A Professor’s Advice

I want to write this all down before I forget it:

Today in class, after my professor finished lecturing, he went on a tangent – one that I both appreciated and needed to hear. As a bit of background, this man was a really good consultant for many years in industry before he turned to teaching. Not only is he one of the most highly respected professors in our department, he also seems to really excel at life. He’s one of the top senseis of shorin-ryu karate in the area. He’s well-traveled, has a great appreciation for food and wine, and has acquired a huge range of knowledge. He’s probably in his mid-sixties but is in top physical shape and just gives off an air of superiority, but not in a condescending or arrogant way.

Anyway, I’ve had this inventory controls class with him this quarter, one which I seem to have a love-hate relationship with. The last lecture was today, and ten minutes before class, this beast of a man turns very philosophical on us and starts giving us advice – not just on being good engineers, but on how to live a good life. “Keep learning,” he said. “Study languages. Travel the world. Expand your knowledge any way you can. Be humble, and work to motivate others. Strive to be a good communicator. And don’t be wishy-washy – know who you are and don’t let others control you.”

The sad thing is, I don’t think very many people were listening. Or rather, they weren’t really paying attention to what he was saying. These are the words that this man – one which I really look up to and (in some odd way) strive to be like in the future – lives by. I hope to be as knowledgeable and well-liked and respected as he is when I’m his age – hopefully not quite as intimidating as I find him, but I digress. So why not listen to him? I feel like these are things that I already hope to do: I want to learn Italian. I want to experience the world. I want to keep learning and give back to society. So to hear these desires reinforced… it was kind of cool.

And his advice to stand up for myself: that one hit me the hardest. I know who I am, and I really do need to take a stand with that. I need to be me and to not let others step all over me while doing so. I can be timid when it comes to my opinions, so this is definitely something I need to work on. But I also know that as hard as it is for me now, I can improve it, and by improving it, I can become a better person.

At the end he said that he hopes that this might mean something to some of us, if only a couple. I think most of the class thought he was crazy for talking about all of this. But it did mean something to me. So thank you, Dr. P. I hope you feel that your time wasn’t wasted with us.

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