Have you seen any of these Fyre Festival documentaries? Pretty incredible, how all of it went down. The entrepreneur dude who tried to pull it off is called a pathological liar. The most incredible part of all is, even after he got prosecuted by the FBI, he launched a totally new swindling scheme. Apparently his moral compass is calibrated a bit differently than our own.
These tales tend to be rife with irony.
Take the case of a journalist or nonfiction author who plagiarized and fabricates. Every so often we hear of such a case. A big incident happened in 2012 when science writer Jonah Lehrer’s books were pulled. It was discovered that he even made up Dylan quotes for his articles. He admits that his acts “caused deep pain” and he says he did it out of “arrogance”, “a willingness to take shortcuts” and “carelessness” — all reasons why we detest plagiarism. (The big irony of course is that those candid comments came from him during a speech he was paid $20k to give talking about decision-making.)
It’s really easy to get a certain smugness when sitting outside of the circle where such a thing happened. It’s easy to look with an eye of disdain upon the participants in the Fyre Festival fiasco. How could someone do that? How could you be so naive? Why didn’t you say something? How come you didn’t blow the whistle?
The thing is, it’s easy to get sucked in. You get a charismatic enthusiastic charmer and you can get swept away with an idea that, if you stepped back and gave it some distance, or put on your thinking hat, you’d easily recognize it wasn’t so brilliant.
Like all the nonsense with that elite colleges admissions scandal.
So today’s post is a reminder to poke your head out of the morass that it’s mired in, and make sure you’re keeping things on the straight and narrow.
(You’d think we were some type of morals-and-philosophy blog, the amount of time we spend on this stuff. But honestly, in the modern era of The World is On Fire!! we feel that it’s important to be public about these, well, important things.)
So here goes:
When you fill out your MBA applications, telling the truth is important.
Seems obvious — too obvious to even have to say it. But that’s how poor decisions are made.
It’s not that we expect BSers who come to the EssaySnark blahg will be trying to bribe admissions officers or sports teams to get in.
It’s more insidious than that.
You get some idea that you need to show the adcoms that you’re a really impressive candidate so you start making up career goals that you think “sound good” — like, you want to be a some CEO at some big corporation some day.
That’s not exactly a lie, since anybody can say anything about what they want to do in the future, and who knows, maybe you legitimately are aiming high. That’s not going to keep you out of bschool if everything else lines up well and you convince the adcoms about what you’ve done in the past that sets you a part. (Most schools really don’t want such long-term and lofty visions for a career goals statement, but that’s not the main point we’re trying to make today.)
Where things can get slippery is where you get a little creative with the facts of your past.
Maybe you tried to start some type of do-gooder organization at some point. You got together with a few friends and put the basic sketch of a plan together where you would launch a non-profit to raise money for underprivileged kids to pay for their school fees. A noble cause for sure! You had the best of intentions. But after about six months there was some disagreements with your buddies, and one of them took a new job and suddenly had no free time to devote to the project any longer, and you hit some walls in trying to get started. Nobody wanted to give you more than a few bucks. It was harder than you expected. The shine of the fresh idea started to wear and it became work instead of fun, and then it languished by the wayside of your life, and suffered the slow demise of yet another abandoned initiative. It still exists for you in concept, and it was something you always intended to go back to and revive, and make real, but you know it’s not a real thing that actually went anywhere.
Yet in your MBA apps, you have a section of your resume about it with dates coming into the present day, and in an essay you talk about this NGO that you started. You kinda sorta fail to mention that it floundered and never got off the ground.
You really need to be telling the truth in your apps.
You realize that schools do background checks, right?
You don’t need to inflate your history — and it could easily backfire on you if you do.
Same deal with massaging the dates of employment to try and cover up a gap, maybe because you were laid off and are embarrassed about it. Or that you feel you don’t make enough money, so you round up (significantly). Or you’ve heard that it’s possible to make too much money and you don’t want that to keep you out of school.
You don’t need to lie to get into bschool. Really truly you don’t.
Yes the process of constructing your messaging in the applications requires some careful planning, and there’s an art to choosing what to say and definitely also how to say it. That’s part of what we mean when we say that you need to construct a pitch — it’s messaging and it’s being selective in what you share and the way you present it. (Pro Tip: This is why a) you need to plan for multiple drafts of every single essay, and b) getting the help of a qualified reviewer who knows how to pitch to a top MBA adcom is critical.)
If you’re talking to an admissions consultant who advises you to go ahead and apply to Columbia Early Decision as an “insurance policy” even if Columbia isn’t your first choice, then please consider carefully the ethics that this person is demonstrating. Just because an admissions consultant tells you it’s OK does not make it OK. Don’t leave your own morals outside the door when you enter into an agreement with any type of coach or advisor.
We believe in karma — to the extent that each and every decision you make affects you. You are the only person who has to live in your skin, inhabiting your life experience. Every time you cut corners or fudge the truth even just a little it decays your core. It takes the shine off your being. Do this often enough and you’ll end up a nasty person without even realizing how you got there. Maybe all that matters to you is your own success in whatever external way you’re defining it. But we would suggest that that’s not the recipe for true happiness in this life.