Birthday, Musing, personal, reflection

Little moments: Shared Birthdays

So as my blog expands and grows, I’d like to start doing more organized series. For the last month I’ve currently been brainstorming interesting topics that can continue indefinitely. With that, I’m proud to present, “little moments”, my attempt at capturing those moments that are all too fleeting.

Today is my birthday and it got me thinking, what is it that makes birthdays so great? Personally, the older I get, the less the allure presents have on me. Gifts are just objects and the best gifts are the ones that create memories. This is part one of this post. The simple act of sharing your birthday with others. To make plans and spend your time with good company. A few years ago my roommates baked me a cake and I almost cried at the thought of it. It was the best birthday I ever had and it was the kick-off to one of the best years of my life. Come last year my birthday was spent in Switzerland and that was an absolute blast. Little did I know the girls I went on the trip with would become good friends and my travel buddies for my time abroad.

Now come this year. My birthday has snuck up on me. I’m back in Portland for the first time in 5 years. Corvallis, Oregon has been my home, then Mosbach, Germany. It has been a long time since I’ve called Portland home. Most of my friends are in college or 8000km (about 5000 miles) away and spread across the globe. It’s hard to keep connected. As much as I’d love to say I’ll keep in touch with everyone, it simply isn’t practical. Life is full of tough choices.

So as you can imagine, I was a little nervous come today. While I don’t mind being alone, life is better in good company. And I was shocked that last week, at simply the mention of my birthday, my friends without hesitation were willing to drop what they’re doing to help celebrate my birthday with me. And as I imagine, this will be my best birthday yet.


Now, part two. Part two is simply sharing the same birthday with another human being; it’s a weird sensation. It is something you never really think about. Most of the time we are so focused on our big day that we simply forget about other people.

When I was in Germany there was another student who had the same birthday as me. The class sang happy birthday not to one, but two people. That’s awesome! When you think about the odds of having the same birthday as someone and actually meeting that person and becoming friends with them, it’s rare. As such, it should be something special. Now I’m on a mission to find someone who was born in 1993 and on September 16th because why not? Regardless, the point is, there is an instant connection when someone has the same birthday as you! Some people suck at finding ice breakers. Well guess what? This is an instant icebreaker! It’s fun.


Birthdays are meant to be shared in the company of others. Everyone deserves to be wished a happy birthday. Birthdays are a time to catch up, reminisce, and plan for the future. Some people dredge getting older but I say bring it on! I am 24 years old today and the 5 year plan I set when I was 20 is almost in need of an update. Time flies, so on this special day, I’d like to thank everyone who’s made my life a little brighter. Especially you, my followers. Blogging has been my passion for years but it wouldn’t be possible without your support. Every like, every follow, every comment has put a smile on my face and made me realize we are never truly alone, we just need to know where to look.

Eclipse, reflection, Space

If the sun disappeared only for a moment…

“The Universe is under no obligation to make sense to you.” – Neil deGrasse Tyson

I find it funny how despite my blog having a space theme, I’ve never actually once talked about space. I haven’t even alluded to why I chose the name “To the Moon” other than a brief paragraph.

Last week was the solar eclipse. I would say the “Great American Eclipse” yet the stars aren’t something that can be owned. When we look up at the sky, we are looking into the past and in a sense, our future. The universe is filled with possibility and is beautifully chaotic.

When we think of the universe, we think of a painted canvas, a sort of cosmic gallery of beauty. At least, that’s what we’d like to see. Every time I look up I see darkness, with only the brightest stars shining; only once have I seen the universe in it’s full majesty.

And I never have forgotten that moment, out in the mountains, away from the city lights. And instead of seeing darkness, I saw the most beautiful hues of blue as I saw our galaxy for the first time. Not darkness, but as a river in the sky, weaving itself into a tapestry of twinkling stars. And perhaps this is the first time I realized the world was bigger than just Portland, Oregon. That I was nothing more than a speck on the cosmic scale.

Perhaps this is what first inspired my Wanderlust and taught me to dream, back when I said I wanted to be an astronaut when I grew up or better yet, a space traveler, time lord; a time when the sky was the limit and when a dream was never too big. I’ve been searching my whole life to recreate that moment, camping out all night in a field, freezing but more connected than I had ever been…

In college I was always busy and a lot of the time I would walk back home late at night. There’s something serene about looking up at the night sky and wishing… To look up and realize that whatever is going on in your life right now, “life goes on”.

