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Arianna Huffington came to speak at work a few weeks ago. I wasn’t sure what I’d think of the writer turned politician turned online journalism pioneer. I expected arrogant and out of touch and instead found her funny, down-to-earth and insightful.
The core of her talk revolved around her new book, On Becoming Fearless, which I’ll share more on later. But she also shared one of her keys to success: get enough sleep.
In recent years, I feel like it’s become a requirement of success not to sleep at all. Bill Clinton claimed to sleep four hours a night. Martha Stewart came to work to speak a few months ago and also talked about not needing much sleep. Sleep, it seems, is the a lazy man’s crutch; the successful learn to conquer it, health impacts be damned (and there are a lot of health problems that come with getting too little sleep, including heart attacks). As someone who needs eight hours a night, it’s pretty disheartening to hear I’ll be limited professionally by my need for Zs.
That’s why it was so refreshing to hear Huffington praise sleep. She said she spent years not sleeping enough, only to pass out one day from exhaustion and realize the error of her ways. She now gets at least seven hours a night and wishes everyone else would too.
“I was having dinner with a man, I won’t say who, who bragged about only having five hours of sleep,” she said during her talk. “I thought to myself, ‘Well, this dinner would be a lot more interesting if you’d gotten a few hours more.’”
So on this lazy, post-Thanksgiving day, now I can sleep in and feel smart and successful at the same time. And if I can’t follow Huffington’s advice, I’ll take after Winston Churchill. He believed in the afternoon nap. Mmmmm.
I’m back to the grind of classes, which means more free business school lessons for you. Here are the highlights from this week:
Accounting is an art, not a science. Numbers? Ledgers? T-accounts and balance sheets? Accounting sounds like a science to me and at least one of my classmates described it that way this week. And that’s when my new accounting professor – who was an art history major – set him straight.
“I believe we’re in an art class,” she said. “There’s no science in accounting class.”
As an art-loving poet, that was music to my ears.
She went on to tell us how applying the rules of accounting is an art since there isn’t detailed guidance on how to do every, single, little thing. Good accountants try to paint an accurate, complete picture of a company.
Don’t die rich – die in debt! Macroeconomics class is about GDP, inflation rates and unemployment. But it’s also about fun micro life takeaways like this one. We were graphing income and consumption across a person’s life. You start out with no income (babies can’t earn) and when you grow up, you earn more than you consume (assuming, of course, you’re not the average American with a negative savings rate). Then, in theory, after you retire, you live off the nest egg you squirreled away.
The ultimate, perfect economic goal, according to my professor? Spend it all – and then some – before you croak. In the United States, children aren’t liable for their parents’ debt so there’s no need to worry about harming your own kin. The purely economic view says if you want to maximize your personal enjoyment and minimize your personal down side, die in the red.
Few things are funnier than a grown man in a Big Bird costume. My section has a mascot, a very old, much beloved Big Bird plush toy. Because the other sections are jealous of our obvious superiority, they try to steal the bird and this year they succeeded. On Friday we got the bird back by performing the Sesame Street song in front of the school with our section rep (formerly a well-respected member of the work force) dressed as Big Bird. It was juvenile, ridiculous,
embarrassing – and a whole lot of fun. And when you’re working 16 hours a day, you need to blow off a little steam.
It’s OK to take a vacation. I can’t really take a vacation until Thanksgiving, but I desperately felt I needed one this week. After rolling straight from exams into classes, I could feel burnout setting in. Luckily another Darden student was kind enough to invite me up to her family’s mountain cabin for the weekend and even though I should have been doing case work/networking/housework/errands, I went. It worked miracles. One day and night in the wood, far from cell phone signals and high-speed Internet, felt like a week’s vacation. Just looking at the gorgeous leaves was therapy. Eating homemade apple pie and roasted chicken didn’t hurt either.
Here’s what they don’t tell you about the first week of business school:
You need to decide right then what you want to do for the rest of your life, forever and ever, amen.
At least, that’s what it feels like.
The career service’s office puts the pressure on to narrow your focus, figure it out, do the research and start hunting for that internship. They bring in high-powered speakers from each type of job (i-banking, private wealth, general management — the list goes on) to tell you what it’s like to live their lives. They dole out more personality quizzes than Cosmo (Myers-Briggs, anyone?) and force a ton of introspection (What makes you really happy? What are you really good at?).
It suddenly dawns on you that you are not just here for two years of education, enlightenment and world-broadening. You are here to get a job. As someone once told me, b-school is a two-year job search.
To be fair to b-schools around the world, they’re under a lot of pressure. Those fancy b-school rankings in Business Week and others rely heavily on statistics on how many graduates have a job and how much that job pays. Also, it’s a bad economy and competitive market, so we need to be prepared. And there is so much to do at my MBA program that if the career office didn’t force us to pay attention, narrow it down and focus on our job search, it would be very, very easy to shove it on the back burner.
But that pressure cooker of the first week is intense. And it was as I listened to all these experts telling me about their jobs and the reason that being an i-banker/consultant/marketer/trader that I started to think I should be a consultant.