We did a rah-rah post yesterday designed to help you appreciate how much opportunity you actually have right now, today, when it comes to your next-season chances.
In reality though, what will it take to succeed?
Not in MBA apps, but in everything?
(And maybe in MBA apps too?)
You may have heard of the research on grit from University of Pennsylvania psychologist Angela Duckworth. Here’s her TEDTalk from 2013 which is worth revisiting even if you’ve watched it before:
Very often, we see capable, qualified, intelligent individuals come to us for help with their MBA apps. And, very often, after working with them for awhile on their essays and giving lots of feedback about where the content is not working and what is missing and what they need to change to improve, we still get another set of drafts back with similar issues.
Sometimes this happens over and over, with draft after draft for school after school.
We try to change our tactics then, to offer the feedback in new ways, using different metaphors, and explaining the missing pieces in other terms.
Almost always, these BSers are coming from good professional success, where they’ve worked in a challenging job or environment for years. They went to good schools and graduated with college degrees. They’ve shown they are smart, and capable.
Sometimes these same BSers also have GMAT scores that are OK but not great. Often, they’ve retested two or three times and the
score hovered in the same general vicinity each time. Little improvement. Not much progress being shown.
It’s possible in such cases that the individual has an undiagnosed challenge, like a learning disorder such as ADHD or dyslexia.
Sometimes though, we suspect that the individual has simply not learned how to self-motivate, and most especially has trouble dealing with the state of mental discomfort that arises when faced with learning something new and difficult.
In other words: They’re lacking in grit.
If this is you, you’re likely recognizing the issue yourself as you read this. Maybe today’s post is making you squirm. Maybe your palms are sweating and your heart is racing.
Maybe you’re feeling awfully uncomfortable. Like you’re doomed.
If that’s the case for you now: There is hope! You can conquer this.
Learning grit is a skill. You can pick up Duckworth’s book if you’re feeling like reading about it might help you.
Duckworth references a Stanford professor named Carol Dweck whose focus on the so-called growth mindset is interrelated. If you’re more of a visual person, then here’s another video for you:
So much of applying to bschool is about working hard.
But at least as much is about understanding yourself.
If you recognize yourself in some of the stories we’ve related today, and are worried that your difficulty in persevering and the sense that you feel allergic to hard work might keep you from your goals… Then that’s a first step towards dealing with the situation.
Grit and a growth mindset can be nurtured.
The one way to approach these new mindstates and skills is to find a willingness to grapple with them. That will give you an opening.
And, try to remember to be patient with yourself. These behaviors might be fully entrenched. It may feel like you’re intentionally trying to sabotage yourself — and maybe you are. You may have some thought patterns you learned in childhood or growing up based on how your parents treated you that are interfering now. Working with a qualified therapist might be worth exploring too. Or, getting checked out by a physician to see if maybe you do have an undiagnosed physiological or neurological issue that gets in your way might be useful. Even if you’re an adult now who’s been successful in building a life for yourself so far. These issues are real and it might help you to know if it’s the reason.
These are not characterological defects. These are real problems for some people, and solutions might be available.
It’s easy to spiral down when you are subject to your own internal barriers like this.
But sometimes, just recognizing what might be going on with you allows a little light to enter that darkness, and can help illuminate a path forward.
Anyone care to share their experiences with self-motivation, challenges with procrastination, and feelings of self-sabotage? Anyone have a story about discovering dyslexia later in life? Anyone feel like they could use some support? Comments are open and we allow anonymous posting here.
To come back to the title of today’s post: What you control in life.
You control your own willingness to look at the difficult topics. You control your ability to deal with challenges directly. You control whether or not you shirk from the hard parts; whether you hide; whether you are able to take a deep breath and look at the things that scare you or not.
You control how hard you’re going to work at mastering yourself.
You control how many times you try again, when you flounder and flail.
You control your willingness to be open, and how much you will look within when it seems that the universe is conspiring against you.
If you don’t feel like you’re willing, then you can try being willing to be willing. Baby steps.
You don’t control outcomes.
You don’t control relationships.
You don’t control the stock market, or the weather, or how bad traffic will be.
But you have the ability to impact your own real-time experience of life, and the chance to make things better. There’s always that chance.
Being willing to work hard is perhaps the most fundamental secret to success in this Twentieth Century world.
But in reality, it comes down to the ability to deal with emotional pain.
Are you willing to do that? Or figure out why you’re not?
You may also be interested in these posts from the deep dark ‘snarchives: