Oxford MBA

Lessons from Buddha and getting the heels out…

Where do I begin? Firstly, and most importantly, is to say thank you to each and everyone of you who sent messages, cards, flowers, chocolate, books, and everything else after last weeks blog post. Honestly, the response has been unreal. This is my 42nd blog post (how crazy is this?!) and the post last week is currently sitting as my 3rd most read piece. So thank you to each and everyone of you for thinking of me in the various ways that you did, and reaching out to lend your support. It really does mean the world to know that I have such wonderful family and friends out there, and we’re not alone. We’re all in this together.

And whilst we are on this topic, I have to give a special mention to Jim and Amanda for the wonderfully thoughtful book. “The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse” really comes into its own during a pandemic and I couldn’t be more grateful to you for sending it to me. Thank you.

Thank you 💗

It’s been an interesting week for me. I really have tried to take the tough day that I had a couple of Fridays ago and learn from it. When I’m not working, I listen to a lot of podcasts. Whether on a walk, cleaning my bathroom, getting dressed, there is always time for a podcast. And this week my Oxford life and podcast world collided, just by chance, and it really has helped me.

We’ve been working a lot on our GOTO project this week as we had our first tutorial with Dr Peter Drobac, our GOTO tutor. As a team we really wanted to impress him with our progress and I’m really pleased to say we did just that. He was genuinely impressed and super excited for the project. One thing he did ask us to go away and think about was something called “reframing the problem”. Instead of looking at our problem in one particular way, can we use different techniques to “reframe” it in such a way that we start answering the wicked problem through a completely different lens? Right…ok…more work needed on this…

The day after that tutorial, I was going on a run with a classmate and on my way to meet him, I was listening to one of my favourite podcasts: “Feel Better, Live More with Dr Chatterjee”. In this particular episode he was interviewing Professor Laurie Santos, a lecturer at Yale University who created the “Happiness” class that went viral back in 2018 when she first taught it to her students.

Run with Michael

In the interview she talked about a particular Buddhist teaching about two arrows. The story (very briefly) goes: The Buddha once asked a student, “If a person is struck by an arrow, is it painful?” The student replied: “It is.” The Buddha then asked, “If the person is struck by a second arrow, is that more painful?” The student replied again, “It is.” The Buddha then explained, “In life, we cannot always control the first arrow. However, the second arrow is our reaction to the first. And with this second arrow comes the possibility of choice.

Basically, the circumstances and suffering in life, we can’t control. That’s the first arrow. That is going to come whether we like it or not. So things such as living through a global pandemic or not. We can’t control that. The second arrow is our reaction to that bad thing happening and that’s the thing we can control. We are responsible for stabbing ourselves with the second arrow.

Like our GOTO problem, we can choose to reframe our reaction in a certain way. We can choose to be angry and overwhelmed and sad or mardy (one for the Northerners). Or, we can choose to try and find joy and gratitude in the midst of this bad time. I added “try” as sometimes it doesn’t feel possible and sometimes it will feel nigh on impossible, but it’s at least worth a try.

So I’ve been working on reframing two problems this week: our GOTO problem and my own mindset for dealing with undertaking this MBA during a global pandemic and Lockdown 3.0. What I’ve found this week, that has been really working for me, is to find or make time for the things I do really enjoy: going on walks with my classmates; getting my runs in; and getting dressed up! Michaela and I are both missing wearing dresses and getting glammed up, so we reminded ourselves of what that is like this weekend.

10 x 450m sprints…quite the workout!

I also received some stellar advice from a very good friend in my class. If she’s reading this, she will know it’s her as she gave me a great tip, which I have been doing now for the past couple of weeks. I’m going to share it with you all, in the hope it may help you too.

At the end of each week I write down: three things I am proud of, three things I have learnt and one thing I would like to change in the coming week. It has really helped me. So thank you, my amazing fellow MBA.

And on that note I will leave it here for this week. Not so much a “normal” weekly roundup (but what even is normal anymore?!) as I didn’t even mention my Instagram takeover I did on the Business School account this week. But more of a reflection on a week of real learning: learning to really appreciate what we were taking for granted pre-pandemic, because you don’t know what you’ve got, until it’s gone…

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