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Activate Beast Mode

How to talk like a business-school bro

Illustration by Icinori

“Bro, you’re gonna rock your presentation. Initiate beast mode!”

Who uses it: Ivy League b-school students getting in the zone/gym rats/Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch

When you’re a young capitalist on the make, you don’t merely prepare for high-pressure meetings. You go into “beast mode.”

That’s the word that Harvard Business School–types have designated for the aggressive headspace they enter before important tête-à-têtes and job interviews. A young project manager turning down after-hours beers, for instance, may explain that he has to pull an all-nighter, e-mailing, “ACTIVATE EXCEL BEAST MODE.”

The term originates with Sega’s Altered Beast, a video game starring a Roman centurion who could morph into mythical creatures. Its doltish brand of masculinity (the centurion must rescue Athena—you know, the Greek goddess of war?) made the leap to the football world in 2007 when Marshawn Lynch, then a Berkeley undergraduate, told an interviewer he was in “beast mode” when he was on the field. The phrase became Lynch’s nickname and is now employed by jocks everywhere. Today, Twitter is lousy with people getting into #beastmode ahead of their gym routines.

Wall Street likes its slang to be dudely. There was, says the anthropologist Grant McCracken, “a particularly annoying period when people kept asking (or saying) that something ‘hunted.’ As in, ‘I think that new idea really hunts.’ ” The late Nora Ephron remembered a time when businessmen broadcasted their machismo by speaking, it seemed, only in Godfather quotes. McCracken observes that Wall Street lingo has typically sounded “muscular, capable, decisive, and in-the-know,” and not nearly as frenzied as “beast mode.” But today’s MBAs were reared on video games and are entering a Wall Street that recently tanked the global economy and has become the frenetic domain of quants that buy and drop stocks in a fraction of a second. Who could survive the melee that is modern finance, save for someone with the improbable strength of a video-game action hero?

Molly Redden is a staff writer at The New Republic.

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