“Let’s go.” “We can’t.” “Why not?” “We’re waiting for Godot.”
― Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot
With my final days at Wharton counting down, I realized I’ve been living my MBA life in a play of “Waiting for Godot” – the fast pace immersed me in constant chaos and endless endeavours which left little time to step back for a moment to search for meanings. I’m not entirely an existentialist, but I did end up spending a whole day reflecting on what I learned at Wharton.
Lesson #1: Live by an inner scorecard
At Wharton, I met many classmates whose accomplishment and ambition are beyond my imagination. It strikes me that they are risk takers who lived fascinating stories. They are non-conformists whose passion are not confined by traditional norms. The more I got to know them, the more I realized I’ve been blindly chasing fame following an external scorecard set by what others believe to be successful – good schools, good grades and the type of jobs that people would envy.
Looking back, MBA has been a life-changing experience for me, but I couldn’t deny the sheer ignorance that led me to apply Wharton in the first place two years ago. Obviously, I could list pretentious reasons like leadership, perspective, network, ect, but I deeply know the buzz words are convenient masks for the embarrassing truth that I wanted an MBA because everyone else did so.
Envy is a silent weapon of mass destruction – it makes people unconsciously act in a way they wouldn’t if they were honest to their true values. Thanks to my friend Michael Tao (WG’18), one of the best investors I know at Wharton, I started to read Buffett and Munger who later became my role models for being true to oneself. They made me think more consciously about the importance of living my life by an inner scorecard instead of what others think. In the commitment project, my very first goal is to become a more authentic version of myself – it doesn’t matter what I did right, instead, I did what’s right for me. Life is too short to become someone else.
Lesson #2: Invest authentically in personal relationships
I was fortunate to make many friends at Wharton where we shared laugh, tear, struggles and of course group projects and drinks together. Particularly, I had the most unforgettable moments in the two warm communities of GCC and Investment Management Club / WIMF. Collectively they taught me the importance of being authentic in personal relationships.
Becoming the co-president of GCC was a daunting challenge and my heaviest extracurricular commitment at Wharton. Leadership means responsibility and in many cases sacrificing personal interest to achieve the greater good. From the grand GCC New Year Gala to various career and social events, hundreds of hours were spent. I started to feel the unparalleled accomplishment of empowering others and being authentic. As you become a giver instead of a taker, you start to build an ecosystem around you of similarly authentic people who echo and reinforce your own value. Together with my fellow co-presidents Anderson Xin and Hualei Zhang (WG’18), we would feel super accomplished if we had made GCC just a little bit better.
Performing martial arts in Chinese folk dance at Wharton Dance Studio
The IM Club is another community where I learned to genuinely invest time with others. Having gone through the painful investment recruiting in the first year, I understood the struggles faced by career switchers. To give back, I decided to sit down with 1st years regularly to help with their investment write-ups and models with the same diligence I would do my own. I have made some best intellectual friends this way and discovered the paradoxical truth of a benevolent cycle – the more genuine you are, the more authentic your relationships become.
Lesson #3: Intellectual curiosity is a lifelong passion
People know me personally would joke I’m a strong contestant for “most class absence award”. Plea of guilty aside, my decision to prioritize most of my time in exploring the art of investing has been deeply gratifying. The journey was strenuous but enlightening: 30 hours of stock research every week, 4 investment internships during breaks and school year, and many in-person meetings with my hero investors including Peter Lynch, Warren Buffett, Howard Marks and David Liu (my future boss).
Lunch with Peter Lynch during Fidelity Investments summer internship
I’m grateful that I found my lifelong passion at Wharton – satisfy my intellectual curiosity by discovering the nature of change and unveil fundamental truth in business. I strive to invest in great businesses with durable moat and have long-term patience to ride through cycles. I strive to develop the contrarian mindset to think different from consensus. I strive to discard the illusion of control by focusing on the bigger picture drivers and becoming approximately right instead of precisely wrong. Among all people who inspired and mentored me, I want to thank Kern Vijayvargiya and Michael Ding (WG’18) for your contagious intellectual curiosity that I admire.
I’m about to leave Wharton with great memories. I want to thank Wharton again for making me a much better person and I wish my fellow WG18 MBA classmates a prosperous future ahead.