If You’re Not Gambling, You’re Losing: A Lesson in Probability & How Life Works

I want to make a bet with you. I’m going to flip a quarter. If it lands heads up, I’ll give you $200. If it lands tails up, you owe me $100. Would you take it?


The Risk-Averse Mind

Chances are you thought about it shortly and said, “No, I don’t think I’ll take it.” You’re pretty smart though, you KNOW that this bet is in your favor. The expected value is $200 x 50% – ($100 x 50%) = $50. Mathematically you SHOULD take this bet, but you don’t because losing $100 hurts more than winning $200 feels awesome.


This was the scenario posed by Daniel Kahneman in his book, Thinking, Fast and Slow which covers a wide array of biases that are built into the human race. As soon as I finished the chapter on this topic, I knew I had to write about it – it has forever changed the way I view my day to day life.


Back to the bet. Most people would say no since $100 is nothing to sniff at for the average person. That’s completely understandable. But what if you could make this wager 100 times? You’d be a fool to turn this down. As said in Kahneman’s book, “The aggregate gamble of one hundred 50-50 lose $100/gain $200 bets had an expected return of $5000 with only a 1/2300 chance of losing any money and merely a 1/62000 chance of losing more than $1000.” $5000? Sign me up!

Here’s Where You’re Losing

Once again, we know that statistically we should take the single bet too, but we don’t because losing hurts much more than winning heals. The only reason we took the second one was because the probability of losing was so diminished that the chances of being hurt seemed miniscule. I’m asking you to stop thinking like this. This mentality is costing you your life’s potential.


If you would take the multiple bet in life, you’d be foolish not to take the single one. Think about this. Every month, week, or even day you are presented the single bet in some way, shape, or form. Because of the way that your mind works, you turn this bet down almost every single time. Why? As a human being, you have a limited view on the proposal placed in front of you in the grand scheme of things. When you aggregate all these single bets across your life together, the chances you’ll come out on top overall are extremely high. By turning these chances down, you’re constantly leaving money on the table. Life in itself is the 100 bet scenario.


Of course you’re going to lose a few, but you’ll win some as well. As long as you keep this in mind, you’ll be alright. Financial traders do this day in, day out, every day.


Now, just like Kahneman, I have to give a disclaimer. This thought is only going to work with “bets” where there is a good upside and you have a decent chance of succeeding. Don’t expect to become the CEO of a multinational corporation if you’re taking multiple chances with a 2% chance of success and a large downside.


Life’s Chances

I’m writing this the day after I quit my first post-MBA job to join a startup as well as work on a few side ventures with some friends. I have quite a few bets going at the same time right now. I could lose on every single one of these, but I’m fine with that. I can always bounce back. But…if these hit, life will be pretty interesting over the next few years. My ask is that you go grab your own dice.

Guest Blog: Is Getting An MBA Truly an Investment in Yourself?

“You should look at it as an investment in yourself.”


This is the common advice given to potential applicants when weighing the costs associated with business school. The quote evokes imagery of a person going to a race track counter, slamming a briefcase of money on the table, and opening it up in a dramatic fashion before saying “I’d like to wager $200,000 on ME.”   It makes sense right? We constantly make bets on other people, whose actions we cannot influence, to improve our lives.   Why not do the same with ourselves?

I’m not so sure it’s the correct mentality to have however.


A Counter Idea


Full transparency here… I graduated in June 2016 and my loans have entered repayment. Each month I have the very real moment of deducting large amounts from my bank account to pay lenders. This process will continue for the next 10 years. As a result, I think about this topic multiple times a day. I find myself asking, “Was this really the right investment in myself?” It’s almost akin to borrowing money from a loan shark to get a heart transplant. Surely it was for a good cause. No one can dispute that… But was this the best way to do it? I’m on the hook for these payments no matter what happens in the future.

