Sometimes we forget that there’s much more to life than school

I failed my computer science exam last week. For a couple of hours after the exam, I was feeling hopeless. How am I going to major in computer science if I can’t even pass this exam? How am I going to get a job? I usually get A’s on my exams and I was kicking myself for not studying more.

The day before the exam, I didn’t study at all. Instead, I went to a Lindsey Stirling concert and then later went to celebrate Obama’s victory over Romney.

And you know what? After those few hours were over, I don’t regret it at all. I would still go to the concert and then go celebrate Obama’s victory. I don’t know if I’ll ever see Lindsey Stirling live again and she was amazing. I definitely won’t ever see Obama take office again.

Sometimes we get stuck in the mindset that doing well in school is the only path we can take. We want to do well so we try for great grades. Our focus shifts from assignment to assignment, exam to exam. Once we’re done with one project, it’s on to the next one. Our goal becomes to get an “A” and we work incredibly hard so we can get that “A”. We obsess over it. We have to do well.

But for what end? Why do we need that “A” so badly? Employers don’t care. Maybe you want to go to graduate school and then you need the grades. But why do you want to go to grad school? It’s not for everybody. Largely, the answer is we don’t. And we certainly don’t need to obsess over it.

In our effort to do well in school, we lose sight of what is truly important and perspective of the real world.

Today I heard a speech from Bernard Amedei, a professor of Civil Engineering at the University of Colorado, that reminded me how much more to life there is than just school. He spoke about the need for engineers to advance society. Not just by creating new technologies, but also by creating affordable and accessible technologies. By going out to developing countries — countries where clean water is not a given, and making technologies that will give them clean water. Countries where not going to school is the norm and advancing their societies so that going to school is the norm.

Professor Amedei talked about his time in a village in Belize. In that village, there was a 7 year old girl who couldn’t go to school because she had to carry water all day from the river to the village. The river was 120 feet from the village. While he was there, people in the village told him to build something that would bring the water to them so that the girl could go to school. This village didn’t have electricity. After a couple of months, he was able to install a pump that utilized a nearby waterfall to pump water to the village which finally allowed the girl to go to school.

It really gives you perspective on how good of a life you live when you hear about stories like this. Some people in the world are just trying to survive, just trying to scrap enough food and water to feed their family and you are worried about whether you get a 95 on an exam or an 85. Because one gives you an “A” and the other a “B”.

And here’s the point: you do what you do to change this world. It’s not about getting the grade. It’s not about making money. It’s about making the world a better place. And you don’t have to go to a developing nation to help them advance their society to do so. That’s just one option. You can advance your field. You can help out people who are less fortunate than you. You can smile more than you did the day before.

You owe it to other people to do the best you can to change the world. Even if the best you can do is just making someone else a tiny bit happier. And that’s what school is about. School is about learning the tools we need to make the most positive change we can. We easily lose sight of this as we’re working hard to learn what we need to learn.

The next time you’re stressing over your grade, just remember that what you’re doing is far more than the grade. You’re in school because you want to change the world someday. It’s alright if you mess up a couple of times; it doesn’t take away from your goal of changing the world. You can always learn the material later. Because why should people care that you didn’t know something at some point in the past?

So go out and experience everything you want to experience. Learn everything that you need to learn. Once you do that, go out and change the world. We need you to.



Filed under Finding Yourself

6 responses to “Sometimes we forget that there’s much more to life than school

  1. I’m not gonna lie. I freakin’ love your blogs.

  2. jscribble

    hitting .300 makes you an all-star in baseball
    shooting 50% makes you an all-star in basketball
    “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed. ” –Michael Jordan

    “Why do we fall Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.”
    –Thomas Wayne

    “You have four years to be irresponsible here. Relax. Work is for people with jobs. You’ll never remember class time, but you’ll remember time you wasted hanging out with your friends. So, stay out late. Go out on a Tuesday with your friends when you have a paper due Wednesday. Spend money you don’t have. Drink ’til sunrise. The work never ends, but college does…” –Tom Petty
    (Ok maybe that one’s a little extreme but whatever)

    “I learn something new every day, and it’s never during class.”
    –Joe Benapfl (That’s right I just quoted myself)

    “All that we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.” –Gandalf

    “If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything. I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes.” –John Wooden

    You just climbed aboard one of my favorite trains of thought. My ultimate motivation is just knowing that I have an army of friends and family (I just look through my facebook profile) that will back me up and root for me to succeed. It’s a very encouraging thought. Sometimes you just have to take the medicine but medicine always helps out in the end. College is more than just a collection of classes, otherwise you could just be attending the local CC. It’s about being intellectually challenged every single day. But just don’t forget you’re paying the big bucks for. Cal admitted you for a reason, and it’s up to you to decide what that reason is. Great article.

  3. I honestly have to give myself this sort of speech every time I think my life is over after I fail a quiz or don’t get the grade I want. Good to know other people at Berkeley are as human 🙂

  4. thechrissyt

    “So go out and experience everything you want to experience. Learn everything that you need to learn. Once you do that, go out and change the world. We need you to.”

    Great piece of writing. 🙂

  5. Reblogged this on kismetjournal and commented:
    “there’s more to life than grades.”

  6. seth lee

    I totally agree with your thinking and sort of find myself in the same boat but in high school. So many people are caught up in this mind-set that getting good grades is the only way to have a great life and that school is the ultimate decider if you will be successful or not. Well anyways thanks for writing this article and hope you find the right path in life. 🙂

Join the Conversation

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s