Duke Weekend Executive MBA Student Blog
2 Stories of Lifelong Learning
I am sharing two stories with the hopes that one of them will resonate with you and help you reflect on your own journey.
I love stories and storytelling. I remember growing up in a culture and environment in which my parents, friends, and community told stories. Stories can capture the imagination and transport you to a magical place. They can make you cry, laugh, dream, or act. Anecdotes can also be powerful tools for inspiration and communicating ideas.
So, in this blog, I will share two stories. Hopefully, at least one of them will resonate with you, and cause you to reflect on your own journey and unique experiences to date. So here we go.
Never say never!
15 years ago, after wrapping up a grueling educational program (non-MBA master’s degree) at the prestigious Imperial College of London, I remember promising myself that I would never go back to school. Exhausted, but triumphant in my intellectual adventures, I thought at the time that I was good and done. Never again!
Well, as the story goes, I was back in school several years later, and now, I am proudly undertaking this transformational journey in the Executive MBA program at Fuqua, while working full-time, with the full support of my family and workplace. If life has taught me anything, it is to never say never!
My father often asked me growing up, “what is the largest room in the world?” I would retort “I don’t know,” to which he would say, “the room of self-improvement.” I guess I internalized this idea of self-improvement—that learning is a lifelong journey, and not just something you do in one phase of life, but all phases.
For many of us, we have our reasons for joining or considering joining an MBA program, no matter where you are in your career—early-stage professional, mid-career, or senior management. But I can say that one of those reasons is likely to improve and come out better at the end of the journey (no matter what better means for you). And even if your goal is as mundane as having an MBA on your resume, the after and before do not remain the same. Whatever your reasons, you will learn a few things during the process, make new lifelong friends, expand your network, build social capital, open doors to new opportunities and careers, and so on.
The dull axe.
We have all heard this story in one form or another. There are two individuals. One is hard at work, toiling away at the stem of the tree. But the axe being used has become blunt. The second person, who also started off beating at the stem decided after observing the other friend that it may be better to take some time to sharpen the axe. Of course, the sharper axe cuts down the tree faster and with lesser effort.
This anecdote is not meant to debate the pros and cons of cutting down trees (I believe in plant-based solutions as one of many options to help mitigate our global carbon emissions). It’s more of an allegory for how taking some time to learn something new (“sharpening the axe,” so to speak) can provide exponential benefits and help accelerate how we achieve our life and/or career goals.
Sharpening your axe is not reserved for a special few. In fact, learning is universal and doesn’t care about the color of your skin, heritage, social status, or economic class. It will open doors of opportunity for you. Of course, when that door opens, and it will, your character is what fills the room.
As part of Team Fuqua, beyond Intelligence Quotient (IQ), you will develop and learn the importance of Emotional Quotient (EQ) and Decency Quotient (DQ) as you become what Dean Bill Boulding describes as a triple-threat leader. IQ reflects your competency, while EQ is your level of emotional intelligence (the ability to empathize and be sensitive to others), and DQ is your ability to treat others with respect and value while acting with integrity (i.e., doing right by others). Taken together, these three factors will shape your character and what is possible on your journey.