Disclaimer: If you plan on skimming this post, don’t bother. I truly believe that you kind of have to read it all to get the true message…
Part 1: Leadership
In the past few weeks I have been part of what was my first real college group project. I loved it, but it brought along a significant set of challenges that I have yet to figure out a solution to. In the beginning of the assignment I felt very good about the odds of the team. We met for probably 4 hours a week in the 2 weeks leading up to so I always knew I could keep tabs on my coworkers. But I made some key mistakes as project manager. Certain deadlines that I set were too far in the future, so it backfired when some of my teammates didn’t pull through.
Here is the problem…I know that I have a reputation of being a little bit of an annoyance in class. In general I am not the most likable person around, and I wanted to change that. So when a teammate came to me with an excuse and a sincere apology, I took it. Almost every time. I didn’t want to pry into their business and I didn’t want to seem pushy, so instead I became a pushover.
In the end, I had to take on more work because it simply seemed easier to take the workload of group members than have to get on their case about it. By doing the work myself, I guarantee that my group members will not resent what I have done. But by trying to convince them to do the work, I risk blowing a reputation that I have desperately tried to improve over the past six months.
These next semesters are going to be crucial for growth. Right now I have two ways that I approach a situation, too hard and too soft. I need to find a balance.
Part 2a: The True Value of Educators
Every time I have had a problem that dealt with my character, I have found someone to help me. A point person that I knew I could trust with any information. I probably can’t list all of them, but I can list the best: Nick Frollini, Michael Taylor, Mark Bayer, Josh Block, Tom Krieglstein, Jon Winters. These individuals have been there for me rain or shine whenever I have needed help. And believe me, I have needed a lot of help.
The second element to all of this is that in every instance where these individuals helped me, I never actually asked for their help. I had a problem, and I went to them with it. All of them were willing to help. All of them. All the time.
What connects all of these individuals? They are all involved in education. They have all gotten into a line of work that enable them to help students, and always go out of there way to do so.
But they are just the tip of the iceberg. Every year I find educators that I can confide in have them help me reach my goals. What I fail to understand is why others don’t take advantage of these incredible individuals.
Part 2b: Getting The Most Out of Your Education
Education is not the regurgitation of information you get out of a textbook. I feel that this is a message that is not drilled into our youth. In Finland, the number 1 ranked country in the world for education, Teachers are paid as much as doctors or lawyers. Kids get 200% more recess, and more time in the classroom is focused on developing and fostering creativity. The quality of education is higher and therefore kids get to do more outside of the classroom. In its current setting in our country, kids will learn the minimum in the classroom and then be forced to memorize the rest outside of school when they should be fostering creativity. Whatever they do memorize is lost months or even weeks later, and yet another chunk of childhood is completely wasted.
When I was in my first semester at college, I was thrown out of a class for not having enough respect for my Professor. In hindsight, I would have had more respect for her if she didn’t tell the class on multiple occasions that the only reason she got into teaching was because she hoped it would one day get her into politics.
Teachers and Professors are hit or miss with me. If I like them, I tend to be on the top of their class and continue interacting with them even after the semester ends. But if I don’t feel that they give enough effort into their teaching, they have lost me for good. And when I could care less about grades, it starts to become a little bit of a problem.
But a few nights ago I was in office hours and a student had a question for the Teaching Assistant. The assistant was busy, so he came up to me and said “You seem to get all of this stuff, can you help me with this?” The TA was taken aback by that, because I haven’t handed in a completed homework in that class all semester, and yet I was still able to explain the solution to this student.
Let me be clear, the point of this post is not to convey to individuals that they shouldn’t strive to get good grades. It is to show you all that whatever level of effort you choose to put into your classes, you should understand that some Professors have a lot more to offer you than what might end up on the final exam. Whatever problems you may be having, chances are there are people on your campus that have seen other students go through the same problems. We aren’t that different from one another at the end of the day.
If most of what you learn at college is in the classroom, you’re doing it wrong. You are in the presence of some of the most intelligent individuals on the planet. Take advantage of that fact.
Growing up, I was rarely kind to my folks. I loved independence and I hated nagging. So all through my adolescence whenever they told me to do anything, whether it be cleaning my room or doing my homework, I would always push back. It never mattered what it was about, only the fact that they didn’t trust me to do what I said I was going to do.
