Sunday, July 25, 2010

The sound of silence ...

As fall approaches and the MBA admissions process starts for different schools, many of you might have started the process of taking GMAT and wondering what to do with your essays. As I look back to those days, one useful piece of advice I could give would be that the habits you develop during this time will help you once you are in the MBA program as well. As you navigate the labyrinths of application forms and deadlines, listen to yourself. Take feedback and advice from as many different people as possible, internalize it, and then take a pause. Look within. What comes to mind when all there is is the sound of silence? Just as the application process is all about figuring out what you wish to achieve with the MBA and how your life so far helps you towards that, the MBA process itself, as I am learning firsthand, is all about figuring out what you want out of it and working towards that. What rings true in the silence of introspection as you prepare your essays is what will guide you as you navigate the waters of the MBA program.

In some sense, it is like transplanting you as you are driving during rush hour in Boston or New York, into the traffic in Mumbai on a normal day in India. You are already an expert at driving in an environment where traffic rules are considered useful suggestions rather than rules, so you know how to move forward successfully under uncertainty. Now you need to figure out how to travel towards your destination in an environment where everyone seems to be traveling in totally different, sometimes contradictory directions. The sights and sounds on the roads are aplenty, several roadside vendors of interesting products beckon you to stop awhile and take a look. Each moment is a sensory overload in terms of the information your brain can process, yet you need to focus and remember that you hit the road with a plan to get to a destination. While you can have your pick of roadside distractions to entertain you along the way just as any other person, it is ultimately up to you to reach where you intended to reach. If you are lost all that you need to do is to stop and ask any bystander for directions and they are eager to help. But unless you, in the silence of your thoughts, process all inputs thrown your way and find out where you wish to go, you will not get there.

So as you look ahead to some of the busiest years in your life, stop, relax, reflect. For one, you will not find time to do that for a while, especially if you get into a program that's intense and intensely rewarding such as the WEMBA program. Listen to your mind as it tries to find an optimal resting place between the different constraints of time, family, friends, work, money and desired goals. Observe what process led it to that choice. Once you are in the MBA program, these observations will help you stay the course and course correct when needed, and not get lost as myriads of choices get thrown your way. After all, it is through moments of silence that our inner selves speak loudest to us.

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