As finals week comes to a close and we as students enjoy the brief honeymoon phase after completion of tests and before the heart-wrenching torment of checking grades, I write this blog as a reminder of priorities and purpose.
No matter how many times we try to alleviate each other’s fears of underperforming in a particular subject with the popular phrase “grades don’t matter,” it never seems to stick. For our entire academic careers, society emphasized the need to get good grades to ultimately succeed in life (as it’s so specifically defined by..umm..no one). That was the goal. A’s are better than B’s and C’s were for everyone else. But now many of us are in the twilight stages of our formal education and seek not another round of interviews from admissions officers, but rather from hiring managers perfectly satisfied with few details of our education other than the abbreviations MBA and UCSD. How could this be? Don’t they care about the fact that I crammed the whole night before the final, found the grading loopholes, pawned all the hard work on my group just to get that pointy letter so admired by my parents and peers? Now I’m confused.
Think back to any time you left a class confident and proud of how much you’d learned only to receive the C on your report card, or conversely when you sat in the back and G-chatted all day and “earned” an A. Bubble Burster #1: Grades are no more a proxy for knowledge than money is for success. How often do we gaze at the millionaire with the fancy car only to find that he or she is plagued with stress and loneliness inside? Studies abound with the counterintuitive conclusion that in fact “money doesn’t buy happiness.” Sounds great on a fortune cookie but it’s not true for me. If I had a nicer car or new iPad, all my problems would go away and everyone would love me. It may sound ridiculous in print, but it’s a thought that pervades most of our lives on a daily basis. Grades are no different. While salary is, theoretically, commensurate with our contributions to a company (and by extension, the world), grades are supposed to be the quantification of our knowledge and contribution to the class. The souvenir from my time in the trenches I can take home and put up on the refrigerator. But of course they alone don’t dictate the amount of success one can achieve, just ask FDR, who only received average grades in school. Bubble Burster #2: Classes are among the least important parts of business school. Though our classes are interesting and seemingly applicable, let’s not forget why we’re all here. In the six months we’ve all been together I’ve met some extraordinary people. I can say confidently that several Rady ‘13s will be at my wedding and at my funeral. We’ll innovate and negotiate our ways to our dream jobs. We have access to a phenomenal assortment of resources to broaden our horizons and help us home in on our true passions. Where else will local CEOs come to share their wisdom, HR reps convene for the sole purpose of hiring us, and students relax with a beer and a shuffleboard table?
The purpose of business school isn’t to sequester ourselves in a pile of books and notes for two years, but to create relationships, develop our interests, and find a career that is as rewarding as it is high paying. Please try to escape the paradigm of obsolete measures of evaluation and set your priorities to match your long term goals. And if for now that includes a cold beer and throwing some pucks, then I’ll see you at Home Plate.
I took advantage of the $10 Student Admission to attend “Forging a Sustainable Future” this past weekend at the San Diego State University campus (regular admission was $95). Allow me to go off on a tangent before I talk about the conference – but I love being able to register for things as a student again. This just happened to be an event that required any outlay of cash. I love receiving emails from MBA Student Services about free seats to what would be an otherwise expensive ticket – CONNECT seminars, San Diego Venture Group breakfasts, an upcoming SDG&E Technology Series – these are just a few examples. I tried calling my credit card companies to get student benefits, and checked with my bank about switching to a student account. Apparently they have age restrictions for those kinds of products (yea, get a life old man).
What attracted me to this past weekend’s conference was the featured keynote speaker brought in by UnitedGREEN: Robert Kennedy, Jr – it’s not too often that you have the opportunity to attend a presentation by a member of such a historical family. But even though that’s what dragged me to the event, I was pleased to learn a lot from the other panels throughout the day. Every presentation was, at the least, extremely thought-provoking.
The opening remarks by Congresswoman Susan Davis set the tone for the entire conference, calling for a way to “meet the needs of the present without sacrificing the needs of the future” in terms of water, energy, land, and food. Dr. Joseli Macedo appeared live on Skype from India – she delivered a presentation on sustainability practices in her native city of Curitiba, Brazil, establishing some similarities to San Diego. I may have been most impressed by Kevin Beiser of the Unified School District – he is aggressively pursuing sustainable initiatives in a number of areas across the entire school district. What are they doing with the money saved? The $1 million saved in energy costs went towards bringing back the music department, giving music teachers their jobs back.
There was also an extensive panel on water conservation that led nicely into the introduction of Mr. Kennedy, who is founder and president-at-large of the Waterkeeper Alliance (amongst his many involvements). He touched on a wide number of topics, and each point was more convincing than the next. Kennedy told a detailed story about the atrocious byproducts of coal, and how the mining companies in West Virginia are engaging in the devastating practice of Mountain Top Removal – it’s detailed in The Last Mountain. He spoke of governments in Europe that have answered the need to address global warming.
Some argue that business and the environment have to be mutually exclusive – some still argue that global warming doesn’t exist. But there is an insurmountable amount of evidence that proves the opposite. There is a need in this country to abolish carbon; every nation that has de-carbonized its economy has experienced instantaneous prosperity. Imagine if we could eliminate energy costs? Now that would give our country a competitive advantage. Instead, we borrow money so that we can buy oil.
Kennedy argued for the need to develop a nationwide power grid that would allow energy surpluses from renewable energies to be transported long distances. For one, there are currently 50 private utility companies – uniting them is the best way to make use of national resources – I learned that in Operations. And secondly, the current grid isn’t designed to handle renewable energies. It’s ambitious to imagine a nationwide grid, but it’s exciting, and it could be the major progression of our generation. When you talk about traveling the “interstate,” you might be referring to your energy source (yikes, not funny). But all in all, it could reduce energy costs. And it would reduce our impact on the environment. It goes to show that good environmental policy does lead to good economic policy.