This perhaps is in the category of common sense, but you know how that goes. Sometimes you don’t realize things until later (and if common sense really were all that common, then it seems the world wouldn’t be in quite such the state that it is). If you do make it to the States as…
While we still have the attention of those Class of 2020 MBA applicants who either have already gotten admitted in Round 1 or who are looking like they’re highly likely to get there in Round 2 (yay!), we thought we’d talk today about something you may or may not have thought of:
Studying for the GMAT or GRE was likely eye-opening, in reminding you of how much math you’ve forgotten, but that type of studying is not the same as being in school.
Where you’re like responsible for READING and you have to PREP CASES and ohmygosh there’s even more READING to do.
If you’re lucky enough to be headed off to grad school in the Fall, then we wanted to give you a quick reminder that, like, yeah. It’s gonna be WORK!
For anyone who’s been out of school for more than like 5 minutes, the reality of the academic environment and how hard it is can be easily forgotten. You’ve been practically obsessed with getting into bschool literally a year or more now, when you take into account the time spent in tackling the GMAT and figuring out the app cycle and going through the entire process to this point. You may have overlooked the fact that you’ve signed yourself up for SCHOOL. A quick primer on what that’s about may be worthwhile.
If you were a good student in college, you may fall back into those productive study habits without too much turmoil once you’re on campus. If you were never really that good of a student….
We recently were sent a free review copy of This Book Will Not Be on the Test: The Study Skills Revolution by Paul Rivas.
Here’s what Paul said when he sent it to us: “While designed to help families get their money’s worth in college, everything in the book is probably twice as important for grad students.”
Doing well in school requires effort. It’s work — and a different type of work than you do in your job. The type of focused concentration required to learn something new is a form of mental pain. It’s literally painful to learn, at least it can be when the topic is totally new. That experience of work being painful is something you probably went through when you first started your current job, but you may not remember how awful it is. Be prepared for the shock of it; it may take you some time to acclimate. You’ll be going from an environment where you were doing well, possibly even coasting, where you had full command of your discipline, where you knew what was expected on the job and were able to perform satisfactorily such that they actually kept paying you to do it…. To a totally opposite situation, where not only do you have to show up and focus on a lecture, and then another one, and then probably a third one after that, but then you have to go home and open up the books and study the stuff that made no sense to you in the classroom, and actually teach yourself the topics that the professor was going on and on about.
It’s like 180 degrees from the place of comfort and confidence that you had been in on the job. It’s likely to cause some angst.
This is particularly true given what you have signed up for: GRADUATE BUSINESS SCHOOL. If you’ve not before been in grad school — or at a Top 10 institution of any kind — you may be in for a rude awakening when you land in your MBA classroom and realize that school actually started long before you arrived.
This Not on the Test book that came across our radar is not going to give you instant insights to all the study secrets of the world. You can probably find much of this same information elsewhere on the internet. So we’re not going to advise you to go buy it, though you might want to at least read through the preview on Amazon or go to his website and check out his blog .
However, if you weren’t a straight A student in college — or even if you were — you could find value in some of the practical tips that Rivas offers.
Some of it may seem basic when you read it, especially if you read it BEFORE you are back in the academic environment. But honestly, that may simply be due to a lack of perspective. It’s like if you hear that women are advised to breathe during childbirth. You read that and you’re all, “Well duh.” But then if you’re in a childbirth situation, you understand, “Oh. That advice really means something.”
Same deal here.
Rivas has a series of rules, such as one about planning out your time, and another to take responsibility for your learning, which could be considered fairly rudimentary — unless you’re someone who does not do these things, and suffers the consequences of that without realizing it.
Here’s a nugget that resonates with EssaySnark:
“If you approach the real world [meaning, life outside of school] seeking nothing more than the external validation of an A grade, you’re in for a world of hurt. Aiming for As amounts to doing the minimum required to meet an arbitrary and inconsistent standard, whereas aiming for awesomeness amounts to committing to a lifelong process of incremental improvement, of which straight As happen to be a convenient by-product.”
Yup, we agree precisely with all of that.
You may not have this orientation to learning today, but the way to make school the most enjoyable is to find a way to enjoy school. Sounds either hopelessly circular or perhaps idealistically unrealistic, but we hope that you’ll discover the power of this for yourself.
You may not want to learn accounting, or marketing, or statistics. Nobody is naturally interested in all subjects that they will require you to take for your MBA. However, if you’re able to appreciate the process of learning itself, then even something unappealing or difficult can still be tackled and learned, because you’re figured out ways to both motivate yourself to do the studying, and tricks to use to retain the material that’s so difficult for the brain to hold onto. Like the periodic table of elements in chemistry, or all the equations and different acronyms in corporate finance.
