Today was the last lecture of my all-time favorite class at the GSB, called MGE (Managing Growing Enterprises). While it’s taught by number of instructors here at the school, I ended up taking the section taught by David Dodson and Graham Weaver – two incredible human beings.
In his closing speech, David made a comment which perfectly summed up thinking pattern that I had been observing in myself and others for the past few months. He urged us to "not chase the lives of the other 406 people in our class."
Now this something that everyone might easily agree with. Why would you chase another person’s life, right? But if you are anything like me, I am sure you have found yourself in a position in which you compared your life and your decisions with the life and decisions of others. This is particularly tempting in an environment in which everyone is ambitious and constantly pushing their limits to new heights.
You might see a classmate get into a management trainee program at a hardware company, and you suddenly wonder if you should also be joining that trainee program or the hardware space is what you should actually be focusing on. You see your friend decide to start a business in the healthcare space, and you ask yourself whether you should also work in that industry.
What bothers me about this mode of thinking is that instead of listening to yourself and trying to figure out what the real right path for you is, you are rather looking at what other people have decided is right for them, and then try to emulate it. Basically you are copy/pasting their path onto yours. I even come across the career advise to find people whose career you admire and then try to "make similar decisions."
Now I don’t have any problem with finding inspiration in the decisions of others. If your friend started a successful podcast, you might also want to do the same. If a classmate is moving to China because they think it’s a promising market to work in, then maybe this is something that could also be of interest to you. But the important differentiation is that you, too, need to want to do it. And not just because you saw your friend or classmate doing it.
The bigger point I am trying to make here is that I believe that each human being on this earth has their own unique universe-given path to follow. And that it is a thousand times more important to figure out what your plan is than trying to see if other people’s life plans could work for you.
To tie this back into David's comment about the students in my class, the 407 of us got into the Class of 2017 for everything that made us unique. And I hope that each of us continues to pursue their own unique path going forward.