We’re guessing this is some of the strangest advice you’ve ever received about your MBA application, so let us explain ourselves: First of all, we both know you do your best work when you are most yourself. But how can I be myself if I’m dead, you may ask. Excellent question, grasshopper.
It is not that you want to write as if you ARE dead, but rather as if you are removed from the constant buffeting of popular opinion that surrounds you, often obscuring the trajectory of your professional life. In novelist Jeffrey Eugenides’ recent talk to a group of young, award-winning writers, he offers this pivotal perspective:
Fashion will come at you from two directions, from outside and in. You might start noticing what’s getting attention in the press. You might begin to forget the person you are in order to write and sound like someone else. Alternately, you might be tempted to repeat yourself. To follow the fashion of your own previous work, to stop exploring, learning and trying new things, for risk of failure…Fashion is the attempt to evade that principle: to be the echo of someone else’s success and, therefore, to create nothing that might create an echo of its own.
The constant molding of self to fit this parent’s idea of success or that billionaire’s approach to business strategy can be dangerous, skewing you away from the original source of inspiration that led you to your passion in the first place.
What would you write your application essays about if you thought no one was looking? Might you be a bit more honest, a bit more daring, a bit more vulnerable?
Today, more than ever, business is about creating consumer experience. Your essays need to offer the Admissions Committee an experience—an exploration of who you are and what you really care about. And one that is not adulterated by what you think you should be writing. Trust us, the very last thing the AdCom wants is a safe regurgitation and amalgamation of the 5,000 other MBA essays they’ve read this year alone.
Imagine what you’d write about—what you’d DO—if you were dead. If you weren’t so worried about what everyone else thought about your life. From there, begin. As Eugenides concluded:
Just remember what Doug Fister of the Detroit Tigers said: “Stay within yourself.” And, most of all…[d]on’t censor yourself. Don’t go along with the crowd. Don’t be greedy. Don’t be cheap. Young as you are, play dead—so that your eyes will stay open.
Read the full text of Eugenides’ talk at: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2012/12/jeffrey-eugenides-advice-to-young-writers.html.
Ivy Eyes Editing