Or it’s possible that someone trying for the GMAT or the GRE for the first (or the umpteenth) time could find value in some insights at the beginning of Chapter 6:
“You’re not a poor test taker. You have poor study skills.
‘You don’t have test anxiety. You have anxiety because you know you haven’t mastered the material and are not going to do well on the test. The problem is that you don’t know why. (Poor study skills.)”
A huge chunk of this book is stories from the author’s experiences as a college tutor, and as he warned when he sent it over, it’s really written for parents. The real “meat” of the material in the context of actual advice to use for studying doesn’t start until page 93 — of a 130-page book. So it’s probably not really ideal for all of your soon-to-be MBA students.
But. If you read this post with some trepidation, knowing in your heart that you had trouble applying yourself to school the last time you were there, then take this as an early intervention, before you even need it. Bschool will be far more reading than you can ever stay on top of, and nobody will be watching to see if you fail. Good intentions won’t make you successful. You’ll need to do school differently this time if you want to get different results. Getting early prep and developing systems that work for you from the very beginning will be key.
And, ask for help! If you find you’re not keeping your head above water, don’t just pretend that everything is fine. There’s a lot of unspoken peer pressure in bschool where everyone pretends that they’re doing fabulous, even if really they’re not. Don’t let things go too far if you’re in trouble. All schools have resources available but they won’t be able to help you if you don’t seek them out.
From Lao Tzu:
Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.”
Since all of you now have your Rd 2 apps done if not nearly done, and while we still have your attention here on the blahg, before you go, we wanted to offer you a few links to worthwhile articles that we think would be valuable to spend time with.
We frequently lament the attitude of the BSer who is overfocused on school brand and prestige as their first priority in choosing where to apply, and this first post may help you better understand where we’re coming from with that attitude:
That article is from Wait But Why? which is one of the most brilliant resources on the internet today.
We don’t often post links to Wait But Why? because most people go there and don’t surface again for hours or sometimes even days. When you’re in the throes of writing your essays, you cannot afford such distractions. Now that you’re done, we can guiltlessly send you that direction.
Those posts are immensely useful when you’re trying to procrastinate, including the post that perhaps made Tim Urban famous:
Again, don’t go there if you still have essays to write or some other critical task to complete! Learning about procrastination is the most sickly wonderful way you can procrastinate.
Both of those posts are meaningful, but the first one especially where you learn about the Wooly Mammoth has the potential to truly change your life.
We see the Wooly Mammoth in the Real World in working with BSers all the time. Whenever a Brave Supplicant has an extreme reaction to the feedback we offer in the Essay Decimator process, pretty much 100% of the time it’s because their Wooly Mammoth has been threatened in some way. (Note: Ironically this seems to happen quite often to the extreme overachievers — the ones who should not feel so threatened, because they’ve already proved themselves; the WBW article may offer insight into this.)
At this point in early January when you’ve got some MBA apps in and you’ve already accomplished more in the first two weeks than many folks will accomplish all year, we will offer some additional advice: Find a project to spin yourself into the moment those Round 2 applications are all done.
This is advice we offer every year and it’s important. You’ve built up momentum with the frenzy of focus that you’ve been deploying. That focus is a muscle; it’ll get atrophied and weak again if you neglect to keep using it. It’s just like working out, it’s always easier to keep going with your fitness routine than it is to start over and build it up again when you slack.
So find some project, especially ones at work that will let you grow and develop and contribute more. And some in your Real Life too. Dive into whatever you’re passionate about. Don’t know what you’re passionate about? Then just dive in with something. Action reveals values. Waiting for life to happen does not.
Here’s one post in a series on what we’re literally suggesting you do, along with actual suggestions for things to, like, go do.
That should keep you busy for awhile.
While we’re on this topic of self-improvement and discovery and figuring out who you are:
We’ll also take a quick moment to make a pitch again for a possible program that may eventually get launched. Last year at this time we called it EVERYBODY GETS IN! and it was meant to be a structured success network of like-minded BSers who would support each other with input from us. We are still toying with this idea and may be breathing real life into it at some point this year. If you’ve enjoyed any of the advice that EssaySnark offers, beyond just the practical tips for MBA admissions, you’re invited to log your interest via the form at the bottom of this post (no obligation, we don’t even know what we’re selling if anything) and we’ll keep your contact info on hand for the if/when of anything happening.
Again related to our recent post about an ethical situation we found ourselves in (you don’t need to start with that post but you can if you wish).
After weeks of pondering, the simplest description of the whole category of ethics for us is, “Can I trust you?”
This came about from reading merely the introduction to the book Skin in the Game* by controversial thinker Nassem Nicholas Taleb. (You can read the intro for free in the online preview, which is worthwhile no matter what.)
