Guest Post :: Still Ranting & Rambling

[I needed inspiration. I needed that biting wry sense of humor bitching away about life served up straight and strong. I needed that no-nonsense attitude to make it’s mark once again. In short, I needed her back. Without any further delay folks, join me in welcoming the famous MBA/MRS out of her self-imposed exile (if you still haven’t checked out her blog, where the hell have you been?!)]

When OMJ asked me to write a guest post, I hesitated, thinking that I haven’t been able to write the final post for my own blog despite many tries.  But this is somehow easier – and doesn’t need to be nearly as conclusive.  And the occasion of your Summer Ball gives me plenty to reminisce about.

So, kiddies, was it the best night of your life?  You and your best friends spent the night dancing away, taking endless photos of yourselves leaning forward in a circle with the camera placed on the floor?  Aren’t you sick of that Black Eyed Peas song yet?  What about the one by The Killers?  Or do you now collectively adore something new and equally repetitive that I’ve missed out on while listening exclusively to classical radio since graduation?

I was tempted to go, but then things got… how should I put it?… disappointing… with one of your classmates.  So I opted to witness it on facebook instead.  I know it’s not where you are, but who you’re with, but our summer ball was in the Chateau.  You know, that humble little hunting lodge of the kings you drive by every morning?  The one with the weird mishmash of styles where a succession of Louises, Philips and Charleses sent the furniture that was going out of style at Versailles?   Yep, that one.

Oh, you youguns, how many things are still going to change!  The P3 BFFs – the ones you love to death now – might not be the ones you will keep in touch with after INSEAD.  That dream job you take over the summer might turn out to be completely boring or intense and miserable.  But in the meantime you’ll discover what you are really meant to be doing.  Or you’ll just end up drinking lots of pints and cursing at London bus drivers instead.  Either way, it won’t be how you think it’s going to be.

You’ll probably regret not going on the Silicon Valley trip.  And if you go, you’ll regret not going to Stanford GSB.  You’ll change your P4 and P5 campus three times.  And three more times after that.  The waiting list will flip and you’ll have endless fights with your new P4 BFFs about whether you should stay or go.  You’ll probably choose to go where your friends are, not where it makes the most sense for your career/education.   (Hint: your relationship won’t last.  Go to whichever campus has Kevin Kaiser teaching VCCR in P5).  You’ll live each moment as precious and unique, and your Italian week will be better than any national week the campus has ever seen, and your section dress up day will be the most fun and clever one in history.  Except that the collective memory of INSEAD is 10 months long.

In the fall, you’ll chase the consulting firms, shake lots of hands, fake lots of smiles, try to find the balance between drinking enough to be friendly and not drinking too much to embarrass yourself.  (Hint 1: always carry ibuprofen with you.  Hint 2: your real BFFs are the ones who’ll tell you when you have parsley stuck in your teeth at a company cocktail)  First you’ll court the big ones, then the second and third tier ones (then the no-name ones who like to call themselves “boutique”), even though you said you wouldn’t do that.  You might have a few fights with your friends who insist that you should think about Plan B.  In a moment of desperation, you might even interview with a tobacco company, or three.  Or, like me, you’ll stand and watch the madness from the sidelines, edit countless obsequious cover letters, and wonder if you’re not joining in the McKinsey lovefest because you’re a contrarian, or because consulting really isn’t for you.  You’ll find validation in your choices when four months out your friends are complaining about their golden handcuffs, and you’re being a content housewife with your fancy freelance gig that allows you to spend time wondering in the British Museum while everyone else is at work.

In P5 you might go to Singapore to see about a boy, even though you swore you’re not going to Singapore.  Except by the time you get there, you’ll no longer be on speaking terms.  But it’ll be fun anyways, and you’ll eat Chicken Rice daily to justify being in sweaty, boring Singapore.  The grad trip will be sloppy and fun, and after you’ll be happy to avoid all INSEAD functions for the next three months.  Chances are you’ll go back to being a normal person, with a normal job.  You’ll pick up the hobbies you’ve abandoned before – cooking, painting, opera-going.  You’ll probably get back with your ex because your INSEAD relationship didn’t make any sense anywhere but at INSEAD.  But beyond that, my predictive abilities fall apart.  Most likely, you’ll look back at that year and wonder if it really happened.

Since the life of an INSEADer can be counted in dog years, the remaining 6 months might as well last 4 years.  Go forth and live out your unique INSEAD experience.  And I’ll watch this blog to see how my prophecies bear out.   That is, if OMJ finds any time to write.

2-weeks old

So, the new year has dawned. With it, all those danged resolutions, and stuffy promises crowd the mind, and fill up the heart. Promises are meant to be broken and I am yet to fail that adage. Gone are those resolutions to attend gym everyday, to write to a pen-pal weekly (by escargo), to pick up a new musical instrument, to not pick unnecessary fights, and generally to be a brand new person. The new year brings about this delusional confidence that we can pull all these off; the curse of January. The advent of February brings about the sweet relief of release from the mental chains of pressure, guilt, and conformance with expectations. The entry of March brings about the hope that next year will dawn fresh and these resolutions will definitely be fulfilled next year. The next 9-months brings about the satisfaction of thrashing this year’s resolutions till the cows come home.

