March 2017: The Syndrome of Mediocrity

March starts with exams of Period 1.

March proceeds with Period 2: buzzes of internship in a hectic seven-week period.

March concludes with the intensity of internship interviews… and the release of P1 grades.

I have to say, just to be candid about my observations, there is naturally a lot of ‘competitive’ and ‘discreet’ energy. People don’t talk as much anymore in WhatsApp groups about which offices they go to – as someone throws the question ‘Who gets a call from which office?’, most of the time there is now silence. People do compete, and you can just feel it. Of course, this is not the only energy. There are multiple collaborations, people doing cases together, and people helping each other. Following up on my February 2017 post, people do still love each other. And they get their love back.

Among the usual mix of feelings that typically occurs when you’re an INSEADer, the roller coaster ride this month has been the syndrome of mediocrity. As competition, secrets and collaboration are in the air, there is another thing that, at least for me, I experienced every now and then – even though just a couple of seconds: comparison.

I can’t stop comparing.

I can’t stop thinking of how great these people are.

Yes, yes. I’m at the #1 business school. But I can’t stop feeling how mediocre I am.

This is why I am not a huge fan of formal academic education (been trying to work on improvement grades to complement result grades), however, formal academic education provides the networking and community experience. Comparison is an inherent risk in such system.

Here’s a sequence of that feeling: Yes, people say I’m good. At a lot of things. But am I truly amazing at anything?  

Mediocrity: Let’s Look To The Sky

There’s a sky above the sky.

You look to your left, there is this guy who is just super good at finance who keeps on asking the smartest questions that make me feel lost.

You look to your right, there is this guy who is just super emphatic at organizational behaviour who keeps on responding with the right answers.

And yes, their grades are amazing.  

Mediocrity: Let’s Observe The Grounds

At the same time…. The Z-Curve system makes us realize we’re still better than someone else.

And even though I am at the bottom of something, I’ll be higher at something else. Or… even so, we all made it to INSEAD.  

The experience is not about mediocrity, it’s about humility.

I can’t speak for others' experiences, because it’s unique for everyone. But here’s what I discovered:

When I start receiving my grades and looking at how people, for example, are doing their case interviews for consulting, I realize that I still have so much to learn. And that I’m just human. Everyone’s fighting their own battles.

Why do we have to compare? We each have our own race.

Why do we have to ignore? We can help each other.  

Mediocrity is perfectly fine. But humility is awesomely great.

And it intensifies at INSEAD. As many people actually present themselves, there are just too many. It’s an overwhelmingly positive environment for humility lessons.

Can’t wait to see what April unfolds.