We’ve come across so many instances of ethics in the real world since considering this incident (in case you are sick of this discussion and wish we’d talk about something else by now… sorry/not sorry. this is interesting for us and we feel wholly relevant to an individual’s existence in the modern era).
The reason why ethics matters is that it helps you make decisions — for yourself, and also decisions on who you want to involve yourself with.
If a company offered you a job with a salary higher than you’ve ever earned, are you going to accept it regardless?
Or are you going to think about what that company does, and consider the value that it brings into the world?
Here’s one piece of seriously disturbing data from a survey of programmers that the site StackExchange conducted :
Perhaps respondents misread the question or were moving too quickly through the survey to think it through. As phrased, it sounds like the question says, “You have already identified that it’s unethical. What do you do?” If you’ve DECIDED that it’s unethical, then that right there is your decision. Isn’t it? You should not be involved in building software — or contributing to any task at work — if you’ve decided that it’s unethical. Yet 36.6% sounded like they were waffling. That maybe they’d go ahead and build it.
Yes we agree, there are a gazillion grey areas, but in this case it’s saying that you’ve DECIDED what the ethics are. Why is the answer then, “It depends”?
The main angle we can see in those 36.6% is that they are being honest and acknowledging that perhaps they might do it anyway. It’s actually likely that a good chunk of the 58.5% saying they would not build it actually would. In the real world, there are tremendous pressures and influences, and dealing with a hypothetical, it’s very easy to claim moralistic purity. If not building the software out of your convictions would cost you your job, we can totally see why it would be hard to stand up and speak out. There’s also the problem of power dynamics. If you’re just one guy (or gal) on the team, and your boss and all your teammates are going along with this, and you understand it to be greenlit and approved from above, then you’re inclined to assume that others have thought through the ethics and have determined that it’s OK to do it. Most people want to assume that they work with others who also are ethical. If you’re the only one perceiving an ethical problem and everyone else is all gung-ho and excited to blast forward with it, it would be very easy to second-guess your own worries and stay silent.
But those are exactly the situations where being brave and speaking up are so important.
Sometimes there is all this momentum in an organization and nobody stops and takes a step back. Everyone assigns the responsibility for moral policing to the overall group, assuming that everyone else has handled that task — yet it’s possible no one has done it. It’s so easy to get blinders on.
It’s like the H&M hoodie ad that came out in January with a picture of an African American boy in a sweatshirt that was just — no. That was so obviously insensitive that some people even assumed it must have been intentional as a way to generate attention for the brand. Because who could have seen that and not noticed how bad it was?
If you’re sitting in a meeting with thoughts of, “Am I crazy? Is nobody else noticing this THING that is wrong here?” then you NEED TO SPEAK OUT.
And you need to put some thought to big questions like this in advance. So that you are prepared and ready to take action if (when) the time comes for such action.
If the first time you’ve ever thought about these difficult situations is in the moment when you’re faced with one for the first time, then it’s likely you will fail to act, out of self-doubt or nervousness or not wanting to be wrong, and lacking confidence to stand up for your ideas. These things matter.
There was a thing on RadioLab about new types of media editing technology that are a little bit freaky in terms of their potential to do harm — but what was even freakier was the completely laissez faire attitude of one of the developers. Here’s direct access to the RadioLab stream if you are interested in hearing the whole piece:
Here’s a demo of an Adobe voice editing app that definitely raises concerns:
It’s basically PhotoShop but for audio.
But the chilling part in the RadioLab segment was where they talked about this technology:
And they interviewed one of the developers in this field, a CS professor at University of Washington named Ira Kemelmacher-Schlizerman (starts around 11:15). And the interviewer was basically asking, “Aren’t you freaked out about what this technology can do?” and the technologist woman answered with a virtual shrug of her shoulders. She said her job is a technologist. That’s it. She was fully unbothered — or she just had never considered the questions or her part in it before. (this specific exchange is around 20:05)
Brave Supplicant, please don’t be like that. In any context of your life, anywhere. That just hurts to hear.
Though honestly, her position of “I’m just a technologist” is probably not unethical.
These are the things that the real intellectuals are debating. It’s where Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg clash (the ethics of AI and how much trouble we’re gonna be in if constraints aren’t put into place, but hey Elon, even if they are, there will be people like this technologist who don’t see it as part of their job to worry about such trivial things as, like, how the tech they’re building can do harm.)
It all just makes the head hurt.
And in the end, we come full circle.
Are all ethical decisions completely personal? Is ethics defined by the individual only?
The technologist with the capacity-to-do-harm software is clearly not bothered. Her ethics say it’s OK.
Granted, there are BIG cultural implications in all of this; what is considered “unethical” varies TREMENDOUSLY based on what part of the world you’re from.
We’re not accusing the technologist of being unethical. We’re looking at stuff.
