June 27th 2017

Continua a muoverti

“Do you know why dust doesn’t stick to our black Madonna di Oropa?”

Two months have passed since my last entry here. That was not supposed to happen. Yet, it did, affecting once again the German regularity on which I usually like to rely when it comes to structuring my schedule. As the speed of the program increased again during May and the first week of June, priorities shifted towards the execution of various tasks, leaving reflection and introspection on the side for a while. Boxes had to be ticked off. While some of it felt like jumping through the hoops, fuelling my more rebellious side whose disdain for grades seems to increase exponentially as I get older, going through the various simulations provided me with team experiences that I will cherish for some time and look back to as some of the defining moments of my stay here.

But the speed of IMD’s MBA program and some of its time constraints were not the only reasons why I decided to stay clear from the blog. Describing one’s inner journey can be a difficult exercise at times. The right words elude you. Using a language that is not one of those you grew up with doesn’t make it any easier. German writers of the Exilliteratur such as Thomas Mann, oftentimes facing difficulties in describing the meanders of their feelings during years of exile, held the opinion that “a writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” And so I waited for the words to come. Waited to get some distance from it all. Waited for the dust to settle.

Coming here may make you feel lost at times, submerged by the amount of information thrown at you. You will see various new channels opening up left and right, flooding your mind with “what ifs”. You will see yourself become the description of Khalil Gibral’s battlefield, one “upon which your reason and your judgement wage war against your passion and your appetite.” Coming here may generate periods of doubts during which you will question the rightness of your decisions, question whether path A is indeed a better one than path B, contemplate the pros and cons, try to rationalize.

Doubt is natural, everyone has to come to grips with it; remaining at peace while going through the process is a right that you should grant yourself.

While there is an element of systemic inescapability to some of our aspirations regarding geography or industry, thereby making it appear as if corresponding to societal anticipation, there is also a yearning to do things differently, to breach the gaps and run the distance. A desire to not let oneself get overly distracted and avoid the constant comparing that may – at times – be unavoidable, prompting Max Ehrmann to warn about its propensity to feed vanity and bitterness for “there will always be greater and lesser persons than oneself.”

A less personal and far more global sort of uncertainties and doubts is addressed during the recently launched Navigating the Future conference that will see our MBA class move out to Zurich, Munich and London over the coming days after pitching to a large gathering of executives on campus. While topics such as the rise of automation and the need for a new approach to healthcare are presented, I personally keep asking myself the question of Europe’s role in the global arena: a vassal of the new multipolar world order, dependent on energy imports, crippled by its demographics and relatively shrinking weight in the world, or an ingenious avant-gardist for societies with stable population, humble growth and better resource utilization, contributing to the shaping of a social model that we may have to rely on once the growth of the world’s population comes to a halt?

During a recent stay with the rest of the class at the Sanctuary of Oropa, nestled in the Italian Alps north of Biella, as I was reading a passage from Seneca’s “On the Shortness of Life” on the stairs of the large courtyard, an elderly nun walking by asked me in Italian what I believe to have been the following:

“Do you know why dust doesn’t stick to our black Madonna di Oropa?”

“No madre, I don’t know why.”

Continua a muoverti. She is telling us to keep moving.”

And she moved on.