Looking back at a life changing year – this is the final post of the three part series by Abhijat Chahal.
I write this part inspired by a knock on my door last night from a classmate. He felt I had not been myself the last couple of days and wanted to check on me. It was a touching moment indicative of the strong bonds that have developed over the year and takes me to probably the most memorable part of my MBA journey. In January 2017, we all arrived in shiny armours, ready to showcase our best side. With passing weeks, those defences started dropping as we were confronted with chinks in our armours, not least the behavioural traits that were detrimental to the groups we worked in. There is an incredible transformation that took place in how relationships evolved, akin to having been in the trenches together. The IMD MBA took control of our lives and my 89 classmates became the all-consuming universe this year.
Through the year, we found moments of joy together in between working for our start-ups, studying Finance and Accounting, and all the cases that needed preparation. Paintball, bowling, laser tag, rafting on the Aare, celebrating Holi, go-karting, curling, gathering for huge meals, Lausanne 20km and Lausanne marathon, Red Bull 400… in retrospect, it is remarkable that we squeezed in time to do all of this. White Horse, Lacustre and Etoile Blanche became a part of our daily lives as we found comfort in familiarity to let off steam!
No matter the amount of pressure or the long hours of work, a good laugh was just a matter of taking a minute to have a fun conversation. It is amazing how we calibrated our sense of humour, our work ethic and largely, learnt to disagree without being disagreeable. Discussing and debating a host of topics under the sun, within the first weeks I found myself connecting deeply to people I didn’t know before this year. Soon we were discussing our hopes and fears. The armours were off, and the exposed vulnerability built connections that can be hard to fathom while looking from the outside.
Many of us found the courage to confront our demons and speak about it openly to new found confidants or even in the larger group of the class. I take away two great lessons – 1) We all have our stories and the baggage we carry, and 2) we are not alone, it’s just a matter of reaching out. Moments when I mustered the courage to talk about my challenges chipped away at the burden, piece by piece.
I saw this class cry at learning about the pain of some of our classmates, as we dealt with the frailty of our humanness. In the Leadership stream, we learnt that the group behaves like an organism and takes a life of its own. That some of us laid bare our emotions in front of the class speaks of the character and trust in this group. Any exposed vulnerability was nurtured in a sea of empathy, support and most importantly, encouragement.
Whether it was help in studying finance, preparing cases to crack consulting interviews, practicing behavioural questions, or connecting classmates with contacts – finding someone backing you to take that step to improve wasn’t hard. Preparing for Navigating the Future (NTF) conference was an aspirational moment as despite the absence of authority, many in the class volunteered their time and effort to take our show to the next level. The Class of 2017 came together to put together an NTF par excellence and the joy and togetherness of success was a moment to cherish.
If there’s one word that adds to the ambition we all came in with that defines what the year is encouragement – to try new things, to face our fears and dare to explore who we wanted to be.
Remove the broken parts you know were wrong
And feel the calm when the problem’s all gone
Part of Me (1999)
For all that I may have learnt about the world of business, living the experience in all its softer elements has made the decision of coming to IMD worth it. It is now the last week and time is racing. With job offers rolling in for some and working their way to others, there’s an eager anticipation in getting absolute clarity on our next steps.
I also feel a nervous uneasiness and I ask myself if I am ready to acknowledge what I feel.
Am I ready to admit the fear that’s gripping me?
I feel a desperation in wanting to hold on and live this experience a moment longer. I don’t want it to be over. Leaving the safety of our IMD bubble feels daunting. These strangers from a few months ago now feel like people I have known all my life, and the thought of them stepping away into their own lives in a week is disorienting. I don’t feel ready to let go yet.
We are all running away from something, or towards something. It is just the nature of ambitious individuals. I want to make sure in madness, I take the time to pause, reflect and acknowledge this incredible year of my life.
“There are things that we can have but can’t keep.”
One More Light (2017)
To my classmates, my friends…
I take the liberty of using the words that were used for Chester – your powerful voice and generous spirit is what I will take with me as I leave on the 8th December 2017, grateful for what we shared and hopeful of better times to come, pulling down the curtains on an extraordinary year in my life.
As a shipping man, I wish you fair weather and smooth sailing – remember, we can not direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails. Look at the person next to you, and remind yourself of the difference they made to your life.
For the late-night knock on my door, for listening to my fears, for keeping me calm in moments of distress, for laughing at my jokes, for challenging my ideas, for sharing this journey… of Ambition, Belonging, Clarity, Direction, Encouragement and Fear, merci beaucoup!
This concludes my three part blog post.