“Such phantoms as the dignity of man and the dignity of work are the feeble products of a slavery that hides from itself” – Nietzsche
For as long as I can remember being lucid and able to reason, I hated the idea of working to survive. I sought honor in being fed and clothed. To be treasured and cared for, not because I earned it by putting in honest toil, but because I was a magnificent mind, a chiseled chassis, and a spectacular soul. I found solace, as I often did in the early years of my adolescence, in the works of my man Friedrich Nietzsche. In his elucidating piece, The Greek State, Nietzsche argues that work is anything but honorable: It is a shameful necessity of culture and a painful means to existence. The fire that Nietzsche lit was fanned into a flame by my homeboy K. Marx. He opened my eyes to the conspiracies of the bourgeoisie who baked the concept of “honor in work” to keep the proletariat from revolting and to keep them resigned to the pessimism of their nine to five. Incensed, my heart bawled at the injustice. I decided then, that till the last breath leaves my body, I will fight the system. I will never work an honest day in my life.
I bumbled through undergrad: beautiful, rich and vain and averse to honest work. As I witnessed a generation around me being wasted to engineering, technology and depression, I found comfort in theatre and listless soap operas mocking urban life. Come the recruiting season, I found myself at crossroads. I felt societal pressure to take a job but I could not, in my heart, fathom honest work. And so, I became a consultant. It felt like a modest betrayal of my ideals at the time but, in hindsight, it was a minor compromise in the grand scheme of things. As far as compromises go, consulting was as good as it could get. I found consulting to be above such malarkey as honest work and honor. Stringing together listless phrases such as “scalable strategy to streamline synergy” and banal truisms such as “clients prefer win-win situations” was enough to get by.
In my pursuit of hedonism and through a series of fortuitously amazeballs accidents, I found myself at Harvard Business School. And for the first time in my life, I was forced to confront, head-on, a doctrine as intoxicatingly vigorous as my own: modern-day capitalism.
The tenets of capitalism posed an impressive resistance to my resolve. Capitalism made me realize:
(1) You need to consume to be happy.
(2) You need money to consume.
(3) You need to work to get money.
I knew I needed to find a way to circumvent one of these premises to continue sipping the nectar of indulgence while remaining true to my ideals. I studied the tents for long hours. (1), I realized, is the absolute truth; macroeconomics makes that very clear. The consumption of goods and services by households drives the economy. A healthy economy keeps the socio-political climate stable, which reinforces consumption, and this virtuous cycle keeps people happy. (2) was similarly ironclad. Money is the universally accepted medium of exchange and changing that would take time and effort the scale of which I was not in the mood for. But for the third premise, I found a way to crack it. I realized that while someone needs to put in the work, it really does not have to be me. Hence sprang forth my goal in life: to be a trophy husband.
First, to the doubters, I have, as all eminent thinkers initially were, been ridiculed for my eccentric ambitions. My superlative, revolutionary ideas were stigmatized as vain, and I was assailed with abuses. Shiftless, conceited, and egotistic, they called me. But I have and I will marshal on, singularly focused on my pursuit of hedonistic pleasures through the forever-lucrative role of the trophy husband.
Before I delve into my preparation and job-search, I must take a moment to underscore the long-term attractiveness of this industry. After a successful entry into the market and signing your buyers to long-term life-long contracts, you essentially eliminate competition. The “till death do us part” clause greatly diminishes the buyer’s bargaining power as well. The road to securing those contracts, however, is fraught with intense competition and the imminent threat of substitutes. Sustained competitive advantage derives, as it often does, from a coherent strategy and investment in strategic assets.
As I started to piece together my strategy, I knew I had to choose my niche. You cannot be everything to everyone. Instead of targeting the Mature Molly segment, I chose to play in the Millennial Mathilda niche. It seemed counterintuitive at first. But as I researched the market, I realized the Mature Molly segment was overcrowded and overserved by a rising tide of new entrants. Access to the segment was limited to already affluent crowds and six-pack players came dime a dozen. In short, it did not quite play to my strengths and skills. The Millenial Mathilda market, while underdeveloped, was rapidly gaining share. Millenial Mathildas were ambitious and looked to boy-toys to augment their powerful lives. They also valued traits that were easier to inculcate. While pecs and abs and clothes and swags were still gateway criteria, manners, the ability to listen and undivided attention were accorded substantial value.
While I now have a clear strategy, implementation, I was told, is going to be key. I started my search by seeking to narrow my scope to find the right sugar mama and soliciting advice from seasoned professionals and potential patrons. Unsurprisingly, the Baker library had tremendous resources to help in my search. They referred to some remarkable databases. In the last few months, I have had close to 40 chats with high-caliber trophy husbands and millennial managers. While these sessions have been rich invaluable advice and a few have even converted to first-round interviews, I have been unable to land a role yet.
At this point, I must concur that the last few months have been rough. Given the incredibly fortunate life I have had and scores of opportunities and happy accidents that have brought me here, I feel almost guilty to admit that landing the role of a trophy husband has been taxing on my mental, physical, and emotional health. With the winter sun only doing one of its two jobs, a diminished social life, the rigors of landing a role quickly, on top of the academic strain, personal issues and endless rejections, I have fallen into some old, lousy habits. These impediments have, at times, even caused me to lose sight of my end goal. I have thought about abandoning my integrity, giving up my ambition of becoming a trophy husband and exploring alternative routes.
Fortunately, this Mecca of capitalism has some surprisingly gentle souls. With help from my newly-minted friendships, amicable camaraderie and HBS resources, I have and will continue to cheerfully soldier on. The fact that most of my comrades, to varying degrees and for various reasons, are treading similar, hectic waters, tethers us in a strange bond. As an abrupt parting note, I will inflict on you some unsolicited, choppy counsel, and I will invoke two quotes from my lord and savior Albus Dumbledore to do so:
(1) “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light”
(2) Help will always be given at Harvard to those who ask for it
Nishkam Prabodh (MBA ’22) lived and worked in India before coming to HBS. An alum of IIT Delhi, Nishkam is deeply passionate about hammy comedy, happy music, and trashy fiction.