Lead Story

The inherent value of ideas

Scott Shaver, April 25th, 2016

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We’re coming down the final stretch now. There’s only a few weeks left in the semester (and my college career, for that matter), and we’re talking about the most important pieces of wisdom I’ve picked up – the things I’ve learned that will change the way I live the rest of my life.

Today, I want to focus on just one thing. It may not be the most practical thing I’ve learned in college, but I believe in it just as much as I believe in the power of humble leadership or the value of reading good books.

I want to talk about the inherent value of ideas.

Ideas are the lifeblood of the business world. They’re the driving force behind every successful business and every successful person. No company has ever accomplished something worthwhile without being based on an incredible idea. Apple was founded on the idea that a computer should be accessible and useful for everyone. Southwest was based on the idea that flights should be inexpensive enough for anyone to fly, and that customers should thoroughly enjoy that experience. These are more than just valuable ideas – they’re the foundation of these companies.

The same goes with people. No one has ever achieved purposeful success by keeping their head down and quieting creativity. No, it’s the innovators, problem-solvers and ideators who make a difference in this world. As our working world moves away from performing tasks and towards creatively solving problems, the value of ideas only grows.

I love this process. I’ll spend days or weeks entranced with some idea, working through it over and over in my head until it becomes fully formed and heads towards practicality. And there’s value in that process for me. It’s relaxing and joyful to work on solving a new problem. I feel like I’m at my best when I’m creating.

I’ve learned a few things in this process:

1. Creating is fun, but applying ideas is hard.

I’m a dreamer, but not necessarily a schemer. I’ve found that having people around who can make good ideas a reality is an absolute necessity.

2. The best ideas solve a problem that a lot of people deal with.

This lines up with the work that Apple and Southwest are doing. Creativity has the capacity to make this world a little bit of a brighter place. When you’re dreaming, try to focus on things that will help the people around you. I guarantee good ideas will flow from that place.

3. Creativity is rarely sparked by watching TV.

The best ideas aren’t found in an endless backlog of Netflix shows. They’re most often found in the pages of good books, in conversations with close friends and through the process of reflection.


What’s churning in your mind right now? What’s the idea you can’t get out of your head, and what steps are you going to take next to make it a reality? If you’re not currently chewing on an idea, what could you be doing differently to get your brain on a creative track?

I believe so much in the power of good ideas, and in the process of ideation. Quite simply, I believe ideas change the world.

You have valuable ideas. I hope you believe that. Don’t let fear quiet them. Your ideas have the capacity to change the world. Speak your mind.

Until our next adventure,

SAS

Well people, we’ve made it to the end. Finals, summer and the end of college are approaching quickly, and with them come the start of the rest of my life. (Sorry, the end of big things in my life tend to make me speak dramatically).

Sadly, this is my last post with this blog. I’ve been thinking for the past week on what I wanted to leave you with, what final and ultimate thought or insight I wanted you to take away. Honestly, I didn’t come up with anything profound, and what I have to say won’t be anything you haven’t heard before. It’ll be simple, but I think it’ll be important.

Here’s my last little learning from college:

What you do makes a difference.

Yeah, I know. Deep. But it’s so true, and it’s so often the case that we forget that our actions have impact. We tell ourselves that what we have to say doesn’t matter. We tell ourselves that our time in a given place didn’t change it, didn’t affect it in any meaningful way.

For all intents and purposes, that’s a lie.

In my four years I believe I’ve made a difference in the lives of people around me. In my four years I believe I’ve contributed to meaningful conversations that have helped, or at the very least impacted, those I’ve talked with. In my four years I believe I’ve made this place better.

And I believe you have, too.

Maybe you’re not in College Station yet. Maybe you’re not even an Aggie. That doesn’t mean you’re any less capable of making an impact where you are. If you’re working hard, if you’re caring about the people around you, if you’re investing and thinking and growing – you’re making an impact.

So have confidence in that, friends. Sure, there’s always room to grow. But we can be joyful about what we’re already doing even in that process. I think we should be.