Any further thoughts coming from all you BSers on these topics? (If not, don’t worry – we’ll be moving along to other things very soon!!!)
*In the first draft of this post, we wrote the title as Sin in the Game which is sort of funny as a Freudian slip. Also: That link has a referral code, if you click it we get like a penny or something if you go on to buy. If you don’t want to make Mr Bezos pay us a penny that way, please just go direct to Amazon and search for the title yourself. You know how it works.
You know how when you learn a new word, then all of a sudden, you hear it everywhere?
Yeah, our experience deliberating on what to do in an ethical issue seemed to summon all sorts of relevant information onto the radar screen of experience. All of the below is related to our recent story about being faced with an ethical issue with a BSer. This is a place for us to capture what are essentially footnotes and references to the deliberation process, so you can see what we considered and a few of the ideas that are forming our views. You’re welcome to also post your own relevant or interesting links and articles that might further the conversation or add a new dimension to our thinking!
The items in this post are all separate and the order is not meant to signify relationship nor importance to each other nor to us. It’s just a bunch ‘o stuff.
The thing that disappoints me is not that people make mistakes — we have all made mistakes, we all live with them. I'm disappointed by a person with a platform and influence preemptively saying "It is not my job to care."
— your friend Helen (@hels) January 25, 2018
(That tweet is the final comment in a lengthy tweetstorm from a restaurant critic responding to other critics who say that a chef or restauranteur’s behavior should not be considered as part of a restaurant review; the entire thread is worth reading.)
So as a ‘Snark with a platform, what is our duty or responsibility?
Academic integrity policy. pic.twitter.com/uWxP1KuUNx
— Academia ɐɹnɔsqO (@AcademiaObscura) February 3, 2018
Long – but fascinating, if you’re into minutiae of government and the crazy things people will do to milk the system! – report from the US ethics office on how a staff planner at the Veterans Administration tried to finagle the system to go along with the VA Director’s request to have the government pay for his wife’s travel so they could attend Wimbledon together.
The New York Times has a Q&A section written by an ethicist; a recent column covered a parallel situation:
“Should I tell on my cheating classmates?” In this case, it was a couple of middle school students cheating on an exam when the teacher was out of the room. One of their friends thought it was wrong and debated whether to say something later, such as to the prestigious high school where these students were admitted. The ethicist put a lot of emphasis on the cost to the whistleblower, and on what type of change to the system might come from telling on the cheaters.
What about you?
Have you read anything recently (or ever) that really struck a chord? Anything that’s stuck with you, about how to live a right life?
We’re eager* to know!!
Update: This conversation on ethics has been continued HERE!
*Some people may have said “dying to know” there — but that’s not a phrase we care for! Please don’t be “dying” for anything — not till you have to, of course!!! Life is about living!
If you missed it, please go read our initial post yesterday on How do you know what to believe? before continuing.
Today we’re going to offer a (much shorter!!) post on techniques to build your critical thinking skills.
First, an easy one:
In our prior post we stated that you should not read the comments on online articles or Facebook, that they are cesspools that drain out all hope from the world.
Obviously, that’s our opinion! Right? You caught that yourself. Right?
When we were looking for something to back up our command that “you should not read the comments” we did what anyone would do — we went to Google. A search for “don’t read the comments” gave us this:
A Salon article on top? Hmmm. Salon is totally left-leaning. We opted instead for the Scientific American link, since that seemed promising, but it turned out to be not that great for our purposes. Scrolling down, we skipped all the weird links on that page and instead clicked on the one from The Telegraph which has “science” in the teaser text, which is exactly what we were looking for! It got us this:
There are no obvious tags on that article to indicate if it’s journalism (an attempt at unbiased reporting of the news) or opinion. But we didn’t need to read past the first paragraph to know that it wasn’t what we were looking for.
In case it’s not clear: A qualified journalist seeking to report objectively on a scientific study is not going to have that inflammatory comment about men in the first line.
Even if the study she was reporting on was about how men were shown to be hard to convince (or something), the way she wrote it instantly told us, as her reader, that she was not being objective in her reporting. It’s possible to state that a study came to a controversial conclusion without using loaded or judgmental sentences like that.
When you’re reading, be sure that you’re THINKING right along with it. Don’t go into passive-mode and just absorb. Interact with the ideas. Question them.
This post we found on Medium has some good advice: How do you know who to believe?
Use this test:
Is the person’s profession related to the topic they are talking about?
The writer then goes on to say that a politician talking about science is not necessarily a trustworthy source. All the politician can do is repeat what they have heard. They are not reciting information to you from their own studies or expertise.
