The MBA Less Traveled

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”

Words to live by, are they not?

Never take the obvious path. Look for lesser known paths, paths trodden by only a few before. Hell, don’t even take a path – smash through the undergrowth. Use a machete to cut a swathe through the forest like the ill-begotten love child of Bear Grylls and Wolverine. When your machete breaks, hurl your body at any and all obstacle. Use your teeth to cut through dense vineage. (Bite anyone who tells you that vineage isn’t a word). Curse all roads, paths and other miscellaneous markers. When night comes, and you find yourself lost in the middle of the woods, covered in caked blood, stare up at the moon and howl. When you get home, commemorate your experiences by recording a sick prog rock album.

Only then will you truly make Robert Frost happy.

Wait! I hear you say. Hold on a second. That’s not what I learned in school. The Road Less Traveled has nothing to do with adventuring. It’s about how we romanticize seemingly arbitrary past decisions, undeservedly patting ourselves on the back for making choices that we think were wise, but that we really have no means with which to judge.

No. You are a fool. You clearly don’t understand Robert Frost, and you certainly won’t understand my prog rock album – The Golden Knights of the Crimson Road Part 1/25. 

Most importantly, you won’t understand my sincere pride at having made the objectively correct, yet challenging and entirely non-intuitive decision to go to Wharton. 

I know what you are thinking. How is going to Wharton to get your MBA a non-intuitive decision. First of all, I find the tone of your non-verbal thought questions to be insulting. Cease all active thoughts. Submit to a purely passive role while reading this article. Second, even getting an MBA was not an obvious choice at the time, let alone choosing to do it at Wharton, arguably the road-less traveled of business schools.

Why should one get an MBA? Why, when there are so many other easier choices? When you got to law school, you know you’re going to be a lawyer. When you go to med-school, you know you’re going to be a doctor. When you get an MFA, you know you’re going to be a teacher. But what certainty do you have coming out business school?  What career do you have? What is your place in society? My mother puts it best: “What do I tell my friends that you do?”

No one could give me a satisfactory answer going into business school. People who had already gone just muttered under their breath about ‘options’ and ‘experiences.’ Other people who were also applying looked at me nervously and gamely suggested that it was going to give us a really valuable network. What sort of experience was worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, I thought? Would I be hunting the most dangerous game? (Elves.) How could the ‘options’ offered by business school be so valuable if no one could actually tell me what they were. And what use, aside from maybe filling out a kickball league, was a network of twenty-seven year olds at the beginning of their careers?

And Wharton? Why would anyone go to Wharton? HBS was the school for the well-mannered over-tutored gentry, GSB was the school for the autistically disruptive savant. Who was Wharton for? Who knew? My friends and family all said to me. Nick! It’s just crazy for you to choose such an unknown, such a dark horse candidate. Insane enough that you want to go to business school, but Wharton, they said…it’s just madness.

Against all common sense, and the advice of my friends, I made the bold decision to get my MBA at Wharton. And here I stand, now, at the end of the road-less traveled. Was I bruised and beaten by the challenges I faced. Yes. Was I worn down to a level of such acute exhaustion that I felt at times on the cusp of giving up? Of course.

Was it the right decision? All I can say is this:

I shall be telling this with a sigh, somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in wood, and I – I took the one less travelled by, and that has made my lifetime earning potential slightly higher, some people say.