Diving Into an Atmosphere of Success
- by William Hartje
My undergraduate experience has taught me innumerable lessons and life skills, but the most impactful can be described in this simple phrase: There’s no “I” in “team,” but success comes from “us.”
As a varsity student-athlete, I have learned how vital it is to surround myself with teams that strive for the same personal aspirations and collective goals. Every team member embodies a unique quality, whether it’s competency in a given position, stroke, event or leadership style, and the resulting combination propels the team upward and pushes everyone to greater personal accomplishments. When I was a freshman, I was fortunate enough to train, compete and befriend arguably the best swimmer, Brendan McHugh, C’12, and diver, Jeff Cragg, W’12, in Penn’s rich history. Watching Brendan and Jeff break records and exceed team expectations motivated me daily to push my boundaries and aim higher in both sports—not only on game day but also in the days and months leading up to each event. Although Brendan and Jeff have graduated and new athletes have filled their shoes, I strive to nurture a team dynamic similar to the one I experienced as an underclassman in hopes of bringing out the best performances in all of us.
During my undergraduate studies at Wharton, I have discovered that this same concept holds true. Some of us are analytically gifted, some are exceptional at seeing the big picture, while others are outstanding presenters. With the Wharton curriculum focused around group cooperation, learning and problem-solving, we are able to bring together our diverse abilities each time we are faced with a group assignment. The end result is superior to one we would produce individually.
Businessman and philanthropist Jon Huntsman Sr., W’59, HON’96, put it best, “Life is not a game of Solitaire; people depend on one another. When one does well, others are lifted. When one stumbles, others also are impacted. There are no one-man teams—either by definition or natural law. Success is a cooperative effort; it’s dependent upon those who stand beside you.”
Some critics have said that Wharton is a cutthroat environment, citing rumors of tension, lies and even sabotage. I know these stories to be mostly fiction. The spring of my sophomore year, I was struck with an emergency appendicitis the night before my championship meet. During the recovery, my classmates hand-delivered their notes from missed lectures and gave detailed explanations of confusing concepts and assignments. They could have easily allowed me to fall behind, but instead their kindness and generosity surfaced.
A more accurate representation of the Wharton culture would be “healthy competition.” Wharton students are constantly self-improving, whether it’s glancing at the WSJ between classes or waking up before sunrise to prepare for interviews. Success is contagious on campus.
After we go out into the professional world as graduates, it will be vital to put ourselves in an environment that continues the intellectual stimulus afforded us at Wharton and to surround ourselves with moral people who will motivate us to improve our skills, knowledge and abilities. It’s our job to sustain those Wharton ideals throughout our careers, proving that success comes from “us” but is incomplete without “u.”