My cousin Alex wrote this letter to his younger sister as she got ready to head off to college. He’s got a great voice and great message.
How I Chose a Major.
My name is Alex. I am 50% German, 1.6% Sioux, and I grew up in the great land of Wisconsin. I am in college.
Questions that people ask me frequently include: What are you studying? What do you want to do with your education? Is there any beer left?
To answer the first, I major in a mouthful: Supply Chain Management and Entrepreneurship with minors in Social Entrepreneurship and Music Industry. In my free time, I am normally either learning (and subsequently babbling) about environmental sustainability, literally stopping to smell the roses, or playing tunes with Royale [the band] (#indoctrination #shamelessplug #clickhere4tunes). My minors, which take up the smallest chunk of my undergraduate workload, take up the largest chunk of my personal life and are the areas in which I am actually planning career and life options.
Most of the businesspeople and business students I have met through my education are very different from myself. They communicate with professional business courtesies, they are driven and motivated by money, and, without giving thought to many long-term implications, they love when consumers consume.
The people I live with, on the other hand, are exactly like me. They would be more than happy to televisually absorb BBC’s Planet Earth for hours, they conduct scientific studies comparing intoxication level to hangover severity, they take their sweet time moving from place to place, and they love, like I do, to create more than they consume, whether it be music, dance, dinner, community, or anything else that they have the skills to create.
I’m not by any means suggesting that I or my friends are “better people” than the financiers with whom I study or the corporate employers for whom I have worked. Everyone in the world can agree on things like “I want to have a comfortable life” or “I want my children to go to college” or even “We are doing illogical, shortsighted, self-endangering things to the planet, and if we don’t stop, no one will be comfortable or go to college because we will all be quite dead.” However, everyone comes from different life circumstances, has access to different information, and has different ways of understanding and addressing these challenges.
The core reason I settled on my choice of friends is because they share all of my languages: English, science, music, art, environmental consciousness, humor, and ambitions. The reason I chose my major is because almost all of my professors and classmates speak few, if any, of my languages. So , I look at every single day I spend with them as a day of educating myself how to understand other people’s languages: profit, investments, accounting, corporations, politics, and money.
To answer the second question, kindly allow me to ramble a little more.
People usually assume that you go to school to study your passions, then you graduate and hopefully get a job in that field, but I believe that this type of learning strategy in any subject is less well-rounded, less eye-opening, and unfortunately makes people less likely to predict and control their career, their success, and their happiness.
I chose to study things I don’t understand instead of my passions, which I naturally pursue outside of class. Hopefully, I will translate all of that learning into a career through which I convince as many people as possible to consume less of Earth’s limited resources and create more uniquely human achievements like equality, art, literature, music, or community, all of which are unlimited. I want to make a positive, lasting impact on the world through my career and life, but I have realized that if I alienate people that don’t think or interact the way I do, then my impact is going to be limited only to the Alexes of the world.
No matter what major you end up choosing, if you want to make an impact in any career, make sure it makes you well-rounded as a person. Realistically, it takes a lifetime to become qualified in any area of expertise. Chances are that I won’t be a qualified social entrepreneur when I graduate, nor will I instantly be a professional musician. Chances are that Simba never would have toppled Scar’s totalitarian regime had he not eaten that first slimy grub. Your classwork and formal education is important as a way of proving to others that you have the foundation for a successful career, but all of your memorable, meaningful education is inevitably going to come from your interactions with other people and your understanding of what connects them.
To answer the third question, let’s examine some key facts.
Fact #1: I am in college.
Fact #2: I am from Wisconsin.
So nope, I guess that means there is no beer left. These new developments lead me to the conclusion that it is time to stop writing and start beer-running.