It is not enough to show up.
One thing has become abundantly clear to me after graduating from my masters program –in every aspect of your life, you get out of it what you put into it. Showing up is a critical step, but it won’t take you far.
For example, getting to the gym doesn’t mean you’ve worked out. Lifting weights doesn’t mean you will build muscle. You must constantly push yourself.
The same is true with education, work, friendships, and romantic relationships. Engage with your experience. Be fully present rather than a passive bystander. Be interested in others – they have a lot to teach you.
One of the most valuable things I’ve learned in the Masters of Business Administration (MBA) program is that everyone else around me is talented in ways that I am not. Every person has knowledge that I don’t have. The connections with peers, mentors, and professors are what make the program worth it. Guest speakers – businesspeople who are interested in your success without even knowing you –take their time to come and see you, caring that you get something out of what they have to tell you, hoping that you’ll engage and connect and give that back to them in the future and teach them something they don’t know. That’s the key. That’s the value of the program: connecting and engaging with others and, when extended beyond the walls of a classroom (or virtual walls), that’s the value of life.
Showing up to class is not the same as learning. Reading a book does not mean you’ll retain the lessons in it. You must apply the material you are presented with to your life or to the situations and experiences of others. If you want to truly become your best self, the first step is acknowledging that it will take a process, and that process of becoming your best self will never end. You must constantly engage and push yourself outside of your comfort zone your entire life. People who master this – who can focus on learning from others and giving (and not just giving back to those who help you) will have the happiest, most fulfilled life, because they will attain more of their potential.
While it’s easy to understand, it’s not easy to do. We get tired. Persistence takes work. Engaging is difficult. You have to be fully present. I’ll admit that despite my best intentions, sometimes still I just show up and “phone it in.” But I guarantee you, people can tell the difference.
You are compelling and interesting to others when you’re interested in them. People will want to help you when they can tell you genuinely give a damn and are putting in effort.
So, my message and key takeaway from the MBA program is simple, yet difficult to do. It is not enough to show up. Be present, engage, and give.