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A Soft and Quiet Confidence

July 17, 2012

My classmates are rethinking their careers, thoughtfully and deliberately, with a new sense that whatever they were doing before MIT isn’t what they’ll be doing after MIT. A soft confidence has eroded old barriers and replaced self-limiting images with a new mosaic of possible futures. And it is wondrous in our eyes.

The sheer volume of EMBA work, of which I have regularly and continually written, has permanently compressed our former work into a tight dense mass out of the necessity of time. This was to be expected. But there is in each of us a personified sincerity of purpose that whispers to us in a deliberately familiar voice full of curious tone, “What will you do when your time is again free?”

Faulkner struggled with drink, just as I struggle with work. It is an addiction and a vice and a calling, all the same. He would not drink while he wrote and his many months of self-imposed sobriety lashed out in a binge of drunkenness upon the publication of each new work. The intensity of focus, the imposition of discipline, and the outright denial of his weakness for alcohol, which his writing required, swung the pendulum hard and heavy to its opposing limit once the final written word passed to paper.

How will my pendulum swing once the EMBA loosens its grip upon me? What new purpose will I divine for my time when MIT no longer requires me?

This is in all of our thoughts, but the anxiety that I would have expected has not come. It has no purchase upon me as I have found a soft and quiet confidence that buoys up my sincerity of purpose.  It is as though I am again the small boy of my youth, walking barefoot through the soft grasses of the farm, observing in quiet reverence the wonderment of every aspect of life. The cool waters of the stream. The crawfish and turtles therein. And here a small robin upon a branch, where buds have already popped and immature leaves sprawl, stretching out to feel the warmth of the sun. This contentment of youth still exists in our middle age when we are caused to compress and clear away that which was simply unnecessary habit.

We are, many of us, expressing the wonderment of another youth, fresh with new possibility and delightfully alive once again. There are none of us, so far as I can know, who remain content with who we were and what we did before the EMBA. That soft confidence becomes a dissatisfaction. Our jobs and perhaps even our stations in life no longer meet with our sense of properly self-directed purpose. There just must be something more out there that we were intended to do with our lives. And, like me as a boy, we stand now staring at a beautiful world that dwarfs us with all of its possibilities.


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