So, as you can see, I don’t do resolutions anymore. However, a somber thought is upon me today at the start of a new year. Yesterday, I attended the first of the INSEAD parties. It was a NYE party. I met many of my future classmates. It was an odd sort of meeting. No one knew anyone (well enough at least); FB and Connect were kind enough to at least make a few names recognizable. However, it felt a little like the first day at primary school; A sea of strange faces, and names. Awkward moments were broken by the common INSEAD questions of explaining your background. And, then a sort of standing musical chairs (imaginary) would occur and the whole ritual would repeat until everyone “knew” everyone. Let me honest. It’s not possible to remember so many names in one meeting. Memory and alcohol have a direct relationship. So, after one round of musical chairs, it was not uncommon to see little groups of musical chairs repeating all over again. Hey, it was a way to kill time till midnight struck.

Anyway, after the party, I came back home and introspected. How many people would actually remember me after that party? And, I realized that there was a sameness to everyone. Everyone was super-qualified and everyone was a superstar. “Normal” takes on a whole new meaning in INSEAD. After a while, things go into a blur and then you’re on auto-pilot mode. “Where are you from?”, “What were you doing before”, “What do you plan to do after?”, “Are you going for the party on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday?” come out like ink from a squid who’s lost bladder control. Sometimes, the answers are not even important. This gets a little tiring when you’re trying to do this with ~500 people. I am trying consciously to keep this process human and try to reach out to people on a more sincere level. I guess sincerity should count for something. At the end of the day, if I can make even one true friend for life, I will consider myself as satisfied.

Dammit, I’ve just gone and made another resolution…

Leavin’ on a Jet Plane…

So, this is what my to-pack and to-do list is looking like right now. This list, though unsaid, obviously includes my passport, tickets, laptop, daily clothes, underwear (color you say?), ties, and socks. It’s a non-exhaustive list, and of course, any glaring omissions are welcome.

To Pack
Canon dSLR
Basic first-aid kit
Stationary (pens, mechanical pencils, highlighters, staplers, erasers, text pads, )
HP portable printer
Documents:

  • Academic Records (Originals and copies)
  • Financial papers (loan papers, OD facility, bank statements)
  • Marriage Certificate
  • OFII form
  • MRI scans
  • INSEAD acceptace letters
  • House rental agreement
  • Professional appointment letters

Shoes

  • Formal shoes
  • Sports shoes
  • Slippers/ Sandals

Academic Books & French books
Business suits
Oakleys
Belts
Dakine backpack
1-set bed linen and pillow case
Motorola Bluetooth headset and charger
Chequebooks
Montblanc pen
Toiletries
Shaver kit

TODO
Cancel mobile phone account
Cancel credit cards
Buy/ Beg/ Borrow/ Steal financial calculator for INSEAD
Try to do at least a little pre-reading

Whether all this will fit within my airline baggage weight restrictions is still up for debate. Why does Europe allow so little baggage in??

DIVORSEAD

I came across this term just yesterday, courtesy of a fellow INSEADer who updated me about INSEAD’s dubious reputation. I always knew there were hook-ups and break-ups, but never knew that a name had been connoted as well. Sample this statistic: there were apparently 14 divorces in the previous year (!!).

It’s sad to think that nearly 30-something year-olds do not have the maturity to realize that they are no longer undergrads, nor are they at some frat-party, and be more sensitive to their partners. How can they forget all those days when their significant other would have goaded them on to do the GMAT, write those applications, prepare for the interviews, wait nervously in eager anticipation for that acceptance call? How can they forget the loving empathy the partners extended when that dreaded ding(s) came? How can they forget all that encouragement and support their partners (at the expense of their time and energy) extended to keep propping up their egos each time it got bruised like a rotten apple?

Partners, IMO, go through more than the applicants/ students during this whole b-school process. They have to deal with the insecurity of leaving their jobs, relocating to an alien location, keeping themselves busy when their partners are at school, waiting eagerly at home to see their partners in the evening (which would in all probability be the high-point of their day), listening patiently to their partners as they rant about their day at school, everyday. And, I’m talking only about those partners who move with their partners. Long-distance relationship is even harder. The insecurities the non-studying partner has to bear are immense. They would always be worried about drifting apart, as the b-school bubble consumes the student more and more.

B-school can be crazy, but students have to remember all those years that brought them to b-school in the first place. One or two years should never change a person to the point where they don’t care about hurting their loved ones. B-school will end and reality will bite. Who do they turn to at that point?

I dedicate this post to all the partners of b-school admits. You go through more than anyone gives you credit for and you need to be applauded for that. And, to all those insufferable pricks who are selfish enough to forget that, remember that what goes around comes around and b-school is and can never be an excuse to end a marriage/ relationship. Grow up and act the part of a mature student at an elite b-school.

Fishy Sushi

I attended the Open Day (Admits Weekend) for INSEAD a week ago. I’m not going to go into a breakdown of the day’s events and how it panned out; I’ll let the INSEAD marketing team do that. I will however share a story that one of the profs. shared with us during a session. This to me was probably the most important takeaway from the entire day. This story was related by the UDJ prof., Neil Bearden.

