2:50 pm - Wed, Aug 21, 2013
Viajero Executivo | “Estas listo para hacer un MBA?” by Stefan Bielski
Stefan Bielski wrote this piece for Viajero Ejecutivo (in English, “Executive Traveler”) the…View Post

Viajero Executivo | “Estas listo para hacer un MBA?” by Stefan Bielski

Stefan Bielski wrote this piece for Viajero Ejecutivo (in English, “Executive Traveler”) the…

View Post

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7:14 pm - Wed, Oct 19, 2011
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Are you stuck on your personal statement or other essay? Unsure of some steps in your career plan? Trying to pad your resume?

Try it from another perspective: beef up your obituary.

bielski:


 The Most Interesting Man in the World…On LIFE:

”It’s never too early to start beefing up your obituary.”

So, where’s the beef?

Today, what are you working on that will end up in your obituary? 


And something like “34 years of loyal service to XYZ corporation/department” just doesn’t cut it. If nothing in your today has much chance of being part of your obituary, it’s probably the same most days, most weeks, most months …hell, most of your life.

So, why are you not doing it?

Because your obituary seems so far away, right? There’s the rest of your life to worry about that while there are bills to pay, Angry Birds to play, social media statuses to update and other daily struggles and distractions to content with. Or so you believe. I used to. When I was 21, like most 21 year olds (at those least in the First World) at some level I thought that I’d live forever. I was also floating, having dropped out of both college and anything career-focused, and just changed cities. Six days into my second job in three weeks in Washington DC, I saw my 30-year old manager shot dead during an armed robbery. It should have been me instead of him, except for his decisions. It also should have been me as well as him, saving for the intervention of another coworker. Much more attentive than I was, she calmly pulled me from harm’s way. 

Depressed for a few months. Slowly at first,  the experience focused me. I started a bucket list (more next post), opened myself up to  key personal growth experiences, and took one step back (move back home) to get the footing I needed to take two+ steps forward (including return to college).

Documenting Death
About a year after that deadly day, I eulogized my grandfather. Another 20 months later I wrote the obituary of a classmate, friend, and student newspaper coworker killed in a car crash, age 22. Telling the story of a life is a  complementary experience. I saw, for the vast majority, decades are condenced into mere minutes. from which, I ask you:

What will be in your eulogy and obituary?

If you’re already a grandparent, you’ve got that, and presumably “loving parent”, etc. platitudes done. But, and I’m asking—well begging—on behalf of your eulogizer, don’t leave it simply at that. If you’re about 22 or 30 now, it’s actually harder: if your end comes soon, it’ll most likely come fast, without warning.

Most people don’t give much thought to their legacy until they start to see that the end of their term, career, or their life is approaching. By then, it’s usually too late for anything but spin, packaging and rationalization—at best. Sometimes it’s too late for anything but wishful thinking and regret.

Depressing thought. And to that there are generally two responses:

   #1. Escapism—go back to whatever keeps you busy so you don’t have to think about your end.

   #2. Start—no matter how small or slow—the beefing up obituary process.

So, how do you start? One way is write your own obituary. If you died tomorrow what would be on it? (This you can either keep to yourself or leave somewhere so your survivors will find it.) If that is not enough to make you go back to #1, ask yourself: what’s missing from it? If you had another year, 10, or 50, what else would you want on it, could you put on it?

Yes, writing about death is hard.  Though I’ve written on obituaries before and promised this post months ago, I kept putting it off. The death of Steve Jobs two weeks ago made me come back to it.

NEXT POST:  More on death—and the life before it. Till then: stay thirsty, my friends.*

*this Dos Equis Pitchman’s tagline echoes Steve Job’s own entreaty: “Stay Hungry.Stay Foolish”

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9:44 pm - Wed, Oct 5, 2011
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On the occasion of Steve Job’s death today, we’re recycling a blog post from our old blog written over three years ago upon Job’s obituary being prematurely published.

