Studying the most successful people in society produces a tremendous amount of insights. One that is astounding, and practically universal, is the path to success is hardly ever a straight line. Those who achieve their goals do so as a result of determination, resiliency and a commitment to hard work. But, they also embrace a concept from which we can all take note.
One of my favorite anecdotes comes from Martin Luther King, Jr. I’m confident you have all read or heard a recording of his “I Have a Dream” speech. It is cited as being of the great catalysts for social justice and civil rights in the 20th century. Were you aware that it wasn’t part of his planned speech that day? When he concluded his written remarks, he paused and a member of the audience, Mahalia Jackson, urged him to “tell them about the dream, Martin!” Dr. King could have ended his speech, sticking to his “script” for the event. Instead he followed his passion, his dream, and gave the speech of a lifetime.
We are often told, rightly, of the important to develop a plan in order to reach our goals. That plan, the steps A-Z to reach our destination, can be thought of as our personal script. It is my belief that in order to be successful and reach your goals, you must be willing to go off script. Remember that the goal is what is important, not the steps to obtain it. Commitment to the script, and not the goal itself, can lead to failure.
Let’s consider this as it relates to the choice of college major. Many students, long before they walk on a college campus, have determined what their course of study will be. You may even be one of those students. You could have fallen in love with a given field of study or look up to someone in that career. You may have even chose a major simply because it sounds interesting. Numerous counselors and advisors have likely helped you to determine the best path to reach that goal, as they should. Next you begin your college journey with the fixed finish line in sight.
But what happens if it turns out the major isn’t for you? Now what?
All too often students remain in a major, taking dozens of credit hours, knowing that they don’t enjoy the material. They secretly wish they could change, but don’t take the necessary steps to do so. In my experience, this phenomenon occurs for one of a variety of reasons including fear of the unknown, commitment to the prestige of a major (saying “I’m a Philosophy major” might not have the same ring as being “Engineering” or “Pre-Med”), or a sense that changing might prolong your educational journey. All of these are valid concerns and ones that you should work through with the help of advisors and mentors. Don’t wait, though. You don’t want to be the person who wakes up before graduation with an epiphany that you are on the wrong track.
Finally, when considering the idea of the script, I want you to consider an important question—who wrote yours? Was it you alone, or is the product of other people’s nudges and suggestions? No matter how many hands worked to create it, remember this one unmistakable fact…you own it. At the end of the day, you are the one who must live your script. If you are following a path that doesn’t provide you with the drive and passion to continue, then why follow it? Don’t worry about upsetting others, this is your life.
What greatness might you inspire if you follow your dream? Imagine if Dr. King had stuck to the script.