I want to be clear, I am not saying that people should not take out loans to further their education. In many cases it makes perfect sense. What I’m suggesting is that potential applicants give as much time and thought to the situation as they can. There are multiple ways to approach this. Let’s start by performing some simple ROI calculations. (I have attached a tool* that may help you calculate your ROI.) This tool compares the cost of your MBA with the forgone wages from deciding not to continue working. I used this tool when I was applying and you may be useful for you. It incorporates a fair amount of assumptions but will at least get you in the ballpark.





I want to be clear on my intentions. I want to help you explore your options. It is not my intention to delve deeply into financial theory. For the purposes of this article I will keep it simple and use the Single Stage Net Present Value (NPV), which assumes a constant salary growth in both the pre-MBA and post-MBA scenarios.

Let’s look at Scenario A:

Alice is making roughly $50,000 a year working as a Marketing Associate. She aspires to be an Assistant Brand Manager at a top CPG company post-MBA. Business school presents her with the opportunity to double her salary in a span of two years. (Average ABM salary + bonus = $101K) For a person in this situation, taking two years from work and having a significant financial gain is a seemingly easy choice. The tool supports this theory as it shows that she will breakeven in five years after graduation.

Now let’s look at Scenario B:

John is a Mechanical Engineer making $70,000. He also aspires to work in brand management post-MBA. Entering his numbers into the spreadsheet tells a different story. It will take him over 10 years to reach a breakeven point. This is not too surprising given that he is not aiming for a high income post-MBA job like consulting or banking. He ultimately ends up making a similar salary to the one he was making before attaining his MBA.

Comparison of Alice and John. See spreadsheet for more details.

Do Numbers Tell the Whole Story?


While it is nice to perform numerical analysis, perhaps we should consider some non-monetary factors. Happiness has to account for something right? I know many of my classmates were downright miserable in their jobs prior to business school. For these persons, it was not solely about the money. It was about the opportunity as well. A full-time MBA program provided the opportunity to change jobs, switch locations, take a break from work, and ultimately increase their happiness. The potential hope that the future provided outweighed any financial consideration that would be gained by staying at their job. I wish I could share a nifty spreadsheet to help you evaluate these things, but I can’t. This is the part you have to know for yourself. Take the time before business school to really envision the type of life you want for yourself. Start by asking yourself the following questions:

  • What activities leave me the most fulfilled?
  • Is there a way I can incorporate these things into my life on a regular basis?
  • Is business school going to help me get there?


Still in doubt? Check out ‘After School: Is Getting an MBA Really Worth It?’ For further perspective in the MBA decision process.


Do I Have Second Thoughts?


As much as I hate making loan payments, I do not have any regrets. I’ll say that again… I DO NOT HAVE ANY REGRETS! I was able to get a well-respected, top notch education. Furthermore, business school expanded my network and introduced me to a way of thinking that I would have never been exposed to without it. During that period I met lifelong friends and was able to travel the world. I cannot put a dollar value on that experience, but it meant a lot to me.

So I leave you with my perspective as well as a call for action. Take the spreadsheet and look at your situation through a financial lens. But don’t stop there, talk to friends, reach out to alumni, and gather as much perspective as you can. Ultimately this is a major decision and you’ll have to live with it. What you cannot do is simply let your financial future be determined by an empowering quote. Too often the very people who are expected to be the financial leaders of the future, forego even the most rudimentary financial analysis before making one of the biggest financial decisions of their life. Can you put a price on changing your life? I’m not sure. What I can tell you is that asking myself “What if?” was a price that I was not willing to pay. Neither should you.


*Full credit for this spreadsheet goes to ryguy904 of GMATclub. The spreadsheet remains unedited, save for updates to the years used in the formulas, and additional tabs highlighting the scenarios in this article. It is being shared to help others. It is not the intent of the author to take credit for this work. The specific thread on the spreadsheet can be found here.


About the Author

Montoya Trice is a 2016 graduate of the MMM Program at the Kellogg School of Management. He is currently working in the Leadership Development Program at AT&T. He has done projects for John Deere, Maserati, Mattel, and Kellogg Marketing & Communications. He can be reached on Twitter and on LinkedIn.