But I have knowingly been doing this for years now, so why the sudden letter? The next story starts about 6 weeks ago when I became the Assistant New Member Educator for my fraternity. My responsibility was to take the new recruits and prepare them for brotherhood, while at the same time testing to make sure that they were truly worthy of becoming members of Delta Tau Delta. What Inever realized was the kind of toll it would take on me.
I took on a majority of the responsibilities on the NME Team, to the point where halfway through the process I dropped the “Assistant” in my title and became fully responsible for all the operations that occurred in the class. And what did I end up doing? I nagged. It took me a while to figure it out, mainly because it took a while for people to tell me about it, but when I did I had an epiphany. This one personality that I had hated was what I had become.
I had no intention of become that person, so why did it happen? Well, I have spent these past 6 weeks nagging my pledges to do what they need, because I felt responsible for their success and didn’t know what else to do to make sure they did what they needed to initiate on time. And yet, what I know now is that as a pledge, I wouldn’t have even responded well to the New Member Educator I am currently acting like.
It is a lesson of life. Fear can drive all sorts of activities and you cannot blame people for fearing. All you can do is encourage them to trust those around and have faith that the idea of having to do have a hand in every little thing that goes on in the world is not the only way that something will actually get done. It is a very hard concept to accept, but it is a concept that is crucial to understanding cooperation.
So I write this letter to both my parents, but also to kids everywhere.
Mom & Dad, I think I have some idea of why you never got off my back. And I know my sarcasm only made it more enjoyable. But I want to thank you for putting up with me for all these years, because I cannot imagine how hard it must have been.
Kids: I know you will never accept this from your folks, but maybe you might take it from a 19 year old boy: Just like you can’t control your emotions sometimes, neither can your parents. They are just scared, and sometimes nagging you can be the only thing that keeps them sane. It’s not their fault, its just human nature.
Thanks For Reading
Well, it certainly was a long summer. So Let’s get started…
I spent this summer working as an IT Consultant. I worked mainly at one summer camp, French Woods Festival of the Preforming Arts. Additionally, I did some tech work for Camp Chipinaw and Camp Westmont.
Most of my job consisted of repairs. Every machine needed to be checked before it was deployed, and all but a select few machines needed quite a bit of work done before I could bring them to where they would be deployed. Setting up all of these machines took me 9 weeks.
There were a few points that stood out.
Point 1: A bad day isn’t when bad things happen, it’s when you let those situations get under your skin.
For those of you who are unaware, IT is a thankless job. You have no idea what is going to break and when, and the only thing you can count on is that everybody around you is going to be practically unstable when things do go wrong.
So in IT, the best thing you can do when you go into a bad situation is be calm and collective. When people see that you don’t seem to think this is that big of a problem, they won’t think it is either.
What gets people riled up is the uncertainty. I normally have a decent sense of what the problem is and how long it will take to fix within the first few minutes of getting there, so it is much easier for me to enter a situation in a much calmer state. And even if I didn’t, there is no harm in calming others down.
The demeanor I learned at French Woods followed me back to college. Because while there is a lot of work to be done at Carnegie Mellon, chances are you know everything coming your way before your day begins. So after coming from a place where you never know what is going to break, I have found it much easier to stay calm when I’m back in my element.
A bad day isn’t when bad things happen. A bad day is when you let a bad thing get under your skin.
Point 2: Not a bad guy
I would like to credit Ali Appelbaum for saying this to me, but to add effect I am going to direct you to a video where I think you will get the idea of what this is about
Watch from 2:12 to 2:38
So let’s go look at that quote
“I don’t know who told you you’re a bad guy, but somebody did, somebody along the way. Somebody or something convinced you of it because you think you’re a bad guy, and you’re just not.”
Seems like an easy concept right? Not with my history.
I think one of the main problems I had with French Woods was it gave me the sense that the only reason people interacted with me was because they needed something from me. This sense carried when I left the area, and it later occurred to me that there is no advantage to acting like people who come up to you are there to ask you a favor. I also need to wrap my idea around the fact that I don’t scare people away within moments of meeting them. I know it sounds like an easy thing to adopt, but it is much harder for someone who actually used to believe such an idea.
