I’ve had a lot of guest speakers in class this quarter, most of them alums ranging from five to 45 years out of Darden. Most of the time, they inspire awe and I leave the class thinking, “I hope I can be half as successful/wise/humble/smart when I’m a grown up alum!”
But once in awhile we host someone less inspiring. These people may be damaged, burned out, arrogant or callous. They are a reminder that business has the capacity to chew you up and spit you out and leave you with very little of your soul left (they don’t make movies like Wall Street and Working Girl because this isn’t true. Who among us wants to be either Gordon Gekko or Katharine Parker, aka the backstabbing Sigourney Weaver?).
So, inspired by Tina Fey’s “Mother’s Prayer for Its Child,” I wrote the prayer below. On the eve of my graduation, I need to remind myself not to lose myself in the years ahead.
An MBA’s Prayer for Her Future Self
First Lord, no jet talk. No matter how many (or how few) times I ride in corporate or private jets, may I never brag about it or forget the horrors of flying coach.
Save me from new BMWs, Mercedes and Audis, reminding me that they lose 25 percent of their value the second I drive them off the lot. Empower me to buy preowned.
Even if my days are filled with conversations about “aligned incentives,” “value-adds” and “strategic, multi-functional solutions” may I never bring that tinny, meaningless jargon into my home.
Keep me from greed, needless status symbols and “keeping up with the MBAs” in all their many forms: Louis Vuitton handbags, Maseratis, penthouse condos, Burberry jackets, vacations in St. Bart’s, jet shares, private islands and mini-yachts. May I always recall the cost and weight these things will add to my life, chaining me to my career long after I have burned out.
Lord, make me not a slave to my job, one who works and travels 360 days a year so that my personal life consists not of a husband, three lovely children and several close friends, but chiefly of a bottle of cabernet, a Netflix subscription and late-night online shopping. May I never utter the phrase, “I’ll have a personal life when I retire.”
Also, make me brave enough to pursue my passion (after I pay off my student loans, of course) and not surrender to the corporate treadmill of carrots, sticks and golden handcuffs. Give me the strength to one day leave my cushy, regular paycheck to chase my dreams of entrepreneurship, start-ups, social enterprise and novel writing.
Protect me from the temptations of insider training, abusing the expense account, cooking the books, sleeping with the boss and other forms of corporate shadiness, reminding me always and forever that my integrity has no price.
And, above all Lord, deliver me from becoming an uppity, entitled, self-centered corporate bitch. Should I verge on this horrible fate, remind me of my grandfathers, the bricklayer and the steel worker, and my grandmothers who bought government cheese and sewed their children’s clothes. Remind me of my days as a janitor and a pool snack shop girl and shame me, Lord, for ever thinking I “deserve” anything. May I recall that the higher I rise, the more responsibility I bear and the more people I have who depend on me not to screw up. Help me to honor my duty to those people and never, ever think, “They owe me.”
(For a much more eloquent take on how not to lose your soul in business, read my professor’s goodbye speech,”Are You a Turkey or An Eagle?”)