Even the most diehard political junkies are probably burnt out and exhausted by all that’s gone on in politics over the last few years. If you were never interested in politics anyway, then it’s easy to tune out of all the nonsense, and stay tuned out.
But the things that the governments are doing matter.
Back in a seemingly innocent time, before the cacophony1 of partisanship rose to its current levels, we offered similar advice here on the blahg. We titled the post “Preparing for bschool (and interviews, and sorta life in general) and it included a little quiz about current events. That was in January 2016 and truly, it’s worth going to check out.
In what now seems quaint, the quiz had a bonus question asking What is the ‘Brexit’ because back then, January 2016, it was only an idea that was simmering below the surface of the British political scene, and most people were unfamiliar with the term. The British electorate voted on and passed Brexit five months later and now of course, everyone in the world knows what Brexit is (and we don’t call it “the Brexit” which maybe is like how the British say that they are going to hospital, whereas here in the U.S., we like our article of “the” in front of our nouns).
Why does it matter?
Let’s bring it back to you.
From a purely practical perspective, we know this:
1. You’re young. Even if you’re on the older side of the interested-in-an-MBA spectrum which could be pushing 40 years old, you’re still totally young.
2. You’re interested in business. Obvi, right? That’s what a Master’s in Business Administration is supposed to be about. Even if you want to go into non profit or social enterprise or politics, it’s still the world of business at its core.
3. You’re motivated. You want to advance yourself in life, and you’re willing to work for it.
These three things are an interesting mix indeed, and this is one reason why business school can be such an interesting and (dare we say it) transformative experience. Of course, as with all things in life, the MBA is what you make of it.
4. You care.
Now, saying you want to “make a difference” is the cliche to beat all cliches when it comes to applying to grad school, MBA or otherwise. We wince a bit when we see this in essays. But, we know that many of you really do care, and want to see things change for the better.
So that means paying attention.
The only way that real change will happen is when the people who are living in a particular moment in time decide that change needs to happen. We are only very slowly seeing any movement on the most crucial issue of all which is so perfectly represented by this 2011 statue by Spanish artist Isaac Cordal:
We include that image today just to underscore the importance of individual action — and to offer a stark commentary on what leadership is not.
Nobody can save the planet. But all of us must save the planet.
Nobody can cause a democratic uprising. But all of us must stand for freedom.
Nobody can create gender or racial equality or wage parity. But all of us must advocate for fair treatment — and most especially, you will soon be in a position to make change happen on an individual level, in looking at hiring practices at the firm that you work for, in pushing back if only white men are being considered for a position, in refusing to speak on a panel at a conference if only white men are on it.
The way you can become empowered to speak up and voice your values is by paying attention.
If we don’t pay attention, then the “leaders” in government will take all of us under.
It can be overwhelming, and discouraging, and disheartening, to read the news every day. If you work in finance and the stock market is doing well, it can be easy to feel like everything must be OK in the world. If you work in finance and things are going to shit, then it can be tough to look squarely at it because it means you’re facing your losses. If you have a big heart, then following the news can be painful, since your empathy takes a beating all the time.
That’s also why it’s important.
Being a leader is about doing things that are hard.
How can we change what’s wrong in the world if we can’t even face it?
If you’ve not been a regular consumer of world events, then we encourage you to do so.
You’re going to need this once you’re in bschool. All systems of the world are interchanged. Something happens in politics? It affects the stock market. Something happens in the economy? It changes what politicians say. There’s a natural disaster somewhere? It impacts commodities markets and companies, from manufacturers through shipping and everything along the chain. Being an astute observer of these events and where one thing has an effect on another is what’s needed to make good decisions as a steward of business, and it’s also important for you as an individual walking on the planet.
Are you aware of the changes in AI and the effect that they’re having on individual rights?
Are you OK with a surveillance state?
What about healthcare, and prescription prices, and price gouging for those who are trapped by a pharmaceutical company’s patent?
How do open borders, or closed borders, really affect the economy?
Are interest rates currently going up, or going down, and why might that be a good thing or bad for companies? For consumers? For the retired population?
None of these are simple situations, and there are no easy answers to any. We’re not suggesting that you will be expert in all domains. But a passing knowledge of literally what’s on the headlines of the major newspapers today should be part of your consciousness.
And guess what? This is going to help you with your MBA interviews.
But even more important: It’s going to help you be a citizen of life.
(Note: Here’s the next post in this series.)
1 Maybe you’re already doing this but here’s a Pro Tip just in case: See a word in an article that you don’t understand? Instead of breezing past it and pretending it doesn’t matter, do that little double-click to highlight, right-click to pull up a context menu, and run a Google search on it. In this case: cacophony means discordant sounds, and partisanship means when the people in each political party are stubbornly sticking to their own party’s beliefs without any interest in listening to views from the other side, even when their own views are not rational or logical — and both sides are doing this.