest schmuck of all.)
It’s exactly what economists have studied around the happiness experienced when buying a new car: It does not last. You’re elated for a short time, and proud of yourself driving around in this shiny new beast of a machine – and then it fades. Most people do not accrue lasting satisfaction from their cars.
Here’s a news flash: Getting into bschool will not make you happy.
Yes, of course, it is/was/will be exciting when it happens. And yes of course, bschool will change your life. Getting an MBA will set you on a totally different trajectory than where you were before. You’ll meet brand-new people and have very different experiences than you otherwise would. All that has value. And there’s, err, something called an education that goes along with it. Pretty cool stuff.
But if you think that getting into a Top. Business. School. is going to fundamentally change the way you feel about yourself, or that this fact alone will make a long-term difference in your happiness level… well, hate to disappoint you there, partner.
Yeah, we do in fact have a few more things to say on this… we’ll wrap it with one more post tomorrow.