You think you’re so smart because you have an MBA?

Think again.

We’re not.

In fact, we’re pretty ordinary people.

Like everyone else, we eat, sleep, go to the bathroom. We do everything that everyone does. In fact, if you ask us to stand in a line, it would be difficult to see who has an MBA and who has not.

It’s like going through four years of undergrad.

Is there anything special about finishing your undergraduate degree if 80% of the population has done that anyway? No, right? An MBA at the moment has become more of a commodity. More and more people have it.

My first week of internship pounded this point. An MBA meant nothing especially in capital markets.

It doesn’t mean that if you have an MBA, you know almost immediately how the market works. You know immediately how to make money. You know all the clients in the bank.

In fact, an MBA did not prepare me for my first day back to work. It wasn’t very helpful except to set higher expectations, setting me up from a higher fall.

All it did was make me humbly realize that I, even after a year of going through an MBA, knew nothing.

It reminds me of a saying back in military school (yes, I did go to military training):


He who knows not and knows not that he knows not — he’s a fool. Shun him.
He who knows not and knows that he knows not — he’s a child. Teach him.
He who knows and knows not that he knows not — he is asleep. Wake him.
He who knows and knows that he knows — he’s wise. Follow him.

I would be the first to admit that I’m the second kind of man — the child — who still needs to be taught.

I don’ t think an MBA is any special. It took me a few months to know this, but I do realize it now.

However, I did learn a few things because of my upcoming MBA, which I will share with you at the moment.

I learned that other people are not like me.

Having worked in the finance industry, I thought people were ultra efficient, competitive and aggressive. You would think that way because people who get an MBA are doing an extra step to improve themselves further.

It’s not all true.

In fact, it really depends on the background. People in consultancy are slightly wordier because they are more process driven and have to explain things to clients. People in marketing are more consensus driven and meet so many times to make a decision. People in operations are more organized and logical.

And you know what, it’s okay.

Even if one seems to be more scatter-brained because they’re in a less organized industry, you realize that this has nothing to do with their competence. They can surprise you and can give out amazing output. It’s just that their way was not your way, and that is okay.

You realize that not everyone has the same priorities.

I came to the program in search for knowledge.

Others came in search for a career shift.

Some others came to find a life partner.

I think I’m the least flexible amongst us, but I do have a friend who told me once that she is more accepting of the strengths and weaknesses of her groupmates. She looks at what they can or cannot do, and assign work accordingly.

This is more admirable than the stubborn me who holds people to a higher standard, and come out disappointed because of this mindset.

I also realized that the world is so big.

I think an MBA is smart not because they are more intelligent.

They are smart because they realize that they know nothing. That the world is big. And there are other more talented people who are better than they are.

It’s truly a humbling rite of passage you see.

After you go through the many different lectures, work with a lot more people, you realize that no matter how many years you’ve worked, how many achievements you have, there are way others who know a lot more about you.

And it’s only by accepting that you know nothing that you can really start to push yourself to understand something. You empty your mind and let the information flow, and you learn more.

So no, I don’t think all MBAs are smart.

I don’t think that MBAs are any special.

I do think however that MBAs realize their limitations and respect the fact that they’re not that smart. That they don’t know it all.

And it’s only when you have this realization that you start learning.

And then one day… maybe… you can actually become smart.

But then again, did you really have to pay a sh*tload of money and go through the whole experience full time to learn all that? Well, that really is up to you. 🙂

Have a great weekend everyone!

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2 thoughts on “You think you’re so smart because you have an MBA?

  1. Bonita, I don’t know how to say this, but I am very proud of you! As long as I can remember, you have always wanted to pursue an MBA, but things kept holding you back.

    Why you took the “plunge” and decided to go for it right there and then, I don’t know, but I guess it was… simply said, time :).

    You choose for a MBA, something which you have always longed to do and realized that it’s not all that “fancy” [hinting on your stories about people not delivering in groupwork etc). You being who you are and fighting for what you want, you have not inspired only me, but I bet a lot of other readers out there to just stay honest to yourself(themselves), work hard and stay focused. I bet that those not so pleasant situations are not only meant for you to learn how to cope with it… the most valuable lesson I think is due to the fact that you have got to know yourself better- your strengths and weaknesses. This will make you a stronger and better person in the future.

    … and the money issue ;)… Sometimes, a lot of money is needed to bring you in a bigger pond (remember the story you wrote? -> my inspiration!). Or sometimes, it’s just a simple word, glance or tear to make you realize that you’re meant for something big, before you take the plunge.

    A big fat kiss for you hon and lets toast on the future!! n_n

  2. Hi Bonita,

    I chanced upon your blog and that so because of the title of this post of yours. It was nice to read it from someone other than myself saying the thing I’ve been saying for ages now. I never intended to do an MBA. I finally did it because I wanted a vacation from work. And not that I’ve read your entire post but I can safely say this that an MBA grad is usually worse equipped than one that is not. I say it because for some odd reason, MBA’s (especially from the ‘best’ B-Schools) seem to believe that they know it all.

    Personally, I dislike people who ‘display’ a know it all attitude and especially when they ‘don’t’ knoiw it all. Something seems to happen to normal people when they do an MBA. It’s like they grow horns.

    But I don’t quite blame them for it. We live in a corporate world where the dumbest hire the brightest (it’s never the other way around). It is interesting to see what you learnt (stuff you’ve outlined in bold text) while at B-School. When I did my MBA, I for one answered that I was there for a vacation much to the frsutration of the dean. It was a simple decision – you go for a vacation and spend money. Now, if I were to take a two year break, then I would be spending money too so might as well get a degree because HR recruiters and hiring managers (most being MBA’s) believe you’re the lowest of the low among the dumbest of the dumb if you don’t have an MBA.

    Enjoyed your post Bonita. Good luck with wherever you’re working and whatever it is you’re doing. Trust me mate, an MBA is nothing but a fat load of $#!t – imagine this – MBA’s learn management principles written more than a couple of decades ago when some of us were just seeing our very first computer and internet was a far cry, when capital markets were not full of crappy financial and economical modeling by people who construct recessions, when no one really cared what happened to all that carbon burning in the backyard, when no one understood what it meant to do business online, when no one imagined so many people would be mobile.

    I’m sure no one taught you this in B-School, something very few managers will admit (read: country managers and BU heads), “it’s all about qtr on qtr. no one at hq cares about anything else and i need to save my butt when the qtr end meeting comes. so, lets talk long term but qtr on qtr is priority.”

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