So come last week, I was excited. I live on a glorified hill in the city and it’s a few minutes walk to the top. And I watched. From beginning to end, I watched. And a curious question popped into my head as the moon passed, “How little sun we need to survive”. Even at a sliver before totality, it was light and I was warm. Then I watched as the sun “set” all around, the intense shadows before an infinite sunset. I felt the temperature drop as day became twilight and then back to day.

Nature is beautiful and it’s a tragedy that we’ve fallen out of touch with the beauty of the world, let alone the universe. Some spend their entire lives in boxes and don’t even realize they’re in prison. People came together for a brief moment and it’s a shame that like the eclipse, it was but a fleeting moment. I put my faith in the stars; call me a dreamer, but when you look to the stars, tomorrow has already happened, it just depends on where you’re standing…


Thanks for reading! If you’re wondering where I get all my cool space photos, they’re from the NASA home page. The photos are on the public domain, which makes acquiring them hassle and worry free as the copyright doesn’t exist or has expired. Anyways, did you see the eclipse? Want to talk about the mysteries of the universe? Feel free to comment below!

reflection, Travel

The life of a Traveler

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” – Marcel Proust


As I currently plan out my future from now till my death bed, I thought it would be fun to talk a little about travel. A year ago come August, I left for my study abroad experience in Germany. I forced myself to go. College was a time for stepping outside of my comfort soon and becoming the person I always wanted to be.

As it currently stands and as I will say many times, I am making my way North. Portland is a fantastic city and I could live a happy life here but it would not be a fulfilling one. I would wake up one day and ask myself, “is this what childhood Mike would’ve wanted?” The answer would be no. The kid who would dress up in a suit with a clip-on tie for school photos, the kid who, when asked what he wanted to be when he grew up would reply, “successful.”  It would be a dis-service to every dream I’ve ever had and dreams yet dreamt.  Call it cabin fever, call it wanderlust but the world is meant to be explored.

Life is not measured in the things we own but rather the experiences we have. And as it would come to argue, it is much easier to create new experiences when you’re on the move.

I lived 5 years in Corvallis, Oregon for College so Portland is a nice change. Yet imagine Seattle. Then Vancouver, Canada, then Quebec. Spend a few years in France, then Germany, Austria? That’s the life people envy.

And perhaps we can broaden our definition of traveler. Why limit it to the scope of a geographic location? The reason I love travel is the immersion. I’ve always wondered what it’s like to see the world through someone else’s eyes and am sure many have felt the same, if only for a fleeting moment.

If you’re in Germany, you drink beer. France, you drink wine, smoke slim cigarettes and eat snail. Jokes aside, there is a reason I still practice German. There’s a reason I started learning French. It’s a connection through language.

There’s literally no point in staying put. Take a good friend of mine for example. He majored in chemistry and minored in dance. Guess which degree he uses the most? Dance. I envy him. That’s fulfilling. To go against the tide of others expectations and do what you love. Some spend a lifetime searching and even then…

I think we could all use a little more dance in our life. I’m not talking about black-out drunk, making questionable life choices dancing. I’m talking about something a little more elegant, a waltz. Or perhaps a tango, cha-cha, etc. A little spice, a little fire. Travel fulfills. No one became great from staying exactly who they were. They might become good enough, but does that really sound like a life worth living?

So go travel. Start with a country and then evolve. Through a dart at a map and buy a one way plane ticket. Terrified of a country? Pick a city, a town, a new friend. Start somewhere. Who knows, life might just surprise you.


Thanks for reading! If you like what I write, be sure to follow and tell your friends. Feel free to comment below. Talk about travel, bestow wisdom, anything.

Musing, reflection

The curious case of Michael Cole: A tale into the art of being stuck

So it’s time for my evolution. Like a Pokémon, I’ve leveled up enough to become someone else, something else. But what is that something? That’s what we’re going to explore today because as of right now, I’m stuck and yet I’m free. If I were to take from 1984, I would call this doublethink, the idea that I can be two seemingly contradictory things at the same time. I got my degree and my tunnel vision has been lifted. And while I’m happy right now, I’m not satisfied, I’m not fulfilled. Call it a quarter life crisis where I must choose my future. I have knowledge yet I don’t know where to apply it. Call this my therapy, writing words on paper (so to speak). A public brainstorm if you will.