During finals in the spring of my sophomore year, a buddy and I walked into our favorite coffee shop early in the morning to start a long day of studying. On our way to our favorite table in the back, we passed a girl. I gave her a little smile as we walked by, then sat down and got to work.

An hour or two later, I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was the girl. She told me how meaningful that little smile was to her – that someone close to her had recently passed away and that my half-smile had made her day.

Those half-smiles are crucial and contagious, and I see them everywhere. It’s how I know that each person has the capability to make an impact. It’s why I have confidence in the future of Aggieland.

What we do, all the way down to the expression on our face, has an effect on the people around us. You people are day-makers and world-changers. I believe that. You have the capacity to do a great deal of good. I believe that too. I can’t wait to see what that looks like.

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This place – Texas A&M – through classes, professors, friends, books, experiences, traditions, hardships and joys, has made a profound impact on who and what I will be. It’s only as a result of the people that invest in A&M that that’s true. They’ve made an impact, and you have too.

I hope we can believe that together.

Until our next adventure,

SAS

Categories: Uncategorized

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We’re coming down the final stretch now. There’s only a few weeks left in the semester (and my college career, for that matter), and we’re talking about the most important pieces of wisdom I’ve picked up – the things I’ve learned that will change the way I live the rest of my life.

Today, I want to focus on just one thing. It may not be the most practical thing I’ve learned in college, but I believe in it just as much as I believe in the power of humble leadership or the value of reading good books.

I want to talk about the inherent value of ideas.

Ideas are the lifeblood of the business world. They’re the driving force behind every successful business and every successful person. No company has ever accomplished something worthwhile without being based on an incredible idea. Apple was founded on the idea that a computer should be accessible and useful for everyone. Southwest was based on the idea that flights should be inexpensive enough for anyone to fly, and that customers should thoroughly enjoy that experience. These are more than just valuable ideas – they’re the foundation of these companies.

The same goes with people. No one has ever achieved purposeful success by keeping their head down and quieting creativity. No, it’s the innovators, problem-solvers and ideators who make a difference in this world. As our working world moves away from performing tasks and towards creatively solving problems, the value of ideas only grows.

I love this process. I’ll spend days or weeks entranced with some idea, working through it over and over in my head until it becomes fully formed and heads towards practicality. And there’s value in that process for me. It’s relaxing and joyful to work on solving a new problem. I feel like I’m at my best when I’m creating.

I’ve learned a few things in this process:

1. Creating is fun, but applying ideas is hard.

I’m a dreamer, but not necessarily a schemer. I’ve found that having people around who can make good ideas a reality is an absolute necessity.

2. The best ideas solve a problem that a lot of people deal with.

This lines up with the work that Apple and Southwest are doing. Creativity has the capacity to make this world a little bit of a brighter place. When you’re dreaming, try to focus on things that will help the people around you. I guarantee good ideas will flow from that place.

3. Creativity is rarely sparked by watching TV.

The best ideas aren’t found in an endless backlog of Netflix shows. They’re most often found in the pages of good books, in conversations with close friends and through the process of reflection.


What’s churning in your mind right now? What’s the idea you can’t get out of your head, and what steps are you going to take next to make it a reality? If you’re not currently chewing on an idea, what could you be doing differently to get your brain on a creative track?

I believe so much in the power of good ideas, and in the process of ideation. Quite simply, I believe ideas change the world.

You have valuable ideas. I hope you believe that. Don’t let fear quiet them. Your ideas have the capacity to change the world. Speak your mind.

Until our next adventure,

SAS

Categories: Uncategorized

We’re taking these last few weeks together to talk about some of the biggest lessons my time in Aggieland has taught. Last week we talked about the wonderful fear of challenge, the value of humble leadership and the joy of imperfection. We’ll continue touching on the things that have shaped who we’ll be moving forward – the wisdom that will play a role in the rest of our lives.

