Regarding That MBA…

In my May 6 posting, I mentioned that I have an MBA. It has occurred to me since then that people may wonder why an MBA would forsake the business world and turn to writing—or, perhaps more accurately, why someone whose heart has always been in the writing world would have ever gone for an MBA. Lack of confidence in my skills as a novelist probably had something to do with it. But another reason is that I saw an MBA not as an avenue to riches but as a way to become more like the person I wanted to be. And that made me think back to some of my classmates, and how refreshing it was to discover that so many of them were not the heartless, big-business capitalists that the MBA stereotype would lead one to expect.

I am not a big-business capitalist. I don’t rule out purchasing from large corporations, but I prefer to buy local whenever I can. I worked for many years as a writer and manager in the software industry, not as a corporate raider. I have voted for exactly one Republican in my entire voting life and, if I had to, would make the same choice again. I like money, but I’m not willing to do anything to get it. If money were my biggest motivator, then I wouldn’t spend hours every day perfecting paragraphs that most people will never read.

I enrolled in a business program because, as a tentative step toward becoming more artistic, I thought about becoming an arts administrator. I thought it would be fun to run a museum, or a theater, maybe even an opera company. What I discovered while working toward my MBA, however, was that I was much more interested in creating art than in managing artists. I completed my two-year program, anyway, and put my degree to use, more or less. But I knew all along that it was only a matter of time before the urge to write would prevail, that, like Charles Ives (and no doubt many others), I needed an outlet for artistic creation to give me the nourishment that weekdays spent in an office couldn’t provide. How odd that the biggest lesson I learned in business school was that I wanted more than anything else to be a novelist.

My graduating class included plenty of ethical egoists who were motivated solely by greed. But not everyone was like that. Many of my classmates were driven by factors other than material gain. Some, in fact, took decidedly unorthodox career paths. A woman in my class played professional basketball and went on to become an actress. Another is an environmentalist and a vocal advocate of corporate social responsibility. And then there’s me.

I guess my point is an obvious one: that everyone should pursue his or her dream. If that dream is to be an investment banker, then that is what you should be. But I hope that all the actors and athletes and environmentalists I attended business school with have allowed themselves to follow their passions, too.


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