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American Sporting References
If you are going to describe someone’s role in a case discussion as a ‘pinch hitter’ or a ‘quarterback’, please spare a thought for those of us who grew up with sports such as soccer, cricket and rugby (a good 30% of the class, apparently) and explain to us what on earth you are talking about.
Better yet, skip the sports related examples and make yourself sound cool by coming up with some really out-there references: Musical (“The CEO is clearly playing the role of bass guitarist in this team”), Culinary ( “Spending this much on R&D in a mature industry is like adding truffle oil to Kraft Mac ‘n’ Cheese”) or Popular Culture (“The competition between these rival companies reminds me of that show on the Discovery Channel where they guy got killed by the manta ray”.)

‘Essential HBS Activities’
We all heard those wise words of wisdom descend about halfway through the first semester, when everyone told us that the reason we were so stressed was that we were ‘Trying To Do Everything’ because of the dreaded FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out).

This is wrong, we are told, there is no possible way you can do everything, even if you drink so much coffee that you don’t sleep at all, meticulously plan your calendar down to the minute (complete with the Google maps fastest route from one event to another) and leave every single event halfway through. You will still miss the really useful part of the keynote speech, arrive just after the essential recruiting contact left or fill in the poll ten minutes after it closed.

So, you will be advised by those older, wiser or drunker than yourself, who will lean and whisper conspiratorially in your ear at one of the rare events that RCs and ECs mix, this is not the way to go about things. The real benefits of HBS are the friends you make and unique experiences you have. What you must do is identify the ‘Essential HBS activities’, attend those, and happily nap through everything else.

Priscilla Ball is usually cited as an Essential, as is your section retreat and Hollidazzle. You absolutely must go on a trek, and definitely sign up to the ones to Japan, India, China, Argentina and Israel. There is no way you should miss Spring Break with your section, or the WCS Bacchus Ball. Or Newport. Or any parties thrown by the European Club, Latin American Club, SABA, AASU, Midwest Club, West Coast Club or Entertainment and Media Club. And if anyone from your section is having a party, barbeque, coffee morning or evening in watching Grays Anatomy, you absolutely must attend. Congratulations. Your social life is now triple-overbooked and more stressful than your recruitment calendar. Plus all of these parties are invariably on the same night.

Yet another EC will now corner you with some more sage advice: the real HBS experience is all about leadership, they will say, you need to find somewhere you can lead a team. Get involved with club leadership, run for treasurer, get involved in the HBS show, help plan a trek, organize your next section retreat, the list is endless. especially given the sheer number of student clubs; you can probably manage to be made co-president of one within a few weeks if you show willing to actually do stuff.

My advice, which is at least 75% as valid as anyone else’s, is as follows: Give it up, the only Essential HBS Activities that I am aware of are eating, sleeping and turning up to class well-prepared enough to not get kicked out. EVERYTHING ELSE IS OPTIONAL.

Having to Admit I Am Wrong
For much of my time at HBS I have scorned what I saw as the ultimate in self-flagellation: people reading cases on the cardio machines at the gym. I personally find these machines so boring compared with, for instance, a decent game of soccer or squash, that I only use them in extreme circumstances (like it being too cold to play soccer and not being able to find anyone bad enough to play squash with me). Given that cardio machines are so boring, surely this is the perfect time to indulge in some light reading of The Economist or Businessweek? (OK, I admit it, US Weekly and Cosmo. Or Wired if I’m being geeky).

However, due to some extremely poor time-management on my part I was forced last week to do exactly what I had ridiculed and read one of my cases while on the elliptical machine. What a revelation! I thought I felt smugly virtuous after a good workout, but having got through the days reading as well I felt positively saintly. There were slight drawbacks such as needing to learn how to use the highlighter with sweaty hands without dropping it on the floor or accidentally turning the resistance up to maximum when I got the edge of the paper caught on the controls, but overall a true epiphany. I don’t like being proved wrong, but in this case it may be worth it for the extra 45 minutes in bed.

On the other hand, being proved wrong is sometime not worth it. For instance, just after saying ‘I’m sure I can ride a scooter, I rode a motorbike a few times seventeen years ago, and its doesn’t look that hard’ is not a good time to be shown to be incorrect. Especially when the demonstration involves said scooter, a car and delicate bits of me colliding violently with the asphalt. I’m still finding bruises in odd places.

Ditto finding out that I am definitely not as good at poker as I thought I was. Especially if I spend the entire game drinking rum straight up. Can I write off that eighty dollars as ‘tuition’..?

‘Sink the Bis’
For those that don’t know, this is an evil drinking game involving a bucket, a teacup and several of my housemates ganging up on me.

I knew that it was a bad sign when on the day of the Harvard-Yale football game the Midwest club decided to have a faux-tailgate (don’t tell them I called it that) at my house while some Midwestern American Football team played against another Midwestern American Football team (one of them may have been Michigan. Or Ohio. Or something else.).

A tin bucket with the word ‘Hoosiers’ on the side (don’t ask me what that’s all about) was produced, filled with appalling cheap ‘lite’ beer and a teacup was floated on the surface. Despite protesting that I never drink anything other than gin before midday, I was persuaded to join in the game, which involves each person pouring some of their beer into the teacup until it sinks, at which point they have to drink the (now full and wet) teacup. There was some mention of a rule about after sinking three times you have to drink the whole bucket, but as I chugged back my third teacup of beer I decided that this rule was definitely declared invalid if I was to have any chance of surviving the afternoon. At least I got to have anchovies on the pizza out of sympathy, and I think the team we wanted to win, won.

Polls for MSO
(The ECs know exactly what I mean, RC – take this as a hint for next year)
Over the last few weeks I have been asked to fill in no fewer than fourteen polls for various Managing Services Operations projects, usually accompanied with either bribes ($5 iTunes vouchers, chocolates, sexual favors) or begging, exclamation points and lies (please!!!!!!!!There are only two questions!!!!! It will only take ten seconds!!!! I promise!!!!!).

These polls are as mysterious as they are annoying, and are also so eerily repetitive that I am genuinely curious as to whether the entire class got together and wrote them as a group. They are all asking about my HBS experience. They are all asking boring questions about my age, nationality and height. They are then asking some very intrusive ones about my level of debt, how happy I am with my living arrangements and how many sexual partners I have had. I can only conclude that this mysterious course is attempting to gather and analyse enough data to conclusively prove that a 5 foot 9 married vegetarian from South Dakota who lives in SFP is statistically more likely to get first year honors than a 6 foot 2 Australian virgin who lives in Morris.

If anyone does come up wi
th such a correlation, please let me know so that we can share it with the student body at large (and possibly the Admissions Office too.).*

Customs and Immigration
(non country-specific)
I know I’m not a terrorist, coming to steal your jobs or smuggling diseased livestock in my hand luggage. Why can’t you just believe me, without me ticking some stupid boxes on a pointless form (no, I have never participated in genocide) that you won’t even look at before waving me through?

*(Actually, I know someone who ran the numbers, and it’s the Argentineans that get all the 1s. Must be all that sugar)

December 3, 2007
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