Godspeed on your journey


Suddenly, there are three weeks left to finish this Executive MBA at Booth.

Twenty-one days. Two class weekends. One week of concentration classes. Three more exams.

A stack of coursebooks nine inches high.

As my daughter reacted: "Whaaat..?!?"

Ah, yes, this was the program I wanted, because it would be hard. I got what I wanted. Oh, and how.

But two years of preparation, study, assessment, frustration, learning and adjustment are nearly over. Many business frameworks and a few larger truths have come into focus.

Let's assume you will take up the challenge, be accepted, and carry through with it. Let's assume that you, too, will digest this bookshelf beside me -- 12 linear feet of material -- and learn financial accounting, micro- and macroeconomics, operations, corporate finance and financial strategy, competitive strategy, cross-border valuation, quantitative marketing, pricing, negotiations, new product development, cost accounting, marketing management, statistics, negotiations and the rest. Let's assume that, because all of us do it.

Here are the wiser things I also took away on top of all of that:

-- It is precisely when we are the most frustrated and desperate that we are learning the most. It is the sense of frustration, Mike Gibbs counseled early on, that signals we are climbing the learning curve. Always keep pushing until you feel frustrated. Then push a bit further. Be suspicious of confidence. That's the flat bit at the top of the curve; time to start a new curve.

-- We all juggle work, coursework, family life. You cannot fail at family life. It's the one thing that makes the others possible.

-- To learn something unfamiliar, stats professor Rob McCullough reassured us, "you just need to spend some lonely time. It'll make sense." He talked also of the "interocular test": When it makes sense, it'll hit you right between the eyes.

-- Learn to un-lever and re-lever betas. For heaven's sake, this isn't kindergarten. Dread no calculation.

-- In a room like the one put together (painstakingly) for the EMBA program, each conversation is an interview, no matter how casual, one classmate said. He was right. Each interaction is about your professional reputation, and you're having it with the most important people you'll know moving forward in your career.

-- Take on the extra work.

Tonight comes the key ceremony, when the Student Activity Council for XP-83 (which I'm on), turns over the "Key of Knowledge" to XP-84. Wine will be served. It is an amusingly large key. Suddenly, I'm transported back a year (Terrifying! What if I had to go back?) to the night when XP-82 handed us the key. They seemed so much smarter than we were. Certainly more tired. I've gotten to know them more since. I look at the '84's, and they seem so much smarter than we are. And they're not, either. And we're certainly more tired.

But this is how it goes. We strive. We apply ourselves. Some move on. Others join us. We learn. We help one another. And it never stops.

If this is for you ... well ... welcome, then. You're joining an accomplished crowd. If it makes you nervous, it should. You have to feel that to begin learning. But learn you will. Learn we did. And learn we'll all keep on doing, now that we really know how.

Godspeed on your journey.

-- James Janega, XP-83, Booth MBA class of 2014.