Saturday, December 15, 2007

Priorities: An ALM Management student takes a break

I've been reading a blog by an ALM Management student named Rick for the better part of a year now. Once More Unto the Breach chronicled some of his classroom experiences (distance and on campus), his travels to Africa and Alaska, attending the Berkshire Hathaway annual conference, and an extended stay in Britain. I enjoy checking up on Rick every now and then, and his writings have even prompted the occasional reaction post on my part, such as A Mac In Africa over on

But Rick is apparently taking a break from the ALMM program, and putting off future plans to get an MBA. There was a hint of this in late September, when he dropped an Extension School class, but an entry from early December explains that he has been reconsidering his priorities:
I've been thinking an awful lot about my life lately. I've been accomplishing a lot, but sometimes I have not been happy with the direction. I feel like I paid my dues living on Riverside Drive for seven years in a small apartment and missing out on things to stay cheap and save money, and I'm ready to collect. This is part of what has been behind this last year of insanity. Going forward, I don't think I can pay more dues with another two years of business school and two more suffering in a high paying job that insures I never seen my friends or family. That was the plan, after all. Suffer as a banker for two to three years then get out of the game. Live incredibly cheap, save two years of banker salary plus two years of lawyer salary, and then get out of the game. But it will make me miserable. I can achieve the same thing without banking, it will just take longer. I calculate about ten years longer, but I wouldn't lose four years to unhappiness.

What makes me happy? Friends. Fireplaces. A dog. A camera. Investing my own way. That is the good life. I think I was smart to come up with the suffering plan knowing I could get out of the game altogether at 30, but I think it would have been a miserable four years, and the opportunity cost of being in business school isn't negligible. I also don't feel like being away from Sarah for another five months, and I worry about the strain that would put on the marriage. Is it worth it?

For these reasons, I've decided to delay business school for another year. I plan to live [leave?] my current degree program, and go back to Austin with Sarah. I will concentrate on managing our investments, building my firm Citadel, and writing for the Motley Fool. When she graduates law school in May, we will be able to move right away to wherever she gets the best job offer (likely Austin or Dallas). I still plan to leave cheaply for two years before buying a house.

It is time to start living life the way I want to rather than worry about impressing other people. Warren Buffett was talking to some kid from HBS a little while ago who was talking about taking a job he really wouldn't like for a few years because it would really boost his resume (my guess is that the firm was probably McKinsey, which these days is an incubator for Fortune 500 CEOs). Warren told him he was crazy. He said to do what he loved, and as smart as he is, the money would follow. It may not be as much, but he would do just fine and would be much happier. He compared taking the job to "saving up sex for your old age. It doesn't make any sense."
This was obviously a tough choice for Rick, especially after committing so much time and effort to school and his other ventures. But at the end of the day, he decided his aggressive educational and career goals would put too much of a strain on his family and personal life.

That's not to say that he's giving up the Extension School and MBA plans. The ALM program can be completed within five years of matriculation, and he already has a few classes under his belt. His GMAT scores also have a long shelf life.

But even if he doesn't go back to school, Rick will do well. He obviously has a drive to succeed and to make the world a better place, and I respect him for that.

The Extension School may be losing a student, and I may be losing a fellow ALM blogger, but it's all happening for very good reasons.

Good luck, Rick.

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