Impostor Comfort

This one goes out to the imposter in all of us…..

I got into MBA school on a fluke – really – it was divine intervention or some damn thing….I used to feel ashamed of this…..

My GPA out of high school was probably about 2.6. I did not get into university on the first try – had to go to community college. When I did finally get into university I went off and on academic probation (which is when the university threatens to kick you out if you do not improve your grades). It took me 5.5 years to complete a 4-year degree.

When I wrote my GMAT (entrance exam for MBA school) I scored a 580 which is like the blind date of exam scores – if you want to get into an MBA school, they will let you apply but when they have a look at your package, there will not be another meeting.

I applied to all 13 MBA schools in Canada from worst to best. I got a skinny little envelope back from the worst school first….which was a good indication of what was to come.

I would check the mail every day and sure enough, 11 more skinny little ‘no-fucking-way-we-will-let-you-in’ letters came in the mail and now it was early August. School starts in 3 weeks.

Then a fat envelope. So fat, I knew they had made a mistake. So I called my Dad to borrow a bunch of money to add to the whack I had saved up for just such a miracle. I wire transferred the money for tuition that same day. I figured that if they had the money in the bank by the time they figured out their mistake if they truly were business people, they would simply just pull up another chair in the lecture halls and let it slide….it was 100K after all.

I drove across the country in a 2 seat convertible with a best friend, slept on another friends couch before I rented an apartment because I kept waiting for a PUNKED scene to take place where hoards of people laughed as it was made clear that I did not belong there. Finally, first day of class and there was a name tag for me, and a pile of books and my name was on the class list……fooled them all I figured.

I always wanted to be an art thief – this was my heist, I could give up the dream of art because I had made off with a seat at the best MBA school….worth more in total lifetime earning potential than any piece of art I would have the guts to try and lift.

All thieves feel like they are about to get caught….and I did too….every day, imposter.

Six months after school started, I got found out.

Instead of them figuring me out, I figured myself out….but it took one of them to let me in on that scene in the admissions room when my application came across the desk.

It turns out that the box checking yes men and women had accurately vetted my application and put it atop of the ‘no’ pile when a woman walked in the room. That woman saw my application, face up, a hand-drawn picture on it with notations that referred to an essay.  The essay answered the question: “Tell us about yourself and the unique contribution you will make to the MBA class”.

She read it.

“Let this girl in, she might do something interesting”

….and a fat envelope was stuffed and addressed to me.

The fluke, her timing at entering the room, my application face up. The fate – my success.

Whether I got into that MBA school or not, it is what I wrote in that essay that will always give me an opportunity to succeed, if I try. It’s not about what a great citizen I am or that I do volunteer work or how many A+ I have or grandmas I walk across streets or how much money I will give as an alumni or my plan to cure cancer (generally the kind of thing every ‘good’ MBA applicant writes about to get in) …..

You can train a monkey to jump hoops….but you can’t teach experience. The more vast and unique, the harder to replicate. While so very many raced for the safe centre I stuck to the edges….wake riding where fewer boxes get checked.

Nothing against the center or the boxes or the A+, heaven knows I wished I had got more……but alone, box checking straight A is not where it is at today. It is the fastest way to a solid spot on the mediocre team.

Try something, do something, cling to the edge, get uncomfortable, don’t make sense…….

Robots will take care of the things that can be taught. Renegades, the rest.

I’ll stick with those renegades defying the principles that rely on the known and proven….the way it always has been, the box checking statistically significant predictors of success. Why? because it doesn’t work….and I know it. Yes, 15 years ago it took a fluke….today it’s no fluke when people succeed in a future-proof way. It is a practice and a way of being that is opposite to how many of us have been taught to perform.

Soon, it will be a fluke that the hoop jumper finds him/herself anywhere other than on a crowded island of others just like him/her….too scared to do something different but too the same to be noticed.

Thank you, Joanne, for reading my essay….having that piece of paper did make a difference, but the experiences while there and those before and since is what made me a success…..and will continue to. I used to be ashamed that I was let into MBA school as an outlier….but I could not be more proud…..to be out here….renegade, adaptable and experienced and beyond the box….and into the unknown I go, as we all must.

Hey, imposter, what is your story? Hit me up if you want to start a conversation. I read every email Kelsey at kelseyramsden dot com

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