There is a price one pays for slipping into the Harvard Business School through some mysterious hole in the Harvard admissions process: From time to time, one must be ready to be humbled by their peers. Of course, with nearly 900 people in a graduating class, one expects someone in that group to distinguish themselves at some point. However, this large groups is somehow indistinct - at HBS one spends most of their time with 90 people in their "section", spending the vast majority of waking hours, both in class and in the pub, with this group. After a couple of years with the same 90 people, one gets the overwhelming impression of normality -- these people are just as full of shit as anyone else I have gotten to know.
So it is both expected and with some surprise that I have begun to see these 90 people start making headlines. My section-mates have distinguished themselves as executives and industry leaders and entrepreneurs and lifestyle writers and business writers and fashion moguls and artists even as the notorious. Humiliating levels of fame and success seem to be the rule among these ostensibly ordinary people.
This week, however, another member of our 90-person section (1989-B, on the off chance you are a fellow alum and were wondering) has gone to the next level. This week Time magazine named Jim Balsillie, CEO of RIM (the Blackberry people) to their list of the 100 most influential people. Wow. Congratulations Jim. The bad news is we are all totaled humbled about our own success trajectories in comparison. The good news is that Jim will obviously "draw fire" away from the rest of us when Harvard comes looking for money. Its a funny combination of old and new to think about the CEO of Lili Pulitzer and the CEO of Blackberry sitting next to each other all through our first year.
Postscript: By the way, for those of you who may be tempted to put me on suicide watch, I am pretty much joking, though not about my section mates - they are all as awesome as portrayed here -- but about any dissatisfaction with my career. Several times in my life I have been presented with opportunities to pursue high-profile wealth. In most cases, I have turned these down, with zero regrets. In fact, since one of the first of these rejected opportunities involved following Jeff Skilling from McKinsey to Enron, I really, really have no regrets. Each day I am out visiting my operations at some National Park or other, I will think about the rest of you filling out your TPS reports.
UPDATE: Welcome to fellow sectionmate Karen Page, author of numerous Amazon 5-star rated books on food, wine and becoming a chef, who links to me today (oops, Karen is slipping - a few of the books only have 4-1/2 stars). Not only is Karen part of that vast section B conspiracy to make me feel inadequate, she also has a much cooler blog than mine.