The myth that is the 'right way' to do an MBA: my MBA so far, and why it all depends!

3 minute read

Two months into my MBA and I can’t help but get a little (lot) reflective. How has my MBA been so far? Is it everything I thought it would be? Have I fully explored the multiple Oxford things? Have I made hundreds of friends? Have I ‘achieved’ the things I thought I would have by now?

Answers to many of these would perhaps disappoint the me from a few months ago. But me from a few months ago has no idea of the whirlwind about to hit her. And she is yet to truly discover the extremely rehashed, but extremely relevant MBA adage: 'It depends!'

Theoretically, you are aware of how gruesome MBAs are supposed to be. You have been told by many a well-meaning friend the rollercoaster that is the one-year program. But staying true to the most human instinct of all, you don’t really believe it, until you experience it yourself.

For a person who actively avoids restaurants or even ecommerce platforms with way too many options, it’s been extremely interesting navigating through all the choices every day in the Oxford MBA brings. The paradox of choice has never been a more real thing!

A product workshop or a presentation you’ve had one day to create. A Diwali party or mock interview practice. Three pre-readings or a trip to London. A birthday celebration or a group assessment. These are just some of the many choices you may deal with on an everyday basis. And this is just about one week of the MBA.

Here’s the brass tacks: sometimes the choice you make works out beautifully and everything is right in the world, even if for that moment. And the other times you can’t help but wonder what is it that you’re even doing with your time (and life). Emotions can escalate very quicky in the MBA, and spiraling, sadly, is a reality. Because it’s just so much easier to be harsh on oneself that to revel on the seven other things that may have been great.

It is at this point I’ve realized we need to do ourselves a giant favour and just step outside of our own heads. Into soaking up the limited hours of sunlight. Into watching re-runs of Fleabag. Into a conversation with a friend from the former life. Or better still, a conversation with someone in the cohort. For that conversation will most likely reveal that they too, are journeying somewhere through that spiral. And the feeling of getting it all wrong, is actually a shared experience. And you probably are not that worse off after all.

The realization that you’re together in your turmoil and supposed mediocrity is strangely empowering. Because maybe if we’re all feeling it, it has more to do with this beautiful yet completely alien context we’re all now a part of? Maybe it’s not our ‘shortfalls’ but just us being human?

And with that, you keep on keeping on!

With a few shares of spirals, and conversations with people about their own spirals, this is where I’m at: there is no right way to do the MBA. No set recipe to follow for guaranteed success. It really…all depends! On what you want, in that moment. And much like life itself, this is subject to change. And that’s okay!

So, we put our best game faces on, have a vague sense of what we think we want, and just show up! To class, to a talk, to that drink or just to bed! And see where that choice takes us.