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Leave your mark in high school

Two weeks ago, our Advisor James Chiu showed up at one of our general meetings with the entire Project 5K team. He smiled, joked around, led us through a workshop.

Then he ripped us apart.

Staring right into our faces, he told us that we really hadn’t done anything special. That anyone could have done what Project 5K is doing. When it came down to it, we were utterly mediocre.

There was dead silence in the room. No one said anything. Everyone tried to avoid making eye contact with each other. Why? Well, we had all realized that James was absolutely right.

That’s a pretty shitty pill to swallow. I mean we had all sacrificed hours of our time going to events, attending meetings, and trying to set up sponsorships and opportunities. Having someone tell you that after all those months, you really hadn’t done much hurt. Quite frankly, I think it was exactly what Project 5K needed. I think it’s something everyone needs to experience.

Now if you haven’t figured it out yet, James is a pretty blunt guy. Sometimes, he borders on being downright rude. But he knows his stuff. He’s been around the block networking, helping to create Vision Youth ( , and advising non-profits like ours. He’s seems like a pretty happy and successful guy. In fact, when he’s not in the meeting room, he is honestly a pretty awesome person.

James’s criticisms were all well-intentioned. He wanted to really hammer home a few points with us, points that have made him such as successful and happy guy. Some of these points really inspired me and widened my perspective on life. That’s why I want to share them with you.

Dream Big. Worry about the details later.

We all have dreams. The Wright Brothers wanted to fly. Steve Jobs wanted to build a “computer for the rest of us”. Nelson Mandela wanted to end apartheid in South Africa.

Those are all some pretty lofty goals. Everyone else must have thought that what these visionaries wanted to do was impossible. Against all odds, they still managed to accomplish their goals, and they all started with the same first step.

Dream big.

As kids, we all knew how to dream big. Nothing in the world could stop us. But we started worrying about details and practicalities. We want to do something awesome like start a non-profit, create an event, or start a band, and then we forget about it because we think it’s impossible. In other words, we grew up.

Something that stuck with me from James was the “can do” attitude. Don’t worry about how you’re going to do something, because that just limits your creativity. Instead, figure out what you want to do and why you want to do it. If you really want something, then you’ll figure out a way to get it.

Keep on Learning

James really hates our education system. He ranted a few times about how it limits our creativity, makes us small minded, and kills our desire to take risks. Funny thing is that James loves to learn.

He told us how he loves to listen to Tim Ferriss podcasts, hang out at university talks, and devour books. During the meeting, James was talking about something called Design Thinking, something that he had read about over and over again. His eyes lit up, his hands started to move faster, and it sounded like he could have talked for days on end. While most of the exec team was zoning out, James looked like a kid who had just opened a present on Christmas.

Afterwards at our dinner, James really wanted to make the point that we should keep on learning. Learning is more than just memorizing textbooks, formulas, and definitions. Learning is about picking up new skills, giving yourself the knowledge and capabilities to make a difference, failing fast and failing forward.

So read, watch YouTube videos, talk to the experts, do something, because learning is one of the only ways to grow and reach your full potential.

Fun Fact: Warren Buffett (you know the billionaire) reads 500 pages or more...every single day.

Leave your Mark.

Have you ever joined a club, team,or council? Doesn’t it ever feel like there’s a status quo? A bunch of events you do over and over again. Fundraisers that never change. After a while, it gets pretty boring.

One of the reasons that I think most people join all these councils and clubs is that they want to make a difference. At least that’s one of the reasons I wanted to join Project 5K. After that meeting with James, I felt dissatisfied. I am disappointed that as of yet, I feel like I haven’t left my own unique mark in Project 5K, my school’s DECA chapter, or the community.

Sometimes, I feel like as students we’re too satisfied with being mediocre. We’re content to just follow the path that others have made for us.


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