That was the plaintive question from the student in the back row. He was clearly weary of my song. He wanted out of my argument.
I asked him to elaborate.
"Can't I just live my life and not wrestle with these questions?"
Perhaps he sensed he might become haunted by my questions. Now I am haunted by his questions.
Here's what happened.
I recently spoke to the entire first year class of the Ohio State University College of Business. It's become a yearly joy — for me, at least — to present Leading From The Heart to these MBA candidates.
What did the students think? Here's a very beautiful summary from Hannah DeMilta an Otterbein undergraduate who accepted my (and OSU's) invitation to readers of Net Cotton Content.
As part of the graduate business program's Leadership & Professional Development series, Leading From The Heart is a series of questions, a big-hearted message of encouragement: especially now that you are in school, recalibrate more than your skills — recalibrate the meaning of your life.
I ask the questions that no one asked me during business school — and questions I didn't think to ask myself.
I believe such introspection is not self-indulgent. I think it is more than an opportunity for self-development. I think it is an obligation for someone who is preparing to lead others. Otherwise, even the best business management education might become what W. Edwards Deming growled was "the management of failure."
What is the management of failure?
What did Deming mean? I think he was describing non-leadership.
And that is management by someone who is not authentic.
What is it to be authentic?
To live life mindfully.
Some students might think: "This is all so Zen. I didn't come to business school for the meaning of life. Who cares?"
A couple years ago, one said to me, "All I want to do is accumulate wealth and play golf."
Now, this student in the back row: "Can't I just be a dude? Can't I just live my life and not wrestle with these questions?"
These perspectives haunt me — with inspiration.
This Is Why I Want To Be
The Liberal Arts Department
Of The Business School
I teach in order to plant the seed in all their minds that doing well isn't meaningful, if we are doing the wrong things well. (I can speak from personal experience. I've spent far too much time doing the wrong things well.)
Death will come too soon. Doesn't it always? Even when it comes as blessed relief, productive living always ends too soon.
In the meantime, while we have our breath, who are we to quibble with Socrates?
"The unexamined life is not worth living."