Goals

What goals do I have? As a newly graduated college student, it’s tough. I was so eager to hit the reset button that I didn’t realize what that meant. It’s one thing to think, it’s a whole different story to live. My goals, as ambitious as they have been, have been achieved and now I can create a set of new goals, both short term and long term. Short term is easy, catch up on Supergirl, The Flash, Arrow, and Legends of Tomorrow. But long-term? Oh my, that’s much tougher. I think my main issue is assembling my team, my inner circle if you will. My most trusted, most competent friends that will follow me as I build my empire. I never thought I’d achieve independence yet here I am. The problem is now I must seek interdependence. The collaboration of brilliant minds, to create ideas that I cannot even fathom at this moment. That is the dream, yet how do I get there, that is the question. This is a new challenge. A college degree was the ticket to my future and now that I have that ticket, now I have to figure out what train to board. Sales, marketing, management, research, writing; I want to do it all. Yet how? I am great at answering the “why” yet the “how” is always something I’ve struggled with. I want stability yet I also want the unpredictable, the exciting moments that come from branching out.

Can we have it all?

I believe the answer to this question is yes. That’s the “why”, the question is the “how”. And it is OK to say I don’t know but personally I like shortcuts. People say there are no shortcuts in life yet that’s not entirely true. We have so much information at our disposal that answers are simply a google search away. Yes, you’ll still need to work for what you want, but we save a lot of time nowadays with our connected world. So this is an exploration topic. If we can have it all, what are the right questions? Depends on the situation. Yet there has to be a standard and with all the books I’ve read, I still haven’t found a universal law or standard. Yet this is the wild west, the exploration of the human mind. Understanding what makes us human. So what does? Love, human connection. That’s all fine and dandy yet it’s easy to implement. It’s a necessity, not a solution. Altruism? Giving more to others than you give to yourself? Noble, but unfortunately is not a philosophy that will lead to long-term happiness. Creativity? Yes, perhaps, but how? People say creativity is lost and yet I don’t think that to be true. I believe creativity to be ever present and that people have simply closed their minds (whether knowingly or not). So let’s start there for the rules to set in place.

The Rules

And perhaps the rules don’t have to be in chronological order. So how does one spark creativity? I recently experienced burnout. I love learning so I didn’t think one was possible for me. Yet towards the end of College, I couldn’t seem to keep myself engaged. I was successful and it bored me, who would’ve thought? And now I search for more answers. The creativity question just recently popped into my head. That perhaps my problem isn’t in what I can do but rather in the fact that my mind is dry. Interesting concept. At this point I would be considered incredibly smart, handsome, and funny (sarcasm, I’m not that much of an egomaniac) and yet it’s not enough. Why? The creativity, or diversity of ideas problem. If you keep achieving you have to constantly improve otherwise you risk being trapped in The Void. You reach a new level of being and if you cannot stretch the mind, you cannot innovate and you cannot create. The solution? The rules? Oh, that is the question! And I’d say it’s as simple as acknowledging this fact. That creativity is always there and that all you simply have to do is take the plunge, the Great Dive. And that you do not dive once but you keep diving until the day you die for once you fear the plunge… Then you cease to live and forever remain in The Void…


Thanks for reading! Hopefully you enjoyed my musing and exploration in today’s post! As far as the coming weeks, months, etc. I am looking for ideas. Eventually I want to have a team of writers but for now it is still just I, with all the intimacy you’ve come to expect. In the next week or two I might start pumping out reviews and recommendations or I may not. I need to refine my writing process and I’m starting to develop systems to do so. Expect better content as the blog grows and I’m glad you could join me on this journey! Questions, thoughts, ideas? Feel free to post below!

College, journey, reflection

Journey’s End week 6: I set a course for winds of fortune…

“What lies behind you and what lies in front of you, pales in comparison to what lies inside of you.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson


Before I jump in, I’d just like to thank everyone for your support over the years. This site has finally hit 50 followers. A while back I made a plan should I ever hit 50 followers, I would work towards expanding my blog in a more meaningful way. This site is officially a .com now and advertisements are gone so it should make for a more enjoyable experience. I’m looking to put together a team over the next year or so and keep the momentum going. Thanks for joining me on this journey! So, without further ado, let’s get started…


When I was a child, I was asked a very simple question, “what do you want to be when you grow up”? I would always reply, “Successful”. When we’re children, we’re taught to dream big, to go forth and tackle our dreams head on. If only that were a reality we could hold onto for the entirety of our lives… Instead the world tells us what we can and can’t do and our environments begin to mold us… Those who learn to master their own destiny often realize too late.

