Blogpost, self-reliance

Everything Happens for a Reason…. Kind of

While stacking chairs after an assembly today with a student, we got to talking about his college choices. He gave me the list of schools and his plans to visit soon in order to make a decision. After getting through his ranking of the schools, he expressed how anxious he was about the decision. When I asked why he was anxious, he said that he didn’t want to make the wrong choice. After which he said, “everything happens for a reason.” This is a phrase that I’ve heard many times over the years and possibly used once or twice. In this instance, I thought it was important that this young man understand something. Sure! Everything happens for a reason but the reason comes after the fact.

People are amazing creatures and one of our best superpowers is the ability to build a narrative around our lives. No matter which school this student chooses, he cannot go back and redo that choice. Even if he transfers to one of the other schools after his first year, it will not be the same experience that he would have had going there as a freshman. So as we (and he) move forward in life, we connect the dots of our lives after things have happened to us. We can only guess about how the dots will unfold in front of us. Even when we choose the most tried and true path, life tends to throw a few roadblocks in our way. AND THAT’S OK!

In 1998 I went to the World Cup with my best friend. We went to 5 matches, visited the Louvre, saw La Sagrada Familia, drank beer at the famous Hof Brau Haus and toured London for 3 days. When I talk about that trip, do I talk about seeing France beat Paraguay in a penalty shootout? Nope! I talk about my friend getting his passport stolen, having to file a police report in Barcelona in Spanish and traveling across the border into France with him not having a passport. These unexpected twists and turns give texture to life that we cannot put a value on before they happen. It is afterward that we get to make up the reason.

I chose to go to Salisbury State University for a lot of good reasons and a few bad reasons. One of the bad reasons was that my girlfriend at the time liked the school and could see herself going there. We broke up a few months later and luckily she didn’t go to SSU. Out of my stupidity though, I found my best friend and fell in love with that place for so many reasons that I could not have predicted.

Best of friends ready to travel together.
I didn’t go looking for a best friend but I found one anyway!

So whether you’re 18 and about to choose a college to attend or in your 50 deciding on switching careers, remember that everything happens for a reason…. but you’re going to make up the reason after the fact anyway. Do the best that you can with the information that you have because no matter what happens, you’re collecting dots that you’ll put together later!

Go get those dots!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

That Diploma in Your Hand (What It Does and Does Not Say)

Senior High School PhotoIt is graduation season!  Whether high school or college or even pre-school, millions of students will be walking forward to receive their diplomas.  This tradition has carried on for centuries and will probably continue into the foreseeable future.  The act of public recognition of achievement is extremely important.  It releases a cascade of chemicals into our systems that act as a reward/marker for the accomplishment.  Our feelings are what drive us to do almost everything in our lives.  So the event is important but what about the paper?  What does it say or not say about us as individuals?

The things, that a diploma is, are numerous.  It is a certificate of completion of requirements.  Depending on the level of study, it may indicate certain levels of outstanding performance.  It is a signal of a certain level of commitment.  At the university level, it is almost a form of tribalism that uses the reputation of the institution to in theory say something about the individual.  All of these and many more are things that a diploma may say.  But even more important for graduates at the moment is what a diploma does not say.

It does not say:

  • That you’re done learning.
  • That you’re smart.
  • That the world now owes you something.
  • That you won’t need to reprove that you deserved to earn the diploma.
  • That you are less than, equal to or better than anyone else with a diploma or without one.
  • That you’re stuck pursuing that one thing for the rest of your life.
  • That the value of the diploma won’t change over time.

Obviously this is just a short list but at this point you probably get the picture.  A diploma is a piece of paper.  In the end it is not the paper that matters, it is you!  You are the one who will go out into the world to make things happen.  Pinning that paper to your chest to use as a shield against all future challenges is a poor strategy.  INSTEAD use the diploma as a milestone.  A marker that delineates the difference between one portion of your life and another.  The story that we tell ourselves about ourselves is extremely important.  So recognize that the paper is flimsy, easily tarnished and not very valuable on its own because another copy is available at a price.  However you have the ability to be anything that you decide to be regardless of the paper.  You are what truly matters and your continued pursuit of life will be the record that you will be judged upon.  There is no other copy of you, even if you’re a twin.  Take your individuality and mix it with what you have learned and pursue those things that create energy within you.  Build a life that you will be excited to get up and live every day!

Best of luck to all of the graduates!

Pete