Sunday, April 14, 2013

Is College The Real Distraction?

Or is it this?
I've been reflecting on my first forays into Magic: The Gathering.

You know what's funny? People, at college, mocked me for being so obsessed with the game. I'd sit on the floor, arranging cards by mana cost and just tweaking decklists for hours. The cards were just random junk, old draft piles or whatever.

Someone would look into the room and be like, "Playing Magic by yourself again, Lee?" (No one used my first name in college.)

They were just kidding, but I could tell they thought I was just wasting time.

Trust me. I thought I wasn't doing anything that worthwhile either; I just did it. It was fun.

Most of us were in college to do science or engineering or math. We were going to go to grad school to become professors or work at places like Google or Oracle or NVIDIA. Others were going into finance or business. (There was a running joke about doing investment banking; I'm not sure why it was so amusing, but it was at the time.) A few were premed.

These were the jobs that seemed respectable to us.

None of us openly thought, "I want to help make games." We played a bunch of games. Some of us played a little too much. Yet it didn't look like anyone was actively pursuing a career in the gaming industry.

It just didn't seem like a real path.

But…when you love something enough, you just do it.

Today, I wonder how many young people are in school, obsessing over a game and avoiding classes or homework. They all probably think they should get back to the grindstone at some point and get real work done.

If you aren't really sure about what you should be doing and so are following a formula set out by peers, teachers, family members—try doing what you love and excelling at it and see where that gets you.

Because you'd be surprised.

If you don't love to do anything, keep looking and trying things until you find one. Make something, read more, talk with interesting people, help people with their projects or needs, travel, volunteer. You'll find something.

Some people have the motivation to do everything, but a lot of us want to focus on just one or two things. If that one thing is graduating from college in order to either study more or go work at some company to make money, then that can take away energy and motivation for you to do other things. Make sure that college is really where you want to be and that it's the right track for you. Don't eat the lie that it's right for everyone.

Is it weird to just me that the "typical" path in life just seems to be a string of events, with no concern for whether true happiness is achieved?

I know a lot of people who are working solely for the promise that things will get much easier later in life, after they have the money. I guess that's the motivation behind the investment banking joke.

Every step, from birth to adulthood, is laid out as though the purpose of life is to put one foot in front of the other.

Each grade is so you can move onto the next; elementary and middle school are designed so you can get into a good high school; high school is designed so you can get into a good college; college is designed so you can get a good job, etc.

It all looks like progress (and for many people it translates exactly into that), but it is really easy to lose sight of the big picture when all you are looking at is your own two feet, as you take one step after another in perpetuity.

All I'm saying is: Look up sometimes. Find the horizon. Where are you going?

Some good friends of mine struggled through college, some dropping out. And now they work at game companies (something they can be passionate about but that may not translate into society's ideal for success). And they are much happier for it. I went through college, but for me, the best and most impactful part was making friends and discovering Magic.

I'm not saying college is not worthwhile, but I am saying that failing college, getting bad grades—those aren't signs that you're somehow worthless and that you can't succeed. Your definition of success is coming from people who think college is all there is.

My parents still don't understand anything about the job I had at Star City, and I can try to explain it to them all day. But over the years, they've told me the same thing: Go back to school. Get a bigger and better degree. Also do you have a boyfriend?

"Uhhh." End call.

While you should listen to your parents' advice, don't let others stop you from doing what you really want to do and from exploring your options, even if they're off the beaten path.

Just do what you love, take chances, and work hard. Success can be redefined, but it should come from you.


Need some inspiration? Read about this guy. (You might think he needs some lifestyle changes, but hey he clearly doesn't give a shit what you think! And that's just fine.)