He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past. This simple idea of being able to rewrite history… And in this context, your own… Is extremely powerful. We write our own stories. The world cannot hurt he who is master of himself. When you learn to weave words, you can simply rewrite your story. Life is a process to be broken down. A series of patterns, data-points to make sense of. As it has always been, we create the narrative. If it sounds pleasing to the ear, then it is pleasing to the ear. Reality is both subjective and objective. We create the story and we can choose to ignore certain laws of nature that remain constant (or we can embrace them). If two people perceive the same reality, then who is to say that is any less real than the objective reality we must all abide by. Is the glass half empty or half full? It depends. If we pour the glass halfway, then it is half full. If we pour the glass full and drink half, then it is half empty. The glass can be both. It’s how you define the terms.

Coffee with My Little

As I mentioned last week, I have multiple spots around campus where I go when I need peace. Many think I’m an extrovert yet I’m actually an ambivert. Or as I like to call it, my introverted friends will say I’m an extrovert while my extroverted friends will say I’m an introvert. As such, I actually prefer to spend most of my time alone. I’ve been taking walks around campus, sitting on my bench as the wind blows through my hair on a warm Spring day. Or I’m in the library, where I’ve claimed a comfy chair as my designated napping spot. My favorite spot? Is a coffee shop on campus that has a balcony overlooking our quad. I like to sit outside, sipping on coffee, and simply watch the hustle and bustle down below. I create stories for those I don’t know and for those I do, I see who they’re with and wonder where they’re going. It’s fun being an observer, as you can watch the world end and begin anew all in the course of a morning. What I love most about this spot is it’s a nice reminder that the world is bigger than we are and that we have a part to play. So I decided for the last time to take my little for coffee. We always go to Dutch Bros so it was only fitting that we end with somewhere that has personal meaning to who I am.

In a sense, this was my goodbye. I used to get coffee with my Little every week. I pulled out a notebook the first time we met and wrote down his interests, who he was, and who he wanted to be. I was with him every step of the way. I watched him go from someone trying to find his way in the world to who he is now, where he no longer needs the advice his Big once gave…

My most cherished moment was when he was in his first interview with the fraternity and was asked, “if you saw yourself in a leadership role, what would it be”? And he said, “I’d like to be the Service Chair”. “Why?” they asked. He replied, “because the current Service Chair is someone I admire and look up to”.

To be honest, I’ve been beating around the bush a lot lately. Soon I’ll have my banquets with the organizations that have been my “tribe” for the last 3 years. Every time I start to think of the impact these organizations have had on my life, I begin to get choked up. I’ll change the subject quickly and avoid breaking down. I’m not one to show my emotions. I’ve spent years perfecting my techniques and methods. Everyone I love could leave me tomorrow and I’d still keep moving forward. I’ve become, in a sense, unbreakable. Every hardship that has ever graciously bestowed its presence on me has only served to make me stronger. A lifetime of betrayal has made the weak, strong.

Family

When I came to college I had the dirt to my name. What was once promised was never meant to be. At this point in time my friends were beginning to disassociate themselves with me. When I needed friends the most, they all more or less abandoned me. And truth be told, I was always the outsider, the David looking to conquer Goliath. And when you’re lonely, it is much harder to make friends. The mornings where you keep on going and don’t even know why… Or the years of counseling because you had no one else to talk to… To avoid mirrors because you hated what you saw when you looked in one… Yea, it’s not pretty. Or tell someone “I’m fine” because it’s easier than saying you’re dead on the inside. Yup, that was my first two years of college… But then I stumbled my way from engineering to business… And I asked my adviser back in 2014, “What do I need to do to be successful”? And she gave me a list… And… I felt like crying. I thought, “how will I ever be able to do all this”? And then I took a deep breath and said, “let’s focus on one thing at a time”. And then I joined management club…

