The Fifth Truth: Defy Gravity

Adapted from an essay written to support my admission to the University of Chicago Booth School of Business in February 2008.

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Our private equity partner team signs their emails with four truths: communicate fearlessly, compress time, work tirelessly, and love what you do. These truths have been good to me, helping me achieve success and accomplishment.  It’s become apparent that following those truths will lead to good, but not great.  If substantial success, the definition of which is an entirely different essay, is what I am seeking – then what am I missing in that formula?

I was recently surprised to find that I had been driving around listening nonstop to the music from Wicked .  It dawned on me that my infatuation wasn’t about the musical, but instead was my subconscious screaming “You’re missing the point!”  The point I was missing, which I call my fifth truth, is borrowed from the finale of Act I of Wicked.  Revised, they now are: communicate fearlessly, compress time, work tirelessly, love what you do, and defy gravity.

Defying gravity isn’t about jumping off without thought.  Sure there’s a broom and lots of flying through the air, but such superficial analysis would be like lumping a California Pinot Noir with every other red wine – you need to let the textures settle on your pallet to appreciate the subtleties.  It’s about changing the rules of the game; it’s about having the vision and faith to see something that no one else sees; it’s about the strength to accept the personal and professional sacrifices that come with such upstream activities.

The Wicked Witch of the West, Elphaba, sings “I’m through accepting limits/’Cuz someone says they’re so/Some things I cannot change/But ’till I try, I’ll never know.”  Pick up most business books and they talk about creating a purple cow, marketing outrageously, or other similarly themed concepts.  Distilled, the essence is about initiating change that dramatically alters the competitive landscape.  History reminds us that the successful revolution is to be celebrated, and the unsuccessful coup is the act of traitors.  So, too, is the business landscape littered with stories of inventive foresight and wishful failure.  I am drawn to challenging limits – and I aim to improve my success ratio by being a better student of analysis.

I visualize my life as a series of ‘defying gravity’ moments, some already past.  Much like Elphaba, I am ready to begin playing by my own set of rules in even larger circles, and impacting positive change in the world.