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Taking a Pass… And Living To Tell

As it happens, I was reading the Harbus yesterday. (Actually, it didn’t just happen – I was told to read it because there was an article on cold calls that mentioned me. I was listed in the Harbus and, like Steve Martin in The Jerk, when the telephone book arrives with his name, I was excited and thrilled to read about myself.)

Last week, the Harbus editors referenced the “Triple Bypass” in a debate on cold call moratoriums. The triple bypass was cited as an example to support the position that cold call passes should not be considered a failure, but should be applauded. (Incidentally, this reference was made carelessly without any regard to the impact on the lives of our family members or ourselves.) You see, I was one of the infamous threesome that performed the triple bypass in the new professor’s LEAD class with the case protagonist looking on in disgust. That’s right. It is just now that I am able to talk about it. I can’t go into detail about the facts of that day because there is litigation pending and Barbara Walters has requested an interview, but I would like to share some thoughts on the cold call, passing on the cold call, and life after the cold call pass.
First, I may be the first person ever to survive such an ordeal and write about it. There is no more unpleasant event in the annals of HBS history whose participants have survived to discuss it. Many people have offered to study the events leading up to that day to get a better understanding of what went wrong, but the three of us have agreed not to divulge any of the secrets behind the catastrophic classroom blunder on that particular day. But I feel it is important to come clean on a few issues. First, the cold call is an imperative. It brings order to our lives because it is a certainty, it causes well-deserved anxiety, and it prepares us for the inevitable embarrassment and misery of the everyday work life that awaits us outside this bubble. Soon enough, each of us will look like an idiot in a meeting in front of 100 people. We will be made fun of because we spent $100,000 on an MBA. We will be cut down a peg (ideally sooner rather than later). Many things will go wrong, and the cold call is adequate preparation for that. Just as important, in a period where everything seems to be getting easier, handling the cold call will never be easy and bucks the trend.

I also believe that passing on the cold call should be applauded and not scorned. It makes sense, but fair warning – this is not an easy thing to do and certainly not for the faint of heart. Therefore, several of us that have suffered in the past have started a support group to help others like us through their “post pass” depression. It is as serious and deadly as postpartum and we want you to know that we are here for you if you find yourself in this precarious position. We will not abandon you while you contemplate the 3 that you are most certainly going to receive and we can talk you through the tough times when your sectionmates accidentally delete your name from the section group emails and you are left off the final section picture. Remember, your life is not over just because your neighbor asks to be moved to another seat. We are here to help you.

Finally, many people learned important lessons that day, including the professor, myself and the other unfortunate members of the triple bypass team. The main lesson we learned was that you can survive and thrive after the pass! You may ask, “Does the cold call pass get you a 3 automatically or is there chance for redemption?”. I cannot answer that. But I can tell you that each of us wants to make our mark on this school and how you do it is not important. It is comforting to know that my two classmates and I will be remembered in HBS lore for some time to come.

February 4, 2002
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