Where is my Piccolo?

When I was growing up, I read a story about a piccolo player. A master orchestra conductor came to town and he decided to practice with the largest orchestra in town. There were about 50 different members in the team, which included only one piccolo player. Right in the middle of the second practice session, the piccolo player decided to stop playing. He simply left the tiny instrument in his mouth and pretended he was still playing. The piccolo was the smallest instrument in the orchestra, and the player felt he was insignificant in the middle of the big drums, trumpets, tuba, and violins.

Three beats after he stopped playing, the master conductor brought the music to a halt and yelled, “Where is my piccolo!!?” The piccolo player raised his hand timidly and the conductor asked him, “Why did you stop playing?” The piccolo player answered, “I felt my instrument was small, and that I would not be missed.”

The conductor replied, “You are the most important player in this team. That is why you are in the front row. You determine when the whole group is going to transpose to the next key. Without you, our music will be bland, and that is why your notes are an octave higher than everyone else’ notes.”

You see, the piccolo player thought he was insignificant, but the master conductor who had being leading orchestra for over 50 years thought otherwise.

What does this have to do with MBA? I know this is not a music blog.

In the second week of September, 2015, I finally started the Executive MBA program at London Business School. We had our orientation at the London Campus where lectures started. One of the first lectures we had was Executive Leadership, which exposed us to the 360-degree feedback and the NEO personality inventory. My strengths and weaknesses were laid bare in front of me. It was an eye-opening, and scary moment when I saw my major weakness. This was something I had taken for granted for a long time.

In the process of completing the assignment that followed, I truly had a long period of deep self reflection, and I saw clearly how I had led my life with this weakness. I saw how many opportunities I had let slip because of this weakness. I tried to imagine what my life could have been if I had tackled this weakness, at least, five years ago. I had written a lot of essays in my journey towards getting admission to business school, but this was something I never thought of, and this was something none of my referees told me.

I came to understand that the little things we take for granted often shaped our lives in the long run. Nobody tells us and we keep living and thinking we are doing our best. Many of the people around me have often wondered what exactly I wanted to do with an MBA at this stage of my career. The driver who dropped me off at the airport even asked me if I was going for the degree because I wanted a promotion. My response to everyone who asked me was that I have a dream and I know there are things about me I am not aware of that may stop me, or slow me down, from achieving this dream. It became quite clear after the first week at school.

I have spent only one week at school and I feel as if I have already received knowledge worth 25% of my tuition. I can only imagine how the remaining 19 weeks are going to be.

Thank you so much London Business School. I have found my Piccolo.

The Executive MBA at London Business School begins…

I was in the middle of a meeting at exactly 12 noon today when it hit me that under normal circumstances, I should have been in London, meeting my new classmates for the next 20 months. The Executive MBA at London Business School begins… but I am not in class because I was forced to defer till September, 2015.

I got to my office, opened up my Expedia homepage and looked longingly at all the trips I had planned for the next three months; it was painful. The whole application experience from all the dings and finally getting admission to LBS, only to wait for one year. I don’t even want to think of all the money I had spent.

But the good thing that I had to keep reminding myself of is that I have one whole year to put things in place and gain more experience. The fact that I am not going to business school this year has also made me buckle down and take life a little bit more seriously. I have a whole lot of investments in different asset classes scattered all over the place, and I don’t even know my net worth. If I am not going to business school this year, I might as well consolidate my portfolio, and optimize the asset classes and securities to fit into my current profile. I also have enough time to really mull over what I am going to do with my life after business school; I don’t see myself in paid employment in four years from now.

Another good thing is that I don’t need to worry about being too old in one year from today. The average number of years of experience in the EMBA Class is 11 years for the Dubai Stream, which I applied for, but I have only 8 years. Add next year and I will hit 9 years.

And yes, time to dust my old books and brush up my French…

A Painful Deferral…

I was all set.

My UK Visa was ready for the orientation week in London in the second week of September. I had paid the second instalment of the tuition. I was pumped. I had finished reading Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Good to Great by Jim Collins, the recommended readings by London Business School EMBA. I was ready.

Then my employer said “No Knight, we cannot release you at this time! We have so much to do at this time and you are going to be needed for some of these things over the next fifteen months”. It was heartbreaking. My first reaction was to resign my position, but my employer saw this coming. They gave me a raise, and then promised another promotion next year. The honorable thing to do was to defer. This is not the time to burn bridges.

Thankfully I had just finished reading Flow. Now I understand. When you have an obstacle, you can either take it out of the way or look at the big picture and work around the obstacles. Apparently, while I may not have started business schools, it looks as if I have started learning. I could use the next one year to read more of the recommended books, and also get to improve revenue streams for my side business. This will also expose me to some new perspectives that will help me enrich the class when I actually start.

Although the painful thing is that I am going to lose the scholarship. But I have been assured that I can reapply next year, but who knows if I will be able to win it again? As they say, thunder does not strike twice in one place.

After all, the pay rise should be able to more than make up for the lost scholarship in the next one year.

Restrategising again…

It has been a very stressful two weeks and I am glad it is all over. I am still waiting for INSEAD, while I actually started and finished an application to, well, guess…. 🙂 London Business School. No no! Not the full time MBA, but the Executive MBA! A lot of things have happened within the intervening period to make me feel that I should take a shot at the EMBA path.

Here’s the deal. I hired another consultant to take a thorough look at my profile, and at the applications I submitted. It was a very thorough postmortem review. The review actually made me dig deeper into myself and to re-evaluate my choices. Now, this review also took a good look at my current circumstances. I more or less experienced an eureka moment. Am I happy with my current job? By all means, yes! And I wouldn’t hesitate to take back my current role even I had gone to Harvard Business School for two years. I am actually on track to achieving my long term goals. It simply made perfect sense to go for an EMBA.

So, at this point, there is no two year MBA for me again. It is either a one year MBA or an EMBA.

And what if I get offers from INSEAD and LBS? We will cross the bridge we get there.