1. Adventure big, adventure often.

You may have noticed from the various hiking pictures, references to road trips and stories about time in the mountains that I’m a big fan of adventure. It’s something the world we reside in has mostly forgotten. That’s a shame. Most of us prefer comfort to challenge, a life of ease to a life of adventure.

Still, there’s something inside of us that calls us to get out in the world and experience adventure. No, adventure isn’t comfortable. It can be energizing, memory-making, friendship-building and so many other things. Whether you’re a 20-year old college student or a 72-year old tenured professor, adventure can play an incredible role in your life.

I came into college a bit fearful of adventure. I much preferred to play it safe, stay comfortable. I’m thankful that I’ve had friends that have pushed my limits and developed a love of adventure within me.

2. Listen to the storm.

As I’m writing this, College Station is being hit by one of the bigger storms I can remember in the last four years. Thunder and lightning have been rolling for the last 12 or so hours and the forecast says they’ll keep rolling for the next four days. I love standing on my front porch to watch this kind of storm. There’s a peace in doing so.

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We have the capacity to do the same thing with the chaos that so often busts into our lives. We can take a step back – learning, reflecting, listening – rather than just letting the storm overtake us. All it takes is a few deep breaths, a little time outside the library, and maybe a few choice song lyrics.

We don’t have to get caught up in the speed and fury of life. We can choose to do things well while maintaining a sense of peace. It’s hard, sure, and I certainly don’t always do it perfectly. But it’s something worth working toward.

3. Depth, not breadth.

This might be a bit of a controversial opinion, and almost everybody sees this from a different angle. I firmly believe that depth in relationships is much more valuable than breadth. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t cultivate new relationships or keep in touch with old ones – I just love the things I’ve learned from investing in a few close relationships.

Aggieland is a place full of opportunity. It fosters involvement and relationship-building in so many ways. Jump into those things, but make sure you develop depth in a few purposeful relationships before you work on breadth.

That’s what I’ve got for you this morning. I hope it’s helpful and encouraging. Keep reflecting, keep thinking and keep finding ways to laugh at yourself.

Until our next adventure,

SAS

Categories: Uncategorized

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This morning I’m thinking about the things that are coming to an end – my time at Texas A&M, my time with my roommates – a lot of things, in fact.

Over the past 10 or so weeks, we’ve been reflecting on our time in Aggieland. I’ve had the chance to walk through the past four years, reflecting on experience, wisdom gained and life-long friendships built. I hope this series has been as good for you as it has been for me. Taking time weekly to reflect on my college experience, and hopefully help you reflect on yours, has been incredible.

We’ve caught up with where I am today – a second-semester senior thinking deeply about the things he’s learned over the last few years. I want to take these last few weeks to talk about some of the biggest things I’ve picked up.

1. Life is scary, and scary is good.

We grow so much in our time in college. We gain confidence and resilience, wisdom and experience. But one thing that I don’t think ever changes, and hasn’t changed since the first day of kindergarten, is the fear of facing something new. I remember stepping on to A&M’s campus, terrified, wondering where I’d fit. Now, four years later, I’m looking at an unknown future and I’m just as scared as I was back then.

And that’s such a good thing.

Those butterflies dancing around in your stomach mean you’re outside your comfort zone and they mean you’re about to face challenge. And challenge, as I’ve said so many times before, is an incredible catalyst of growth. I’m excited that I’m scared of what’s to come – it means I’m doing something right.

2. Selfless, humble leadership will change the world.

We’ve got a bit of a selfishness epidemic on our hands. We’ve got a world and culture that was built around individual success. All over the world, people are worried more about themselves than the people around them.

Still, everywhere, I see light poking holes through the dark. I see leaders stepping up and serving the people around them. I see individuals forgetting themselves so that their friends can succeed. I’ve seen humble leadership at A&M, and it gives me hope for what’s to come of our generation.

