Friday, January 27, 2017

"Which Hope Maketh an Anchor": Weathering the MBA

anchor in a storm
Not long ago I came across the following verse in the Book of Mormon:

“Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God.” (Ether 12:4)

Faith and hope maketh an anchor to our souls, which make us sure and steadfast.

two people anchored to a tree in a hurricane
When I read this verse recently, the anchor metaphor reminded me of a book my fourth-grade teacher read to us called The Cay. In the story, the main characters are stranded on an island as a hurricane approaches. They tie themselves to a large tree in order to anchor themselves down and not get blown away in the storm.

Losing sight in the midst of trials

Such storms are promised us in our own lives. These metaphorical storms come as a result of many things: large-scale storms such as wars, conflicts, and political unrest and controversy; as well as personal storms such as ill health, employment issues, loneliness and depression, and sin. Through each of these events, we may feel trapped in a hurricane carrying only an umbrella for protection.

As a result of these trials, we may begin to lose sight of that which matters most and get blown away by the gale-force winds that rage around us. The only way to weather the storms is to anchor ourselves through faith in God.

I picture that scene from The Cay when I think of being anchored to the gospel through faith and hope. The pain and difficulty of trials can shake us and skew our perspective. Tying ourselves to the tree--i.e. anchoring ourselves to faith--keeps us stable and helps us maintain an eternal perspective during times when such a perspective is easily clouded from view.

Losing sight pursuing worthy goals: An MBA story

But trials and problems aren’t the only events that can cause us to lose sight of what’s important. Our eternal perspective can become clouded and we can lose our way even when we’re pursuing worthy goals.

As a recent example from my own life, I spent the last year in a rigorous MBA program. As was to be expected, the program was hyper-focused on building businesses and measuring success through profits, company growth, and global impact--all worthy and accurate measures of success in the business world.

Every day I studied with brilliant classmates and accomplished professors. I analyzed strategies of wildly successful business leaders. I was in an environment that applauded significant professional accomplishments.

The experience was incredible and I gained so much from rubbing shoulders with such smart and driven people. But I also found myself easily stressed and concerned about the future and my career. Every minute of every day was filled with a dozen different priorities all pulling me in seemingly opposite directions. Many schools of thought and opinions flooded my mind as I spent countless hours trying to figure out a next career move that would live up to the success of my peers. I often felt inadequate surrounded by such brilliant and successful people.

Mostly I felt tossed about at the mercy of a thousand different factors and could barely keep my head above water, let alone figure out the future. Even though I was pursuing the worthy goals of higher education and providing well for my family, storms raged around me, sometimes clouding my vision of what mattered most.

Gratefully, during these foggy and stormy times I had an anchor which secured me amidst the swirling storms and helped me regain focus on the things that mattered most: Each night I would go home and spend time with my wife, rough house with our two-year-old, eat dinner together with my family, and read scriptures and pray together. And on Sundays I completely stepped away from the business world and focused on church and family time.

These constant and consistent activities centered around the best in life were my metaphorical tree in the hurricane which strengthened my faith and helped me maintain a perspective that helped me see beyond salaries and positions, Uber’s surge pricing model and Steve Jobs' leadership style, and global opportunities and threats. With an eternal, family perspective, I was able to better discern what to focus on and what to ignore, independent of the actions of those around me.

At present, I am still concerned about the future and finding the perfect job. But that concern does not give way to fear because my faith in God gives me hope that everything will work out. And that hope “maketh an anchor” to my soul which helps me become “sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God.”