The lessons—which Steve Jobs learned and lived himself—are well, eternal. And if you are now writing an essay or personal statement that asks what you want out of your career,  It may provide some tools and perspectives to think and plan that.

Click the title above to read the original post.

Scroll below for Steve Job’s own word on mortality—and the motivation it brings:

Job's Ipod-tombstone

“When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: ‘If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.’ It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

“No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

—Steve Jobs, 2005 Stanford University commencement speech

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5:17 pm - Tue, Jul 5, 2011
17 notes

2bschool’s founder brings together Dos Equis and Drucker on this unconventional career advice post.

bielski:

The Most Interesting Man in the World…On CAREERS:

“Find out in life what you don’t do well. And then don’t do that thing.”

At first glance this may seem obvious, but there’s much more to it, indeed several steps:

  1. Find out” = experiment. You can’t rely on others (parents, teachers, coaches, etc.) to tell you what you’re good and bad at. Try many new things, things that you normally wouldn’t, including those activities and talents that others aren’t encouraging you to do. Relying on others to identify your weaknesses is short-sighted, ineffective, and meta-cognitively lazy. Examples of presumed mentors’ dismissal of nascent gifts are legion. Einstein’s early failures in math is one example that comes to mind. Also, remember your aim is to identify what you don’t do well. You can’t effectively do so if you don’t step outside your comfort zone. And of course, You have to be willing to make many mistakes, to fail.
  2. in life” = not just on the job, a job, or even your whole career. It’s not on your sports team, your hobbies and it’s certainly not what you didn’t do well in school—which so often fails to be a predictor of success in profession and other areas. (More on this below.) It’s all of the above and much more: every area of your life.
  3. what you don’t well” - Learn to distinguish between what you don’t do well and how you’re doing it. The first time I studied a foreign language, in high school, I got an ‘F’. First time I ever failed or even got less than a satisfactory grade in any class. I soldiered on two years, later studied a few other languages in the classroom, and never got more than a C+. I even received my university degree late as I failed to pass the foreign language requirement. I could have said, as some I know do, “I’m no good at languages”. Yet, I’ve since found ways (self-study, one-on-one tutors, on the street) to achieve close to fluency in a couple languages and get by in a few others. Now I know and say simply that academic language learning doesn’t serve me well. So I don’t do that anymore. Determine your dominate learning style and let that guide you.

  4. then don’t do that thing” = Once you’re sure you where your talents don’t lie, work on your strengths not weaknesses. This can seem counter intuitive as those around us are much better—and vocal—at identifying our weaknesses. And it’s not just colleagues, friends and family, it’s the pros too: the bulk of the self-help universe is trying to teach you to fix problems. There is a kernel of truth here. Working on our weaknesses can bring the most personal development, such as in our relationships with others. However, when it comes to our professional development, our careers, we’ll get much, much further playing to our strengths and enlisting others to fill in the cracks. As Peter Drucker put it in The Effective Executive, “strong people always have strong weaknesses too. Where there are peaks, there are valleys. And no one is strong in many areas.”

NEXT POST: More of The Most Interesting Man in the World…on LIFE. Till then, stay thirsty, my friends.

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    9:40 am - Thu, Dec 23, 2010

    MBA (Martial Business Arts) Part II

    The key concept of Judo is to use your opponent’s strength against him: “the bigger they are, the harder they fall” sort of thing. You just have to apply the right training, timing and leverage. For MBA candidates, the big, complex application process seems the daunting enemy.

    So, by studying your opponent, you prepare your actions: you can leverage essays into powerful self reflection and career narratives, recommenders into an informal board of advisors, interviews into foundations for future boardroom presentations and elevator pitches to potential investors, and communications with student groups and faculty into a professional network that last long beyond the MBA admissions process and program itself.

    Of course, this takes more upfront investment in terms of training and discipline. But, if you want the MBA, you have to go through the process anyway. Whether you properly prepare determines whether you are beat up by the process or emerge victorious.