When we enter primary and secondary school, the insecurities around us sometimes make kids turn on each other. To protect against their own insecurities, they bully others to cover it up. And the consequences of being a victim of such bullying can make a lasting impression.
This is a serious problem for me. The mind observes a considerable amount about its surroundings in youth, and those observations can become engrained into ones personality. To change something that deep, it needs to be constantly looked at for months at a time. I know this, simply because I have done it once before.
Fighting for a better character is a tough thing to do. You are essentially facing your biggest fears, the insecurities that you developed as a youth and are now your subconscious. And if there is one thing I learned about your subconscious is that it is more powerful than you think it is, which gives you all the more reason to make it better.
I have been working towards a better character for about 18 months now, and I need to start recognizing that I have made progress in that area.
The upside to all of this is that over the summer I was surrounded by individuals who were intent on making me understand these two points, and it is to their credit that those ideas followed me back to college.
Wrap up: This was a long summer, but I can definitely say it was worth it.
1: A bad day isn’t when bad things happen. A bad day is when you let a bad thing get under your skin.
2: Don’t let anybody convince you that you are a bad person
My Code Of Ethics just got a little longer
Thanks For Reading
As I enter the final 48 hours of my freshman year, I got a chance to look back on my accomplishments over this past year. In truth, the growing that I have done could be told over hours and hours of stories. The easiest way to explain it, however, would be to show how and why I rewrote my code of ethics.
Let’s first look at my original code, the first 4 bullets written in 2008 and the second 4 bullets in the summer of 2010:
1. Treat me as your equal and I will treat you as my superior. Treat me as your subordinate and I will treat you as mine.
2. Respect should only be given to those who do not abuse their power.
3. Live Life, Live It Hard, Let Nothing Stand In Your Way.
4. Failure is not taking advantage of every opportunity that comes your way.
5. At the end of the day, it matters not what you can say about yourself. What matters at the end of the day is what others will say about you when they are not in your presence.
6. A simple task is not always an easy one.
7. One reason you despise the flaws in others is because you yourself possess them.
8. You accomplishments are better received when voiced by someone other than you.
OK Let’s work through these
1 & 2 were written when I was 15. They came from the voice of a scared referee who needed some backing. I didn’t like the idea of not getting respect from others, so I made caveats to make sure I didn’t give anybody respect that didn’t give it to me first. In hindsight, not the best plan of attack. But at the time I wrote it, I can say I felt very strongly about those first two bullets.
Number 3 Comes from an email I once sent that year. Michael Taylor, my then assistant principal, had sent me an email with a link to a Chuck Norris video. The video was to point out that everyone has limits. I didn’t really care for that message, so I responded with one line: Live Life, Live It Hard, Let Nothing Stand In Your Way. It later became bullet #3
Number 4 , Like 1 & 2, were always in a way indirect statements at my parents. As I mentioned earlier, I wanted more respect than I probably deserved growing up, which is where 1 & 2 came from. Number 4 was drawn from the idea that I wanted to engage in extracurriculars like music, refereeing and student government more than I wanted to engage in academics. Being the stubborn kid I was, I tended to butt heads with my folks on the topic. Number 4 was my way of justifying to myself to keep going with extracurriculars. I looked at each activity as an opportunity to further my network of connections, and I gripped very tight to that idea.
The first 4 were the only component for the first few years, at which point I started getting a little wiser with the help of an incredible individual…
Summer in between junior and senior year my list got some help by a man known as Paul Corn. Paul is an assistant principal in Staten Island, as well as an incredible sax player and someone with a lot of heart if you can see through his outer layer. Paul took interest in building my character and it showed through where my code developed. #5 and #8 were really just cute ways of saying that I needed to close my mouth a little more often, but I didn’t exactly feel comfortable telling myself that just yet. Luckily now I do.
#5 through #8 were all written in that summer, and they were all written after I had conversations with Mr. Corn. Paul is the epitome of a mentor. He treated me in the only way I knew how to learn, by drilling lessons into me until they stuck. It took a few years, but he was the first person who made me start to think about my character and how my actions impacted those around me.
