After a long and painful program in engineering, I knew I was never going to become an engineer. Upon seeing the “pass” evaluation for the final course I ever took, I felt like Frodo Baggins finally throwing the ring into the fire.
I signed up for an MBA program right after, hoping to find my calling. (Why I decided to move to the most unlikely location on the planet to do an MBA is a tale for another day.) Throughout my Business studies, I transformed into a different person — one that I enjoyed embodying more than the stressed, scattered and scurrying one I was prior. Although some of that personality was developed as a result of the novel experience I had in Finland, I strongly believe that studying Business contributed considerably as well. In this article, I would like to share what I learned about life, through the lens of business — so you can become a happier Frodo Baggins, with all fingers attached!
1. Project management is a tool for everyday life.
My partner sent me an interview with Tom Ford, saying, “You could be best friends.” Assuming the comment was referring to my love for fashion, I started mindlessly watching the interview. Tom Ford said, “People ask me if I wanna hang out? But I can’t just hang out! I can have dinner if I have penciled it in my schedule.” It was then and there that I knew he was my Sam, but sadly, he would never know!
Project management tools such as Asana, calendar, or checklists on Wunderlist do not have to be left behind at the office when you go home. They can very well facilitate your life by holding you to deadlines, cutting tasks into manageable pieces, and coordinating tasks that need cooperation. Take event-planning for your family, for instance: you can plan the menu and assign people in your household to do the shopping, cleaning, and cooking with deadlines considering the dependent tasks. And if people call you crazy, tell them they get a flying rainbow phoenix if they get their Asana out and start crossing out tasks instead of doubting the method!
2. Strategic thinking can benefit a person as much as a business.
In strategic management, there are several frameworks for analyzing businesses for a well-rounded understanding. Such well-developed, thorough tools guide thought processes and minimize tunnel vision. And whether the decision you are making is regarding a business venture or your own life journey, these frameworks can help organize your long term goals. Thinking in terms of mission, vision, and values can give you a lot of insight into what you want to do with your life. Putting your strengths, weaknesses, threats, and opportunities can result in better career decisions, and knowing one’s core competence may lead to better prioritizing.
3. Value analysis improves self-awareness.
In the business world, value analysis is when firms break down the cost and benefit of their offering to make sure it is a lucrative one. Deconstructing subjective value can enhance self-awareness because what you spend money on says a lot about what you deeply value. What’s more, it can lead to better decision-making because a cupcake is no longer a mere trade-off of $5 versus one cupcake; it is the $5 plus the long-term health costs of having eaten that cupcake on top of every other cupcake you’ve also eaten. On the other hand, a treat or a cup of coffee in your favorite cafe may give you an experience composed of a well-designed space, a couple of hours of work time, and the energy of being around others — and hence may be totally worth the $5.
4. Recruit the people around you to personal projects that matter.
So, Frodo did not walk all the way to Mordor alone! He and Gandalf handpicked the fellowship as his team. Sadly, I had to learn the importance of competent teammates the hard way. During my first semester as an MBA candidate, I partnered up with my best friend for all the class projects. Now, even though we got along quite well when we just had our afternoon tea together, when it came to doing a project, we never saw eye to eye. I was striving for a perfect score, while she was just doing the whole degree to experience life in another country. Long story short, I had to drop one of my courses the week before the end of the semester because there was no way I could get a decent final score after of our subpar classwork grade. And it did not end there.
Later, I ended up cutting a trip I had already paid for short just because just one day into the trip, I realized I did not wish to spend a significant amount of money on expensive food and drinks whilst staying in a rundown hostel at night. Had I taken the time to go have a conversation about our goals and plans for the trip, I would not have signed up for it in the first place! I have since made it a habit to meet up with people and talk to them about prospective mutual activities. And it is okay if some of the questions I ask them make it sound like we are in a job interview. After all, if resources are scarce, there is only one goal that can be achieved — and that better be the one all people involved agree on.
5. Advertisements are sneaky!
I suppose society is becoming more and more conscious about this nowadays, but back then, I was so blind to all this. As I started learning about the stories behind advertisements, I became aware of how I responded to their little tricks. I started seeing all those skinny personnel working at the beauty clinic in a different light. Were they there to ensure me of the effectiveness of the clinic’s practices? You bet! Were they skinny specifically because they had been through procedures in the same clinic? Absolutely not!
Advertising is an essential practice for every business. But it is important is to decipher the glittery brand image, the coined motto, and the value they claim they create for you and see if the product is actually worth your money at the end of the day. Something they teach you in business school is that every organization can and will try to frame what they do in a superlative way. The more you are aware of how much resource has gone into the formation of a simple motto or one-minute ad, the more control you have over your impulsive decisions to act on their imperative punchlines.
Business school lessons can apply to anyone.
These are just a couple of examples of how studying business affected my approach to my life goals and finances and, more importantly, how Lord Of The Rings affected me as a person. I came to wish that I had learned these lessons earlier, but hey, it is never too late! As Tolkien puts it, “It’s the job that’s never started as takes longest to finish.”
Niusha is an avid follower of TFD and a practitioner of intentional living, growing, and solution-seeking. She can speak five languages and has lived on three continents. She has a background in Engineering and business, worked in Tech for a while, and is currently doing a Ph.D. in consumer behavior.
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