Of course, this is an inexact tool. Case in point: This whole series of posts here on EssaySnark where we’re talking about how to evaluate news items for truth and accuracy. We are not trained scientists and don’t have any experience in journalism. All we’re offering is our perspective and some hopefully useful advice. The ‘Snark is not a definitive resource on this subject. Does that mean these articles are useless? Well, we’d like to think that it wasn’t a waste of your time to read them! But we acknowledge to not have actual expertise here.
It’s kind of like what you read on Wikipedia. Is everything there guaranteed to be true? Definitely not. However, our take is that it’s more likely to be so, based on the open nature of that resource and the way that the market of information on wikipedia is able to self-correct.
But let’s take another example:
Great to see this. @TheASBMiT . Our new business school is doing so great. We will be employing many. Think the students are fantastic. pic.twitter.com/aoT6mSrrJN
— Tony Fernandes (@tonyfernandes) March 27, 2017
That’s from the Asia School of Business, a MIT Sloan initiative, where a professor who also teaches at Harvard claimed this:
“At least five students in the first [Asia School of Business] class would easily earn Baker Scholar recognition if at Harvard. Only the top five per cent of the HBS class is given this recognition. That ASB has five such students in its inaugural class of 47 is quite remarkable.”
Would any of you care to offer any comments or responses about that quote, as a starting point for our further discussion?
This stuff about fake news and bias in the media is real, and it’s important. EssaySnark wouldn’t be surprised if bschools started introducing classes into their core curricula to teach students critical thinking skills and help them evaluate sources of information. It’s really, really important to know what you’re reading and figure out for yourself where the truth lies.
The Washington Post — part of the establishment, a very traditional news operation, and one that’s frequently accused of being very left-leaning and liberal — posted this article about PolitFact going out into Republican communities and talking to people about the job that the Politfact researchers do . In case you’re unfamiliar with them, PolitiFact evaluates claims made by politicians and rates them for accuracy.
EssaySnark links to articles in Washington Post and NY Times fairly regularly here on the blahg, mostly because we do actually trust those sources for trying to be professional and reporting on the news accurately. We also have seen totally ridiculously and fully biased articles on their site on a very regular basis, and they are guilty of publishing things that are totally not news. These old-school publications are trying to stay relevant in the fast-moving culture we’re living in, and they don’t always get it right. We’ve seen them succumb to click-baiting and write overly dramatic headlines.
That’s our opinion, at least — that they’re a useful and trustworthy source, as long as you watch out and read carefully.
Others feel that all of the articles published by such outlets are trash, that they’re totally biased and unreliable.
(BTW, we’d like to also link to the Wall Street Journal on occasion, however almost all of their content is behind a paywall, compared to NYT and WaPo who both give a limited number of articles for free every month. Same thing with Financial Times; you have to register to read even a few free articles there, so we tend not to link to them even though we think they write good stuff. If you see us as all NYT/all WaPo and wonder why, it’s because we try to offer accessible info and not send readers who click into a dead end.)
One reaction to all of this controversy about the news is to opt out. Some people may decide that politics is too loud these days, that everyone is screeching, and it’s easier just to put your head in the sand and ignore it. However, the world of business is intertwined in politics. If you are interested in business, you need to know what’s going on in all of the world, not just your own little corner. It’s important to stay informed. If you don’t, you’re likely to become victim of someone’s agenda. You might become another cog in the wheel of the engine that’s clunking us towards destruction.
(OK, that was a little dramatic. 😀 )
At minimum, you need to understand the news, or at least to see what’s going on with it, in order to form your own opinions on where the financial markets are going. That’s CRITICAL to understand if you’re making business decisions. Do you invest in infrastructure? Do you go for equity or debt? Do you try to reduce inventories or stock up? All of these questions can be answered only if you have a strong feeling for what the overall markets will be doing, which is closely tied to global politics. If you personally care about social issues, then this stuff matters too. You need to know what’s going on.
The best way to sort through a news item and evaluate its veracity for yourself is:
1. Consider the source. Is it a publication that’s known to be biased? You know if it’s a National Enquirer article, that it’s unlikely to be true, especially when the article is flanked by others on alien abduction and Elvis sightings. What about others? Two that are obviously reporting only through the lens of their own political perspectives are Fox News and the Huffington Post. EssaySnark does not tend to read outlets like that because we get irritated at the hype on both sides. Every publication takes a stance; there’s no such thing as neutral anymore, but that doesn’t mean there’s no value to seeing what they have to say — provided you do so with the right amount of skepticism. CNN, Politico, the New Yorker — all liberal, but we believe they are trying to get things right. [EDIT: A BSer disagrees re: CNN! It’s not an outlet that we reference much so we’ll take that input as valid. Remembering their ridiculous TMZ-like coverage of the missing Malaysian Airlines airplane in 2015, and the Casey Anthony case, it’s certainly true that there’s an excess of hype there.] Others like The Economist and the Financial Times are trying to be more even-keel. One way to evaluate? See if you know who owns the property. In the West, all media is operated by a private corporation. The Washington Post, for example, is owned by Jeff Bezos, who owns Amazon, and who is known to be liberal. When he bought the paper, he insisted that he’s taking a hands-off approach, but still. Ownership is not irrelevant. It is even more pronounced at the Wall Street Journal, which was bought by Rupert Murdoch about 20 years ago and changed to a more conservative slant. The venerable US Weekly was recently sold by the guy who runs Rolling Stone to the guy who runs the National Enquirer, and we’ve seen people say that the coverage of the White House has already changed in response. In all cases, the owner has a viewpoint, and they intend to make it known in our culture; that’s why they bought the outlet or channel, to provide a means to do so. All media is trying to influence us.