Nonetheless, I still had a lot of work to do, and unfortunately I didn’t realize that I had a lot of work to do. Fast forward a year to the start of my freshman year. I spent my first semester making connections, but also alienating myself in a way. I knew that I needed self-awareness, but I didn’t act on that need. Such a failure came back to hit me hard. Carnegie Mellon is simply not the place to be cocky, not when everyone around you is just as smart if not smarter than you.
I met some incredible people at this university, people that saw who I was on the inside and saw the potential for me to show others that I actually was a decent person on the inside. In the beginning of my second semester I scrapped my code of ethics and started over. The trick was not necessarily acting on these ethics instantly, but understanding their importance and letting life take its course.
Here is my new code:
1. No list as important as this can last a lifetime without constant change.
2. Live every moment as if your mentor was standing right behind you. Someday your next mentor will be…
3. It’s a small world out there…
4. People will find out about you whether you tell them or not. You won’t find out about them unless you listen at every opportunity.
5. You have two ears and two eyes but only one mouth. Use them proportionally as they were given to you.
I kicked it off by recognizing the fact of how outdated my old code had become. As a scared teenager, I needed that old code. I needed to make it clear that these ethics are made to drive my life in a better path, which means they would be ever changing.
Number 2 is derived from the fact that there are people in this world that I never want to disappoint. I call them my mentors only because I can’t think of anything else to call them. They keep me in check and build my character. I am in there greatest debts. One of the first things I did when I started rewriting this list was create a reminder to live each day like Mark Bayer was right behind me. Mark Bayer was another assistant principal ( I don’t know why that happened that the only mentors i’ve mentioned so far are assistant principals, just go with it) who I gave more respect to than anyone else on this earth during my later years in high school. So every day of second semester, at 9am, I got a notification from my phone to live the day like Mark Bayer was right behind me. I would be lying if I said it didn’t help.
There are always those who we want to impress. So if we act like they are right behind us, we are simply better people. And thus Number 2 came to be.
Number 3 came from my troubles at Carnegie Mellon. It started to occur to me that even in a campus with thousands of people, It seemed to be very easy to make a name for myself, for better or worse. Relating back to number 2, this was a way of making sure I took every interaction and made a good impression. Thinking through it, it seems a little redundant. But I like it anyway.
Number 4 and 5 are my way of telling myself to just shut the hell up once in a while. Now that doesn’t mean that I won’t voice my opinions when necessary but I did tend to be the kind of person who voiced any opinion that I had, and It didn’t always put me into best light. It goes back to the lessons Mr. Corn had tried to instill in me, but it took a while to sink in. I still have a ton of work to do in this category, but at least I’m making progress.
It’s been a long year. I have met some incredible people that have pushed me to better my character, just as my mentors did in the past.
I love this place, even if my brother calls it Watermellon University. I would never want to be anywhere else. And the best part is I’ve only just begun.
Thanks for reading.
I am not the most likable person on this planet. That is, well, putting it lightly. Those who know me from Carnegie Mellon will understand that I love to voice my opinion and tend to be difficult to work with. Those who know me from high school will probably take a more extreme view, and rightfully so. Then there are those that have known me for almost two decades. Ill let you figure out the rest…
I like to be a productive person and at times I loose sight of the impression I make on those surrounding me. It’s something I strive to improve, and that is for another post.
There are three people who have truly had to put up with the brunt of my personality. My two parents and my brother Daniel. An extreme difference would be the fact that Dan never had the authority to punish me when I got out of line, he essentially just had to deal with me.
So let’s just get one thing out of the way early. Ask anyone that knowns him and they will tell you that my little brother is one of the kindest people you will ever meet. Now that we have established as such, I would like to go deeper into the kind of challenges my brother face when growing up. You might think this is an exaggeration, but I hope you realize the significance when I tell you that the challenge he faced was me.
I had some serious issues growing up and often any outrage I built up at school was brought home. My brother got the short end of the stick every time he got into an argument with me. For years and years he was constantly handing over the remote, sitting in the back seat of the car, and the first one to do the dishes. I would get mad at my brother for reasons that lacked any serious sense, and yet it was extremely rare for him to ever act as irrational as I did. He was calm, and over the years he was assertive in ways that actually caused me to change my behavior. He truly made me a better person after everything that I had did to him, and for that I am eternally grateful.
