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Break free, And LOVE, Actually.

I recently saw Love Actually, the new movie by Richard Curtis, who is the writer of several funny movies including Four Weddings and a Funeral, Bridget Jones Diary, and Notting Hill. As you can imagine given the creative team, Love Actually takes place in London, deals with both a wedding and a funeral, and, combines a clever spirit, high-caliber talent, and love…which by itself is an engaging subject. The movie is a patchwork of predictable yet intriguing vignettes that reach resolution by the end of the film. The sum of these stories far exceeds any of the parts.

The movie and its message stick with me for a two reasons. First, I find it amazing how Curtis deals with cultural differences: presidents can be politically incorrect, differences in social class do not really matter in love, and love forgives everything. Moreover, goofy Brits can easily get hot American chicks, and those partaking in “international” relationships can overcome barriers just by learning a common language.

Second, each vignette in the movie shows how people break free from boundaries for what they love – for any kind of love. Here, I am not talking about just going the extra mile, but really leaving your comfort zone and, if needed, turning the world upside down for what you are passionate about.

I’d like to discuss that kind of passion in the context of HBS. By now, it is hard to avoid the reality that we’re deep into the recruiting season.

Although the economy is warming up, it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed when talking about jobs. Given the pressure upon us, we might be seduced by the 1st glamorous thing we see that would allow us to rest in peace for the next seven months and enjoy our remaining time at HBS.

Still, it’s important to remember a crucial point: when was the last time that you really left your comfort zone for what something in which you strongly believe? We all came here to make a difference based on the concept that leadership in business would allow us an opportunity to make an impact. Making an impact entails inevitable sacrifices; as we get older, more of us are looking for work-life balance. In LEAD we witnessed the profiles of graduates whose careers did not exactly live up to their expectations when leaving HBS. But many of us, in the bottom of our hearts, also admire those who dare to seek compromise and in favor of more balanced, but perhaps less glamorous or financial rewarding careers.

I gave a speech about leadership this last summer, but in my comments I tried to focus on the small things we can do on a day to day basis, amongst our friends, community, and family members. We may not be famous for those small things, but we may make a genuine difference and leave a legacy behind.

Someday you may be rich, on the cover of Fortune, and responsible for generating profits, employment opportunities, and community welfare. All of these accomplishments “taste” exponentially better when you share your life with someone. After watching Love Actually, I remain unclear as to whether it is better to give or to receive love. I do believe, however, that it is important to leave your comfort zone for love and live life intensely.

December 8, 2003
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