2. Make sure you know the difference between an opinion piece, and reporting. A journalist who’s out covering a story is, by professional ethics, expected to be looking for the truth. Facts. Verifiable data. However, all of these outlets also publish commentary and opinion, and that’s where it’s quite easy as a reader to fall into a trap. A columnist at any of these publications is writing their own views on the subject, through their own filters. They may be analyzing a situation and attempting to sway their audience in a specific direction. All talking heads on TV are professing their opinion and this includes Rachel Maddow and almost everything on MSNBC, Sean Hannity and almost everything on Fox , and the liberal “news” comedy shows like Colbert and Sean Meyers. Should you still watch them? Sure, if you enjoy them as entertainment. Yes, ENTERTAINMENT. They may also be educational if you’re not up to speed with the news of the moment but they are going to give you information through a filter. They are INTERPRETING. They — like everyone — present their view through the lens of their beliefs. Just make sure you are watching for that. There are frequent misstatements and intentional half-truths on ALL of those shows.
3. Make sure it’s not intended as farce. It’s pretty funny in retrospect when someone believes that an article on The Onion is true. There are certain writers whose work appears in other mainstream sources who are always working the parody angle. When you see a comic on TV doing a made-up sketch, you know that it’s not real. Sometimes it’s hard to tell that a made-up article on the internet is intended to be funny, not true. Satire is a tricky one. Here’s a few stories from The Onion that people thought were real , with some tips on how to tell.
The second test is perhaps the most important, so let’s cover that one again.
Is it supposed to be news? Or is it commentary?
It’s sometimes hard to tell! However, there’s a difference between a news article which means an actual journalist reporting piece on an event that happened in the world, and a column or a post or basically, something that just anyone says on the internet. If you’re reading any blog (including this one!) or something on Medium, it’s NOT NEWS, at least, not according to the standards of journalism. If you’re reading the comments on Facebook or on some news item on a mainstream article — wait, why would you be reading the comments?? DON’T READ THE COMMENTS. Comments are cesspools, they will leech out any positivity you may possess. You know that the comments are just people spouting off. It becomes trickier when you’re reading something from a traditional newspaper. Just because it’s posted on one of these so-called trustworthy sites does not mean it’s news!!
Our hypothesis on why some people are quick to label established mainstream media outlets as “fake news” is due to this fundamental misunderstanding. If a columnist or an opinion writer posts on the New York Times or the Washington Post, they are not reporting the news. Those are opinion pieces. They are SUPPOSED TO BE biased; that’s the job description of a columnist. They are providing their perspective on a topic. All columnists are giving opinion. Same thing with the editorial pages of any major newspaper; those are the perspectives of the editorial board of the paper. THEY ARE BIASED. They are INTENTIONALLY so. That’s the role of those types of content. How do you tell what you’re reading? Usually it will say at the top of the article that the writer is a “columnist”; or, some news outlets now tag pieces as “opinion”.
Here’s how WaPo does it:
Only #4 and #5 are straight-up news, as you would expect news to be reported. The third one, “Opinion”, was a letter to the editor that WaPo published from Senator Jeff Flake (R-Arizona) after he announced that he is retiring at the end of his term. The first two (#1 and #2 ) are sort of straddling both sides; they’re not straight news reporting, and they’re not opinion columns, but they’re trying to help you understand impact — and they are trying to do it objectively but they are not likely to succeed in all cases. Those ones are often very useful, since they’re written by journalists who cover that subject — say, tax reform, and what the proposed plan in Congress will do to the debt, or how it will impact middle class Americans — but they’re still not necessarily reporting facts, and this distinction is important.
Knowing what you are reading, and being able to evaluate the source of the information coming your way, so that you can form YOUR OWN OPINION, is critical for maintaining your sanity, and being able to navigate this crazy environment. Everyone wants something from you: They want you to adopt their ideas. Do you have the skills to evaluate what they are selling?
More to come on this important topic — See here!
