In a recent Slaughter & Rees Report from The Tuck School , we get this:
In his Nicomachean Ethics , Aristotle defined the highest form of human flourishing—eudaimonia, or “good spirit”—as the application of one’s talents to meaningful endeavors of personal and community consequence. This flourishing is largely independent of the results of these endeavors; it lies more in the application and effort.
The whole article was actually about the cultural value of sport in Norway, with a contrast to Russia, in the context of the Olympics and also of course what’s happening in Ukraine, and it’s worth reading.
Anyone interested in trying for an MBA has been willing to work at something, somewhere in life. In order to get into a position to even apply for business school, you have to have already succeeded in things. You would have had to managed to graduate from high school, and then applied and gotten accepted to at least one college, and not only gone to that college but actually finished multiple years of it, and actually finished the whole darn thing and gotten the diploma.
Then in most cases you also would have been out in the working world for a couple of years before being ready to try for graduate school.
These things all take perseverance, stamina, mental effort. Showing up and studying and doing things you didn’t always want to do, in order to jump through the hoops and meet the requirements that the system set out for you to meet.
Given all that, then it might help to take a step back right now and figure out why you’re trying for this next big goal.
What’s driving you?
If you’re sick of your job or feeling burned out, or that you’re in a dead end, then bschool can help to invigorate your path, to set you off in a new direction to do something else that better excites you.
However, if you’re just looking for a way out, and not really sure of what the actual problem is that you’re trying to escape from, then it’s very likely you’ll end up right back in a very similar situation in another five years post-MBA.
If the source of the problem is that you’re lacking motivation in anything, then finding the meaning is likely going to be much more important than simply finding a new way to earn a paycheck.
Any MBA program can help facilitate that search for meaning, but you have to be open to that as your goal. You need to go into it not just looking to meet the requirements to qualify for a different track in your life. You have to go into it ready for some soul-searching and digging.
Bschool isn’t quite like therapy, but there’s some real overlaps in the process for many people!
The process of simply applying is full of introspection and self-examination — at least, it is when it’s tackled in the spirit that the adcoms invite, what with their challenging prompts and super short essay questions.
This is one key reason why starting early can be so useful!! It’s not something where you can whip out a set of answers to the essay questions overnight and have them convey much of significance.
(A caution on that note, though: You don’t actually want to start too early, because working on last year’s prompts is not likely to help much. The essay questions aren’t going to start coming out for the next admissions season until May and June. You have time, don’t worry, there’s lots of calendar left ahead still.)
You may be reading this and scratching your head, not quite sure what to do with this information. If your work life isn’t currently offering much significance or meaning to you, then it may seem like an impossible problem to solve. How will you find meaningful work out of an MBA program? (Pro Tip: That’s actually a very good question to be asking yourself before you go to all the trouble of applying!)
It’s totally possible to find work of meaning and significance in a career that still brings in a very healthy salary. But please don’t be fooled into thinking that working at Facebook or Google is automatically meaningful work. You are just not likely to be on that “change the world” path in a product management job in a tech company. It might be quite nice to be earning that hefty paycheck in the future, but the work itself is unlikely to satisfy any soul-sickness you may currently have.
We’re not saying this to discourage you from bschool. Bschool can be an incredible stepping stone on a journey towards more fulfillment in life.
Just be conscious of where that fulfillment is really going to be had.
The skills you’ll gain from the MBA program, yes definitely they can be useful. And it’s likely you’ll make very important friendships and form lasting relationships, and yes, the network yada yada yada.
But trading up so you’re swapping out your current soul-sucking job for some fancier title and greater upward mobility is unlikely to substantively change your capacity for true happiness in life.
That can absolutely come from your work. But a new career alone is not necessarily going to be the full answer to whatever ails you.
Tell us what you think.