When people ask me what it’s like being on top and what my trick is for maintaining this position, I can quite simply say it’s because I expose myself daily.
MBA Thinking doesn’t come easily at first. It’s something that needs to be nurtured. And for me, I find that daily stimulation has paid off, allowing me the honour of standing heads and shoulders above my peers, which I do so humbly.
In fact, I am the first to admit that I’ve had others lend a hand in my development, just as I, likewise, have done for them.
For example, my good lady wife and I expose each other daily, and in our weekly, hot tub, faculty meetings, I make sure that we expose ourselves as a group.
I’m sure there must be plenty of questions racing through your mind as you wonder, feverishly, how you might come to grips with this academic habit of daily exposure.
So let’s look at what’s involved in exposing oneself daily, what materials are most productive, and what locations lend themselves to better outcomes.
What it means to expose yourself daily
This first time that I experienced this uplifting habit, was while lazing in bed on a Sunday morning with my good lady wife.
She turned over and thrust into my hands a most unexpected object.
She pointed to a particular passage, cheekily, as an innocent prompt to remind me that our wedding anniversary was fast approaching. It read:
Of all forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps the most fatal to true happiness.
I certainly received her message in bed that morning. But I also was quite taken by Russell’s turn of phrase, which emboldened me to wander futher through his issuance.
I had never read outside the MBA opus before, and holding Russell’s gems in my hands that morning, changed my life forever.
You see, my good lady wife had exposed me to fresh thought, fresh observation, fresh insights, and, most important, a fresh lens through which I could take a good look at my MBA hardware.
As I read on, I was increasingly stimulated by his wordplay and by the deft way he handled his concepts.
I felt he was holding up a mirror to my academic arc, when I read:
Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.
And then, he emboldened me to expose myself daily when I read this quote:
There are two motives for reading a book; one, that you enjoy it; the other, that you can boast about it.
That was when I felt things stirring in bed on that fateful morning. There was a dawning arising and it has since filled my home and academic life with the bright sunlight of curiosity, exploration, and daily stimulation.
Thanks to my good lady wife’s playfulness in bed that morning, I became the champion of encouraging anybody I met to expose themselves daily to a quick passage from a stranger.
Expose yourself to anything
Here’s something you won’t find many academics arguing these days.
I believe we should expose ourselves to a wide variety of tongues; philosophical, romantic, adventurous, juvenile, foreign, capitalist, even religious.
And I argue this because hearing different tongues through their unique and sometims novel turns of phrase, different concepts, different calibres of writing, can surprise us with new connections and new ways of understanding and explaining MBA concepts.
Here are two examples of sources of stimulation that I’ve encountered recently.
The first is from the book, Dating for Under a Dollar: 301 Ideas, by Blair Tolman.
As you might imagine, this is not part of the standard reading lists for an MBA course, but I have slipped it in to see what might come of it. To my surprise, my students found it to be fertile ground for stimulation. Here’s a passage:
Activities for Large Group Dates: Animal Farm.
The entire group sits in a circle. One person is selected to be the farmer. The farmer is blindfolded. Anyone in the circle who wants to, silently moves to a different spot in the circle. The farmer then kneels in front of one of the people in the circle and names a farm animal. The other person disguises his [sic] voice and makes the sound of that animal. The farmer tries to guess who the person is by the animal sound. If he [sic] guesses correctly, that person becomes the new farmer.
What a load of fun that sounds like, and I am planning to play a modified version at our next hot tub faculty meeting.
But I mention this because in a tutorial group, my students modified this game and came together to a new height of MBA-inspired pleasure. Their rules were:
Activities for Large Group Tutorials: Grocery Aisle.
The entire group sits in a circle. One person is selected to be the shopper. The shopper is blindfolded. Anyone in the circle who wants to, silently moves to a different spot in the circle. The shopper then kneels in front of one of the people in the circle and names a grocery item. The other person disguises their voice and hums a jingle from a product that is in that category, eg, if they said “spreads”, the grocery item person might hum the MeadowLea jingle, “you ought to be congratulated”. The shopper tries to guess what the product name is by the jingle. If they guess correctly, that person becomes the new shopper. The tutorial becomes a lesson in the importance and power of commercial jingles, that value of recall, and the need to overcome fears about singing in front of others, which will be useful in later life, especially in boardrooms.
Another randomly selected passage I exposed my students to was, Kings, chapter 2, verse 23, from the KJV Holy Bible, Standard Size, Burgundy Faux Leather w/Thumb Index and Ribbon Marker, Red Letter, King James Version. It read:
Then he went up from there to Bethel; and as he was going up the road, some youths came from the city and mocked him, and said to him, “Go up, you bald head! Go up, you bald head!” So he turned around and looked at them, and pronounced a curse on them in the name of the Lord. And two female bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the youths.
One immediate outcome was that students apologised for some comments they’d made about my balding patch, however, that led me to curse them (caringly) for taking the passage too literally. They then thought about what they’d been exposed to, and realised that it is much better in business (especially in HR), if you refer to colleagues and customers by name rather than by internally-held nicknames.
Again, such an important insight, simply drawn from students’ willingness to have me expose us all together to something new and unexpected.
Best places to expose yourself daily
So far, my examples of having exposed myself are the bedroom and the classroom, however, you can and should expose yourself daily in as many new locations as possible.
The most obvious is a library.
In a library, you can reach out your hand and grab some stimulatory material, even blindfolded.
I am particularly blessed by the accommodation afforded me by the librarians at the State Library of South Australia and also the City of Marion library at Hallett Cove. Instead of leaving me to group about blindly, they will often offer my a guiding hand to make sure I am exposed to something novel and unexpected.
Other locations, physical and virtual, where you can expose yourself daily include:
- Public transport – ask a fellow passenger if you can read one paragraph of their reading material and then settle back with your thoughts for a stimulating journey
- Blinkist – sign up for the free, weekly email which provides you with a daily summary of a randomly-selected book
- Fish and chip wrappers – if you can find a fish and chip shop still wrapping their food in newsprint, be sure to read a paragraph or two before your meal as a form of giving thanks for your faculty of thought
- Shakespeare random insult generator – although a little frivolous, you can sometimes receive a combination of words that will set off your thinking – trust me, don’t just rub this one out, thou churlish beef-witted baggage!
- The MBA School Of MBA Credentials blog – it would be remiss of me not to offer to help you expose yourself daily by suggesting you expose yourself to some of my bits
If you have found other places where you expose yourself daily, please let me know and I will add them to this list.
As part of my mission to make South Australia The MBA State, we’re going to all have to carry the load and work on it together.
Good luck and may I wish you a stimulating exposure today.
Image: Ben Teoh with Professor Sebastian Longsword.