We did it. WE did it. First term of the IESE MBA completed ... no, accomplished. A total team effort. This past month has been rough. Sure, the stress and pressure was to be expected, but I thought I had a good handle on it. And then it just hits you, out of nowhere. I've noticed my mood changing, my whole demeanour not what it was. My team's noticed too. And I suppose it's a product of a lot of things, including simply not taking good care of myself - we were told early on to stick to our routine, to not stop eating well, exercising, and getting enough sleep. A good experience, and we'll do better next term.
We had a final paper 2 weeks ago, and 4 exams over 2 days this past Thursday and Friday. Struggled. Had a hard time with accounting, for obvious reasons, and also with a course called Decision Analysis - essentially using mathematic tools and techniques to make business decisions. I learned a lot, but asking me to do a math exam after 2.5 months with absolutely no background or foundation? On top of that, to learn how to use an incredibly sophisticated simulation software and be expected to create accurate projections? Challenging and really, exactly the kind of stuff I need to be learning, but when you're deep in the middle of it, when nothing is making sense, you alternate between raging frustration and borderline sobbing. But we did it. Last exam on Friday was Leadership, a case we had to prepare. Left (fled) campus at 5, heading out first for a haircut. Shower, a quick gin tonic, then to the Hotel Princess Sofia for the IESE Christmas Ball.
It was going to be carnage. They know what they were getting themselves into right? A bunch of MBA students, fresh off our first set of finals, and they're going to give us an open bar? At least we were in formal wear. I drank and drank and drank, but what remains with me is the incredible atmosphere, the camaraderie, the absolute love in the room. My team pulled me through. I simply would not have been able to get through this whole exam period without the encouragement, the tutoring ... the team's sheer will to grab hold of me and pull me alongside everyone else. Much appreciation. So we partied, we laughed, we hugged ... we celebrated this very first achievement.
What have I learned this term? Masses and masses - these past 4 months here in Barcelona have been a truly life-changing experience. But like I said way back, when I was still in Toronto, I'm taking a broader view of my MBA. I want this to change my life, and that's more than learning how to do tax accounting and pricing options. Confidence. It's all about confidence. Am I a more confident person, from both a professional and personal aspect? I think I am. I'm more outspoken now, more willing to take a position and defend it. I've learned how to do so (probably the most important take-away from first term). And I've learned, on a much deeper level, exactly what kind of thinker, learner, and decision-maker I am. These 3 months or so, I've lost weight, I've suffered. More than most. And I don't want to sound all melo-dramatic or otherwise contrived, but it's been the best 3 months of my life. Truly. So to distill it all down, the top 3 things I've learned (and top 3 things in my personal development) this term are:
1. Be engaged and present - when you set aside time for something, always be engaged and present in what it is you're doing. Always give your 100%, and if you're not willing (or unable) to, do something else.
2. Be willing to ask for help - a major weakness of mine, I'm stubborn and sometimes unwilling to ask for help, choosing instead to slog around on my own. To be better, you sometimes have to ask for help, and this is something I'm still working on.
3. Don't be too hard on yourself - I have a major self-loathing streak, and I put a lot of pressure on myself after the fact. It's clearly not healthy, and clearly not productive, but I tend to fall into these depressions, and feel hugely disappointed in myself if I don't achieve the results I expected, or hoped for. But, paraphrasing one of my classmates professors, don't let the results of these exams, or your final grades, take away from the joy of the learning and the experience.
I'm happy. This has really been a dream come true. It hasn't been easy, but I wouldn't appreciate it so much if it were. Above all, it's been about the people I've met, the friendships I've made, the experiences we've shared. And best of all, it's only just begun.