This was my first taste of finding my tribe. Back at a time when I didn’t trust anyone… I went to every meeting, every event, and copied everything my mentors did. I had two mentors in management club, both long gone by now… If only they could know how much of a difference they made in my life… But as I said before, I get too choked up whenever I think about it, so I avoid the conversation… But I will say this; they were like big sisters to me…

Then came AKPsi, the business fraternity… Back when I was a nobody they helped make me a somebody… We have 5 core values: Service, Integrity, Knowledge, Unity, and Brotherhood. These values gave me guidance and direction when I had none. AKPsi, gave me something to believe in… And how do you repay that? When your brothers make you feel as though you’re part of something bigger, that you belong… To take your hand and lift you up when you’re down. That’s family. Not who you’re born with but rather who you choose to be with, to spend your time with… And I love my brothers because they are my friends. When I’m old, these are the people I will keep in touch with.

And my roommates… To have friends to go home to, to hang out with… To listen, to understand… You can’t replace that. So many things had to go right to create the man who stands before you today… And if I could go back and change my college experience, even one moment, I wouldn’t. I don’t know if things happen for a reason but as far as I’m concerned, I’m happy they happened the way they did. I miss the nerf gun fights, the board game nights, weekly get together with the ladies (yes we had a guys house and a girls house), the hiking, all of it. Now my roommates are scattered across the country… Looking back, I can be grateful for the little moments that added up… It gives me something to smile about.

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my last mentor/friend. Yet I’ll keep this mysterious. Goodbyes are never easy and I’m saving his goodbye for when I stand tall in my cap and gown.

The Old Man and the Library

To end, I’d like to tell a story. As mentioned earlier, I have my napping spot in the library. Every student should have a napping spot, it brings a tear to my eye when I hear that a student doesn’t. I’ve tried other napping spots throughout the years, but it’s not the same… I always have come back to this one spot… 5 years, this spot has personally seen my journey from beginning to end. Whenever I’d have a break, I’d go here. I’d read, listen to music, listen to podcasts, etc. It was great. Over time I’d always notice a man sitting at a table. Freshman year… Sophomore year… Junior year… Senior year… And never once did I ask, “what’s his story”? Until this year. This is a man who has seen me come in and sit down at the exact same spot for the last 5 years… Is he a professor? A researcher? A community member? I couldn’t tell you. Yet just like me, he has his spot. What’s his story? Should I know? Should I care? Perhaps before the term is over I’ll ask him. Or perhaps not. I’ve built his narrative and I have to wonder if he’s done the same for me… What would he say about “the kid and the library”? Would he say anything?


Thanks for reading! Hope you enjoyed this post and feel free to share, comment, and like! Next week is an open book but I’ll most likely take time to talk about my college bucket list and what’s next.

Advice, reflection

Journey’s end, week 1: What we leave behind…

“Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.” – Abraham Lincoln


How was my first week? As expected, it was bitter-sweet. The sun is shining and birds are chirping but sporadically we’ll get a sprinkle or monsoon (Oregon is weird). As I ask students what they remember most about their college experience, most of my friends are stumped. It’s something you don’t think about. Perhaps they’ll mention what they didn’t do but what we did eludes the mind. I’m lucky in the sense that most of my experience I’ve documented. When I was a Freshman, I started my blog over on IGN, back when all I did with my time was play video games. I was shy and awkward but video games always made me feel at home and IGN just felt like the right blogging community. I simply quoted whatever was said initially, then once I had people saying things like “great job” I started writing what I thought of that which I quoted. I even wrote a few articles before the move to WordPress. After my blog came my journal, which, whenever I’m feeling down (which isn’t often nowadays), I simply pull it out and reread entries that I started writing a few years ago. Very few people remember the old Mike but I’m one of them. And if one thing has remained constant, it’s the desire to be better. Call it an obsession; I call it progress. I used to hate failing so I never tried. Now I look back and see failing as some of my fondest memories. Not so much failing but rather the fact that no matter what, I’ve gotten back up.

Finding My Tribe

As much as I like to saying finding a job is the college dream, it’s not. The real dream is, as my organizational behavior instructor put it, “finding my tribe”. It’s amazing how one little phrase can have so much impact. If you do one thing in college, let it be “finding your tribe”. The people you surround yourself with will have the greatest impact on your life. For me, it was student organizations, for you, it might be completely different. Many will not remember when I was a drifter, but I do. People see the man today but very few ask what it took to get there. My mentors are long gone and many will not realize the impact they had on my development, but I thank them as they gave me the power to pass the torch, they believed in me when no one else would. And can I ever repay that debt? No. What they gave me is irreplaceable. You can’t make it alone so I’m grateful I didn’t have to.

