Sunday, March 25, 2007

Goals, Leadership, and Finding Yourself

In other words, three of the greatest sources of crap to be perpetrated on American society besides MTV in the last decade or two.

Goals are at least real. It's perfectly natural to think "I have a B in this class, and I want it to be an A." Or "I'm going to study my tournament bracket even harder next year so I won't be in danger of losing to a girl." Or even "I'm going to level twice in WoW tonight so I can go on that awesome raid tomorrow." Whatever floats your boat.

What's crap about them, though, is the thought that goals are mandatory. Setting a goal in some way implies that what you're doing at the time isn't good enough. Clearly I recognize that nothing is perfect. You can't be completely awesome in everything all the time. But if you're content at any given moment, both at the current state of things, and the current direction that things seem to be proceeding in, what's the need to express an explicit change that needs to be made? Forgive the physics analogy, but an object with motion will maintain that motion unless an external force acts upon it. If your current "motion," that is, your methods, actions, and ideas, are taking you exactly where you want to be, what's the point of setting forward a goal to say that? In other words, I see the point of goal-setting as a reactive measure, but as a means of forcing progress, it's unwarranted.

Leadership, too, is real. Some people do indeed lead others, and others follow. History is full of great people who have made a difference in their situation because of outstanding leadership: Washington, Genghis Khan, Hannibal, and the list goes on and on.

Here's a harsh truth to both the freshmen of Georgia Tech and the faculty/staff that insist this is all necessary. Nobody here is going to become the next Genghis Khan. Freshmen do not need six different leadership organizations shoved in their faces and basically told "If you want to be successful at Georgia Tech, you will join one of these." Never mind that they all do some facet of the same thing. It's not localized to Georgia Tech, I'm sure; that's merely what I'm familiar with. The biggest issue I have here is that not everyone needs to be a leader. Those that truly want to lead, or that have an actual talent for it, will become involved in organizations that they enjoy, then seek leadership positions within those organizations. Real leaders, after all, need people to lead. And even leaders need to do something besides lead every once in a while.

My personal approach to leadership? First, gain the respect of those you're trying to lead through a show of competence and ability. Then translate that respect into solidarity toward a cause.

Finally, maybe someone can clarify for me what it means to find yourself. I'm right here. No, really. Here I am. Look! I found myself, and I was sitting in Glenn Hall all along! Clearly, the intent is deeper than this. I know it has some sort of ridiculous pseudo-spiritual motivation, designed to represent some sort of inner emotional awakening, and to inspire a change in course of life. (Maybe an inspiration to set a Goal.) Often, it's coupled to an outlandish trip to Ass End, Zimbabwe; or Malaria Village, Honduras; or Really I'm Not Here To Find A Prostitute, Thailand. Even the friendly local branch of the student travel agency here on campus has an endorsement from some guy who went to Tanzania to "find himself in the beauty of the East African sunrise."

Good job. If you're in East Africa, and it's early morning, you're probably going to find yourself in a sunrise. I could go find myself in the beauty of a Downtown Connector sunrise tomorrow morning, if I really wanted to. Here's the thing: you can't make a spiritual journey happen. It's like a Zen master would say, if you're looking for enlightenment, you've already missed the point of finding it. Vacations are a wonderful thing: taking a break for a while to ignore those TPS reports, or that Thermo homework, and just chill. Seeing the world, being immersed in cultures, and that sort of thing, is amazing. The opportunity to get to know what all is out there is a great experience. But call it what it is. If you're trying to make yourself have some sort of awakening, great, more power to you. If you go to Whale Blubber, Alaska to try to force that to happen, then chances are you're just having a really cold vacation. Not that there's anything wrong with that; just call it what it is.

Currently listening: "Dani California," Red Hot Chili Peppers