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New Year’s Resolution Part Two

During my time here at Aquinas I have been privileged enough to have an expansive, modern, and beautiful library to go to. As I have previously stated my New Year’s resolution is to read more books. Not textbooks or excerpts, but real tangible books. The first one I picked up was a compilation of the detailed notes of the late and great 40th president of the United States–Illinois’ very own Ronald Reagan! Actor extraordinaire and General Electric spokesman turned political A-lister, Reagan was known to keep a highly organized series of notes. Jotting down anything that caught his mind, Reagan had organized his notes into headings of Politics, Political theater, Religion, and my personal favorite: Humor.

Reagan also enjoys proverbs, Christian, Irish and the like with no specific favorite. While this book was put together after his death, and it does include political ideology, it takes no political stance. It is purely a work of an average man, put together after his death. The fact that Reagan, who is fondly known for his roaring and rousing speeches kept detailed notes is fascinating to me as a student of history, and an American citizen. From Daniel Webster and John Stuart Mill to Pope Pious 12th and Aesop, Reagan covers all aspects of humanity. He really is a jack-of-all-trades, in a literary and entertainment sense.

Some of my favorite transcriptions are: “Those who expect to reap the blessing of freedom must undertake to support it,” from Patrick Henry. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “The hero is no braver than an ordinary man – but he is brave five minutes longer.” On Humor, Reagan credits other politicians, proverbs, and humorists but some of the best sayings come from unaccredited sources. Which leads the mind to think: how does a common phrase exist for so long with no creditable author? What if you were that author, how would you feel to be so popularly read, but given no credit?

Here I will leave you with a pro-American Cold War era piece from an anonymous source: “Adam and Eve must have been Russian. They had no home, no clothing, and only one apple between them and called it Paradise.”

New Year’s Resolution

My New Year’s resolution was to read books outside of class. I used to read quite often, however the rigors of college life limited my free time and hindered my ability to read during the semester. I enjoy nonfiction, especially biographies of great men and women who have overcome adversity. I am currently reading a book entitled Mindset by Dr. Carol Dweck.

This book talks about how important taking the right mindset is in our life. Dr. Dweck points out two distinct mindsets: the fixed mindset and the growth mindset. The fixed mindset takes things such as intelligence to be unchanging, one is either smart or not. The growth mindset allows room for growth, that one may not be intelligent now but can become intelligent with hard work and dedication. The most interesting part of the book for me was on effort. The author criticizes the current generation for not putting in effort as a way to save face for our intelligence. It is really bothersome when people brag, “I got a B and I didn’t even study.”  To me, and to the author of Mindset, that is a waste.

For our generation, nothing is harder than saying “I gave it my all and it wasn’t good enough.” Due to this attitude, we don’t try as hard. We don’t push ourselves to the point where we learn, the point that lies just outside of our comfort zone. This attitude is very threatening. Human innovation is the result of great intelligence combined with great effort. After reading this book, I am going to add to my resolution that I will take the growth mindset: I will put effort into all I do and I will not be afraid of failure.

The Moment It Clicked

The moment in your life when everything “clicks” is a special one. Some people, admittedly, will never have that moment. I am not among those people. My life “clicked” approximately two years ago. I was living in Spain at the time. I had just completed my freshman year of college, one in which I was fortunate to have started 19 of 21 soccer games and had clung on to a 4.0GPA, with the rigors of the calculus cycle behind me. Pretty successful by most standards. I didn’t know why I was studying. I frankly didn’t care. My parents had raised me to try my best at everything and I, like a faithful golden retriever, was blindly following those instructions. Then, in Spain, watching my new found friend Jose Manuel leave for the bus station at 4:45am, it clicked. Jose Manuel had a two hour commute to school every day. The commute consisted of a lot of walking, two trains, a bus, and was followed by more walking. It was in that moment that I felt embarrassed knowing that I had skipped class in order to avoid the 3 minute walk from the residence hall to the academic building in the cold. It is unfathomable to the majority of the 7 billion people on the planet how spoiled I have been in my life. I have lived a solid middle class existence. I’ve never worried about money, or food, or doubted that life would work itself out. It was in this moment that I realized my charmed existence was, and is, going to be challenged.

While I may have a higher GPA and done more extracurricular activities than the guy next to me in Grand Rapids, the second largest city in a state with a declining population, I am not competing with just him for my future job. I am competing with Jose Manuel from Spain, and the guy next to him. In classrooms all over the world, there are students who are trying harder and studying more. My advice to you, and hopefully this post can be something that allows your life to also “click,” is to choose a school that will help prepare you for this undeniable barrage of talent that is being poured into our economy after college graduation. Get the technical skills, study and memorize, but even more importantly, learn how to communicate, learn how to delve deeper, solve complex issues, and develop the skills of a critical thinker that spurs intellectual curiosity, lifelong learning, and encourages the free exchange of ideas! Aquinas has made me well-versed in all of the previous; it can help you as well.

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