Beginning of the End

Every step I’ve taken this week has led to one thought after another. I’m trying to savor every moment, every step I take. I’m a man running out of time and I know it. Time is the most valuable resource we have. Once it’s gone, we can’t replace it. When I was a Freshman it felt like I had all the time in the world and that was exciting. I had my whole future ahead of me, I had time to set goals and achieve dreams. And now I’ve achieved those dreams. I sit on my throne and look at my kingdom. The empire I’ve built, what I’ve left behind. And while I can smile, there was a certain magic throughout my years of college. I could be this, I could be that, I could be anything. And while not bad, I narrowed my focus and now more or less have a lot figured out. And I miss the chaos… Being that low-achieving, “mediocre kid” that failed so much that nobody expected anything from him. I miss the mid-achiever who had goals and ambitions but needed mentors to achieve them. And now I’m scratching my head as people look to me for advice and guidance. I never asked for this. Or better yet, I’m at a point where I’ve been a top-achiever for so long that I can watch the advice I gave being passed down generation to generation.

The little things

As I sit watching the sunset of my college adventure, I have to wonder, “If I could do it over, would I”? If I had the knowledge I had now as a Freshman, imagine what I could accomplish… So if I could do it over, to be given a second chance, would I change a moment of my college experience? The answer is NO. People prefer to focus on the good. The successes, the victories, the triumphs. Yet the battles are the good stuff. Digging into the trenches, buried up to your knees in mud. Blood, sweat, and tears. My life would be boring if all I ever did was win. There’s no test of character there. The true test of character comes from how we deal with adversity. Do we desert the battle field or do we fight until our last breath? Do we retreat to fight another day or do we lead one last charge? And when victory is finally achieved? Victory is earned. To wave the flag as the sun rises on top of a pile of destruction, forever looking to the horizon. That’s the beauty in life; the little moments building on each other to become our greatest triumphs.


The end is nigh

As I sit in my castle, I still remember when I worked the fields. Serf Mike never once thought he would be king. So that’s it, that’s week one in a nutshell. Thanks for reading and get excited for week two! If you have questions, comments, anything. Please, discuss, share!

Advice, reflection, Tips and Tricks

Journey’s End

Here it is, the beginning of the end. 5 years and here I stand, at the finish line. Hard to believe. College in the U.S. is far from easy and many talented individuals often aren’t afforded the opportunity simply because of the price tag. Even at minimum wage, unlike our parents, we cannot pay off our debt. So it comes down to a matter of luck. And while it hasn’t always seemed like it, I’ve been extremely lucky. And I’m grateful for that. I want to take time to document my last term, much in the way I documented my time spent in Germany. It’s a bitter-sweet ending. I’m sad to go but at the same time I’m excited to start a new chapter.

The College Experience

All too often I feel the experience of the college student is often overlooked, undervalued. We are seen as young and still figuring out the world, so why should we be given the time of day? And perhaps this will change, but if I read an article about college students, more often than not it’s not written by a college student. That’s a shame. When I started blogging as a Freshman, the purpose was to give myself a voice when it felt like I had none. Over the years I’ve acquired more and more influence, little by little and now… I can look back and see the legacy I’ve created. My work, the relationships I’ve built… I can finally be proud, to take a moment to breathe. And the more I’ve changed, the more I’ve realized I’ve stayed the same. My core essence is still here, I have simply cleaned the clutter. And who am I? I’m a good man. I came to college to be a better person and while I’ll always be refining, I’m happy with the progress I’ve made.

The Fork in the road

It wasn’t always this way. Confidence. Confidence can’t be read, it must be experienced. Eventually everyone will have to make this choice, do you want to be “good enough” or do you want to be great? My cross country coach once said, “do you want to be mediocre kid”? And you know what I said? I said yes. Why? Because it was comfortable. And I remember my last race, my senior year of High School. It had been an exhausting season and there was a moment during the race where I could’ve pushed myself beyond my limits and I chose not to. And while it was a good race (ran a 5k in 19:25), it could’ve been a great race. And that’s when the idea started to manifest, the idea that maybe I wasn’t OK with being mediocre kid. So what did I do when I got to college? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. I wasn’t a good student and in fact took pride in not trying hard, to simply blend in. I stopped running and simply existed. When I had no base, I used to always say, “what would Mr.E think of me now”? So what changed? Obviously I didn’t stay mediocre kid.


