Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Dare to be peppy!

When I was in business school, my friend Polly and I decided to name ourselves the two peppiest people at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

We did this not because of our inherent Pollyanna natures or our uncritical admiration for all thing b-school; quite the opposite. We made this decision because we recognized we were in danger of falling under the sway of cynicism, and still had the clear vision to see that this would not be a good thing.

MBA students are very peppy. They are high-energy, can-do people. Compared with, say, law students, they focus on execution more and analysis less.

When we started business school, Polly and I felt different from the mass of b-school students, and one of the ways we felt different is that we were skeptical of jump-on-board group activities. We felt proud of our critical faculties. We understood the world. And its difficult complexities. And its iss-shoes. More than others, anyway.

But then we realized that critical faculties can come at a cost. We found ourselves holding back from what we were experiencing, and from what we were contributing.

So we decided we would be the two peppiest people at Stanford business school. We also decided that our most dreaded class, Cost Accounting, was actually our favorite class. “Are you ready to study for our favorite class?” one of us would ask. “Omigod, I can’t wait to get started on our favorite class!” the other would reply.

Sometimes it was difficult to fulfill our mission. Polly went on a study trip to Chile and Argentina with a group of b-school students. “Let me tell you,” she wrote. “It is quite a tall order to be the peppiest person amidst a group of people who are getting up at 6 to go jogging in downtown Santiago. Extreme levels of peppiness are in evidence.”

Other times, people were not so supportive of our peppiness. When we started something called The George Stephanopoulos Fan Club (this was in the early Clinton days), and created our own fanzine, Stephanoupouletter, just for fun and the prospect of fame, some of our classmates thought we were incredibly witty and creative fun, and others thought we were kind of weird. It sure opened us up, though, and we even got into People magazine.

Deciding you are going to be the peppiest person in your environment really does change the way it looks for you. You choose one path – positive energy – over another – detached analysis. You pull open the shades and let the light pour in, even if it might bleach out your expensive carpets.

In certain professions – law comes to mind – deciding you are going to be known to be peppy takes courage, since peppiness is not always a culturally smiled-on characteristic. But try it. It gives you options, and you might like it.