If I had to boil it down to three Latin phrases… Interroga omnia. Facite quod amatis. Achaeronta movebo.
If there were just three messages I could leave with every student in this community, they would be:
- Question everything
- Do what you want to do – not what you think colleges want you to do
- Raise hell
Too often, we go about life accepting what we are told – or what we observe on first glance – without question.
When any institution or person operates without being held accountable and without question, abuse of power begins to take root.
In politics, this is realized in our campaign finance system, screwed up and gerrymandered electoral system, corruption, and more.
What if someone asked, “Why shouldn’t an independent organization under the Supreme Court draw the electoral districts, instead of the politicians who may benefit from them?”
What if someone asked, “Why should we allow money to influence politics?”
In the media, it’s why Rolling Stone can publish a story of a fictionalized rape, studies can be misinterpreted, and facts twisted to attract viewers.
What if someone asked, “Are we 110 percent certain this happened?
What if someone asked, “Are you sure that’s true, because I read the study and thought it said something else?”
What if someone asked, “Is this a fair representation of the events, and is it telling both sides of the story?”
In education, it is why student privacy can be compromised for ease, a tradition or ceremony can be abandoned without ever consulting students, and a teacher can influence his or her students by presenting his or her opinion as fact.
What if someone asked, “What are the possible downfalls of a totally Google-dependent school?”
What if someone asked “What do the students think about this?”
What if someone asked “What is the other side of this issue?”
In our daily lives, it’s why someone can do stupid things to stay in a “friend” group, fall for someone’s self-interested intentions, or end up at a college only because that’s what his parents wanted.
What if someone asked, “Why do I even want to be friends with these people if I have to go out of my way to feel like I belong?”
What if someone asked, “Why are they telling me this?”
What if someone asked, “Will I be happy here?”
Those last few self-analytical questions can often be the most important.
We should do what makes us happy in life. College isn’t the end goal, and if we do what we love, rather than what we feel we have to do, we produce incredibly more powerful results.
Colleges want to see passion and incredible accomplishment in whatever your “thing” is. So try everything until you find it, and then when you do, give it your all.
Surround yourself with a team of great people who also love what you do, because you’ll always accomplish more that way than you ever could on your own. You’ll make your favorite memories with them, and cherish the time you get to spend “working” when it’s really just hanging out with friends.
If you’re happy with who you are and what you’ve done, the rest will sort itself out.
If at the end of a year, two, or even three, you find yourself dreading the work – quit. Never stop trying new things until you find out what you love. Find what you’re willing to work way past midnight for even though you have a test first period. Find what drives you to work instead of watching the next episode of your favorite TV show. Find what keeps your mind working well past the time your head hits your pillow.
Then, have the guts to follow whatever your thing is. It’s not always easy and if it was, then everyone would do it.
Finally, when you find something that just doesn’t sit right with you, raise hell. Don’t let it boil inside of you – do something about it.
One of my favorite quotes is from Steve Jobs. He said, “Everything around you that you call life, was made up by people that were no smarter than you.”
If there’s something that bothers you, that you think shouldn’t be as it is, don’t lay back – change it. But before you do that, learn everything there is to know about it. Investigate why it is what it is, what alternatives there are, what consequences every change would have, and more.
Be conscientious and deliberate in your approach. Stand up for what you believe in, and be smart in how you do it. Take the high road. Find a grounded and intelligent friend to help check yourself.
Remember that a spotlight brings heat with it, but be careful where and when you shine it.
If you fight for what you believe in, you won’t regret it.
If you do all three of those things, you’ll be three times the person I was ever able to be.