All posts filed under “Inspiration

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Simon Murray speaks at Judge Business School

This week our MBA class got to hear from Simon Murray. While his name may not ring a bell like some of the other speakers we’ve had this year, he was an absolute thrill to listen to.

Simon has had a fascinating career. He skipped his A-levels (similar to SATs for the Americans reading this) to join the crew of a merchant ship as it sailed around the world. Eventually he found his way to the French Foreign Legion, where he served for five years in Algeria. Passing up the option to become an officer in the Legion, he came back to the UK. Simon eventually became a hugely successful and highly regarded businessman in Hong Kong and Southeast Asia. Probably the most prominent of his current activities is being on the Board for Vodafone. More recently, he became the oldest man to reach the South Pole unsupported, at the age of 63. (It was a two-month trek!)

Career Advice

Simon had some really interesting insights for us as we approach our future careers. Specifically, one of his key points was that when thinking about jobs, we need to separate what we want TO BE from what we want TO DO. As long as you’re doing something you like, it really doesn’t matter who you become. (And if you’re doing something you like you tend to be really, really good at it!) What YOU DO is what YOU BECOME, so live your life to become the best at whatever you enjoy.

Another of his main points is that you have to grab opportunities as you see them. It was just a chance meeting that originally got him connected in Hong Kong, and Simon talked about how grabbing it was a seemingly small thing but an event that was a key to his future success.

Simon had two quotes that I thought were really interesting. Take them as you will:

  • “Don’t go where the path may lead. Go where there is no path and leave a trail.”
  • “On bad roads you meet good people.”

Finally, he told a story about trying to get to the heart of what a potential candidate really wanted to do with his life. Simon, not getting an answer, finally asked him what he would do if he had the next day off with nothing to do. The guy (a recent university graduate) thought about it, and told him “windsurfing.” Simon at the time owned a company that made windsurfing sails. The new graduate was sent to that company and became a great success and has gone on to very significant successes since. That concept, that we decide what to do in our career based off what we would do if we had a day off, is interesting. As Simon mentioned, it may lead to unexpected places, but as long as we do what we enjoy it should be fruitful both personally and professionally.


Simon was a fantastic speaker. His mix of great stories and fascinating personality made it one of the top tier talks this year. I’m definitely going to have to buy his book and learn a bit more about his early years in the French Foreign Legion.

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Kevin Roberts & his challenges


Kevin Roberts, the CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi, is also the CEO-in-Residence at Judge Business School. He came in to talk to us recently about Winning with an MBA, which was particularly useful considering the somewhat dismal job market that we’ll be entering later this year.

First off, he’s really an incredible speaker. His staff has a virtual command center to run his presentation, with multiple laptops and a sound mixer! Impressive, and it certainly created a good first impression toward Saatchi & Saatchi. I’m really, really looking forward to the Creativity Workshop that he’s going to be running for the MBA class later this year. From what I’ve heard, it’s a very unique experience.

I don’t want to write too much about his talk with us, but do want to point out three challenges that he set out for us. I think these apply no matter who you are or what stage in life you’re at. We’ve been tasked with thinking about these and writing the answers down; you should do the same:

  • What’s my 5-year dream?
  • When am I at my best?
  • What will I never do?

Particularly on the 5-year dream, he pushed us to push ourselves. He called the 5-year dream of running your own business, etc., “pathetic.” It was a bit of a shock, but a fair point. That’s not much of a dream; we can do that right now if we chose. What’s our real dream, something that seems completely impossible right now? That’s what we should be aiming for.

The other two questions are more straightforward. Still, we need to be brutally honest with ourselves when we answer them in order to really get an insight into our own abilities and preferences.

I went out to dinner with some of my classmates straight afterward, and we started talking about these questions – specifically our dreams. It was interesting to hear what people thought. Perhaps it’s the current job market, but it was generally difficult for everyone to really expand their horizons to answer the question.

While I think I’ve come up with my answer, I’m going to hold off from writing it publicly. But I invite you to really think (and feel) hard and answer the questions above for yourself; it could make for an interesting revelation.

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Running (rowing?) & reading

I found this via Brad Feld, and saw that Furqan blogged about it, too.

It’s a short & simple video from Will Smith (the “Fresh Prince”) and his two keys to life: Running and Reading. Because if you want to succeed, you’ve got to be willing to work harder than anyone else.

Though I can’t help but be struck at how this reminds me of the balance I keep trying to strike between Creating and Consuming. Lately I’ve been focused on the mantra Create >> Consume because I need to remind myself that I have to make progress on my plans each day. But this reminds me that I have to consume in order for my creation to make sense in context.

Anyway, enough of my babbling. Here’s Will Smith:

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An MBA Rugby Blue, the last sprint and a magnificent cover letter


I want to say a public congratulations to Doug Rowe, a fellow Cambridge MBA student. Just yesterday he was named as the scrum-half for the Cambridge University Rugby Union Football Club 1st XV in their Varsity Match against Oxford at Twickenham Stadium next Thursday (the 11th). He will be a bit of a rare commodity; an MBA student that achieves a sporting “Blue”.


It’s hard to express how big a deal this is in the sporting world of the University. A sporting blue is the highest level of sports achievement, and comes with a distinctive blue blazer. While the Rugby Union Varsity Match isn’t quite as high-profile as the Boat Race (in rowing), it’s been played since 1872 and now takes place in the UK’s second biggest stadium, seating 80,000! Doug did used to play on the US Rugby Team, so top-level competition certainly won’t be foreign to him.

So a hearty congrats to Doug… well done! (Match photos of questionable quality taken by yours truly at a very cold home match a few weeks ago.)


On a completely different note, it’s already the last week of classes in Michaelmas Term! I really have no idea where all the time has gone.

Just this last weekend we finished a lengthy take-home exam for our Business Modelling class (lots and lots of Excel… thus the need for a take-home exam). In the next two weeks we’ll complete our term’s consulting project, a final essay for Management Practice, and the essay portion of Organizational Behaviour. Then it’s a month of holiday and revision for exams in the first week of January.

Finally, I just found what is quite possibly the best-written internship cover letter I’ve ever read. Check it out here.