Profiles in Color: Shannon Jones

For Chicago barber, stylist, and “Timeout at Shannon’s” CEO Shannon Jones, the job of a barber doesn’t end with a haircut. Instead, Shannon has dedicated his life to a career that embodies the culture and social importance of the barbershop and its role as a vital institution. Timeout has been featured in several magazines including Men’s Health and Slam. Shannon would become the first barber featured on the cover of the Wall Street Journal. Shannon also launched “:20 Second Timeout Foundation: and “The Annual Driving 4 Books Golf Invitational” as vehicles to give back to the community. Click the link below to hear Shannon’s story.




For more information on Timeout at Shannon’s visit us at: www.timeoutatshannons.com. Learn more about his foundation at: www.20secondtimeout.org/#foundation.

Profiles In Color: Candace Ramsey

Profiles in Color is here again, this time with another one of my business school classmates, Candace Ramsey.

Growing up in Philly (by way of Chicago, Michigan, New Hampshire and Boston), Candace is the daughter of a professor who learned very early the power of education.  She received her B.A. from Spelman College and started her career working the in the investment banking industry at SunTrust Bank in Atlanta, but realized this wasn’t a fit for a long-term career.  After attending Ross Business School at the University of Michigan for her MBA, she is still navigating life to find her true passion, but the journey has been both challenging and rewarding.  She still currently works in finance, but is also Founder and Editor in Chief of The 365 Project blog (follow @365daysofblackhistory on Instagram). Click the link below to hear Candace’s story.

Visit The 365 Project on Facebook to learn more about Candace’s inspirational project.

You can also follow @camithainc on Instagram for the latest updates or visit camitha.com to view all episodes.

Profiles in Color: Carlton Gordon

It’s Wednesday again and Profiles in Color is back. This week features another one of my friends, Carlton Gordon, Jr.

Growing up on the Southside of Chicago, Carlton quickly realized the value of aspiring for more than his surroundings. After receiving a BA in Business Administration from Morehouse College, he’s worked at top companies including Bank of America and PwC. While growing his professional career, Carlton balances being a husband and father to his family and being active in the community. Click the link below to hear Carlton’s story.

Profiles in Color: Carlton Gordon

You can also follow @camithainc on Instagram for the latest updates or visit camitha.com to view all episodes.

The Real Issue with Diversity & Tech

What if I told you that the tech industry’s diversity problem is not the tech companies’ fault? Now, what if I told you that all the press we’ve heard on the subject over the last 2 plus years has been largely misguided? The statistics are abysmal. That cannot be denied, but as every data analyst can tell you, statistics only tell part of the story. The other parts lead to one conclusion: it’s about time that minorities started their own tech companies.


Stats Recap


Let’s get caught up. May 2014. Google releases its diversity numbers for the first time:




June 2014. Facebook releases its diversity numbers for the first time:




For the next few months, all hell broke loose online:




Here are the 2016 stats:




Not much different, right? Two years isn’t a long time, but the lack of any progress is somewhat concerning. Facebook and Google hardly make up the whole of Silicon Valley, but they are two of the biggest players in the area. They are indicative of the state of the rest of the industry.


It’s Not the Pipeline, It’s the Hiring


The “Pipeline” has been the hot topic of this whole conversation, but as a number of commentators have pointed out, the pipeline is not the problem. It’s the hiring. According to a 2014 USA Today story, “prestigious” colleges and universities graduate twice as many black and hispanic students with technology degrees as employers hire. These graduates were able to succeed in their studies with their peers, but somehow this did not translate to the workplace. Something is missing here.


It’s Tough Being a Minority in Tech


What do you get when you get a tech person from a nontraditional background? Someone who has no choice but to make it. Let me share some of my own story as an example. When I selected computer engineering as my major back in 2005, I had no idea what a computer engineer actually did. All I knew was that engineers created things, and I loved computers.


