“I wanted to take a big risk and fail spectacularly.”

According to Matt Wyble, the best way to prepare for his political and business ambitions might just be by emulating “the skills of a nineteenth century soldier.” Although Matt is not at all martial in his attitude, he has demonstrated the tenacity of a warrior in his preparation for an unusual athletic competition, modern pentathlon, which requires combined mastery of running, swimming, fencing, pistol-shooting, and horsemanship.

“Even if you’re good at modern pentathlon, it’s a humbling experience,” Matt says. “You’re never best at any one thing; there’s always someone better than you. It forces you to constantly confront your own shortcomings.” Despite the obstacles, Matt committed to the event and even accepted a detour in his career to dedicate a year of training for the Olympic trials. “My thinking: I lived a safe life. I wanted to take a big risk and fail spectacularly.”

Moving the group’s understanding

If ranking 7th in the United States can be considered a failure, Matt “failed” and indeed, he did not make the Olympic team. But the experience ultimately strengthened him. “’Failing spectacularly,’ has become a mantra for me,” says Matt. “Taking a big risk and learning from it has been really rewarding.”

At HBS, Matt’s sense of individual ambition has also undergone a rewarding transformation. “In our classes, it’s not about who can get the answer quickly, it’s about who can move the group’s understanding forward. That’s a much harder thing to do. It’s often a painful thing to learn – it takes humility and hard work. But here, the emphasis is always on making those around you better.”

While Matt’s understanding of leadership has changed, his love of a challenge has not. At Harvard, he is pursuing the joint JD/MBA in conjunction with Harvard Law School. Ultimately, Matt wants to return to his roots, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, to run for political office. “I want to add value from the business side of things as well,” Matt says. “HBS develops abilities that help me find the best ways to serve my community.”