‘Lighter Weights on the Bottom’

A few weeks ago, my friend John Nichols, WG’11, helped me learn how to properly pack my hiking backpack. For the low price of a pub lunch, he spent an hour teaching me tips and tricks to make my upcoming backpacking trip to Patagonia (on a Wharton Leadership Venture, no less!) a little bit easier.

John’s advice—“Lighter weights on the bottom, heavier stuff on top, closer to your shoulder”—and his teachings on how I should adjust the bag to my frame have been invaluable as I attempt to train myself to carry nearly 50 pounds on my back for a full week. Our conversation quickly turned to why, exactly, John knows all of this. As it turns out, he was in the Army (and a graduate of Ranger school) after he graduated from West Point, and knows all of this stuff from having been deployed in Iraq, leading nearly 150 men and women; the heavy stuff he was carrying, by the way, was ammunition. Wow. That makes my consulting background look sort of incredibly wimpy.

But then I was thinking, “Why would someone like John end up at Wharton?” John’s answer, though I suspect he may have been lying, was that he had stuff to learn from people like me.

I have a similar situation with my friend Dr. Sarah Russell, WG’11. She is an extremely accomplished physician from Massachusetts General Hospital—who also happened to do some pretty cool work in South Africa figuring out how to make hospitals better. I heard her speak last semester in a student Leadership Lecture about finding an “intellectual home.” Sarah wants to be a doctor who has the ability to really drive change in her environment, and she believed business school would help her get the knowledge that she needed. Now she’s at Wharton, has started her own business and has determined that medicine is her true passion. After her experience at Wharton, she knows that she will never be solely concerned with profit maximization, but she will also never look at things exactly the way that other physicians do. What a concept—and how lucky am I to get to throw ideas around with someone as brilliant as Sarah.

It’s hanging out with people like these that makes me so glad that I came to Wharton. My undergrad years and job experience helped me figure out the application of business theory—so I think the true value of business school for me is meeting folks like John and Sarah, and challenging myself to think like they do.

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