Wednesday, June 01, 2005

My Chicago Celebrity Essay

[file under: Thoughts for Applicants]

Continuing the thoughts from my previous post.

Halle, a fellow admit, had this to say in a comment "Dean Kole also explained what the Adcom was looking for. Though memory fails me on the mascot question, she said that they wanted to know what the admit would do at a particular moment in a celeb’s life. Or rather, what do we dream of doing given unlimited access, fame, fortune, influence, etc." I just re-read that essay and do believe I managed to convey some aspects of those. Hey, she said OK to my app, so maybe I should claim that I kicked ass :-) No, none of that here.

What I can claim with reasonable confidence is that Dean Kole must have laughed at my, I don't know, honesty? I still do whenever I read that essay. There's a funny story associated with it. As I said in my previous post, I didn't have a suitable opening for my essay. And, anyone who's sat up trying to start an essay the day before it's due can attest to how big a writer's block that can be.

So, how exactly is a stellar essay that gets one into a school like Chicago written?

As I was struggling to come up with something, I received an email from my math-analogy-making friend. As part of our conversation, I had posed him the question: which celebrity would you rather? He had just sent me the reply: Hayek, he said. Hayek, who? Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this Chicago-bound-future-finance-god had never heard of this Hayek chap. So, I google the fella, and find a reference to some random book. I trot over to Amazon, and instead of working on my essay, start to Look-Inside the book. Ah, the joys of procrastination. Anywho, I read through some sample pages etcetera and finally ended up on the back page.

There I see a quote ABOUT Hayek by someone. Looked pretty good to me. As in, maybe I can start my essay with this one. I have to say, that was the creative spark I needed. One thing led to another and in the wee hours of the morning, I had my essay. Next morning, my roommate/reviewer, with a hearty laugh: I can't believe you said this! I didn't realize it, but in my 'zone' I had blurted out the naked truth. After committing an essay no-no by starting with a quote, and an unrelated one at that, I had gone on to state that I didn't know who this Hayek guy was :-)

How did that play out? Read for yourself.

If you could step into any celebrities shoes for a day, who would it be and why?

“When he wrote 'The Road to Serfdom', Hayek's was a voice in the wilderness. Now the fight has been taken up by the people all over the world, by institutions and movements, and the ideas that seemed so strange to so many in 1944 can be found in scholarly journals to television programs.”

The above was said of Nobel Prize winning University of Chicago economist Fredrick Hayek. I find the idea of a person taking a stand in the face of adversity, to be initially discounted, but proven right in the long run extremely inspiring. It speaks of a character trait – an inviolable belief in one’s own convictions – that I personally aspire to hone. I am not acquainted with the life and work of Professor Hayek, but there is one other person who holds equally strong convictions whose career I have followed with awe.

It would be a privilege to step into the shoes of Mr. N. R. Narayana Murthy, founder and chairman of Infosys Technologies, for a day.

I first heard of Mr. Murthy when I was in college. He was in a celebrity at the time in India for creating the company that was producing India’s first technology millionaires. But, he has done much more than that. I consider his to be a career that I have dreamt about for myself.

I want to be him for a day so that I can get a sense for what drives the man who has single-handedly changed the face of opportunity for a generation of young Indians.

I want to be him for a day to experience his sense of accomplishment as he enters the campus that bears the name of a company he founded with six other friends and $250 dollars in savings; and that is home to over 30,000 employees today.

I want to be him for a day to gain an understanding of the leadership style that attracts the best and brightest; see how his own set of values have been transferred to an organization that, more than any, is considered to be truthful to its stated values.

I want to be him for a day to sit in strategy meetings to learn how the leader of a company so successful can still approach every business issue with the energy and urgency of a startup’s make-or-break deal.

I want to be him for a day to make the journey out of the air-conditioned software parks to the slums of Bangalore to oversee the work of his philanthropic organization, the Infosys Foundation.

I want to be him for a day to take the trip to the offices of governments across the country to make the case for tax reforms and enhanced investment in education and infrastructure

I want that day because, at end of it, I can go home content in the knowledge that I have impacted the world in a positive way.

Edit: JEEHZUZ ! I *just* realized that I said: "He was in a celebrity at the time". Now I'm sure Dean Kole was rotfl-ing.

Edit 2: '$250 dollars'? Shouldn't the $ suffice? Boy, am I glad I have the admit already :-) Seriously, though, I think this might be anecdotal evidence that suggests - to the BW-forumers who obsess about the littlest of typos after they submit - that its maybe not such an earth-shattering deal after all.
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