Humble leadership, in organizations, corporations, friend groups or universities, will only lead to good. It’ll lead to cooperation and solutions that benefit everyone. This isn’t just the stuff of dreams. I’ve watched this kind of leadership work time and time again. I hope my peers don’t lose that when they enter the real world. I hope they take this tool with them and use it to change the make-up of the places they work, live and play. I’m confident they will.

3. Imperfections don’t mean something isn’t great.

In many things, we have a tendency to throw the baby out with the bathwater. It’s a weird metaphor, sure, but more or less it means that we tend to see faults and assume that the whole system is broken. We forget that just about everything is imperfect. That shouldn’t lead us to the conclusion that there aren’t great, worthwhile things out there.

Texas A&M is not a perfect place, but it is doing some absolutely incredible things in this world. It’s educating and preparing students to make an impact on the world, and it’s sending them out to do incredible work. It is building a sense of community that seems relatively unrivaled by other universities. It puts an emphasis on service, honor and integrity, and its students love living out those values. It’s not perfect – but it is so good.

That’s all for today. We’ll touch on a few more of these big points next week. In the next few days, I hope you get the chance to think on the biggest things you’ll take with you from your time in Aggieland.

Until our next adventure,

SAS

Categories: Uncategorized

It’s just so easy to forget why we do the things we do.

One of the defining characteristics of the fall semester of my senior year, sadly, was forgetfulness. I continued to push through my days, handling the tasks that came at me, with very little thought as to why I was doing the things I was doing.

Doing things without purpose never, ever feels satisfying. We’ve learned it in management classes over and over again – if a company’s leadership does not give its employees an overarching goal they can believe in, those employees won’t be excited to come to work every day. It’s why Apple thrives. They’re not just a tech company, they’re doing their best to enable ordinary people to do extraordinary things. Their employees believe in that purpose and are excited to spend their time working towards it.

For a little while last semester, I forgot the purpose behind my efforts. I did school because school was a thing I needed to do. I maintained relationships because the people around me were kind enough to pursue me. I read books because I’d always read books, not because I loved reading. I forgot the reasons for doing the things I loved, and it took a lot of the joy out of doing those things.

I felt as if I was slogging through my days. I wasn’t enjoying my days the way I always had before.

See, I forgot that I go to school because I adore the chance to learn something new, to grasp at some novel, exciting concept. I forgot that I spend time with my friends because those relationships energize me and keep me going through thick and thin. I forgot that I read, write, reflect and think because those things allow me to have perspective and wisdom in life. I forgot how much I loved to wander through my days, gathering experience, joy and incredible memories.

Like a refocusing meeting for an organization, I needed to take time to remember why I do the things I do. A few key conversations over Christmas break – with my parents, roommates and fiance – led to some incredible answers to those questions. I came back to school this spring excited about the prospect of jumping back into a life I loved.

All too often we forget the “why” and focus our efforts, thoughts and lives on the “what” and “how.” I would urge you to take time weekly, monthly (or daily, if possible) to remember the purpose of your efforts. Remember why you started doing those things in the first place, and the love and passion you had for them in the beginning.

After four years in College Station, it’s pretty easy to become jaded toward the things going on around me. It’s easy to tune out, put my head down and just keep slogging. Luckily, Texas A&M is a place where people are continually asking why. They ask themselves, they ask me and they won’t take “just because” for an answer. It’s those people that help this place continually, joyfully move forward.

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Why did you get involved with the things you did at Texas A&M? Do you remember a time when you forgot the “why?” What can you do, today, to help yourself remember?

“Why” drives passion, and passion drives excellence. Fight for the “why” today.

Until our next adventure,

SAS

Categories: Uncategorized

“You are the same today that you are going to be five years from now except for two things: the people with whom you associate and the books you read.”

– Charlie “Tremendous” Jones

I remember many mornings from my third year in College Station: walking to class air-drumming, talking with roommates at our hilariously giant wooden table or stealing a few hours to watch a movie I love. But more consistently than any of those things, I remember sitting on my front porch in a lime green lawn chair drinking good coffee and reading good books.

