Today is my dad’s birthday (happy birthday, dad). He has always told me to work hard and have fun. Accordingly, I have spent a lot of time working hard and having fun. It has been a great way to live so far, and it is one of the many great things I have learned from my dad.
I vaguely recalled writing about this saying in the past and searched my inbox to find a draft essay that I wrote as part of an application to Stanford’s Deferred Enrollment MBA Program when I was a senior in college. The program is designed for college seniors who want to get a couple years of work experience before filling their reserved spot in a class of Stanford MBAs. I thought that sounded like a pretty good gig so I applied to both that and to Harvard’s version of the same thing. I got rejected by both, applied to Harvard’s MBA Program again a couple of years later, and got rejected again. I will aim to freely share my failures and rejections on this blog as they become relevant because I believe they as much as anything else will be the reasons for my success in the end. In the wise words of Norman Peale, “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”
Anyway, today I would like to share with you the drafted essay about working hard and having fun that I once wrote and frankly cannot remember if I eventually submitted or scrapped. I think this must have been the first draft from an initial inspiration because parts of it were not at all proper sentences (I cleaned them up minimally to be readable) and the email says “Sent from iPhone”. The question that prompted the essay was something along the lines of “What matters most to you?”, and for whatever it is worth, I would have a different answer today, but the following is still very important to me.
Here was my drafted response:
What matters to me most is to work hard and have fun. I would assume that most people have a tough time remembering when what matters most to them started mattering to them at all. For me, it started in Kindergarten when my dad first started driving me to school in the morning on his way to work. When he dropped me off each morning, he would say, “work hard, have fun”, and off I went to school.
I went to the same school K-8 and this became a daily school drop off tradition. Three years later, when I was starting the third grade, my brother, Sam, joined the big boys ride to school for the first time. This time, it was his first day of Kindergarten. From then on, it was both of us to whom my dad would say, “work hard, have fun.” But the tradition did not last forever.
My family moved about 20 minutes south from the house that I was born in during my summer before the fifth grade. My dad had already stopped driving us some days because he was splitting time between his old office by our school and his new office by our new home. Now that we moved, my parents told me that we were going to start next year at the local public school, but I loved Peck, and the private school was the only one I had ever known. I was miserable at my new Liberty Corner School and I can almost still feel the uncomfortable feeling I felt those first few days there. I begged and begged my parents to let me go back to Peck and eventually they actually did. I am so lucky for their sacrifices and for generally putting up with me. In my middle school years, my mom would often tell me, “you know, you’re going to grow up to be a great lawyer one day”, which was a nice way of saying “you are a stubborn little boy.”
I went back to what I knew and I worked hard, and I had fun, graduated, went to Pingry for high school, worked hard, and had fun. Richmond, felt like Liberty Corner, just not right, but this time I knew why. I wanted to work hard but my friends here were mostly only having fun. Partly my fault, I tend to befriend the most fun loving people in my environment. I could have easily found hardworking friends at Richmond, but maybe they wouldn’t have had fun, or maybe they would have and I just had a bad start, I don’t know, but I wanted out.
My gap year was really my first experience where working hard and having fun merged into the same thing. I was loving what I was doing most of the time, and most of the time I was working.
I got to Vanderbilt and returned to the old model for a year where the two (“work” and “fun”) were pretty separate. I don’t think high school or college is very conducive to working hard and having fun at the same time honestly. I was having fun with my friends and my new fraternity, and I was working hard in school.
My junior year was different. I decided at the beginning of the year I wanted to work hard one semester and have fun the next. I worked insanely hard recruiting for an investment banking internship during the fall and was fortunate to get an internship with the group I will now be joining full-time after graduation, and with my semester of hard work behind me and a summer of hard work ahead of me, I went and had fun. I studied abroad in Florence and traveled all around Italy and Europe and it was the most fun four months imaginable. It was unimaginable really. It wasn’t just fun. It was truly amazing. My walk to school past the Duomo and the Uffizi and across the bridge right next to the Ponte Vecchio. St. Patty’s in Dublin, Spring Oktoberfest in Munich, the baths in Budapest, beaches in Barcelona, biking in Amsterdam. A wine tasting in Tuscany. I don’t expect to live that way ever again, and I’m fine with that, I’m just so grateful I got to do it once.
I worked hard that summer. I was the only one in the whole office who was in the office for at least a couple of hours everyday from the first to the last of the internship, including July 4th. I had my fun in the months prior, and this summer was for working hard to get a return offer, so I worked hard and got a return offer. On my mousepad, I wrote in black sharpie a quote from Muhammad Ali, “Don’t count the days. Make the days count.”
I had fun this Fall, and worked hard, mostly separately, the inevitable balance of college as I said, and I continue to do the same, but working a little harder, having a little more fun, and doing it by doing more things that combine the two, and wasting less time, which to me includes oversleeping.
Now that I’m graduating, I feel it in my gut that it is time to really work hard. I feel it is time for me to begin serving the world. I am tired of my parents and others serving me. I started serving this semester choosing to do my full time internship for my major with Boys & Girls Club of Middle Tennessee. And I’m going to continue to serve, but in the ways that make me feel like my gap year. When I was having fun working hard. That’s what I believe I will find at Houlihan Lokey, despite the investment banking horror stories, I did it, and I don’t have to have fears of stories, I have my own experience to reflect on as an intern being right with the full time analysts, and it seemed like a lifestyle I could enjoy. I will work hard and learn so much about finance and technology, the two things that, industry-wise, matter most to me, because I believe that money runs the world and technology changes it.
I want to come to Stanford for my MBA to meet like-minded people who can have fun working hard like me, and who have aspirations as high as the sky and are inspired, and brilliant, and crazy, and different.