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    8:14 am - Tue, Dec 21, 2010

    MBA (Martial Business Arts) - Part I

    You’ve certainly seen practitioners of Karate or other martial arts chop or punch through thick wooden boards or concrete blocks. And you’ve probably heard the key to doing so is not to focus on that hard object, but rather on a point well beyond - that is the spot where your fist will finish after passing though the obstacle. You hit the object with maximum velocity and force and it breaks away. This analogy is apt when your target is an MBA.

    To reach that goal, you must focus your attention and energy on a spot further out in time, that is 10, 20 or more years into your career.


    You ———{MBA} ——-> ◉ Long-term career goals

    This doesn’t mean you simply write about your long-term goals to get accepted to an MBA program. Rather, and this sounds Zen to some the first time they hear it, but is common sense, remember you get an MBA in order to advance your long-term goals.

    Those who concern themselves only or primarily with getting into a program are like those who aim at the block: they tend to fail - and in the process get their egos or fists bruised. 

    Comments

    12:03 pm - Sat, Dec 4, 2010

    In Search of the Perfect Essay - Counter Intuitive MBA Application Mistakes

    “Perfect is the enemy of good,” said Voltaire, and this becomes especially visible in the MBA application process.  Some candidates get others to write their essays for them, and there are many professional services that can do this for you.

    But hold on a minute: will the style and fluency of your e-mail correspondence with the admissions staff resemble what is in your essays?  If not, the admissions staff won’t be surprised; they’ve seen it all before.

    Business English is direct, concise and oriented toward results.  Business schools become suspicious when perfect essays are written by those with far from perfect scores on the verbal and AWA (Analytical Writing Assessment) portions of the GMAT.  And don’t forget your e-mail correspondence.

    If you hire professional service to write your essays, it’s very likely that your thoughts will be sterilized into cliche-ridden prose.  Boilerplate.  And boring.  We’ve also seen professional essays that have been written by would-be novelists.  The result is often wordiness and melodrama that turn readers away.  You can’t afford to give admissions officers a reason to rate your work as less than authentic.

    At 2bschool, we have observed time and again that authentic self-expression – written according to the clearly-defined principles of business English – is the best way forward.  This is true not only for native speakers, but also for candidates for whom English is a second (or third!) language.  Principles matter more than perfection.  We provide you with the instruction and ongoing guidance that will help you write for the MBA application, and we leave you with a particular set of universal principles that you will find useful for writing in your business career after the MBA.

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    10:00 am - Fri, Nov 26, 2010

    To stand out, you got to look in (bookish v. Hollywood versions)

    Bookish version

    Applying to the same programs you are plenty of other engineers, consultants, brand managers, investment bankers, etc. Their work responsibilities are quite similar. They went to the same university you did - or a better one. They have the same GMAT score you did - or a better one. What they don’t share with you is your plans, goals, dreams, callings (now, if your plans, dreams, etc. sound the same as everyone else, you have a problem - and ultimately probably a greater one than the same problem above).
     
    Knowing who you are—and your potential—is your only way to differentiate yourself. To do that you have to ask yourself - and begin to answer—some deep questions.These types of questions—of who you are and who you will become—are called “existential.” While that word might first conjure up images of somber, mid-20th century beret-clad  philosophers, it’s simpler and more effective to know it comes from the Latin word existere, which means “to stand out”. Therefore, by looking in, you stand out.

    Hollywood version



    Listen up, maggots. You are not special. You are not a beautiful or unique snowflake. You’re the same decaying organic matter as everything else. - Tyler Durden in Fight Club

    Are you a consultant, an engineer, a brand manager, an investment banker? You are not special. You are not a snowflake. You are what economists call fungible, interchangeable with every other engineer, i-banker, etc. You’re a commodity. To stand out in the marketplace in general - and in the AdCom’s eyes in particular, you need to understand and communicate your brand value, your uniqueness.  A brand doesn’t mean slapping on a label; it means establishing a brand identity and showing that that through concrete examples, anecdotes and stories.