I’d like to make one adjustment to Mr. Jones’ quote, though. People and books can change your world, but in my experience, music can too. It’s been that three-part combination that has grown me since I stepped on this campus, particularly during my junior year.

My roommates have worked to make me a better communicator. We talk through everything. Instead of just passively addressing the dirty dishes in the sink, we hash out exactly why those dishes were left there and how we can do better moving forward. This over-communication has led to much clearer expectations and an overall better living experiencing. Sure, full-out arguments are often a side effect. We think it’s worth it. These people have changed my life for the better. I’m thankful for that.

I met my fiancé before junior year got started. For the next year (and to this day), she helped me understand what it meant to care for people, to be patient and joyful in every process.

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Books have helped me understand the world on a meaningful level. Great authors seem to have a direct line to the pulse of this world, and I love that they give us a chance to tap into it through their writing. Books have the capacity to take us to different worlds, but they also have the ability to help us better understand our own.

Reading consistently – everything from Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers to Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings to Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities – has grown me tremendously. It’s likely the habit I’m most proud of, and definitely the one I most want to continue in the future.

Finally, music leaves a distinct emotional imprint on our memories and our past as a whole. It can help characterize chunks of our lives while simultaneously helping us express feelings we could never put into words on our own. For me, Mumford and Son’s album “Babel” will always be firmly attached to freshman year and long runs late at night. Sophomore year is all Noah Gundersen and Little Green Cars. Junior year and those mornings on my front porch were all about folk – quick fiddles and dramatic pianos. Those soundtracks aren’t just the music I listened to. They help create context for the memories I made and the things I learned during those periods in my life.

So – how have people, books and music changed who you are in the last five years? Who are the people that have left a distinct impact on your life? What books have changed the way you view the world? Are there songs out there that call you back to a different time, helping you remember, learn and grow? I hope so.

Junior year was full of growth in each of these areas for me – what did it look like for you? What do you want it to look like?

I’m not necessarily qualified to give advice, but I’m going to anyway: Don’t let yourself be the same person in five years that you are today. Seek out people, books, music – anything – that will help you grow. I think you’ll love the results.

Until our next adventure,

SAS

Categories: Uncategorized

Welcome back from Spring Break, Ags! I hope it was joyful, restful and the most fun you’ve ever had. Capping off Spring Break with a win that sends our men’s basketball team into the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament isn’t too bad – but winning it the way we did (overcoming a 12-point deficit in less than a minute) is even better.

This week, I want us to take a look at junior year and the possibilities it held for me – and the possibilities I know it held and still holds for so many of you.
Throughout my time at Texas A&M I’ve been blessed by having outstanding upperclassmen around me – men and women who showed me what it meant to be an Aggie and a good man. They led with humility, but also with confidence. That balance is still something I’m trying to figure out. How is it possible to be a servant leader while also showing strength and self-assurance? As I’ve tried to figure it out, I’ve had the distinct opportunity to watch those above me live out that balance. It’s led to success in organizations, in friendships, in school and in life in general.
As I stepped into my junior year, I also stepped into a key leadership role or two. This changed everything. I wasn’t the underclassman trying to make it to class on time or staying up until 3 in the morning. I had responsibilities and expectations, and for a while, that terrified me. I was fearful that I’d fail in my duties as a leader and that the people I was leading would hurt as a result of that failure.
And that’s where the Aggie Family stepped in to help. The leaders above me gave advice and helped me out in incredibly practical ways. The people I was leading were graceful and patient, and showed respect even when I probably didn’t deserve it. When I look back on that time of leadership, I see hardship and growth, but I also see incredible joy. I’ve got good relationships with the people that followed me to this day, and seeing them succeed across Aggieland is an absolute blast. It was a hard time, but it was also one of the most worthwhile things I’ve ever done.12030458_10208694935680357_8189155309405809489_o
That’s one of the crazier things about A&M, I think. You can step on this campus expecting to fade into the background, expecting to just get by. But, in one way or another, because the Aggie Family adores excellence and integrity, you might just find yourself leading. That’s what happened to me. I didn’t expect to lead. Still, this place encouraged me toward leadership … And I’m so thankful it did.
So, how will you lead?
Until our next adventure,
SAS

Categories: Uncategorized

If I had to draw all the discipline and wisdom I’ve learned about time management over the last four years into one concise and practical piece of advice, it’d be this:

Make the most of your mornings.

