By Scott Munro, Class of 2019
I vividly remember walking around the riverfront for the first time about two years ago. The grand architecture of the city rising on either side of the Chicago River filled me with a sense of wonder and excitement. Having grown up in Northern California, I never thought I could fall in love with another city like I had with San Francisco; but in that moment, I knew I was falling in love with this place.
Two years after I started falling in love with Chicago, Booth, and the people that shaped my time here, it’s hard not to take a moment to reflect on the wild ride that is business school; on the hard conversations that pushed my own thinking on topics from gender equality to corporate responsibility; on balancing a long-distance relationship with recruiting and making the most of my Booth experience; on surreal beach parties in Cartagena; and, on quiet nights watching New Girl by myself. With that in mind, I wanted to jot down a few of the lessons I’ll carry with me most after June 9th.
Shut up, and listen
The thing that struck me most during First Day was the diversity of thought and background that Booth represents. I have learned so much from my classmates directly from their experiences. I’m not talking about their professional experiences, but rather their personal ones. It’s incredibly humbling to talk to folks that have experienced the impact of international conflict, of domestic policies I hadn’t fully thought through, or of policies I had thought through, but was able to more fully understand through the opinions of my peers. In such moments, I’ve learned to just shut up, and listen. I have gained far more in the last two years when my mouth was shut than when my mouth was open, and I have no doubt that will continue after Booth.
This might seem at conflict with my first takeaway, but allow me to explain. Booth prides itself on fostering productive conflict, a sort of obligation to dissent (to steal a phrase from my future employer). As a Californian born of Canadian parents, dissent and speaking up did not come naturally to me, but over the last two years, mostly through osmosis, I’ve gained the ability to speak up when things confuse me, or when I don’t agree with an opinion or a statement. As much as I’ve learned from shutting up and listening, I’ve also learned from speaking up, clarifying statements, and stating my own thoughts. Iron sharpens iron as they say, and this only happens through a healthy dialogue, which requires equal parts speaking up, and shutting up.
Treat yo self
The average Booth student, myself included, has a Type A personality. It’s hard for us to slow down and smell the roses. A big take away for me over the last two years, counterintuitively, is to do just that. If I needed to get a quick work out in, take a nap, or get my life in order to satisfy my mental health, I had to get comfortable with skipping a class here or there. Maybe this won’t be the easiest of strategies after I leave the fantasy land of the MBA (I don’t think I’ll be able to say: “Sorry Mr. Client, I can’t make our meeting today, I’m taking a me-day.” very often), but it was still a valuable lesson that I’ll certainly take with me: In moments of stress, sometimes the best course of action is to just treat yo self.
Don’t be an asshole
One of my business heroes is Paul Graham, who once wrote, “few of the most successful people I know are mean. There are exceptions, but remarkably few.” There were plenty of times during our time at Booth where it would be easy to be shitty. During the pressure cooker of recruiting, while a little tipsy at TNDC, or in a heated MJs Finest thread, we were all often presented with situations where it might have been easy to be an ass. I was constantly impressed, with a few rare exceptions, how rarely folks fell into this trap. What’s more, I think the most successful people at Booth have also been the most kind – or rather, the least asshole-ish. I don’t necessarily think I learned to not be mean (I’d like to think I was a pretty nice guy before coming here), but I do think my time here has reinforced my general philosophy that being kind pays dividends in the long haul.
While I’m sure I have more takeaways in there somewhere (never bring a jacket you don’t want to lose to Mother’s is certainly high on the list), the four points above, I think, are the most salient. Maybe your list would be similar, maybe not, but perhaps that’s what makes Booth special: there are likely more than 500 versions of this list that each of us will carry with us as we move on from the dreamscape that is Booth.