Audacity, Resilience
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Harvard Business School

Rented a room in a boarding house occupied by Harvard graduate students in Allston, about six blocks from campus, to save money. Loretta arranged her classes so she could get all her work done between Monday and Thursday, leaving her free to drive up on Fridays to join me in my Friday afternoon classes and then for us to have the weekend together. Of course studying with the business elite caused some cognitive dissonance with my small town working class worldview. It assumed a level of privilege setting them apart from average people. Was both abhorred by and lusted after status.

Walking to campus passed by a poor black housing project at the edge of campus. One snowy evening kids were out throwing snowballs at passing cars as I walked past with my case notes and briefcase. Became the target of their snowballs, of their anger, and soon was being pelted with ice and rocks as well. This privileged white guy, briefcase in hand, became a target for the anger of these poor black public housing kids. Responded in anger, swinging my hard briefcase at them as they taunted and targeted me, which only made it worse. Finally ran off to campus where some classmates helped me clean my open wounds and bruises. Not seriously hurt, but shaken by their anger at me, and my reciprocal anger at them.

My older brother was studying socialist economics in the PhD program at the New School for Social Research in NYC so we had some interesting discussions about the morality of capitalist economics and labor. The very idea of deserved and undeserved privilege, who gets to decide, and what about those with not enough, became a lifelong question for me.

Thrived on competition. Was always ready for any challenge! But needed to be recognized as one of the best. Formed a small study group to improve our prospects of succeeding at HBS. Between my case preparation, my classes, and my study group, ate, breathed, and lived business school cases nonstop from Monday through Friday. In each class we were graded on a curve, with 80% receiving satisfactory, the top 10% receiving excellent, and the bottom 10% receiving unsatisfactory grades.

Any student who received mostly unsatisfactory grades “hit the screen” and was dropped from the program. Any student who received mostly excellent grades would be in contention for highest honors, so called Baker Scholars, roughly the top 3% of all students. Half our grade was based on class participation. This was an environment in which I could really shine. With the help of my study group, and my own preparation, always had an answer about what the business should do. The professors usually accepted my answers as reasonable because I was so confident in my answer and partly because our study group supported each other in class. Received highest honors. This was an inflection point in my life. Would never be poor again.

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