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Why Do 3% of Harvard MBAs Make Ten Times as Much as the Other 97% Combined?

Why Do 3% of Harvard MBAs Make Ten Times as Much as the Other 97% Combined?

September 23, 2013

According to Mike McCormick’s book, What They Don’t Teach You in Harvard Business School, in 1979 new graduates from Harvard’s MBA Program were asked if they had set clear goals and made plans to accomplish them.  They found that:

  • 84% had no specific goals at all
  • 13% had goals, but they were not committed to paper
  • 3% had clear, written goals with plans to accomplish them

In 1989, the interviewers followed up on their initial question and found that:

The 13% of the class who had goals were earning, on average, twice as much as the 84% who had no goals at all

Even more amazingly, the 3% who had clear, written goals were earning, on average, ten times as much as the other 97% put together

So, do you have clear goals? Do you have a plan? Have you written them down?  

This is the first part of a 2-part series on having a Life Plan.  This week I’ll talk about the need for such a plan, and next week about how to implement it.

Life is like Sailing, and you can quote me on that.



I took up sailing as a teenager, and enjoyed it so much over the years that I began teaching it to campers at Camp Sabra in Rocky Mount, Colorado. Sailing is a marvelous experience, as you navigate your boat through the water in harmony with the wind. You use a rudder to steer, and you want to make sure you have a centerboard properly in place. Without the rudder, you would have no control, and without your centerboard, your sailboat would be at the mercy of the wind. You would literally be blown from side to side.

To sail, you also need a plan to get from one place to another successfully. As the Roman philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca once said, “If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable.”         

Seneca was right, and not just about sailing. I’ve found sailing to be a very important model for life. In sailing, your plan to get from point A to point B needs to be a zig-zagged plan, since you won’t travel in a straight line. You’ll need to tack and jibe to get where you’re going, since the wind only blows in one direction, and it might not be the direction you’re planning to go. Sometimes you’ll move with the wind, other times against it, and often have to make adjustments, as in life, to reach your goal.      



My Own Life Plan


Just as we set our course when heading out by sea, we need to create our own Life Plans. I started with a Life Plan 18 years ago, and essentially maintain the core concepts of that plan today. 

From that Life Plan, I also create my personal yearly plan at the beginning of the New Year. I carry it around with me every day in my pocket and make changes, just as I would adjust my sailboat.

With the recent holiday of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, I’ve just set my new plan in motion. Last year, my plan included starting a nonprofit organization and making an impact on nonprofit leadership. I worked with and started a Mastermind Group for leaders of some of the most important nonprofits that are meaningful to me. I remained focused on my plan all year, and in the end, the results were quite favorable.

During the year, as part of my plan, I also began a process of learning and studying specific subjects every morning before coming to work. I also committed to taking off one day every other week for pro-bono nonprofit work.

In the end, it was a life-changing year.  While I continue my nonprofit work, this year my plan is to focus more attention on my family.

What Drives You?

Your goals, your Life Plan, and your yearly plans should emerge from your positive life purpose. And that begs the question, what is your purpose? Where does your passion lie? What drives you?

You can look for answers by reviewing your core competencies.  Consider:

1. What energizes you?

2. What do you do really well?

3. In your history, where have you felt the most joy?

4. In your history, where have you seen the most success?

5. In what areas are you the most anxious and enthused to grow and learn more?

What Negative Traits Can You Improve On?


The flip side is comprised of the negative character traits that will have an unfavorable impact upon your life if you maintain them. There’s opportunity here, too; by working on fixing these traits, you can upgrade your life. For example, if you are stingy, you can work on deliberate generosity. This could improve your relationships in business and in all aspects of life.  

See if you can list the positive things that drive you and the negative traits you could fix. To help you, click here for a downloadable pdf worksheet. 

Check out Part 2 and learn how to create your Wheel of Life.

Taking you from where you are to where you want to be,