5 Things I Learned in Business School

I spent 2 years and more money than I’d like to think about at HBS. And in that time, I learned a LOT about business. But I also learned a lot more, both inside and outside of the classroom. And it is that stuff, the non-business stuff, which has really done the most for me in my post-MBA life.

In a time when the economy is in a downswing, companies aren’t hiring, and millions of people around the world are without work, it’s not always easy to justify the expense of an MBA. But as someone who’s been there and seen what it can do for ya (not to mention a guy who runs an MBA admissions mentoring company…), I feel it is my duty (and, well, job) to highlight all of the reasons b-school is more than worth it.

So without further ado, here are the 5 biggest things I learned in b-school:

1. Who I am, compared to everyone else.

Sitting in a room full of overachievers, it is easy to find out where you stand.  Humbling at times, but easy. I remember the moment I realized (pretty early on, mind you) that I wasn’t the smartest guy in the room. But EVEN when compared to those brilliant people, I realized that I WAS a natural leader… and that helped me as I continued through HBS and beyond.

You may be used to being among the best at everything – that’s pretty typical of the type-A leadership kinda people that make up most MBA programs – but in this room full of amazing folks, you’ll get a good sense (maybe for the first and only time in your life) of the things that you are REALLY better at than everyone else…and where you fall short.

And those things may surprise you.

2. Professors aren’t the real teachers (no matter how “esteemed” they are).

At HBS, like anywhere else, there are some AMAZING professors…and some shitty ones. Truth be told, I had some especially bad ones, and this is pretty common at HBS (and many schools across the board) when the emphasis is on publishing, and not teaching. But that’s okay, because I was surrounded by the most amazing people. Smart, cultured, diverse people. And it’s THOSE people that I learned from.

3. Everything is business. Business is everything.  

We did cases at HBS on doctor’s offices, law practices, schools… everything. And it turns out, everything, through the eyes of an MBA, is a business.  Even non-profits can make a TON of money, with CEOs making millions. I can’t even eat at a restaurant or drink a glass of wine without thinking about the business side of it all.

4. You never know where you will end up.

I went to HBS to learn more about the real estate business. 4 years later, I founded this online education company. Does that seem like a natural career progression? Absolutely not. Because it’s not.

But that’s one of the most valuable things about the MBA – by getting it, and by keeping the focus as GENERAL as possible, you keep SO many avenues open, paving the way for so many more.

If I can give any future MBA student one piece of advice, it would be this: Take classes in EVERYTHING, meet people from all over and SPREAD YOUR WINGS in b-school.  Exposure is the name of the game and the key to success.

5. Not enough.

That’s right, I didn’t learn enough.  There was no grade disclosure, and everyone knew that “We were only there to meet people.”  So I made my way through classes, didn’t get into trouble, joined some extracurriculars, and met people.  And through all that, I had NO idea that one day I’d be running an online company.

In retrospect, I should have taken courses in online business, online marketing, international business, HR, etc.  But I didn’t, and I will always regret it.

Looking back, all I can say is make the most of your b-school experience, folks. Do as much as you can, soak up as much as you can, and learn from as many people as you can. That’s what makes this all worth it.

What Is Your Greatest Achievement?