The INSEAD Triangle and Keeping It Together

“I’ve never worked this hard in my entire life, and I’ve never slept this little either.”

My classmate who’s a consultant laughs when I say this. “Consulting is a lot harder than this,” He replied, “INSEAD is like a break for me.”. I look at him, amused and slightly astonished.

How is this huge difference in perspectives possible?How is it that he seems to be breezing by with this experience, and I feel as if I’m constantly swimming against the high tides just to keep up?

The conversation stuck with me the entire day, and I finally gave it some thought on my late-night walk back home from the library. I want to make the most out of the INSEAD experience, I really do. But what does that even mean?

I remember before coming here, an alumna had told me about the INSEAD triangle. “There are three points on the triangle, socialising, learning and sleeping. You can only choose to do two per day, and too much or too little of one thing is not a good idea.”

Of course, being slightly naïve at the time, I had no way of understanding her advice. Then it started to come together as I explored all areas of that triangle.

When I first came in, all I did was socialise and learn. It quickly became apparent that sleep deprivation was reducing the quality of those two activities, and that sleep is NOT a waste of time.

Then I studied and gave more time to sleep.  With that I realised that the more you know, the more you can do in this world. But if all your time is spent learning, how much room do you have left for the doing?

Then I socialised and slept. That drastically reduced the quality of my learning experience because the amount of information we are given to absorb is colossal, and if you neglect that, you’ll have to be a marathon runner to catch up with the learning train.

So how can I make the most of this experience and still keep it together?

Well, with time, you become better. My body has become stronger, I no longer need eight hours of sleep to stay alert, five to six hours is plenty.

My ability to absorb information has increased exponentially, I no longer need to spend two to three hours reading a 15 page case study. Within half an hour I’ve got it down and I can retain what’s important.

On the social aspect? I love people and life is dull without adventure. I still want to explore Europe while I’m here and it’s wonderful to be able to do it with charismatic people whose company I relish and whose stories I can’t get enough of.

The final key, is knowing who you are and what you want.

That takes time to appreciate. Once you are filled with the experience, and you have a good understanding of what’s going on around you, you can climb a few steps above the chaotic world of everything happening all at once and all together, and you can reassess the direction that you’re moving towards. Some aspects of the experience then become highly relevant, and others not so much. Through conversations with people they have shared that not everything that seems urgent is important, and not everything that’s important will be urgent. Read that last line again, it’s a gold nugget. Then you can take a step back towards the chaos, and keeping in mind what’s important, breeze through it towards what’s important to you.

What does my life look like right now?

If I know that I’m going to have a demanding day, filled with work and activities, I wake up a little bit earlier to meditate. I use an application called Aura on my phone, it’s free and three minutes is all it takes. It’s wonderful to be able to go into your day with mental clarity, to be present when I’m having a conversation with someone, and to really listen and absorb when I’m in class because I’m not being distracted by seemingly urgent yet non-important thoughts.

I’m also more merciful with myself. I realise that I’m human and that there’s only so much that I can do and achieve on a day to day basis. Irrelevant negative thoughts are no longer allowed in my head. Knowing that the energy I spend in my day is all going towards what’s important to me, gives purpose and meaning to my activities, and has created an energy reserve I can tap into whenever I’m starting to feel drained.

“The road to success is dotted with many tempting parking spaces” -Will Rogers

…and I NEVER want to park.