When life gives you roller coasters, enjoy the ride

It’s been a tough period, which would explain my absence. I didn’t make it to the second round of the Nestle case competition, something I wrongly assumed was more of a formality considering the effort we had put in and the idea we had. It hurt a little less when we got word that Nestle was only looking at undergraduates and did not so much as evaluate the MBA submission. Well, their loss.

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Business School Life….

But the thing about foundations and Term 1 at Rotman is how the heavy curriculum can bog you down. In a sea of high performing quant-astic peers for whom comprehending advanced finance and accounting is just second nature, you often a notice a struggle that a small but significant part of the class goes through. To take it all in, to try and stay afloat. To try to balance their non-academic passions with the rigours of quant heavy subjects.

The first symptom of that is usually an overwhelming sense of wondering if you’re cut out for this, whether you’re good enough to be here. Walking by the admissions office often as you contemplate if they made a mistake. I mentioned to Dr.Edy Greenblatt that I didn’t contribute in study group meetings as much as the Finance Pros we had did. She said that this post facto rationalization was something every qual student in a quant school goes through.

The Nestle rejection was a bitter pill to swallow. It was a setback in terms of giving us a reality check of what we were good at. The immediate reaction is usually that of self introspection, where you tell yourself to get prepared and used to heartbreaks. Because when so much of life happens to you so fast, heartbreaks galore.

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Today, my team won the marketing case competition by Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment. We worked day and night for an intense week neglecting every subject we were already totally out of depths with (Like Finance, Accounting) for something that we were not sure was even worth the risk. Or perhaps that’s exactly why we did it. Because we needed this. We needed reassurance that we were good. We needed to be reminded why we were selected. When Economics, Data, Finance and Accounting told us we didn’t belong here, this win made us realize that it was okay.

And more than the result, it was the process, the journey that was exciting. The brainstorming, the fleshing out, the relooks, the constant and obsessive discussions about how the idea didn’t feel right, the lip smackingly awesome taste of that late night cup of coffee (even for somebody who doesn’t drink coffee), and slice of pizza when all you’ve had all day is a slice of bread for breakfast. Being overwhelmed like this is pretty exhilarating. I would take this every day.

I didn’t come here for grades. Sure, some good ones would be nice along the way, but not at the expense of the all the other i things I can do. I’d rather have done my MBA in India. The way I look at it, I want the MBA to transform me, I want it to take me to another level, make me a different person. Put me in this incredibly fast blender that bombards me with so many other things that at the end of it all, I come out looking and tasting like an amazing smoothie. And so far so good. I’m kinda liking the person that I’m becoming.

I have 3 weeks worth of finance to catch up to, I’ve completely abandoned the habit of doing my readings, I need to get a grip on assignments, contribute a lot more to my study group, and I have my midterms coming up next week. I am also in the midst of the P&G recruiting process, which is the next big heartbreak in store. I’m not sure about whether I’ll proceed to round 3. The reasoning test was tough and if it isn’t evident already, math isn’t my strong suit. P&G is a company I’ve been wanting to get into since forever. In April 2012, P&G released it’s first ThankYouMom campaign. In June 2012, I graduated from college and had my first job interview with Ogilvy & Mather where I said that my dream was to work for either Wieden & Kennedy or Procter and Gamble on a ThankYouMom campaign. It’s been on my bucket list since then. Along the way, I’ve evolved as a person, my reasons for pursuing marketing and becoming a marketer have also grown into something with a lot more substance, but the fascination towards P&G has stayed. As have the unbelievably stunning ThankYouMom campaigns since then. In 2014, I left Ogilvy for GREY, actually I left because GREY’s clientele included Gillette and Pantene. Maybe it’s going to hurt a lot more when I get rejected because I’m laying it bare, letting it all out here, but I guess the point I’m trying to make to myself is that that’s alright. Doubting yourself is a rite of passage for every Rotman MBA. The key is to be positive, to be realistic, set priorities, and compromise. Find a bunch of people similar to you. It’s pretty easy to fall into an abyss when you’re lagging behind in every class eternally trying to catch up. And carve your own niche. When all goes downhill, it will still keep you company, keep you’re hopes up and come to your rescue.

By no means am I an expert on how to handle emotional blows, but there is a certain something I do, almost like a ritual, to keep my spirit up and my willingness to work hard intact regardless of failures and setbacks.

I look back a few years, to all those days spent opening the Rotman website looking at glossy pictures of the campus, realizing how aspirational it was to get in. How awesome it would be to get an admit. So every time I walk through those stairs, I remind myself of how lucky I am to be here. I tell my 22 year old self that he did good and go back to work in the hope that, in a time space continuum, my 30 year old self is at this very moment doing the same to me.

A decade or two down the line, perhaps these small rejections would be insignificant as I sit back in my ergonomically designed chair at a corner office with a spectacular view of the Toronto skyline working with some of the brightest minds in the world. Talking and meeting with equally successful cohorts, whose friendships I cultivated at Rotman.

Or perhaps that will not happen. Maybe I’m just dreaming. But like the tennis anecdote my partner told me when we heard of our rejection in the Nestle case comp “When you’re in the game, focus on winning the next point, don’t worry about what happened in the previous one.”

I am in the middle of the game.

I hope you find this as helpful as I did.

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