NYU – Stern Business School Essay
Prompt: Please comment on the following quotation, giving relevant reasons and/or examples from your personal experience to support your answer “mistakes are the portals of discovery” – James Joyce
When I was still a teenager, I spent many hours reading comic books and frequenting comic book conventions. When a friend proposed that we launch a business to sell these colorful collectibles, I could hardly contain my excitement. Even though such a venture required a large sum of money (especially for a teenager), I was swept up in thoughts of a lucrative payoff and made the investment. Despite our intimate knowledge of our product, we could not compete with the discounts neighboring dealers could afford. I still own some of the comics we were unable to sell; they are physical reminders of my premature entry into the business world.
Even though my investment was a failure in terms of finances, I do not regret the result. Without it, I might never have developed the drive to learn more about what had gone wrong. After my short-lived comic book store experiment, I knew I would need to refine my understanding of business and economics if I wanted to succeed the next time around. I began reading the business section of the newspaper and became fascinated by what gave profitable companies their edge. Eventually, I successfully pursued an internship at Smith Barney, where I developed the skills necessary to analyze companies through fundamental and technical analysis. I have drawn on these skills regularly at my current position, where I must continually keep up with recent developments and formulate conclusions about companies and industry trends.
Years after we closed down our comic book business, I had another experience that taught me about my own weaknesses. Just before I was promoted to Team Leader at PIMCO, I successfully trained new recruits by refraining from micro-managing them and encouraging independent thinking. I began my new assignment as Lead convinced that all I needed to do was repeat that approach when supervising a seasoned team. What I did not understand was that new recruits felt the need to impress, which made them more self-motivated in their responsibilities. I had expected the seasoned group members to be proactive and self-sufficient, and I was disappointed when several associates missed their deadlines. Frustrated, I tried to single-handedly compensate for their failure, putting in excessive overtime. After three weeks of this frantic work schedule, stressed out and exhausted, I realized that a group effort was necessary and decided to figure out why the team was not functioning efficiently.
I started out by getting to know members of the team better, ascertaining their different strengths and motivations. By adjusting the way I interacted with each associate, I dramatically improved our morale, and as a result our output increased. Furthermore, I discovered that when workloads were delegated properly — based on individual skills and capabilities — deadlines were met far more frequently. Once again, an early failure spawned long-term success. The lesson I learned about accommodating professional diversity has become a central part of how I do business, not only with employees at PIMCO, but also with clients and underwriters.
My most memorable and enduring learning experiences have stemmed from suffering the consequences of my own mistakes, and those lessons have shaped me into the person I am today. In this respect, James Joyce’s concise observation that “mistakes are the portals of discovery” could not be more accurate. In the short term, my mistakes were costly and painful, but they allowed me to refine my interests, such as my taste for finance, and my interpersonal skills, such as and how to effectively lead a group. I hope to share my hard-earned lessons with other students at Stern. I believe that, by exchanging these types of lessons with classmates from various backgrounds, I will actively contribute to Stern’s dynamic learning atmosphere.