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    4:02 pm - Mon, Nov 22, 2010

    Counter Intuitive MBA Application Mistakes: Even Einstein was Imperfect

    If you know it all, why go to graduate school? The admissions officers at business schools are looking for people who are… people.

    This means having both strengths and weaknesses. Most business school applications ask you to comment on these facts of life, and you don’t advance your candidacy by producing an extensive and colorful list of strengths with only one or two weaknesses.

    You are competing for a limited number of seats in an MBA program, but you are not competing for a prize. Admission is not awarded to an applicant as a symbol of success – “I won!” – it is an open door that represents merely a new beginning. And a beginning that will require you to roll up your sleeves and do a lot more work.

    At a quality business school, the MBA admissions staff want to see:

    a)  that you are self aware and that you can make decisions based not on naked ambition, but on the reality of your unique blend of strengths and weaknesses

    b)  that you can step back and make constructive criticism about yourself – and accept and discuss constructive criticism offered by others

    c)  that you have a sufficiently strong personality to navigate the two preceding points: a mature combination of ego and humility

    In the MBA admissions process, it has become a bit of a cliche to speak of weaknesses as hidden strengths: “I’m impatient; therefore, I’m always following up and on the ball.”  Like the majority of cliches, this is to be avoided.

    When you work with 2bschool as part of your MBA application process, you use proprietary tools such as our SWORD analysis to help you become more self
    aware.  We work with you to bring to life your strengths and weaknesses – and to help you (and the business school) understand how your weaknesses + an MBA create clarity of purpose and an indication of both career strategy and job opportunities.

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    9:01 am - Wed, Nov 17, 2010

    Counter Intuitive MBA Application Mistakes: The Quantitative Test and the Real You

    The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) is important, but it’s not decisive. It is merely one component of the application that you must make to business schools.

    If you come from a Latin, Asian or Slavic country, it’s possible that you sat for a single, all-important exam at the end of high school, and your performance on that exam determined to which university you were admitted.

    The MBA is different.  Born in the US and shaped by Anglo-Saxon culture, the MBA admissions process includes writing essays, obtaining letters of recommendation, interviews, and interactions with admissions personnel, students, faculty, alumni and student organizations.  For many, the process also includes campus visits.

    Sure, there is a test, but it’s only one factor of many.  Plenty of candidates with near perfect GMAT scores get rejected from all of the top business schools. We’ve also had many clients with mediocre GMAT scores apply to top schools and get accepted.  The reason is holistic.  Business schools are interested in your GMAT score, but they are also interested in the qualitative and existential components of your application.

    Here’s an MBA term for you: opportunity cost.  Excessive time spent preparing for the GMAT will come at the expense of investigating schools, going about networking, grooming your recommenders and planning your career goals.  If you begin long before the application deadlines, you will still be very busy.

    Consequently, if you attempt to study for the GMAT while writing essays, pursuing recommenders and so forth, you’re not likely to do any of these very well.  This challenge becomes daunting if you also have responsibilities such as a job or family.

    Don’t allow yourself to become paralyzed.  Time and again, we meet people or hear of people who invested a great deal of time in GMAT test preparation, including expensive training courses, and… they never applied to business schools.  Some never even took the GMAT itself!

    This does not mean that the GMAT is unimportant.  It means that you should find the right balance of effort in your application process.  At 2bschool, we are deeply knowledgeable about this need for balance and we are experts at helping candidates to make the most of their time and money.  Furthermore, studies show that practicing the GMAT is more effective than studying for the GMAT.  There is a difference, and we can help you to focus correctly.

    The GMAT has no value except as one part of your MBA application.  Nobody else cares what your GMAT score is.  And once you’ve begun your MBA program, almost nobody mentions the GMAT again.  Occasionally, MBA students with the lowest GMAT scores might mention it, but only because this is an indication of how special – authentic, promising, valuable – they were in other areas of their application.

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