Note to My Students: A Reflection on Time

(Periodically, I send a note to my students. Here’s one from this morning.)

So, I’m at my HBS office this Saturday morning. It is a wonderful time to decompress and prep. No one is around, the sun is just starting to glimmer, and the chilly morning air sharpened my senses as I walked across an empty campus.

I have really enjoyed all of the coffee chats, Fun Fridays, and individual office hours with you, and I am perturbed that in just a few weeks our VCPE course will be largely over! This reminds me of something a friend told me: “the days feel long, but the years feel short.” I’ve found that is particularly true at HBS.

It is so easy to let daily life fill up my perspectives. When I joined the faculty, I was told: “it takes 10 to 20 hours to prep for each case–10 if you’ve taught the case before, 20 if it is new.” All-in, I think that estimate is pretty much on the mark, which calls for careful planning as I manage the VC job as well.

Yet, I cannot imagine your life, as many of you are juggling academics with a job search or entrepreneurship. Some of you care for children or check in on members of the extended family. Others of you mail a check home each month to support a loved one. And, there’s the desire to deepen existing HBS friendships and create new ones, let alone stay involved with extracurricular activities and practice self-care. Too many demands, too little time.

The days can feel long indeed….

I write all this to ask, nay, implore you to consider this: give yourself permission to be happy. By doing so, I predict that you will be able to more fully enjoy the present. I’ve mentioned “self-permission” during office hours and the Career Chat. It was my biggest regret about HBS and wish that I could go back in time to change. I did not feel worthy of happiness as I struggled to find a job that felt “right.” Before I knew it, time ticked by, graduation loomed, and I was done.

I ask you not to do what I did!  Give yourself permission to marvel at and edify your classmates. Give yourself permission to embrace the ambiguity of a job search during a market correction during which many of the best jobs will not be posted until April/May/June.

Give yourself permission to know that you have utmost agency. It does not matter how bad the news may get, how annoying family members can be, or how difficult a job search can be. That is because you always have choice. You can always choose your response to a situation, you can always choose to see life realistically but with hope. Or, you can choose anxiety, despair, and self-loathing.

This is why I gave to you Viktor Frankl’s book. If he was able to choose to find hope while at a Nazi death camp, I believe we can today as well.

May we all each and every day choose wisely. Enjoy this weekend! Enjoy the gift of time!



4 thoughts on “Note to My Students: A Reflection on Time

  1. This was a much needed reminder, thank you Jo for this master piece.

    PS: Just a prospective student of HBS but i could relate my life today with the write-up.

  2. I am a Beijing-based VC investor. Particularly during the market downturn, I found inspiration and encouragement in your blog and writings. Jo, thanks for sharing!

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