Do less, better

I met with a group of university freshmen yesterday. They were part of a leadership program that required them to interview faculty and administrators to collect advice on how to have a great college experience.

One of the students asked which college activities I recommend. Several organizations came to mind, and I shared a list of the ones that seem to have strong reputations and offer worthwhile experiences.

But I cautioned them not to spend their college years trying to build a long and seemingly impressive resume. There’s some merit to trying a lot of activities early on. But the most remarkable students I’ve known were those who focused on depth over breadth, who invested deeply in a few activities they genuinely cared about

These college superstars invariably chose their pursuits, academic and extracurricular, for their intrinsic worth, not necessarily as a means to an end or for their potential to move them up the ladder of accomplishment. And their focus allowed them to shine in ways that those who spread themselves across more obligations did not.

Explore possibilities thoroughly and “try on” a variety of pursuits to see what might fit well. But commit to only those activities that resonate and are most worthy of your limited time. And then go be awesome there.

This is not just a strategy for college success. I need this in real world life. Do less, but do it better. I need to say “no” consistently to inessential opportunities and commitments, even noble ones, in order to give my best effort to the few, key priorities I’ve chosen to build my work and my life around.

“If you seek tranquillity, do less.” Or (more accurately) do what’s essential—what the logos of a social being requires, and in the requisite way. Which brings a double satisfaction: to do less, better.
Because most of what we say and do is not essential. If you can eliminate it, you’ll have more time, and more tranquillity. Ask yourself at every moment, “Is this necessary?”
But we need to eliminate unnecessary assumptions as well. To eliminate the unnecessary actions that follow” –Marcus Aurelius

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