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Shades of Gray

I’m uncomfortable. I’ve been feeling anxious and I’ve suffered heavy bouts of doubt. It’s not a self-esteem issue. After six essays and a tough interview, I’m pretty sure HBS made a well-informed decision. But did I?

First, there are classes. Like a good student, I come every day armed with my case-closing insight. Then the class goes in a completely different direction. In no time, what I believed was insightful in solitary is suddenly moot. Not even wrong. Simply irrelevant. Or a moral value that I hold as indubitable is under debate, and I feel myself swaying. Oh, that’s uncomfortable.

Then there are the career discussions. Before HBS, I enjoyed being a consultant and I view it as a good long-term career. To my great satisfaction, I discovered my profile suggests I would be happy as a consulting firm officer. But one element suggests I might be happier as a journalist. Obviously, I have an interest in writing. But as a career? Hmmm. I’m not comfortable with that.

In a desperate attempt to get some perspective, I looked back at my admissions essays. I put a lot of thought into what I wanted from this experience – am I getting it? In short, I said wanted an MBA to gain breadth and to facilitate my transition into management, and I wanted to go to HBS because of the case method and because alumni describe the HBS experience as “life-altering.”

Feeling comfortable isn’t there. Indeed, being stretched to gain breadth and change roles is uncomfortable stuff. The case method requires choosing one of many potential paths and following it through to outcomes. Many individuals with vastly different experiences, background and opinions drive the discussion. Like the business world where managers operate every day. And “life-altering” is, by definition, not about being comfortable.

I’m a satisfied customer. Uncomfortable, but satisfied.

September 30, 2002
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