The title of this article originated during class from the mouth of one of my business school professors who was notorious for his unbearably opinionated, crass, smug, and ruthless behavior toward his students. It is worth noting that I’m using ‘professor’ in the loosest sense of the word. I’m not referring to a pipe-smoking gentleman in a tweed jacket with elbow patches who quotes F.A. Hayek and Peter Drucker from memory.
I’m describing a rather crude bully from the South Pacific who delighted in terrorizing his students and was an expert in condescension. This man’s talents for teaching and business were inversely proportional to his exaggerated self-importance and arrogance. He was infamous for cold-calling students and putting them on the spot to drive home business-related lessons or simply because the man felt like it.
I would dread his class until after the day that he called on me to opine about the business case assigned for that class. Apparently my somewhat mediocre answer was deemed sufficient by him to get me off the hook for the rest of the semester as he made his way down the list of students.
This joker reveled in providing us with invaluable life lessons, such as how much more sense it made to have a car mechanic in Mexico than in southern California or how the Red Chinese were going to rule over us at some point this century. His real business world experience was almost nonexistent prior to taking up teaching and his publishing record in business journals can fit comfortably on the back of a cocktail napkin.
But the man did spend a season or two coaching a tiny South Pacific island’s national basketball team. If there ever was a better example than this scholar to prove that a PhD in anything business related was other than a completely pointless venture, I have yet to find it. Last I checked, this faculty member of the top-25 American business school I attended was still teaching the same two graduate courses he has been teaching for the past two decades.
Below are some of our man’s nuggets of wisdom and pearls of business acumen directed at his students during class that I wrote down in my notebook. I was in awe of his unique abilities in belittling his students―most of whom were parting with over $100,000 for the privilege of earning the precious MBA designation and his scorn.
“Don’t lay an egg.” This was actually a form of encouragement from him to a student prior to her answering his question.
“You’re not going as fast as I want you to.“ The only reason I may have noted this comment was because I was in the “that’s what she said” phase of my adulthood. Yes, my humor has developed by leaps and bounds since those dark days of my early 30s.
“You’re not going to help me.” This was the professor giving up his grilling of another clueless MBA student before setting his sights on his next victim. He rarely admitted defeat before utterly demolishing the flailing student’s dignity and dreams of a mildly successful career in the business world.
“Buried in that statement is some element of truth.” This is about as much of a compliment one could expect to receive. This was likely addressed to one of the two students who received an A from the professor out of the 70 in the class.
“You lost me.” He certainly did not mince words and you rarely were unaware of where you stood with him.
“You’re missing the point.” I think the majority of us in his strategy class felt the same most of the time when attempting to absorb business lessons from the 15-year-old Harvard Business School case studies we were force-fed weekly.
“We’re completely losing you, aren’t we?” Yes, and that classmate was far from the only one in the dark in the room.
“That’s not what I taught you.” It is highly debatable whether or not the man actually taught anything to us―at least not in the traditional sense.
“Jeepers, creepers.” His common reaction and natural outburst when hearing something especially half-witted from one of our classmates.
“Populism gets you Argentina.” All right, so not everything this business virtuoso said was garbage. Even a broken clock is right twice a day. Peronist socialist populism really did Argentina in.
“You play with it for a year or two.” A reference to a newly-acquired subsidiary of a major multinational corporation. I enjoyed our wordsmith’s ability to keep us on our toes.
“Those guys are crash-hot smart.” The Chinese of course, who else? Certainly not the Westerners whose ancestors invented the modern world while the Chinese were being colonized by the Mongols and Manchus or decimated by Chairman Mao’s Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution to the tune of a 50-60 million death toll.