Today, July 1st, 2015 marks my last day as one of the internationally select few to be a part of the HBX CORe program offered by the Harvard Business School. It has been a grueling 11 weeks and to be honest, I never thought I’d make it. Technically speaking, at this very moment I’m not too sure if I actually passed as I’m still waiting to write the exams but even if I don’t it’s been a fantastic experience and I’d be more than willing to do it all over again.
Either way I wanted to thank the folks at Harvard Business School running the HBX CORe program for granting me the opportunity to take part of this program as well as all those in my cohort that have made the last 11 weeks tolerable.
Looking back, I never thought I could make the cut or much less do it. Running both a video game studio, a film studio and working overnight for an airline doesn’t leave me much time to do such a taxing course, especially since I clearly never thought I had the smarts for it but since going to Harvard was a high school dream of mine many, many, many years ago, this was definitely an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.
Instead of writing things out in a fairly standard format, I figured I’d use Arnold Schwartzenegger’s 6 Rules of Success as a framework. Before I write allow me to first show you a video that quickly summarizes the 6 rules.
(this was originally from his 2009 USC Commencement speak)
1. Trust yourself
When the opportunity to enroll into the Harvard HBX CORe program originally came to me, I didn’t think I could make the cut. It wasn’t just another one of those online courses where you just enrolled and you got in. There was an application process complete with essays and a limited number of spots and I didn’t have the money to pay for the tuition costs, but I applied anyways just to see if I could make the cut and I did.
I honestly wasn’t going to do it. The acceptance e-mail sat on my inbox flagged as important so I could look at it every day just as re-assurance in case I ever felt dumb. However thinking on the last day of the window to pay my tuition fee, I went into overdraft and moved a chunk of cash to my credit card to pay for it. Why? Because as an inner city kid from the ghettos, it’s always been a lifelong dream of mine to go to Harvard and this is definitely the next best thing, so I had to do it. I didn’t want to look back at my life thinking that it was one of those opportunities I wish I took. The pain of regret is far greater than the pain of failure in my book and even if I failed, I’d at least have the satisfaction knowing I tried.
2. Break some rules
No I didn’t cheat. Those of you that know me know that I already break the rule of getting 8 hours of sleep and with the limited amount of time I had, I had to think outside the box and break some common rules for learning by not actually studying.
That probably doesn’t make any sense to anyone but I honestly have no idea how to “study”. Throughout all my years in college and university I never once “studied” in the traditional sense trying to memorize things. Ultimately I want to learn how to utilize what I learn in my every day life and if I can’t learn it and apply it, I clearly don’t know it. My marks aren’t the greatest but at the same time they reflect what I actually know. Instead of “studying” by memorizing things into short term memory, I just learn things and reinforce my learning when I don’t know.
The other rule I broke to cut back on the sheer amount of time required was just to skip stuff. Given the limited amount of time I had per week to do the courses, I skipped a lot of stuff but it was all selectively skipped. I skipped stuff that I knew pretty well (mostly basic accounting) as well as some the stuff where I clearly had no idea what they were talking about. If I didn’t understand something well enough to do an exercise, I just skipped it and made a note of it to find other resources to learn the material(I spent a lot of time on Khanacademy learning stuff for stats.. I just don’t get along with formulas very well). Basically, I learned what I didn’t know in the limited amount of time and just deferred the rest.
3. Don’t be afraid to fail
Unless you were part of my cohort, work with me or game with me on Final Fantasy XIV, I probably never mentioned anything about HBX CORe. I’m not going to lie, I was a bit afraid of failing. Doing HBX CORe was a big thing for me. During the first week of the course and everyone giving their introductions, I felt like an imposter being surrounded by so many brilliant people. I mean I’m the guy that a decade ago took seven years to finish high school and is now just mucking around making video games and film (or trying to). Clearly, I don’t belong here.
It got so bad that during week 3 or 4 when I had the opportunity to tweet or post about my experience in the Harvard HBX CORe program for a t-shirt, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I felt a bit fake being here and didn’t want to mention it on Facebook and I sure didn’t want to tweet about it. Although looking back, I wish I did cause damn it, I wanted that T-Shirt!! (I did however end up mentioning HBX core a few times on Facebook after I had like 30 people from my cohort on facebook who shared the same pain, but it was waaay after it was incentivized).
None the less, the work load piled on and I definitely wasn’t understanding everything, especially when it came to my Business Analytics courses (statistics). I was actually really temped to give up since it was so taxing but realizing that this was truly something I wanted, I decided to push through it. Things I didn’t know (and there was a lot of it), I reinforced by using other resources. When I was waiting for flights to arrive at 1am in the morning or sitting on the bus at 4am going home, I was either half asleep reading about the stuff I didn’t know or half asleep on Khanacademy learning about the stuff I didn’t quite understand.
4. Ignore the naysayers
Luckily there weren’t too many people that told me I couldn’t do it. Everyone I did tell that I was doing these courses were either in the course with me and had a positive attitude about it or were just happy for me for doing it. There was however there was one person that kept telling me that I couldn’t do it and it was myself. Ignoring other people is easy, I do it all the time. Ignoring myself, that voice in my head wasn’t one I could escape. Thankfully the lack of sleep must have caused the naysayer half of me to be too tired to care. There was nothing worse than me telling myself there was no way I could do it.
5. Work your butt off
In life, nothing comes easy. If the HBX CORe program was really that easy, it probably wouldn’t be worth it. I do remember reading a lot of posts on the HBX CORe facebook group by people who complained that they didn’t have the time and that it was too taxing. Seeing these folks made me want to try harder. I didn’t want to be like them. Working multiple jobs, taking public transit for 3hrs+ each day, every day and sleeping for about 3-5hrs a day isn’t easy, but I knew that I had to work my butt off if I wanted this.
Thankfully the pacing offered by the program was actually ok. With different modules due every week and a short weekly assignment, the weeks just flew by as I put in a couple of hours a day to go through the material. That’s not to say there weren’t days where I stayed up until 4am trying to finish the modules(usually a weekend), but looking back, I’m glad I did. Needless to say, there were many nights where I passed out mid way through a module and slept with my laptop on me(ok, it’s more like napped since 3-5hrs isn’t really sleeping to many people 😐 )
6. Give something back
Here’s a secret I don’t tell too many people. Deep down I actually wanted be that guy that inspired others to do something and I can’t do it by taking the easy road. We all have our disadvantages and things we’d much rather do, but I can’t tell someone that it’s possible to do the impossible if I don’t lead by example and do it myself. If you’ve seen my LinkedIn page you’ll know that my title/tagline says “I build dreams and make things happen”. Going to Harvard was a dream I had and I made it happen even if it was rather indirect.
Whether you’re student that just got out to the working world looking for a way to expand your resume, a working professional trying to further your skills or just a regular person wanting to learn more, give the Harvard HBX CORe program a shot. It’s not cheap, it’s not easy but definitely worth it. If you don’t think you’re smart enough to get in, don’t worry. So did I but give it a shot anyways. You can check out their program here and apply here (Firefox or Chrome Browsers needed).
I really wish I could give something back to the folks at Harvard for this opportunity but if anyone has any questions about the course from someone who’s actually taken it, feel free to ask me. No I don’t get any kick backs from recommending it. It’s just that good.
PS. I’ll probably do a proper review of the course later. Who knows, maybe I can talk the folks at Harvard to let me offer “BuddSentMe” as a legit discount code 😉