About a year ago I read this quote from Mark Twain (emphasis mine):
“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”
During this first semester at Fisher, we MBA students have had the opportunity to interact with so many people, including faculty, classmates, and guest speakers. One four-day stretch about a month ago (October 23-26), though, we had the incredible opportunity to hear Jeffrey Immelt- CEO of GE, Warren Buffett- CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, and Les Wexner- CEO of the Limited Brands, speak. In addition to hearing them, I got to see Mr. Wexner and Mr. Immelt field questions from my MBA classmate peers about 20 feet away from me in a Gerlach classroom.
I was impressed by all three of these individuals (and have been a big Warren Buffett fan for quite some time), but perhaps the most impactful speech came from Mr. Wexner.
While Mr. Wexner was speaking, the above quote from Mark Twain kept coming back into my mind. His talk was perhaps the single most encouraging speech I have heard since being at Fisher. Some people maybe would have just seen a classroom of dressed-up MBA students, but he saw a classroom brimming with potential greatness. He himself came from an extremely humble background, but combined a passion for excellence, an impeccable work ethic, and an insatiable curiosity, and has (obviously) had significant success.
One of my primary takeaways from that session was this: don’t allow culture, society, friends, or family to belittle your ambitions! Be kind, respectful, and friendly to everyone that you meet, no matter their status, be it high or low. However, strive to have your closest friendships and professional associations be with the kind of people who truly believe impossible things are possible. I can say that I have been blessed in that regard. I have an extremely encouraging wife, a supportive family, great friends, and the opportunity to be here at Fisher to learn from numerous people (classmates, faculty, and guest speakers) who believe the sky is the limit.
Do you have a dream that your classmates, the world, or someone else thinks is impossible? Go for it with everything you’ve got! That’s what Mr. Wexner, Mr. Buffet, Mr. Immelt and scores of other successful people would say… adamantly refuse to be disheartened by those who don’t think it’s possible!