Sports is a great metaphor for my IE Brown experience. Some people succeed because they’re born with extraterrestrial athletic abilities. Others through sheer will. But players make it on winning teams because of a commitment to their teammates – an appreciation of their hard work and a desire to help them realize their dreams.
Edwin Yu, Vice President and General Manager at Season Produce, Inc., and IE Brown Class of 2018, knows a thing or two about winning teams. As this story goes to print, Yu is coaching the Chinese national team at the 2018 FIL Men’s Lacrosse World Championship, July 11-21, 2018, in Netanya, Israel. A former player in 2014, and U19 men’s head coach in 2016, Yu, in his essay below, references his worldview as a lacrosse player to shed light on the unique value of IE Brown for advancing business acumen.
Many times, I’ve stood shoulder to shoulder with teammates, looking my opponent in the eye and wishing them well before I would spend the next few hours trying to dominate and defeat them. Reflecting this spirit, every lacrosse game begins with a customary handshake and an agreement of the rules before engaging in the game that the Native American Mohawks refer to as the “little brother of war.”
As I began my IE Brown journey in the first residential session in Segovia, Spain, there was a familiar feeling of looking my cohort mates in the eye, wishing them well, knowing I would spend the next 15 months trying to make their academic lives as difficult as possible. My competitive nature was so obvious during that first face to face session that one of my future friends and group members told me that he found me “intimidating” before getting to know me. We laugh about it now, but I genuinely wanted to crush each one of my cohort mates…. academically of course.
Anyone who has spent time in pads and cleats or playing any competitive sport recognizes that sports teach you self-awareness. Instantly you are made aware of your strengths, weaknesses, tendencies, and reactions. Failure to acknowledge, adapt or accept any of these makes you predictable and easy to outmaneuver. Such was true during the course of IE Brown. Because of the program’s broad-based and interdisciplinary curriculum, I discovered areas where I was strong, and where I was weak. But in the classroom as on the field, I knew that the only way to overcome these deficiencies was to work on them. While I still can’t shoot left-handed or build financial models as well as I would like, I can say that both are better than they used to be.
Gaining new capacities that would give me an edge to drive change and growth was definitely my goal for an MBA. But when I looked at the different programs they all looked the same. It was hard to imagine gaining something unique from one of them. The coursework reminded me of my sister’s university class notes that I once stumbled upon years ago while cleaning up my parents’ basement. Pages and pages of painstakingly written notes. I went to the same University ten years later and wound up with the exact same notes. All this hard work to produce the exact same ideas.
I didn’t want that in an MBA. I didn’t want to study the same curriculum to come up with the same ideas. I wanted to be challenged to think differently which required a different set of notes to realize real change in the world.
The challenging nature of the IE Brown curriculum gave me that opportunity. By forcing me out of my comfort level, I increased my self-awareness which turbo-charged my ability to play to my strengths and turn weaknesses into advantages.
Most importantly at IE Brown, I learned that a funny thing happens if you hang around the same group of people long enough with whom you have the same goals and go through the same obstacles – you become a team. They earn your respect through their work ethic and amazing god-given abilities. They begin to charm you with their humor and insights. You begin to forge friendships and care about them as people. This was as true for me on the field as in IE Brown.
Last month, I walked shoulder to shoulder with 29 of my cohort mates at graduation. I had come to realize that they weren’t my opposition but rather my teammates – the ones who challenged me to be better every day, offered instruction and support, and with whom I forged strong and meaningful friendships. The experience of being part of a cohort and a team are very similar and I feel grateful to have been a part of both.
With participation from over 50 countries, 2,000 athletes, and fans from all over the world, the 2018 Men’s Lacrosse World Championship is expected to be the most widely available lacrosse event of all time. For more information, go here.