Dear Liberal Arts Student,
Congratulations on embarking (or continuing) on a path that will be one of the most transformative periods of your entire life. You are an intrepid, multi-faceted individual that will bring the energy and creativity that this world so desperately needs.
And you want to change this world. You want to launch an endeavor that will forever remain in the hearts and minds of people the world over as they realize that this planet – despite its difficulties – can in fact be a better place.
But there will inevitably come one of the most difficult realizations that you will ever have to face. It’s the fact that the world won’t receive you with open arms just because you have a great idea or a vibrant personality. People won’t change simply because you have the desire to transform their lives.
And you will be lost. You will feel confused. You will feel betrayed. You will feel broken.
There will come a moment when you want to abandon your ideas; a moment when you will want to cast aside all of your hopes and aspirations and settle into the harsh truth that maybe everyone else was right. Maybe things always will be the same, and you should just enter the system like everyone else and quickly numb any feelings of hope and courage that you might have had in the past.
But you must – with every fiber of your soul and being – fight the desire to give up. This is because in your liberal arts education you were taught how to create. You were taught how to solve problems. But you were never taught how to fail. You were never told that sometimes you have to knock on 74 different doors before one will open for you. For you, dear liberal arts student, spent the entirety of your education trying to figure out ways to work less. You tried to figure out ways to get the best grades with the least time and the least effort.
But the truth is: the world can only be changed by people with an unbreakable will to change it. And the only way to develop an unbreakable will is to do the work. It’s to be knocked down enough times that you come to love and absolutely relish the feeling of getting up. The world can’t be changed in a day, so get rid of that idea. The world can’t be changed in a year, so get rid of that idea too. The world can only be changed by years and decades of constant hard work, numerous dead-ends and the never-ending desire to improve.
When you graduate, you won’t know where to start. You’ll want to find the perfect job that will reward you with financial success and the satisfaction of greatly giving back to global society. But unfortunately, that job doesn’t exist. Your only option is to make yourself into the person that people want to work with. To make yourself into the hard worker that develops into a hardened world changer.
That may mean a few years of undesirable work. That may mean late nights and early mornings, plotting your worldly schemes until you have enough experience that people will actually take notice. That means countless ‘forgotten hours’ – hours in which you toiled, but no one was there to reward you but yourself and a newfound sense of accomplishment.
And when you start, some will ridicule you. Some will say that you don’t have any “demonstrable skills” like the non-foolish people who were smart enough to get trained so that they could be hired. But you must ignore these people. Because you were given the greatest skill of all: the ability to think. And no one can ever strip you of that skill. It can be applied to nearly any profession, and with your already cultivated creative talents, it can lead to many interesting and fulfilling directions.
So forget about changing the world today. Forget about changing it tomorrow. Instead, continue to trudge forward. Learn to fall in love with the work. For when an enlightened worker continues to cultivate him or herself, the world will inevitably change with them.
I wish you the best of luck,
A former liberal arts dreamer.