My brother has this enormous level of dedication which on March 23rd 2012 paid off. My brother shot the best golf game of his life, a 79. For those of you who don’t know, shooting a 79 is extremely similar to the type of games that College Players shoot. It’s insane for someone his age to be putting up those numbers, but it goes way past his dedication to the game.
As a youth in an adult game, my brother had to considerably change his attitude towards society. In short, he became an adult when he decided to take golf to the next level. I remember his chemistry teacher telling me how proud he was of my brother for the change that he underwent in his junior year of high school. This game that my brother had was excellent, but the true goal he accomplished in my mind is becoming an adult.
In the last few years of my time in New York, dan was my person. He was always there to help me with any issues I had and he truly was the best friend I ever could have asked for. I owe him my life for the person he has made me and I can’t wait to see the person he becomes in the future.
It is truly an honor for me to call Daniel Jared Schwartz my little brother.
Wow it has been a while since I have put one of these up. Since we last spoke, I’ve traveled eastern Europe and had a semester of college (and joined a fraternity, Delta Tau Delta). That, however, is for another post. In addition, since I start my second semester tomorrow, I doubt I will actually ever get to blog about it. If you really want more info, you’re welcome to shoot me a text .
What got me back on my blog was a different post I had read by a dear friend and mentor, Tom Krieglstein. He was asked by a friend if he had a mentor. And his response (in a blog post of course) was that there was never a specific person who fully inspired him to do what he does today.
I am paraphrasing considerably, so I recommend you just read his post, but here what I drew from what he said.
Tom mentioned that he “had this idea planted in me that I’d find “the one.” Not in terms of love, but in terms of mentors”. I would like to reflect on Tom’s current status. He has a love, but no mentor.
I never planned on finding Tom, and even when I did I never assumed he would become the type of influence on my life that exists today. I don’t think he planned on it either. But I think one of the reasons our relationship exists was that there was never a bar. I know Tom, and I think based on his personality that if he ever met someone who he thought could be his mentor, he would set the bar very high for this person. And this person who would not know they were being tested.
I think the reason Tom never found a real mentor was because he was looking for one, and an incredible one at that. Tom was looking for the next great entrepreneur, capable of creating something from nothing and inspiring the world around him.
What Tom failed to mention in his blog post is that instead of finding this person, he became it. Tom has grown multiple ideas from a single thought to a multi-million dollar business. He has inspired thousands of people all over the country. He has inspired more people than most of us will ever meet in our entire lives, and this guy is 30.
We all have dreams, and most of us have people to look up to. But no one is perfect, and the only people we can truly motivate are ourselves. Don’t look for success in others, find it in yourself. At the end of the day, how awesome would it be to become the exact person you looked up to?
Tom never found a mentor, but I am kind of glad he didn’t. Because if he found his, who would have found mine?
Today I embark on what will surely be the greatest journey of my life. I will be traveling throughout Europe for a little under 6 weeks. While I will not be able to receive any communications, I will be using a prepaid cell phone to tweet and update my Facebook for those of you who would like to follow.
For those of you who do not feel the need to follow my every tweet (which I completely understand), here is my complete itinerary:
June 29th – Fly From JFK to Geneva, Switzerland
July 1st – Travel to Les Deux Alps, France
July 6th – Travel to Verona, Italy
July 8th – Travel through the Dolomites, Italy
July 13th – Travel to Interlaken, Switzerland
July 15th – Travel to Saas Fee, Switzerland
July 19th – Travel Back to Geneva, Switzerland
July 20th – Travel to Zurich, Switzerland
July 22nd – Travel to St. Andrews, Scotland
July 26th – Travel to Budapest, Hungary
July 28th – Travel to Prague, Czech Republic
July 31st – Travel to Hluboká nad Vltavou, Czech Republic
August 1st – Travel to Český Krumlov, Czech Republic
August 3rd – Travel to Dürnstein, Austria
August 5th – Travel to Vienna, Austria
August 8th – Fly back to JFK, New York.
This is going to be the greatest experience of my life. Pictures, tweets, status updates, and blog posts to follow.
See you all in August…