My Freshman year I was simply surviving. I was by every definition a mess. Angry, Ashamed, Sad; the list goes on. In addition I was very moody and not easy to get along with. I was selfish and thought the world owed me everything. So come my Sophomore year, I suppose I became the wise fool. I found a job and was able to increase my standard of living just a little bit. I could buy what I wanted and discovered coffee for the first time. I started exercising again and while I still struggled, I had come a long way since my Freshman year. Then came the betrayal. How easily one moment you can be on top of the world only to watch your kingdom crumble because it was built on a foundation of sand. So what happened?

 Growing up

I’ve been in school since the age of 3. Since I’ve been able to form a memory, I’ve been in the system. And while I’ve had friends my entire life, I’ve never felt like I truly fit in. I’ve always preferred to have a few close friends yet for the longest time I’ve tried so hard to impress everyone. The friends I had I often took for granted and I’ll admit I haven’t always been the charmer I am now. By my Sophomore year of college I was vulnerable. I cherished my friends and started appreciating them a lot more. I remember thinking to myself how lucky I was that I still had any friends. My Freshman year I had made very few friends and was extremely lonely. That trend continued well into my Sophomore year and as such, I was a man stuck in the past. I held onto the friends that stuck with me, through thick and thin. And then… One of my best friends, a week after we reconnected the summer of my Sophomore year, denounced me. He criticized every mistake I made in high school and said he was done. He said my life wasn’t heading anywhere and that I simply didn’t listen to my friends. I didn’t even realize at the time that was who I was. I was angry. And then I asked a simple question, why? Why was I so angry? And then I realized that he was right. I was alone and I was afraid to be anything more than mediocre. I took the easy road and had no purpose. I was stuck in the past, holding on to friends who had moved on with their lives and I was left behind. So, in this moment, what was once one road, diverged and became two.

And what did I do? I took the one less traveled, and that has made all the difference. Two choices, I could continue down the path of mediocrity or I could step into the unknown and seek success (which I had always sought but never laid the groundwork to achieve). So I quit my job and went to the career success center and asked, “how do I be successful”? And what was I given? A list. It said go to the career fairs, create a Linkedin, draft a resume, join management club. So, I went to management club.

Put yourself in an environment of success

This rule has served me well. If I wanted success, all I had to do was be around successful people. Easy enough, right? It took years. The first year of management club a sat and observed. I was too afraid to talk back then, so I simply listened. I went to every meeting, every event and let the success rub off on me. And to speed up the process, I joined the business fraternity on campus the term after I joined management club. I can smile now but at the time this was a big deal, as successful individuals intimidated me. And then came the leadership roles. Little Mike, who always followed others, decided to run for leadership positions! And that’s when I became the success I sought. And yet my success buried me.

Germany

So I devised a plan. I took time to step back and ask, “How do I want to finish”? The leadership roles were phase one, as I knew I would either fail spectacularly or rise to the challenge. I knew however, this would not be enough. Phase two? Germany. My leadership roles were meant to develop talent and while they helped with confidence, they could not help with independence. So what better way to become independent than to throw yourself in a foreign country for four months?  If you’ve heard “#NewhairNewMike”, this was my personal re-branding. My entire life I have had scraggly hair because I have a scar on the back of my head, afraid of others judgement should I cut it too short. So while it may not have seemed like a huge deal to an outsider, my haircut in Germany was symbolic of my new found confidence and a reflection of my personal growth. The Mike that left for study abroad is not the Mike that came back. So now comes phase 3, which I have called my retirement. This is my polish phase. After achieving independence, I’m now taking a step back to ask, “what do I want”?