“You really ought to read more books — you know, those things that look like blocks but come apart on one side.”
Can you believe we’re already in the middle of this whole application adventure?
Way back in May, when you thought you had all the time in the world and you were coming to the EssaySnark blahg casually for amusement, rather than searching through frantically to figure out how to write a last-minute admissions essay, we started a sort-of series we called The Strategy of Authenticity. If you missed it, here are the main posts:
- The Strategy of Authenticity
- What does authenticity mean… for Stanford?
- Authenticity means sharing who you are
- Authenticity and MBA career goals
- How to show your authenticity: Storytelling
- Authenticity Test
The thing with authenticity is — whether in life, or in your MBA apps — most of the time, when you’re not being fully authentic, you may not notice.
Being authentic is being honest with yourself.
It’s being real.
It’s listening to yourself, and how you sound when you talk to your boss (do you suck up with her? maybe even a little? it’s ok, we all do) and how you talk to your mother (are you sharp or short with her sometimes, because she irritates you, and because you know you can get away with it because she’s always going to be there for you?).
In the MBA application process, being authentic requires some real introspection. You have to figure out why you want this and go beyond the very basic and obvious answer.
We know you want to make more money, and do something different with your career. We understand if you’re feeling bored and a little restless, or that your life is at a dead end.
But what is REALLY driving it?
Is it because you have a friend who’s getting his MBA and you feel competitive with him, because he always gloats a tiny bit when he achieves something, and makes you feel bad about it?
Is it because you want to make your parents proud of you?
Is it because you know you didn’t do well in college, that you were somewhat of a slacker and just coasted, and you know that you’ve been coasting a bit ever since, and so part of you wants to prove to the world that you’re not a lazy bum and that you are worth something, and getting an MBA will establish that?
Is it because it’s just the next thing on the to-do list, and you’re running the rat race of college-job-marriage-MBA-buy-a-house-kids and you want to get to that next level so you can do the next thing that’s expected?
There is nothing wrong with any of those reasons. Most people will have some combination of them rattling around in the psyche or the soul. We’re not suggesting that any of that belongs in an MBA application, but it sure can be useful to know for yourself why you’re doing it.
If you don’t know, then it’s an awful lot of effort to put into all of this.
If you’re only interested in the MBA because somebody you know has an MBA, then by definition that’s not authentic. That’s copycat. What are the reasons for YOU? What do you expect to get out of it? Not just a better job and a higher salary. Those things count. But here we’re talking about the optimization of a life. Namely, yours.
Putting some thought to these questions may seem too difficult, or too useless. After all, no matter what you come up with as the answer for what’s driving you towards pursuit of the MBA, it’s not likely to change your push to get in. It’s not like you’ll go to the effort of doing some inquiry on your motivations, and then come out of that exercise and decide not to do it.
However, it just might help you to be more confident in how you articulate your plans. Such as in an interview context.
When your interviewer asks, “So, why do you want an MBA?” you’ll be incredibly convincing when you introduce your career goals by saying, “Actually, I’ve put a lot of thought into this, and the reason for an MBA for me right now is….”
For those of you planning for Round 2 and wondering what on earth any of this has to do with your essays, we will offer the very straightforward observation that the primary reason that most people’s essays to bschool are so sucktastic is because they are completely lacking in authenticity — and the crux of the problem is, the writer of said essay has no clue that they’ve fallen into the trap of fakeness. This is why starting early is important, and planning for many, many rounds of rewrite and revision. You need to plan for the near-inevitable experience that the first drafts you write will simply be awful vacuous fluffbombs of drivel. You will THINK that you answered the question, but anyone who’s got any experience reading MBA essays (which is everyone that matters, namely your adcom reviewers) will instantly see that you have not.
Or, that you’ve answered in a completely roundabout and milquetoast way that does not reveal anything of substance.
Or, you’ve simply said the same exact thing that is so automatic for people to say. Stuff about “the network” and the world-renowned program and oh I’m just falling over myself to tell you how great your school is.
None of that works in an essay.
But that’s almost guaranteed to be what you come up with on your first attempt.
It’s just what humans do.
This is why essays are so difficult to write. This is why the task is so ginormous.
It’s because you need to go beyond the automatic stuff that other people do; beyond the first-blush idea of an answer. You have to actually present meaning, and context, and clarity of thought.
Not a trivial exercise.
You also need to stop, and ask yourself “What are they asking?” The essay questions are across the board challenging. They may SEEM straightforward and simple, but they all are opportunities for you to go deep. Those who stay at the surface with their answers are those who miss out on a massive opportunity. It’s only when you investigate what’s being asked and you ponder it for a significant time that you are likely to come up with the most compelling way to respond.
That’s where the authentic is revealed.
