Decision Trees of a Recovering Overachiever

Prior to Sloan, I was a researcher focusing on contemporary Chinese society, and in college I studied comparative literature. When economics and statistics came into the equation, so to speak, they were parts of dialogues on humanity, not of homework exercises. Midterms in these subjects having been managed, I’d like to apply some of the many things I’ve learned so far this semester in this blog post, starting up with some decision trees:

Two Thursdays ago I had a choice: I could start drawing out a Five Forces diagram for my Strategy midterm or I could bike over to a cozy wine bar on Newbury Street to meet a few of my classmates.

Last Saturday, I had another choice: I could start building a regression model for a DMD assignment (“Data, Models, and Decision-making,” for you lovely readers out from under the Dome), or I could try salsa dancing with newfound friends from a Camp Sloan hiking trip in the White Mountains.

Last Wednesday, the night before my economics exam, I had one more choice when the clock struck 11: I could keep studying subsidies and supply shifts or I could go to sleep.

In all these cases, the latter choice won out over the former. Speaking the lingo of DMD, the E(x), the expected value, was greater in the second choice. Though not from a grades consideration:

That extra hour over wine let me talk to some incredible women about their lives and experiences in a way that case-based class discussion rarely allows.

Those extra few hours of salsa dancing pushed me into my “stretch zone” as much as building a financial model–and reminded me that for all my “leadership” ability, I could really benefit from learning how to be led. (More on that in a future post).

That extra hour slept was the best way to spend my time for my overall well-being, based on my newly-acquired (and perhaps mis)understanding of opportunity cost.

A recovering overachiever, I had to ask: What would have happened if I went with the first choice instead? Would I have learned more in those courses? And would I have done better on those assignments and exams?

A slowly-learning Sloanie, I have to answer:

From an accounting perspective, I got valuable intangible assets by better connecting to some of my classmates.

From a strategy perspective, I captured some nonacademic value on the MIT value chain.

And from an economic perspective, I can say worrying about last week’s grades is useless. At this point, it’s sunk cost.

Beautiful Sloanies of the Pacific Ocean rocking plaid after our last midterm! We did it

Beautiful Sloanies of the Pacific Ocean rocking plaid after our last midterm! We did it

Originally published at mitsloan.mit.edu on October 21, 2014.