I’m not sure about you, but I know that for most of my life, mornings were a rushed and stressful time. I didn’t get much done but realize how much there was left to do. That led to anxious days and late nights…which led to the cycle starting all over again the next morning.

The summer after my sophomore year, that changed. I was working a 9-to-f job for the first time in my life. That changed my schedule altogether. It meant going to bed at a reasonable hour, and it meant getting up early enough to make it to work on time. I quickly figured out that if I left for work at 8:30, it would take a traffic-filled 45 minutes to get there. But if I left at 6:30, then spent a few hours in a coffee shop close to the office, my drive time was only about 15 minutes.

This fact led me to spend about two hours each morning at Mozart’s Coffee reading, writing and thinking. I quickly fell in love with those mornings. I got the chance to sit at a table that looked over a lake. I was usually alone in a beautiful and quiet environment that let me prepare for my work day ahead. I realized that I function best in the morning, that I’m most productive and most joyful in those early hours.

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A few mornings a week I’d go for a run on a nearby trail instead, followed by a quick dip in a chilly community pool. It was refreshing, and I’d walk into work with energy and the desire to get good work done.

Slow mornings spent effectively have been a staple of my days ever since. I’m not sure I could function without them anymore.

I know waking up early is a pretty ridiculous concept to suggest to college kids, but I can’t encourage it strongly enough. It’s hard at first. In fact, it’s still hard sometimes. I remember mornings that first summer where all I wanted to do was roll over and grab a few more hours under warm blankets – but I never once regretted getting up and getting to work.

Also, as a side note (and maybe a cautionary tale), I fell in love with coffee that summer too. There’s just something righteous about sipping some warm black coffee while staring out at a sunrise and reflecting on the deeper meaning of life. Maybe you know what I’m talking about. If you don’t…it might be worth figuring out.

I grew that summer in many different ways, but I really do believe that learning to spend the first few hours of my day effectively was the sweetest piece of knowledge I picked up. It has changed the rest of my days, too, helping me be a more effective listener and learner.

Do you think there’s value in getting up early? What has that looked like for you in college, and what do you want it to look like in the future? What about for the night owls out there?

Next week we’ll dig into junior year a little bit, and the sweetness of getting to step into leadership roles.

Until our next adventure,

SAS

Categories: Uncategorized

I still remember what it felt like to get in that car and realize there would be no turning back. We hadn’t even left the ranch yet, but, from this point on, I was committed. I was with 16 of my best friends. We were laughing and listening to The Eagles, and we were about to drive 17 hours to the Grand Canyon.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

We drove eight or nine hours that day, stopping pretty consistently to get gas and play hacky-sack in Wal-Mart parking lots. We stayed in one of my roommates’ grandparents’ ski cabins. The heat wasn’t working, so I remember it being cold – really, really cold.

The next day we fought a little further west, alternating between arguing about directions, laughing at each other and singing songs at the top of our lungs. Finally, in the early evening, we entered the Grand Canyon National Park. We cheered and took lots of pictures.

We had all seen pictures of the Grand Canyon before. We knew it was huge, and we expected it to be larger than we could comprehend. But we weren’t prepared. I still remember the first time I saw that giant and beautiful crevice. It blew my mind. My eyes got wider as I looked around for someone to share my awe with. My friends felt the same thing. After we picked our jaws up off the ground, we headed to set up our campsite, made a fire and crawled into our tents for a cold night of sleep.

The next four days were a blur of hiking, cooking over open fires, telling stories and sleeping under a bright and giant Arizona night sky. A day-long, 18-mile trek on our second day at the Grand Canyon highlighted the trip.