What happened next was the hardest 5 years of my life. Unbeknownst to me was the fact that so many of my classmates had been around computers and programming for years. It was somewhat deflating to know I was behind my peers before I even started. Minority engineers know this story all too well.


It takes a village to raise an engineer. I quickly found out that unless you were near genius level, you weren’t going to make it out of Computer Engineering alone. I found it difficult to find study partners, as I was often the only black person in my class. This was no surprise – people associate with those who are similar to them. As a result, I had to go out of my way to force myself into other social groups. Honestly, no one wants to study with the black dude. The other ethnic groups had their circles already, why did they need me? I had to go out of my way to prove my worth in my group projects.


Future engineers, designers, & doctors.


Added to this was the financial difficulty. I had to work as many as three jobs at a time to support myself on top of whatever loans I had to take out to stay in school for the semester. Speaking of loans, that was a nightmare in itself. Almost every semester at school I was threatened to get kicked out because my loans couldn’t get approved on my family’s credit. It was certainly a tough time. This story is not unique. It’s the everyday minority in tech story. There far more extreme encounters. It’s just hard to manage all of this as a teenager out on his own.


Add a little financial difficulty here, some working just to get by there, and you’ve got a situation where not many make it in a field that has the highest attrition rate of any major. There’s nothing to feel sorry for here though. Minorities are survivors. They have to hustle to get where they want to be. They have to endure being the outcasts for a few years. Despite all of this, they still succeed and make it through. Who wouldn’t want a candidate with this type of tenacity? This difference in experience between the peer groups can be a source of much creativity.


The Loud Minority


Whenever you log onto a social media platform, it is hard to avoid any recent trends that haven’t originated or been influenced by a minority culture. According to Nielsen’s report, “Young, Connected and Black”, 55% of African American’s spend an hour or more on social media compared to 49% of the rest of the population. The Hispanic Millennial Project reported that Hispanic Millennial’s Instagram use trails only that of African Americans among ethnic groups.


Minorities are the greatest social media influencers in the world and are among the most tech savvy people in the world. Why don’t they actually produce the technology? Does it make sense to keep contributing to platforms that do not serve the best interest of their communities? This is why minorities should create their tech companies. You simply will not see tech diversity numbers turn around any other way.


Over the last 2+ years, we’ve heard the word culture be thrown around repeatedly in the diversity discussion. While it is easy to get sick of hearing this, there is a logical reason for the emphasis. Let’s face it, company culture is the most difficult thing to change in an organization. Why is this? It starts from day one. You rarely ever hear a founder say I’m starting this company specifically with this culture when there’s only 3 people working on the project. The culture is just who this group of people is. Herein lies the problem. They will in turn hire people who are like them – people who fit into the culture. This culture and feel grows as the company grows. Sooner than you know it, you have an organization that looks like the rest of the companies in Silicon Valley. As a result, diversity initiatives won’t ever be reached.


Breaking into Tech


How do they go about it? Let’s say there are two groups of minorities out there now: those in tech and those outside. Those in you in tech have to realize how valuable you are. You are in the industry. You have contacts. You know what the deal is. If you don’t know how to create an application on the development platform of choice, you know someone who can point you in the right direction. Start working on something for yourself, regardless of how busy you are. You can keep kicking this can down the road, but you are only delaying the progress of those who come after you. If you have the ability to lead and create something, do it.


Those on the outside looking in: it’s time for you to get scrappy. As much as I’d love to tell you to jump in and start a technology enabled venture, I realize that’s a suicide mission. You need to be working within the tech environment first. If you intend to build something, then I’d suggest that you save up money for a few months, check out some financing options, and enroll in a coding bootcamp. This is a drastic change, but more and more of your peers are doing this right now. Do you want to look back at this period of time in a few years and regret that you didn’t take the chance because of some risk aversion? After you get your tech skills up, go work for a tech company. Give it a year a two and be a sponge. This is your chance to learn the game. Soak up all the information you can, both technical and strategic. When you think you’re ready, start working on your venture on the side.


