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The most important lesson I learnt in my MBA

Photo by Aral Tasher on Unsplash

We learn a lot of things in school over several years of our formative lives. But the one lesson that we learn over and over, month after month and year after year, right from the time we start school as a kid is that there is an exam. And that there is a set pattern to that exam. And that if we prepare very hard for a few hours or a few days before the day of the exam, we can score well on the exam. 

Year after year, we get better at this. The contents of the exam change as we progress from grade to grade. But the concept of the exam remains the same. And we start to get better and better at it. Smart people that we are, we learn the tricks of the trade and spend lesser and lesser time preparing while maintaining similar levels of performance over the years. Sometimes, we even improve upon our performance year on year.

Often, we forget what it is that we learnt for the exam soon after we're done writing one. But our skill for doing well in a test keeps improving. 

And we apply this skill to everything that we come across for the rest of our lives. All the while getting better at it. 

When we want to get into a good university, we prepare for the entrance exam to the university. If the University includes other criteria for admission/selection, like excellence in extra curriculars, we figure that out from those who have made it and prepare on that front as well. When we want to get a job, again, we ask others that have made it on what they did and prepare ourselves to do the same.

When we want to ask someone out on a date, when we want to do our taxes, when we want to buy a house, when we want to order at a restaurant, we do the same. We consider it as a test and figure out what works and how to crack it and go on and do it. 

This approach works. As long as there is an able guide to help us out.

However, this has a side effect. 

Somewhere along the line, in getting better and better at this skill, we forget that we are getting better at a skill. So much so that this becomes a way of life. And we won't know any better.

What are your milestones today?

To get into a good school? To land a well paying job? To be promoted to the next level? To get a fat bonus and an increment? To buy a house? To buy an expensive car? 

Are these your milestones or are these the milestones of the people that have been guiding you all your life?

Did you like taking tests as a kid? Or was it something to be done with and put behind so you can live your life again? Was your life the same on the day before the exam as the day after?

Then, why would you want to be taking tests all your life?

The most important lesson I learnt in my MBA was that it was perfectly alright to not live my life jumping from one test to the next.

The university I went to taught me many things, but not this. It wasn't any of my professors either. Nor was it my peers. 

It was just one decision before I started my MBA.

I decided that I wouldn't study for a single exam all through my 2 years at university. 

And I stuck to that decision. 

And this one decision changed my life.

This did two things to me.

One, I built my life in a scalable way. This was when I started the daily practice of preparing for and attending every class. This was when no day turned out to be special, exam day or otherwise. And two, I began to be true to myself. I could no longer convince myself to put in a lot of effort for just a day or a few days in order to achieve something. If I couldn't do it as a way of life, I would let it pass. 

And it all worked out perfectly fine. Despite not studying for exams, I was among the toppers at my University. Despite not preparing for any interviews, I have landed several job offers since. And the story has been similar on other fronts as well.

I don't put in a humungous effort before test day anymore. I just try to improve one percent each day instead. If you do the math, you will realise that that compounds well.

The most important lesson I learnt in my MBA was that it was perfectly alright to not live my life jumping from one test to the next.

And its one I will never forget.

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