Updated: 1/16/2004; 11:31:21 PM.
Un Film Snob Pour Martiens

Saturday, December 27, 2003


Welcome to "Un Film Snob Pour Martiens", Lucky's blog about his year studying for an MBA at Insead, in Fontainebleau, France.  He started in January 2003 and graduated twelve months later in December.  This is his record of the experience, written as it was happening.

Film Snob was originally intended as a way of keeping friends and family aware of what was happening while Lucky was away at business school.  However, it soon became apparent that most friends and family didn't really care what was happening, but, surprisingly, lots of other people did.  Applicants, current students, and alumni seemed to appreciate the writing.  Applicants, most of all, because the MBA degree is a highly experienced-based product, but one about which there is curiously little information about what actually happens once you have entered a program.  This is exacerbated by the fact that Insead is unique, both in the market position and geographical senses.  Lucky acutely remembers this vast information asymmetry, and in some sense, this guide is written to answer many of the questions that he asked himself just a short year ago.  Will school be interesting?  Should I attend school in France?  What should I expect?  If these notes have helped you move closer to the answers, this guide has done some service.

Lucky's review of the experience is long enough that it warrants its own essay: Lucky's review of the Insead experience (forthcoming).

If you are thinking about coming to Insead, or are already attending, the following guides (in process) may be helpful.  If you have additional questions, do not hesitate to contact Lucky (use the envelope on the right); he will be happy to assist you in any way he can.

If you are a student, Lucky strongly encourages you to blog your experience, whether it be at Insead or another institution.  There is a great demand for real, unfiltered information about business schools - what their strengths and weaknesses are, what makes them different, and why they may or may not be a good fit for different applicants.  Writing a student diary, in any form, is a great way to remember the vast number of events that occur, while contributing a valuable public good.  Blogs are easy to set up and easy to maintain; if you have any questions about starting one of your own, again, please feel free to contact Lucky for advice and support.

This is a good time for Lucky to thank a few people who inspired him to create this blog.  Dave Winer, founder of Userland and now at the Berkman Center, was the visionary developer who did much to bring blogging from its humble beginnings to its current near-mainstream status as a personal web publishing application.  Martin Lloyd, whose blog "The MBA Experience" inspired Lucky to do at Insead what Martin admirably did at Saïd Business School at Oxford.  There were many others who influenced this site, but these two were certainly the most significant.

Finally, I bid you a fond farewell.  Writing this blog has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, and I shall miss it dearly.  I thank all readers, and I salute everyone who looks to higher education to learn, change, and grow.  I especially thank the numerous people who have taken time to write letters of encouragement, and sparked many dialogues that developed into lasting friendships.  Keep writing; I hope the conversations continue.  Lastly, I thank everyone for putting up with the megalomaniacal tendencies which led to writing this blog in the third person.  You have all made my experience special, and I thank you for it. 

Undoubtedly I will continue writing, though in another venue; drop me a line if you are interested and I will let you know where I end up. 

I wish everyone continued success in all of your endeavours.  Please do keep in touch, as we still have much to discuss and explore together.

-Lucky Goldstar, 28 December 2003



9:58:59 PM    comment []

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Placeholder for future posts.

4:20:29 AM    comment []


The Insead graduation took place at Maison de la Chimie in Paris, last Thursday.  Everyone arrived in business attire, appropriate for the occasion, many with parents and friends in tow.  The weather was fortunately quite cooperative, with blue skies and bright sunshine throughout the day.

The ceremony itself was surprisingly tolerable.  A few of the speeches were good, and the others were at least short.  Awards were made to the best professors, as voted by the student body, for the best core and elective course taught on each campus.  Here, Ron Adner won for best elective (for High Tech Entrepreneurship and Strategy, often subtitled “a study of business failure”) and brought several laughs with his rather laconic acceptance speech.  “I think that you might not have understood the point of this course… you might be too optimistic… we know that success is rare… so… I won’t be trite and wish you all the success in the world…”

Two other speeches were of note.  The keynote address, given by Sean Maloney, was a general big-picture view of the world as a land of great opportunity, and was especially optimistic about China and wireless technology.  Lucky felt like he was transported back in time just a few years, and was reading an early issue of Wired, when Rosetto was still in charge.  Later it became known that Maloney is number three or four at Intel and was responsible for the new Centrino, and then it all made sense.  The other speech, by the Dean of Insead Gabriel Hawawini, was perhaps the worst speech ever given by a business school chief.  As unenlightening as it was long, it felt like watching a car accident in slow motion.

Afterwards, the students were handed their diplomas one by one as the entire auditorium applauded.  It took about an hour, but was well worth it.  It was, after all, the last time that the students would be able to clap for each other for a long, long time.

Later, everyone went to a cocktail reception for a short while, to relish the moment and take a brief rest before the rest of the day’s activities.  Lucky and his friends went back to Fontainebleau for champagne and dinner, and then it was off to Chateau Vaux-le-Penil for the final party of the year.  It was a great party, though intensely bittersweet.  Saying goodbye is hard enough, without having to do it repeatedly to all of your best friends.  It was difficult, but perhaps cathartic in its own way.  Lucky left at 0400h, drove home, packed up the rest of his possessions, and was on his way to the airport three hours later, waving goodbye to the mist-covered fields of Seine-et-Marne in the rearview mirror.