Neil was telling us how the previous night he had taken his gf out for a sushi dinner. It was her birthday and though he doesn’t like sushi, the gf was a big fan of it, and so like all good bfs before him, he sucked his stomach in and went for the dinner. He asked his gf to taste each sushi and let him know it’s “fishiness”-quotient before he sampled it. What he realized after a while is that the “fishiness”-quotient was getting exaggerated in his mind everytime the gf gave her honest opinion. Very soon he asked her to stop giving her opinions (which the gf took in a good manner) and decided to trial for himself the tribulations of the Land of the Rising Sun. He started enjoying his dinner more, and actually downed more sushis than he cares to admit now (the latest news is he’s now training to be a sushi chef in his spare-time)

The point about the story was herd-mentality (in case you missed it) and the power of suggestions. It must be a great social experiment to put highly accomplished individuals together, for a year or two, and see the dynamics. Since, each individual is as bright as the other, a form of herding happens, and the motivations of an individual get molded by the collective ideas of the group. There is safety in numbers. Have you ever seen a flock of seagulls fly-by? How come they are so coordinated? Besides the assumption that bird-brains are actually smarter than we think they are, the answer is very simple. The birds follow a simple evolutionary algorithm. The rule is to not touch each other while flying and let instinct guide the direction of flying.

B-school can become like that if you’re not careful. It’s easy to get into a herd and squawk like everyone else. Depending on the flavor of the month, consulting/ IB/ PE/ VC can rule the roost. It’s important to keep track of these herds and stay true to yourself. Easier said than done, but not impossible. I don’t know what the golden answer is,  but I suspect it involves praying a lot to Oprah (made harder by the fact that I’m not the greatest fan of Oprah and am actually looking forward to 2011 when she winds up that show).

Last (Second) Action Hero

I like Quentin Tarantino movies. The gore, the blood, the set-action sequences, the weird camera angles, the mad storyline, etc. There’s an earthy raw feel to his movies which is arresting. Part of the tension in Tarantino movies are the dialogues. They add to the whole experience.

I’ve always been a Superman fan. There’s something about a guy who can fly, have infinite strength, look good without a lock of hair out of place at supersonic speeds, be the ideal bastion of human ideals, always have adoring girls around, and of course wear his underwear outside (not too sure about the last one still). But, I love Superman. I grew up with him, and idolized Christopher Reeves. I have tied enough towels and scarves around my neck and stood in front a floor-fan (at full speed) in the hope I look as dashing with my cape flying about romantically. I have contemplated jumping out of my window many times, but somewhere at the back of my head, I always had a niggling doubt that if my experiment failed, it would lead to a classic Tarantino scene.

When Kill Bill came out, I rushed to the theaters to watch it. It was typical Tarantino. Mad storyline, mad set-action sequences, mad music and with madder anime thrown in. Brilliant! The culmination of the brilliance for me was in Vol. 2 when Bill explains to the The Bride about Superman. This is one of my all-time favorite dialogues. Sample this:

Bill: …..Now, a staple of the superhero mythology is, there’s the superhero and there’s the alter ego. Batman is actually Bruce Wayne, Spider-Man is actually Peter Parker. When that character wakes up in the morning, he’s Peter Parker. He has to put on a costume to become Spider-Man. And it is in that characteristic Superman stands alone. Superman didn’t become Superman. Superman was born Superman. When Superman wakes up in the morning, he’s Superman. His alter ego is Clark Kent. His outfit with the big red “S”, that’s the blanket he was wrapped in as a baby when the Kents found him. Those are his clothes. What Kent wears – the glasses, the business suit – that’s the costume. That’s the costume Superman wears to blend in with us. Clark Kent is how Superman views us. And what are the characteristics of Clark Kent. He’s weak… he’s unsure of himself… he’s a coward. Clark Kent is Superman’s critique on the whole human race. …….

I salute Tarantino for coming up with such an observation. Tarantino verbalized my fascination with Superman. Batman and Spiderman never had the same appeal as Superman did, and I could never explain why. Now, I know what I felt intuitively all those years ago.

August 18th is D-Day; I’ve got to submit scholarship applications for INSEAD. Let it be known I’m yet to start on them and am instead writing this. The thought of writing more b-school essays is painful. I almost feel like I’m watching a Tarantino film. Can’t stop, yet can’t continue.

And, it doesn’t help that my alter-ego is Mr. Last Second. My super-powers are panicking under stress, procrastination, daring myself to wait longer before starting, substituting other tasks with current one and coming up with great excuses. I almost feel like I was born with these qualities and my actual “alter-ego” is OMJ.

Sigh, I’ve let you down Superman.

do i need to take an iron to insead

To the poor sod who reached me through this search phrase, I feel for your ironing needs man. It’s tough enough we pay so much money in tuition fees. What with the post-MBA job scene and all, to expect us to bring our own iron is just plain ridiculous!

Anyone out there willing to timeshare an iron? Since, we’re at it, what about the heater? I feel cold only in the summer.