My entire life has been shaped around what I think I ought to do, not what I want to do. And on that note, I will add that this philosophy has served me well. I have been criticized for not being myself and while the comment has good intent, I take issue with it. I was a MESS when I first got to college, had I simply been myself, I would have failed. The only reason I have made it as far as I have is because I chose to mimic who I viewed to be successful. Or by observing the mistakes of those who failed and seeking to rise above. Had I tried to be myself as a Freshman, I would probably be living in my parent’s basement playing video games. Why? Because I had no idea who I was back then and I still don’t know. By trying to be someone else, I was able to realize who I wasn’t and am just now starting to realize who I am. So, if you’re stuck, don’t try to find yourself, create yourself. Go find the successful and do what they do. Then, when you’re ready, you can find yourself.

Phase 3 is about finding myself and realizing that with all the success I’ve achieved, I am not invincible. Everyone is the hero of their own story yet ambition blinds you. And for as many strengths as I have, overconfidence is my weakness. The world brought me to my knees this term and I’m glad. It made me realize how beautifully flawed I am. With all this talk of success you’d think I’d frown on failure. Yet quite the opposite is true. We learn best through our mistakes and the more successful you become, the less you feel you can make them. But I am here to tell you that is bull. Success is built on failure. The more we fail, the more we succeed. We learn through mistakes and it shouldn’t be any other way. Mistakes are the fun part of life, the challenge. There’s a beauty in mastery but by it’s definition mastery means you’re done, that you’ve made your mistakes and learned from them. If we didn’t fail, success would lose it’s value. Because we fail, we are able to enjoy victory all the more, when we finally do cross the finish line. So don’t be afraid to fail.

Grit

Grit is a word you don’t hear too often and it’s something not everyone has. In the college of business there’s a lot of polish. Children groomed for success at an early age and seeing adversity through the looking glass. Because of this grooming, these children often are ready to navigate the chaos that is the college experience and they secure leadership roles along with internships their Freshman year. Because of this, they are able to build on that foundation and often receive jobs with the big companies that a lot of people seem to drool over by the time they graduate. Some might get mad at my saying this as it seemingly undermines the hard work and effort these individuals may put in, but it’s the truth. Very few acknowledge the factor of luck and until that day, I’ll keep mentioning the influence of luck. It’s nothing to be ashamed of but it needs to be understood that some may work hard and be incredibly unlucky. People are quick to judge yet too few take the time to understand. My philosophy is everyone has a story, the least you could do is listen.

What about myself? Well, I’ve been stuck in the middle my entire life yet since I’ve arrived at college, I have very much been on my own. I’ve gone from the lowest of the low and didn’t realize until recently that I am now considered a “top achiever”. When did this happen? Little by little, over the course of five years. Had I not gone to college, my life would be very different right now. What’s my secret? It’s how I’ve dealt with adversity.  Optimists don’t survive in this world, they die off. It’s realists with the knowledge that they will prevail that survive and thrive. Optimists turn a blind eye to reality, choosing to see an ideal world and are ill-equipped when the puzzle pieces don’t fit. Realists find solutions to problems and build road maps to get there. They don’t ignore the world for what it is but they actively seek to level the playing field. How do I know? I’ve gone from pessimist to optimist to realist as I’ve grown throughout my time spent in college. And I love telling people how it is (which people don’t always like to hear) and then telling them step by step how it can be better.

Grit has come about from the ashes of my best laid plans. I came into college spoiled and college has been kind enough to slap me around until I’m down and then continue kicking me until at points I’ve been choking on my own blood (metaphorically, of course). That’s grit. Most frustration in life comes from expectations and people unwilling to adapt when shit hits the fan. What people don’t realize is that the future is malleable, that your future has many possibilities. Grit is your ability to get back up, to stand firm while the storm rages on. In the beginning it’s tough but in the end, experience enough adversity and you can walk through Hell with a smile. There is nothing that I haven’t already seen and I’m glad. Grit builds confidence and resolve. I can look back and see how well I’ve dealt with adversity, where at the time I nearly drowned in my own misfortune. So appreciate the good and the bad, the headwinds and the tailwinds.

What’s Left?

Plenty. I’ve kept raising the bar for myself so now I stand at the top of the mountain. For some, reaching the summit may signal the end but for me there’s always more mountains to climb. I’ve gotten the most out of college and am ready to tackle the world. What was once a dream is now a reality and 3 months will fly by. I’m excited to spend my last term writing about my experiences.


If you have questions about college, I’m here to help! Post in the comments and I’ll try my best to answer any questions you might have. Freshman, Senior in High School, Adult? It doesn’t matter, feel free to ask away! And as always, thanks for reading!