To My Brothers, On Leadership

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In the last four years you've obviously learned a lot and in the next four years, you'll find that there is so much to learn and you may leave college with more questions than answers. After several cups of coffee at 4 AM this morning, I decided that what will prepare you the most for college and beyond is learning to be a leader. You've already started learning how but it's a lifelong course. There are four aspect though that I think will help you through college particularly.

  1. Purpose: Dwight Schrute once said, “Before I do anything, I ask myself, ‘would an idiot do that? And if the answer is yes, I do not do that thing’”. Though adopting Dwight as a role model would be a questionable choice, it is a good choice to find your why for everything - every class, every practice, every game, every friend, every night out. Every now and then, your why will be selfish, misguided or you just won’t have one and you will still make some faulty decisions. But if you make a regular practice of asking yourself, "Why am I doing this? Why am I thinking this? Why am I in the company of this person?” you will learn to steer yourself in the right direction.

  2. Mission: If your purpose is your why, your mission is your “because”. There were quite a few times where I found myself in a class saying “what am I doing here?”. Sometimes I was literally in the wrong classroom, but often I just needed to find a mission - a “because” - to be there. For example, one calculus class I took was a snooze fest, but I made it each day by playing a little game. It was the “guess the color of frat guy's shorts" game. Seafoam green, sunny yellow, lavender, kind-of salmon, really salmon - another day, another color of shorts. Do whatever works for you. Develop missions for each activity, for each class, for each day, for each semester and each year - eventually, it will be instinctive. You'll think, without having to remind yourself, of what your mission should be to achieve success. I’m not going to give you advice on your overall mission for college should be because it should be entirely your own. As Arnold Palmer said, you need to “swing your own swing”.

  3. Vision: If your mission is your “because”, your vision is your “what” or your goal. Say someone asks you why you’re going to college. You purpose is why you’re there. We’ll keep it simple and say your purpose is to learn. Then, your mission leads you to say that you want to learn because you value knowledge. Your vision then, is knowledge itself: the object of your mission. Your vision is your goal. It is also setting up a time frame and a method of evaluation to determine success or failure in reaching your goal. Make your goal as specific as possible and then envision, constantly, how you plan to reach it. And most importantly, make sure that you are excited about your goal. Make sure that, in reaching your goal, you will be as excited as Stanley on pretzel day or as Tom on Treat Yo-self Day. If you will be that excited, it’s a good goal.

  4. Strategy: If your vision is your goal, your strategies are the specific steps you must take to reach your goal. During my junior year, my goal was to have more balance. There were a lot of strategies that I could have taken on - study groups, running clubs, yoga, music classes - all sorts of things. But there are only so many hours in the day, so you have to find a small set of strategies and stick to them, foregoing everything - save a few splurges - that does not fit on your list of strategies. As Leslie Knope said, “There’s nothing we can’t do if we work hard, never sleep and shirk all other responsibilities in our lives”. Maybe don’t follow that quote all the way. Make sure to get a few hours of sleep. And you should probably only shirk non-essential activities, but you get the gist. There are a million things to do in college at all times and most of them are really good things but you cannot do them all, so don’t.

Though your strategies must be your own and must be specific to your experiences, I do have a few pieces of advice:

  1. Leave judging others off of your strategy list. Loving god and loving others gets harder when there are lots of others instead of a few others, but knowledge doesn't come from judgment. The only way to learn from someone is to love them.

  2. Leave most people’s opinions off your list. Consider the opinions of the people who matter and even then, weigh them against what you think is right. I only listen to mom, dad and my husband half the time. But about those people who do not truly matter in the scheme of your purpose, mission and vision, and you'll know who they are, do not worry.

  3. Don’t leave talking to family off your list, but do try to talk to mom after she has had her ambien. Don’t call me after 8 pm, but 5 am is fine. 5 am for mom is also fine.

  4. Don’t leave finding new family off your list. We will be close and of course you will always have us, but find an extended family - you'll have a church family, and your football team family, and the list will go on. Stick close to them even when it gets hard. 

I’ll wrap this up by saying something to you that I mean wholeheartedly. It is something that my favorite professor said on the first day of my hardest class. “I am always here to help. No one will be more proud of you than me if you earn an A in this course”. I held on to that and was able to pass the course. Yes- with an A. Believe it or not, though, I am a firm believer in “Cs get Degrees”, it’s a true statement, so don’t worry too terribly much about As. Instead, focus on your purpose, your mission and your vision. Four years from now, no matter what happens, if you can tell me that you have an even greater sense of purpose, that you stuck to your mission, and that you achieved your goal - whatever that goal may be - that will be an A in my book and no one will be more proud of you than me.

Love Always,

Your Big Sister

Elise MatsonComment