Ding! Anyone going to that launch party for that thing we worked on? Ding! No. Ding! Maybe. Ding! Let’s do 4-6 for our happy hour team catch-up. Ding! I’m out of town. Ding! RARRRR!!!!! Ding! Guess we’ll have to wait for the summer. Ding! Don’t forget to print the ticket for that event you signed up for!
The background noise of the Foster MBA is the perpetual ding of the gmail notifier.
Ding! Tech Club wants you to come to our event! Ding! Here’s a third reminder for that launch party. Ding! Congratulations to this year’s Leadership Fellows!
I thought I would never figure it out- how to juggle this constant influx of information- the outrageous flow of opportunity, commitment, connections, responsibilities, and tasks of all kinds. I remember the strange stillness that became of my life after I quit my job, sold all of my belongings in Detroit, and flew to Seattle with only two suitcases to my name and the idea that I would carve a niche for myself in the world with help from the Foster School of Business. “Niche” is the key word here. You can’t do everything in the MBA- so how do you choose?
Ding! We’d like to interview you tomorrow for an internship position. Ding! Yes, former president of my club, you are invited to Happy Hour! Ding! Friday works for me. Ding! I’d also prefer Friday. Ding! Yeah Friday! Ding! You’ll have to go without me. Ding! Great- see everybody there then.
Some things are obvious- clearly you want to pay attention when someone wants to interview you for an awesome internship. But, what about all this other noise? The clubs constantly bombarding you with scheduling; the speaker and networking events promoted by the program office; the coaching sessions solicited by the career center; the (sooo many!) contacts you can make with alumni, second years, partners of partners of business partners; cousins of classmates of alumni of classmates; special projects…
Ding! This project looks harder than I thought. I need help! Ding! When should we close the survey? Ding! 51 sounds like plenty of people to me. Ding! Let’s divide and conquer! Ding! Let’s keep it open- more is better! Ding! Here’s my valuation: what do you guys think? Ding! Something’s not quite right there… Ding! Here’s your add-code for that class you want. Ding! Should we get together Friday to talk about the next case study? Ding! Yes we should! Ding! I agree!
Also you have to do your classwork- there is that too.
Ding! Here’s your graded Accounting exam. Ding! What terminal growth rate did you use? Ding! What kind of speech am I supposed to give tomorrow? Ding! This kind of speech! Ding! Ok. Ding! We just heard that you were all too busy to apply for the India Consulting Project, so we’ve extended the deadline.
At times, it feels like triage. There is a constant flow of tasks coming in. You can’t possibly treat all of them at once, so you have to assess the severity of each. “This one’s critical! We need to operate now!” or “This one’s dead- just delete it,” or, and this one gets messy- “file this one for later.”
Ding! Time for the Foster Cup Cycling Event! Are you participating? Ding! Join us at the Student Budget Roundtable! Ding! We heard there was some concern about the club budgeting process- here’s a giant email full of words that you don’t have time to absorb. Ding! Thank you for taking my (four-hundredth) marketing research survey! Ding! Whoops- believe it or not, that giant email I sent a minute ago wasn’t done- there’s more! Here you go!
All of these emails came on May 15. And this is only a fraction of the noise when you consider that there are also classmates all around you promoting their own club’s events, and text messages and phone calls to boot. And don’t forget about those pesky professors lecturing at the front of the room! My calendar for this particular day included a 2-hour Accounting class, a 2-hour Marketing class, a meeting with my therapist (to talk about how overwhelmed I was) and (thankfully!) a birthday party including multiple artisan cupcakes, glasses of champagne, and an adorable newborn baby being all baby-like.
So how did I choose on this particular day how to prioritize? There is clearly a trade-off between being comfortable and happy now verses being successful and content later. Many people will often say- resist instant gratification! Sacrifice! Persevere! I say this:
Just as there is a time value of money, there is also a time value of joy.
Don’t forget that what makes you feel happy, accomplished, and at ease in the here-and-now is worth more than the same in the future. Also, it’s better to figure out who you are now- to connect with people over your interests, and to succeed at what really makes you happy today- than to guess at what will make you happy in the future and scheme and plot to put yourself into position to make that happen. That being said, the “r” in the above equation will be different for everybody. Some people will value present benefit over future benefit to a lesser degree than others. There’s no one right way to approach the MBA. Do I wish I could have done even more on May 15? Of course. But do I regret capping my day with a glass of champagne and a Neapolitan cupcake from Cake Envy? Absolutely not, because without a doubt, the relationships you build at Foster are the most important takeaways you can get. I guess what I’m saying is: that cupcake was a serious investment in my future.