I just spent a few days on the campus of Pepperdine University in Malibu, California, and collaborated with some educators about education reform, the local and global impact of Pepperdine, the role of the church in education, and how to rebuild a broken nation through alternative education. Look, Mom, I’m actually doing something with my life! It’s always funny for me to look back on the past two years and ponder what my life would look like had I gone to college in 2011. That’s actually one of the most frequent questions I ask myself: what if?
What if I had scored well on that SAT in high school? What if I had applied to Harvard? What if I hadn’t written a book about revolutionizing education? What if I had focused all of my energy on football instead of writing and entrepreneurship? What if I hadn’t taken the road less traveled by? Would that have made all the difference?
I think it is important to know why you’re doing what you’re doing. It is important to be intentional about your actions, because there are so many paths we can take in life. One of my all time favorite quotes is from R. W. Emerson:
Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.
In 2011, when my senior year of high school was nearing its inevitable death, I asked my friends why they were going to college. Most of them said that their parents told them to, or that the school told them to, or because they can’t get a job without a college degree. Others didn’t even know why they were going to college. I even got this response:
“Well it can’t be all that bad if everyone else is doing it, right?”
Yes it can. And it is. Because you don’t even know why you’re giving roughly four of your arguably best years into the hands of a higher education institution, like that’s your only viable option.
If we aren’t intentional about where we’re going and what we’re doing in life, we’ll eventually find ourselves in a bitter nostalgia, regretting the lost opportunities we could’ve taken. Or we keep hashtagging “yolo” on Twitter and ignore the art of making good decisions, lie to ourselves by saying that it doesn’t matter, that we’re young, that we don’t care, and get a misspelled calligraphy like “No Regretts” tattooed on that popular area just above the derrière.
Someone at Pepperdine said that much of the Western youth meanders through life with no direction and no mission. It’s the ever so prevalent and most widely accepted socioeconomic dogma explained in this little clerihew:
Jonathan Edward Mule
Always got good grades in school
Went on to work, to earn
Paid his taxes and was laid to burn
Of course we can also be intentional about living an anonymous, inconspicuous life without taking arms against a sea of troubles. Advocating for peace and love is best done using diplomatic tools such as neutral smiles and harmless words, right? I can totally understand the desire to have such a lifestyle. But then why go to college? Most higher education institutions attempt to equip their students with the necessary tools to intentionally influence the world in great ways. So it’s kind of ironic when people want to remain unnoticed while attending a prestigious school.
I didn’t want to live like that, but I also didn’t want to go to college. I had to come up with a feasible alternative. Something that was just as good as or even better than the traditional college route. I had to figure out the Quo Vadis question for my own life, because I didn’t want to go where the path may lead. Thus I created two lists:
1. List of things I am interested in
2. List of things I want to do
I connected with people who were doing what I wanted to do and I learned everything I possibly could from them within a period of six months. After those six months, I asked my friends what they were studying in business school and told them what I had learned in the meantime. They were surprised by how much I learned in that “semester.”
Here’s the bottom line:
Know what you’re doing and know why you’re doing it. If you can do that, you are able to model a life of purpose to your peers and the general youth. And that’s some pretty badass greatness right there.
Living an intentional life motivates and encourages those who have yet to discover it. – Jonathan E. Mule