The Terminal: Balancing Work, Life, and the Road to Booth

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Most of us in the Weekend program end up spending multiple hours in and out of airport terminals. Often we run into other Boothies, similarly crazy to undertake a ‘weekend’ pilgrimage. Every now and then, we meet curious co-passengers, perplexed at seeing a handful of people skimming through lecture notes.

Not too long ago, one of these co-passengers turned out be someone who had served time in the same trenches as ours.

Photo of an airport at nightAfter noticing a middle-aged man staring my way, and unsure why, I managed to give him a toothless smile accompanied with a nod 
 my way of letting him know that I was aware of his gaze. He responded back with a smile and a question: “So, what you reading?”

“Notes on Portfolio Management,” I replied, attempting not to come across as one of the educated showoffs that MBAs are often accused of being.

“Still talking about efficient markets?” our friend asked.

“You have a different view?” I responded. At the time, I was still recovering from a recent trip, and thus debating with an airline co-passenger who was convinced about how theorists have spoilt the ‘art of stock picking’ was something I certainly didn’t want at 5:00 in the morning.

With a smile on his face, the stranger walked up and sat down next to me. Pointing at my paper folder, which bore Chicago’s Phoenix, he said, "I was at GSB in the early '90s."

’Great, an alum!’ I thought to myself.

“Ah, good to meet you. I can see why you’d be scarred while defending the efficient markets,” I said. “Not scarred, just fond memories.” he chuckled, “I don’t want to forget where I came from.”

We soon started chatting about, among other things, the academic strength of the program, the benefit of being a ‘Midwestern’ global school and the winters in Chicago. After he’d called me (and by that virtue, all others) "absolutely crazy" a few times for flying in every week for classes, I asked him about what he recalled from his days as a GSB student.

“Here’s my short list,” he said with a grin on his face. “Don’t train with a job in mind — it won’t be the same in a few years anyways,” he said, sounding prophetic. I could see why he’d say this. It made sense. He continued, “The only thing you’ll look back at your experience at school and wish you had done more of, is getting to know people.” And finally, “Don’t be scared at not knowing answers. A fancy education makes you scared to admit, but don’t delay accepting facts.”

I wanted to capture this conversation and share it with the wider Booth community. I’m not sure if all will agree with what he said, but my early morning Americano, coupled with this conversation, had the desired effect, and I was wide awake. Had there not been an announcement for the boarding to commence, I was sure that I’d have managed to get a few more additions to his list. But in the moment, it felt like a good start to a day of classes.

This article is adapted from a piece originally published in Chicago Business.