Great Individuals Inspire Greatness

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!

Do you have “a passion”?

Many use the word rather loosely but not many of us have been able to relate to it very well. It’s beneficial to know and understand the true worth of passion. If i may ask, “What is your passion?”

We celebrate our parents, family, friends, history makers, colleagues for what they’ve been able to achieve but fail to realize that the very thing that led them to success was their ability to find their respective passions. It is not rare to find people in the latter years of their lives regretting the careers they chose. One is  unable to comprehend why it took someone so many years to realize he/she never had an interest in something. The truth is that while we point accusing fingers, many of us do the same.

If we take the time off our busy schedules to look within, in order to locate the bearings of our passions, I am confident we will all be successful in our chosen fields of study and career. Just take a moment and ask yourself that one question: What do I love to do, what do I do with the best of my ability/strength, what intrigues me, what makes me want to wake up every morning?

The answers wouldn’t come in a day but once you begin to consciously reflect on this, the wind would stop tossing you back and forth.  It is even more true when it comes to recruiting. Your most powerful tool (competitive advantage) in any interview is your passion – it cannot be hidden. One interviewer put it this way: “the only difference between two candidates in an interview is the passion.”


The will to win; the desire to succeed; and the urge to reach your full potential …

these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence (Confucius) 


Back in the day, as the saying goes, if we were assigned a project in class, for the most part, we had little say in the topic.  If we did have a choice, we were still often encouraged to pick something we “liked” or something that would teach the class a new concept.  Already, in two of our core classes, we have been told to pick something for our projects that we are “passionate” about.

It seems to me that business school is all about passion.  You have to have a passion to return to business school that helps to substantiate the cost (and opportunity cost) of attending.  Perhaps you are coming to business school because you are passionate about a certain career track and an MBA will help you get there.  If not, then you spend a great deal of time with career services trying to determine what it is you’re passionate about – so that you can focus on that track.  You’re encouraged to join clubs and organizations for which you have a passion that will help round out your B-school experience.  And if you’re not passionate about something, you really don’t have time to waste on it, because the things that you are passionate about will take up all of your time.

So my advice to prospective students: apply with passion!  Write your essays on something that really lights a fire in your belly.  Come to your interviews prepared to passionately tell your story.  That passion will set you apart from all of the other candidates.  It’s hard to forget a candidate who is passionate about coming to THE Ohio State University!

In addition to that…you might want to make sure you have at least a marginal passion for football.  Of course, if you don’t, you’ll develop one pretty quickly.  As you can see, even Einstein is a fan!


Go Bucks!