There has never been an easier time in the history of the world to start a business. If you want a drastic change in the way minorities are represented in tech, you need to take drastic action. Minorities are survivors. Despite starting off a few steps behind, we still manage to succeed. Minorities are creators. We bring content to the world every day. It’s time that we also benefit from our contributions.

Profiles in Color: Nkem Nwankwo

It’s still Black History Month and I’ve got a special Profiles in Color episode for you. This one is featuring…myself! Last week (feat. Kareem Edwards) is a tough act to follow, so I hope you enjoy this one. Find out how I came to the decision to go back to school for my MBA.

Born in Nigeria and raised in the US, Nkem took a naive fascination with technology and made it a career. After receiving a BS in Computer Engineering, he went on to work as a Software Engineer and a Product Manager at John Deere in Davenport, IA. After that, Nkem attended University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business where he received his MBA.

Nkem is now a Product Manager for Microsystems, a legal software company in the Chicago area. He is also the author of the book After School: Is Getting an MBA Really Worth It? and the After School blog. Click the link below to hear Nkem’s story.

Profiles in Color: Nkem Nwankwo

You can also follow @camithainc on Instagram for the latest updates or visit camitha.com to view all episodes.

Queens to Kraft: Kareem Edwards

It’s time for our first Profiles in Color video! Check it out:


Kareem grew up in a single parent household in Queens, NY. A first-generation college student, he received a full-tuition scholarship through the Posse Foundation to DePauw University. While at DePauw, Kareem received a degree in Mathematics and met his wife, Janelle.

He went on to work at companies including Lehman Brothers, Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Kraft-Heinz. As a true leader in the workplace and community, he was honored by being selected into Chicago Crain’s 20 in their 20s Inauguration Class. Visit camitha.com to hear his story.


Watch Profiles in Color: Kareem Edwards


Find out more about the education organization, Camitha, here.

If you would like to participate/be interviewed for the blog, contact me at nkem.nwankwo@lifeafterschool.co.

Something Different for You to Watch

It’s been a while, huh? I’ve actually been taking a break from blogging to work on my next project (top secret…not really).

If you didn’t already know, it’s Black History Month over here in the US, and I’d like to show you a special series that my friend and Ross classmate, Tony Rice, has been working on.

“Profiles in Color” is a video-documentary series showcasing the personal and professional testimonies of successful people of color. These days, the only people of color you see in the media are athletes or entertainers. There’s much more to being black than that! So we decided to share our stories.

Watch the “Profiles In Color” Intro

All these people went to business school. It may help to listen to their stories and see what inspired them to make the jump. You’d be surprised how much you have in common. Why else? I’m in an episode! Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll be rolling them out so stay tuned.

Check out Tony’s education organization here.

If you would like to participate/be interviewed for the blog, contact me at nkem.nwankwo@lifeafterschool.co.

I Want an MBA. Where Do I Start?

Last week we discussed 5 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t (and 6 reasons why you should) Get an MBA. This week, we continue the journey. The following is an excerpt from After School.


So what should you do? I have some quick recommendations. Just my thoughts though—everyone’s journey is different:


  1. Write down what you’re good at functionally.
  2. Write down what interests you.
  3. Map out how your experiences and what you’re good at relate to what interests you.
  4. If you have gaps in this map, take note of these.
  5. Investigate whether an MBA can help you fill these gaps.
  6. Ask yourself whether the MBA is the only way to fill them. Ask yourself why you need to get it. Then ask yourself why you need the answer to that previous question. Keep going until you can’t answer anymore, and think about other ways to obtain what you’re seeking.
  7. Read this book.
  8. Prepare for the GMAT/GRE.
  9. Research and select target schools. Ideally they should be good at what you’re interested in.
  10. Crush the GMAT/GRE.
  11. Apply to your target schools.


For a head start and some structure, check out my Four-Day Career Planner at http://www.lifeafterschool.co/#free-workbook.


If you would like to participate/be interviewed for the blog, contact me at nkem.nwankwo@lifeafterschool.co.