“Winners slow down the least.”
That’s the insight Y Combinator founder, Paul Graham, shared when comparing startups to sprinting. He noticed that sprinters attain their highest acceleration out of the blocks and spend the rest of the race slowing down, and he compared it to the productivity curve of a company which follows a similar arc. The same is true for business school.
It is true winners slow down the least. It’s also true that winners define which race they are running. Let me debunk a common analogy you will hear – your two years at Wharton will be a sprint. Sure, the time will fly by, but you don’t have to approach the experience with the power and aggression of the 100-meter dash. For some, the more appropriate approach is that of the 5k runner, lithe and measured. Defining your race is part of what makes you a winner. I’ll share the advice my track coaches frequently shared – you don’t run THE race, you run Your race.
In track & field, there’s only one winner per event. That’s obviously not the case in business school. Even though it can feel like a zero-sum game in the thick of recruiting or with the forced curve in classes. Remind yourself that there are many ways to win. In fact, our most successful classmates tend to be the ones who do all they can to ensure others win at recruiting, school, etc. They tend to follow the giver framework popularized by Adam Grant, Wharton’s top rated professor, in his book Give and Take. In fact, as future business leaders, our success will be predicated by how well we enable the individuals who comprise our teams and organizations to succeed. I’ll share more advice from my coach – practice makes perfect. While you’re at Wharton, practice helping others be successful. The more effectively you can do that, the more likely you are to be successful.
In life unlike in track you must finish the race. In high school we had a shirt with a phrase that read “legs feed the wolf.” In business school, legs feed the wolf as well. It’s important to experience as much as you can and venture into stretch experiences. It’s perfectly okay to take breaks and time to recharge, but you must endure. There will be times in the journey that will be challenging (for example recruiting), but it’s important to keep your metaphorical legs moving because that’s how you’ll eat. That’s how you’ll survive. That’s how you’ll thrive.
Welcome to Wharton, class of 2019. Welcome back, class of 2018. On your marks. Get set. Go.