Presented with an endless buffet of opportunity, I encourage my MBA classmates to preserve space for activities which offer the best return

Five months into the IMD MBA program, there has been no shortage of new experiences, people, and opportunities presented to us. Compared to a year ago, it is incredible to compare the number of new horizons that have become available. To name just a few: IMD has provided access to top-tier lecturers, traveling with the class, extracurricular learning activities, and networking events, for which I am truly grateful. A personal highlight was attending the MBA Games, when the IMD cohort traveled to HEC Paris to compete against other top business schools in a variety of intellectual, athletic, and artistic challenges.

The IMD soccer team celebrate their successful showing at the MBA Games at HEC Paris.

While access to (seemingly) endless prospects is a tremendous privilege, it also presents us with a challenge: opportunity overload. Often referenced in our entrepreneurship stream, opportunity overload may seem to be a good problem to have, but it is often the kryptonite which can prevent those with high potential from achieving anything.

To use the IMD restaurant as a metaphor to illustrate the problem, if we fill up our plates with everything on the buffet there would be no room left for dessert. Put another way, we need to purposefully forgo certain opportunities to create space for the activities that we enjoy most, and to create capacity for seizing new (and potentially high-value) opportunities.

IMD 2023 MBA students dessert selection for lunch. Photo ©Mark Henley/IMD

While the solution seems simple, deciding what to say no to can be more challenging than we think. So, how can we determine when it is appropriate to say no to an opportunity?

In finance class, we are taught to measure the worthiness of an investment by comparing the Return on Invested Capital (ROIC) to our Weighted Average Cost of Capital (WACC). But when it comes to personal endeavors, measuring return is not so simple. The return on our time is self-defined, so we must create a feedback mechanism to measure what brings the greatest happiness in both the short and long term.

Personally, I’ve found two tools quite useful for creating such a feedback loop. The first has been maintaining a habit of daily journaling. Reflecting on each day has helped me to stay grounded and identify which experiences and opportunities I’ve enjoyed most. Second, the Personal Development Elective (PDE), which pairs students with a local psychoanalyst for 20-hours throughout the year, has helped me to maintain clarity in the fast-moving IMD environment. By holding up a proverbial mirror, my PDE coach helped me to become more self-aware and reconcile personal obstacles more quickly – a valuable complement to daily journaling.

Over the past month, I have noticed that both myself and my classmates have become more skilled at identifying the opportunities that are most beneficial for each of us, allowing us to create more space for needle-moving activities. I am confident that the PDE stream has played a role in helping to achieve this.

MBA student Nantwin Appfelstadt with IMD President Jean-François Manzoni

Using clarity and presence to recognize which experiences yield the highest return on time has helped to construct a balanced plate at the endless opportunity buffet that IMD has provided – all while keeping enough space open for trying new things. So, as we move into the second half of the year, I’m looking forward to sharing more about how we have chosen to invest our time – and to indulging in the occasional treat.


<COVER PHOTO> The IMD Restaurant serves up seemingly endless options on a daily basis. 

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