Want to read more? Check out this article called If This Is How You’re Doing Authenticity You’re Doing It Wrong or, semi-related, is this one from Stanford Business, Authenticity’s Paradox: If You Flaunt It, You Lose It which is about the trend for authenticity in business (think craft beer, artisanal cheeses) yet has a nugget or two of useful insights about personal authenticity, too.
And, if you’re ready to roll up your sleeves and dive in, the Complete Essay Package can help you to do the digging required on core topics for your first set of essays, to give you a guided tour through the process of finding out what these important answers are for yourself — to the great benefit of you, and the adcom, in your apps.
On the theme of GO DO SOMETHING!! today we’ll crib this incredible list of how-tos inspired by Elon Musk.
Most people will find most of these suggestions totally intimidating. And that’s kind of the point, right?
If you want to have an incredible, unusual, not-normal life, you have to do incredible, unusual, not-normal things.
Our suggestion? PICK ONE and commit to it.
Here is the 30 point checklist for accelerated learning .
- Be yourself to the point where you get picked on and bullied.
- If you’re interested in something, binge on it, become obsessed, addicted, and then pull yourself out and get clean.
- Drop out of college or drop back in if it makes sense.
- Move from your hometown and travel the world. [ES: Or go to bschool in a new country for 2 years!]
- Ask your family for help (it’s the only way you’ll discover how much they care).
- Humble yourself and stay at a youth hostel or camp if you have to.
- Practice living on $2 a day to remove your fear of poverty.
- Cold call or cold contact anyone you need to.
- Become personable and develop the ability to build trust and rapport with those you connect with in person. The real world matters.
- Try many different jobs. If you have to, go to the unemployment office and get started doing anything.
- Get out of your comfort zone, and go see the companies or people you admire in person. You might be too nervous to talk to anyone at first, but that will pass.
- Take jobs that are dangerous if you have to. If you view risk as something everyone else should take, but not you, then you’re a coward.
- Go on a road trip or travel cross country.
- Work and collaborate in business with your family. If you can’t collaborate with them or they only want to drag you down, move to collaborating in business with your friends. If you can’t collaborate with your friends towards a shared goal, find better friends.
- When you’re ready, ask friends, mentors, and investors to invest in you. If you’re serious, tell them how serious you are, and then prove it to them.
- Publicly state that certain projects, initiatives, or companies you’re an employee at will not fail. Cut off retreat or put yourself in a position where you will never accept failure.
- Stop caring about branding and formalities. Care about being truthful and sincere with your words, vision, and ability to make friends that share your mission.
- Invest all of your money into your projects when you believe in them. If you believe in them enough, have your friends and family invest, too.
- Argue with your friends and makeup afterward. If you have to, push to have a friend ousted from their job if it’s in everyone’s best interest. The best friendships endure chaos and emerge stronger.
- Avoid it at all costs, but once you’re generating enough income, borrow money if you have to.
- Generate confidence in your imagination, ability to figure things out, and your ability to create money. Generate so much confidence that if you (like Musk) buy a one million dollar car, don’t insure it and wreck it… dust yourself off and hitch hike your way to meet the venture capitalists you were en route to meet.
- Put off your honeymoon if something more important comes up. If your spouse can delay gratification, and you can articulate an argument, they’ll understand. [ES: We’ve heard of more than one BSer who did this for GMAT prep or essays!!!]
- Travel the world, and if you come to the brink of death or face dangers, then fight like hell to live.
- Appear on TV, media, or the news before you’re ready. Watch all the people you thought were friends laugh, disappear, or grow uncomfortable about your ambitions. It’s the only way you can separate the fake from the real.
- Don’t be afraid to embarrass yourself publicly. Watch how a single “embarrassing” video, startup, or project is enough to make most people shut-ins or quiet for the rest of their lives.
- Grow and learn so quickly that every six months you look back and are mortified by what you were doing six months ago.
- Learn how to make arguments and use a first principles approach to challenges. Once you establish that something is possible, then you can get to work increasing the probability that it will occur.
- Let yourself pursue hundreds of side projects until you learn this is a hamster wheel to nowhere. Once you learn this lesson, you’ll be able to seize the right, handful of opportunities when they arrive. When they arrive, commit and invest yourself fully into one thing until it’s successful.
- Form lifelong friendships based on shared philosophies, actions, loyalty, trust, and respect. Put those friendships to the test in your ventures. The real ones will emerge stronger than ever.
- Get married and have kids (You can either be Cooper or Doctor Maan from Interstellar). Musk has five kids. Bezos has four. Think it’s an accident? If the first marriage doesn’t work out, try, try again. [ES: Not quite so sure about this one, but whatev.]
All of these things on this checklist are accessible to you right now.
This was cribbed from The Mission, a pretty amazing resource if you’re into changing
the world yourself.