We woke up at 4 in the morning to one of our friends who hadn’t slept a wink the night before screaming, “WE’RE DOING IT LIVE!” We threw together the gear we needed and caught the first bus to the trailhead. A few hours later we were swimming in the Colorado River at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, and then laying in the warm morning sun on the best white beach you can imagine.

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We spent the rest of the afternoon navigating the difficult trails back up to the canyon, and we loved every second of it. A few days later we were headed back to College Station, reenergized and excited to start school back up again.

I wanted to tell this story because it reveals a little bit about the “out of classroom” learning experience that A&M gives. While on the trip I learned about leadership (when the trail got tough), decision-making (while trying to decide – among 17 people – which trails to hike) and the value of genuine rest (while laying on a beach at the bottom of the Grand Canyon). These are things I was taught in the classroom, but truly learned through experience.

Texas A&M, and Mays with it, is more than a collection of classrooms. It’s a coordinated system of incredible experiences, both in and out of the classroom, that teach us how to lead, grow and learn together. The trip to the Grand Canyon is something I’ll remember for years to come. I’ll use the things I learned on it in life, too.

So what about you? What’s your “big adventure?” What did you learn from it? Adventures and experiences help define us. Let’s make the most of them.

Until our next adventure,

SAS

Categories: Uncategorized

We’re still walking through our time at Texas A&M. This week, let’s take a look at sophomore year, roommate relationships and classes that put us to work.

I’ve talked about challenge before – about how it’s one of the most valuable things a student can face. Challenge forces us to find a strength inside ourselves we weren’t sure we had before. It makes us better, and prepares us incredibly for the challenges we’ll face for the rest of our lives.

I walked into my sophomore year and faced a slew of new challenges. I was taking a tough class load and I was moving into a house with new roommates. While the first few weeks with my roommates were all about watching “The OC” and hanging ridiculous paintings from Goodwill and motivational posters all over our house, we would all come to find out that occupying a house together is hard. We had to learn to compromise and communicate. We had to learn how to share a kitchen (surprisingly hard).

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On top of that, I was taking classes that were just difficult. The fall semester of my sophomore year was the first in which I took most of my classes in the Wehner Building. That meant learning a lot of practical business principles, and it meant taking some challenging classes. Not least among those was Accounting 229. I’ve talked about this class before, but I think it might deserve a few more notes. The tests in that class were one thing – they were difficult and forced me to really learn the subject – but what I remember most was the giant project we pieced together at the end of the class.

I remember my group working on the project in late November. It had just gotten really cold and we were analyzing financial reports in the study room of my house. Also, my roommates and I refused to turn the heater on. We were college sophomores who liked saving money. What else would you expect? So my group and I huddled up in blankets and got to work. The project was difficult and encompassed a lot of different types of work, but its final result would be a 10-page report with an appendix.

After a few weeks of work and one final push, we put the finishing touches on the report. All that was left was to get it printed and bound at the print shop. One of our teammates was heading out of town, we assured him that we would be able to get the report printed and turned in on time. A few hours later we had the final report in our hands and were walking into the classroom to turn it in, triumphantly.

We gave the report one last look. The back page, full of crucial information, was missing. The printer had forgotten to bind it. My heart dropped. This was a different sort of challenge. It wasn’t the kind I could prepare for ahead of time. But weeks of hard work on the project and months of working through conflict with my new roommates had prepared me to not freak out in the moment. My other teammates and I laughed about our mistake, decided we would never tell the teammate who had left town, and I went to go print a black-and-white copy of the last page.

We turned it in and everything worked out just fine. I still think it’s crucial to laugh in moments like that – when everything seems to be going wrong, there’s value in taking time to just smile. Accounting 229 and lots of time with good roommates taught me that, and I’m still able to apply it to my life today.

Do you remember your roommates and the challenges you faced together? Or the first class that genuinely challenged you? Students who haven’t faced these challenges yet, look forward to them. They’re hard, but they’re joyful too.

Until our next adventure,

SAS

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