To the class of 2009, and all faculty and staff, welcome back. To the class of 2010, welcome to our community; we look forward to meeting you all. Many of us already know that this is the start of yet another phenomenal experience. In our Palo Alto microclimate, days are longer and fuller (and not just because we sleep less!).
Acknowledging that this summer has presented us all with a mixed bag of events and experiences, we want to appreciate all that these times have to teach us. Summer internship experiences have ranged from fantastic to dreadful. Extended offers are fewer than in the recent past. Some of us have figured out precisely what career path we will seek this recruiting season; others of us have no clue. Most of us enjoyed quality time with family and old friends. There were engagements and also funerals. The weight of the recent terrorist attacks is still heavy. Many of us are still glowing (and tan) from safe and joyous travels. This summer has been every bit as challenging as it has been liberating.
And with all of this, the demands of school persist. This coming year will be quite unlike those most of us have experienced before. At a time when uncertainty abounds, we are faced with making important decisions about our futures. We all have full plates, psychologically and emotionally. Given this, how do we proceed? We hope to share a few lessons learned from the summer’s events, from our first year at the GSB and from each other.
We first want to emphasize the importance of optimism. In light of the mixed feelings of the past few weeks, it might be tempting to let positivism fall the way of consumer confidence. This summer, we have seen the economy slow down and the markets take a nosedive. Given the fast pace and constant change of our program, we may fall prey to panic about recruiting or cynicism about the administration. Pessimism caused by dwelling on losses and mistakes can corrode our conviction and self-assurance. Optimism, on the other hand, creates possibilities for ourselves and for those around us. As potential leaders, especially, we’re challenged to ally our competence with a sterling attitude.
Heroic acts need not be limited to crisis situations. We honor our heroes for their exemplary values, for brave actions in adverse conditions and for overcoming vices. In our daily lives, we have the chance to do the same. This close-knit culture needs people who are willing to look out for one another and be engaged in the lives of others. Business school environments present their own set of vices such as competition, social insecurity, and fear of failure. Yet our collective talents, dedication and wealth of experience equip us to meet any challenge and be of service to this community.
In difficult times, groups either splinter or cohere. The GSB community is no exception. Recognizing our common values and fate brings us resilience under pressure and disappointment. We can manifest this awareness by protecting the interests of people other than ourselves. Socially this can mean extending beyond our comfort zones, interrupting the feedback loop of first impressions. As we move through the year, we’d be remiss to not realize that the community we build here will outlast this year’s hardships, and will carry us through future failures and triumphs.
Now, more than ever, is the time to be authentic. September 11th has only reminded us of what we already knew – life is short and extremely unpredictable and we must live fully in the time that we have. Finding our life passions means we have to be real with ourselves and with others. In the coming months many opportunities are going to be scarce. This is both a curse and a godsend. With fewer carrots and sticks dangling before us, we will have to rely on internal motivators when we choose our direction. This year will enable us to think about what we want for individual reasons, and less so for external ones. In the same way, we urge first years not to waste too much time “testing the waters” and guarding your identities. Understandably you want to present your most polished self: the future CEO -- accomplished, on top of everything, prepared, infallible. Many of us second years did the same. However, we can tell you the sooner you get past that barricade, the sooner the real GSB experience will begin. Just let loose.
As we strive to be our authentic selves, we also need to recognize the gaps that our divergent capabilities create. As ambitious and hard-driving individuals, we tend to try to do it all. But we usually find that he demands of this environment require us to share responsibility. When we do rely on others, we’re quick to judge other people’s abilities -- especially when we feel intimidated. Yet the level of intelligence and good intention here far surpasses what we’ll find elsewhere. Endowed with very different strengths and weaknesses, we need to remember to supplant intellectual muscle with wisdom, and trust others when we can. Through mutual support, we strengthen our self-reliance and our ability to lead this community.
We wish everyone a great year. Don’t forget to have fun, try something new, and (of course) continue to pursue personal improvement!
Author: By Sabrina Moyle and La Vonda Williams