News

An Investigative Report

It is spring and the Harvard Business School is bustling with activity. Like eager fox sparrows returning from winter migration, HBS students, reinvigorated by Spring Break and the warmer weather, are also back on campus to face new challenges. ECs, in the homestretch, are racing through their final weeks of study and contemplating life after school. RCs, approaching the halfway point, are reflecting on their experiences, picking summer internships and planning for the future.

As we all make decisions that will impact at least the next few months and years of our lives, and perhaps set a course further into the unknown distance, we are asking ourselves and others some critical questions. What is important? What is enough? How can we fit even some of the things that matter – ambitions, financial goals, fun, fulfillment, family – into 24 hours a day?

Last spring, we heard a cry from the community. Our beloved turkey had disappeared, and you demanded answers. Again, a year later, you are calling for answers. We hear this collective cry. And we heed it.

Fortunately, we are not the only ones thinking hard about these issues. Peter Olson, the former Chairman and CEO of Random House and now a Senior Lecturer in the Strategy Unit, has, with help from various faculty members of the Harvard Business and Divinity Schools, put together a panel that will address some of these same questions. What is happiness? How can we define success? Can spiritual, professional, societal and personal goals be balanced in our lives? The event, “What’s Enough: A Dialogue Between the Harvard Business School and the Harvard Divinity School,” will be led by HBS Professor Howard Stevenson, Daniel McKanan from HDS and Candice Olson, former founder and CEO of iVillage.

To start the dialogue, we have, through exhaustive research, compiled the thoughts of some of our greatest thinkers on some of these big issues: what is life about, and what is important?

Perhaps life is about achieving some measure of financial security.

Famous American screen siren Mae West once remarked “I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor. Believe me, rich is better.” Incidentally, she also claimed to have been in “more laps than a napkin.”

Helen Gurley Brown, longtime editor of Cosmopolitan, echoed this sentiment: “money, if it does not bring you happiness, will at least help you be miserable in comfort.”

And Oscar Wilde, Irish writer and poet, took this idea even further. He wrote, “when I was young I thought that money was the most important thing in life; now that I am old, I know that it is.”

But what of priorities other than money? The things money can’t buy?

In 1967 the Beatles claimed that “Love is all you Need.” And Winnie the Pooh built on this idea with his famous treatise on love and friendship. “If you live to be 100,” he said, “I hope to live to be 100 minus 1 day, so I never have to live without you.” Pooh would later go on to say, “If you want to make a song more hummy, add a few tiddely poms.”

Epicurus, the famous Greek philosopher, had a comprehensive view of a life well-lived. He warned us that “nothing is enough for the man to whom enough is too little.” And he developed a simple lens through which we can evaluate our choices and priorities: “Not what we have, but what we enjoy, constitutes our abundance.”

Might there be a link between money, success and enjoyment? Harland “Colonel” Sanders, famous American philosopher and plucker of chickens, sought to tie these seemingly disparate ideas together: “I made a resolve then that I was going to amount to something if I could. And no hours, nor amount of labor, nor amount of money would deter me from giving the best there was in me. And I have done that ever since, and I win by it. I know.”

Hopefully these thoughts will spur your own contemplation of what’s important in your life. We will continue our investigation by conducting an in-depth survey of the Harvard Business School community, results of which we will release next week in this same place. Look for an email from your Harbus representative – your active participation will enlighten us all. And remember to set aside 4 to 5:30 p.m. on April 6 for the showdown between the Harvard Business School and the Harvard Divinity School.

March 29, 2010
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