4:13:09 AM    comment []

Thursday, December 18, 2003

So little time, so much to do.  Lucky is back from vacation, and now only thirty-six hours separate him from the short walk off a long jetway.  There is some chance that the next post will be written from another country.

On the institutional side, there is some movement by Insead to make use of bloggers as a way of showing applicants what really goes on behind the curtain.  More news to follow.

12:30:02 AM    comment []

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

The halls are largely empty; the cubes filled only with Septembers studying for exams.  The vast majority of January students have departed for their week's vacation before graduation.  A mixture of relief, happiness, sadness, and purposelessness hangs about the remaining graduates-to-be.

Lucky has numerous errands to complete; closing accounts, sorting through last-minute travel plans, packing up the house, and then going on his own vacation... too much to do, as always, but now there's no reason to put it all off because of academic work.

And there remains this blog, which is one of the loose ends to resolve.  The most likely course of action is to add several mini-guides to it, put down some of the learnings from the year, and sign off.  This has been a great forum to record the experience, and when Lucky returns to normal life, he fears that it may not be as scintillating as the one spent at Insead.  He'll keep writing, assuredly, but in another context, leaving this one unencumbered with the pedestrian concerns of quotidian existence.

4:33:53 PM    comment []

Monday, December 08, 2003

Google are recruiting at Insead today.
12:52:52 PM    comment []

Sunday, December 07, 2003

Congratulations to the student, widely regarded as the best negotiator on campus, who has id'd this blog author.  Lucky appreciates your respect for his wish to remain anonymous.

Lucky previously respected this student due to his amiable nature and supreme air of competence.  But upon viewing his profile, Lucky is not sure whether it should be due to his numerous years on Wall Street or the fact that he speaks seven languages which use three different alphabets.  Kudos, man.  In spades.

5:21:55 PM    comment []

Lucky has completed all assignments.

What a strange feeling, to sit in the library with nothing left to turn in.  One of the great themes this year has been learning to deal with too much to do - which assignments to do?  Which ones are interesting?  Which ones will be unpleasant but necessary, like eating your vegetables?  Which to skip, because of lack of time or interest?  Only now, there are no more assignments left.  What a strange feeling.

Of course, there remains plenty to do.  A thousand small tasks and several large ones.  How to exit France?  Where to go afterwards?  How to prepare for interviews, some that are scheduled and some hopefully to be?

Two days of classes remain, one week of vacation, and then graduation.  Now to think about how to continue learning when the environment is different; when professors, books, and classmates are not always within an arm's reach for reference and discussion.  When time, that most precious commodity, is not dedicated to furthering your own knowledge base, but spread across the myriad affairs of real life.

What to learn when it is only you who decides what to pursue?  What are you studying?

5:13:49 PM    comment []

Thursday, December 04, 2003

The good folks in the MBA administration have just confirmed the satisfaction of the third language requirement (Spanish), after Lucky handed in his DELE certification a few days ago.  Now only to pass the last few electives and turn a new page...
6:46:21 PM    comment []

Quite a sad day, yesterday, as Lucky walked into the final Power & Politics class of the term.  It will be more of the same in the next few days, as each last class trips off the calendar.

José-Luis Alvarez continued the discussion of Shakespeare's Henry V, and we watched a few more clips from the film.  We analysed many of the tactics that Henry used to inspire his men, threaten the enemy, and deal with his personal feelings in private.  This is a marvelous film, and one that deserves another viewing in its entirety.  Its lessons on power dynamics are legion and could inspire discussions for hours over warm fires this winter; Lucky suspects that the coming weeks will have exactly such dialogues in store.

Professor Alvarez supplemented the film clips with slides describing the decisive battle of Agincourt, and brought laughs from the students when he projected a a photograph of the battlefields, bathed in sunlight... with him standing in the middle of it.  A perfect tourist vacation shot!

Two notable quotes from the professor:

[on how to get past someone's façade and influence them] "To get to someone, get them out of their role... make them laugh or cry, and then... speak freely."

[said slowly, softly, with gravity] "You should accumulate power and influence, without it you will not accomplish great things, you will not accomplish minor things.  But through all this, don't lose sight between means and goals."

Lucky finds the last statement beautiful; the first half quite brilliant as a reminder why this course is crucial to being effective at whatever you do.  That said, Lucky completely disagrees with the second half.  As a longtime fan of The Prince, Lucky believes that the ends sometimes do justify the means, and that to achieve greatness, leaders must sometimes do evil.  This tension is a central lesson of the The Prince, and is cogently and eloquently argued within.

At the end of class, a warm and sustained round of applause swept the room, thanking the professor for a wonderful course.  This is one of the gems at Insead, but as its quality is very teacher-dependent, try to ensure that José-Luis is teaching it.

Afterwards, José-Luis approached Lucky and another classmate; we all shook hands and bid each other well.  He is a class act, and deserves thanks for teaching a class that has inspired many to think differently about the power dynamics of their future environments.

Muchisimas gracias, José-Luis, y que usted tenga mucho éxito.

4:58:07 PM    comment []

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