It’s always funny how you can learn from the least likely of people.

Learning from the Least Likely

- She told us to not go with the motions. -

The funnier thing was that this person was indeed someone I was supposed to learn from -- my college professor. But she was just difficult to be around. She was very rigid on how she wanted things done; very inflexible when it came to being challenged and having new ideas presented to her. And most important, she lacked a very important quality that any professor, let alone, person, should have -- being human.

See, she required me to have both an introduction and conclusion slide in my powerpoint presentations, otherwise I’d like lose 2% off of my grade. She also didn’t understand that some college students have to grind their way through college with no help, and that they are left to mentally and emotionally recover from circumstances like eviction and homelessness (my family lived in a hotel for a month after being evicted 3 out of 4 times in 3 and a half years), and had to work two jobs and an internship, which sometimes caused them to be late to her class.

I came to the conclusion that she couldn’t understand because it just wasn’t in her nature to. She grinded her way to where she was today, so what sympathy should she have for me? And she was the professor; she made the rules. Who was I to question or not follow suit with her guidelines?

Though this could easily become a rant about how I, and most students, disliked this professor, there is a much bigger picture to this story.

One sleepy, 8am morning, my professor said some very important words to the class. She told us to not to go with the motions, both in school and life.

As there are probably plenty of variations that exist of this saying -- and I, being almost impossible of being receptive to anything this woman had to say -- had this statement completely rock my world. It struck a chord with me; a monumental chord. A chord that not only helped me realized, in the smallest scale, that I could still learn from someone that I dislike, but that I needed to make some real changes in my life, and quick.

Why Not to Go with the Motions

- It becomes a cycle. -

Before I explain how this statement impacted my life, I’ll break down the importance of these words my professor spoke.

On the surface, “going with the motions” sounds like a pretty solid way to approach life, right? After all, there’s going to be plenty of things in life that are going to be outside of your control; why not take them as they come?

The thing about “going with the motions” is that it becomes a cycle. It starts out that you lose one too many friends and you shrug it off. Then you lose one too many relationships that you really cared about, and then you shrug it off. Then all the stress from broken relationships with people causes you to get one too many lower than average grades, and you’ll start shrugging that off too.

I think this happens all too often, where things get tough and we’ve lost hope in controlling or fixing them, so we start shrugging things off. We tend to get comfortable with the idea of the future, and how it can’t be as tough as the past or present. We start to believe that our current actions and circumstances will not determine our future, and once we make it there, that’s when we can start caring again, and changing for the better.

But that’s most likely not the case. The habits you practice today are very much so a reflection of the actions you’ll commit when the future comes. Or even worse, you may very much want to change your past habits once the future comes, but you’ve become so accustomed to them that you have a hard time finding ways to break them.

What Going Through the Motions Did to Me

- Life and opportunity had passed me by. -

So, there I was in class, mind blown by my professor’s statement. It was epiphanic. One minute, I was drifting off in the class, and the next minute blood was rushing to my head and my past academic performance was playing like a horror film in my head. All the days of carelessly trickling into class 5, 7, and even 10 minutes late (on the days where I didn’t work the night before and could have gotten there on time.) All my half-written notes, half-assed assignments, and just half-present mind. All the lessons that were wasted; all the professional networking opportunities and relationships I had kissed goodbye.

I, at the time, was to be a semester away from graduating, and I just finally realized that opportunity had passed me by.

It finally hit me that my lack of my good grades, my lack of leadership opportunities, and my lack of connections weren’t by chance. The world actually was not against me for once like it had been in my personal life. I could now see that I had had ample opportunity to build a life outside of my personal life that was positive, that had a purpose, and most important, that I could actually have control over.

After the epiphany started to fade, the guilt came rolling in. I was sitting amongst bright minds and in front of a professor that actually showed her heart for once, and for my benefit! I was sitting amongst people that had the opportunities that I greatly desired. I was sitting amongst people that put the work in that I didn’t.

I was sitting amongst people that hated group projects because of people like me. People that rolled their eyes because of people like me. People who probably laughed at the idea of me being anything more than what I was then.

But there I was, finally, with information that didn’t go through one ear and out the other. This information, and the information to follow, were going to be lessons that I would take and let change the course of my life.

Controlling the Motions

- I came to class ready to learn from every lesson my professors taught. -

So, I had to create an action plan. I was blessed to have a wonderful boyfriend who knew what I was capable of long before I believed in myself, and he held me accountable as I embarked on this mission of “controlling the motions.”

Naturally, I wanted to first clean up my academic performance.

Therefore, I decreased my hours at my serving job (though I desperately needed them) and I sought out what I truly loved. Despite already meeting my academic requirements, I landed a fourth and final marketing internship that actually paid me. And most important, I came to class ready to learn from every lesson my professors taught, and gave my all to every assignment and project I was assigned.

Of course, there were challenges along the way, from both my personal life and simply just trying to reverse my old, jaded habits. But for the first time, I felt like I was finally living a meaningful, controlled life.

The Final Result

1: I earned the opportunity of being the Marketing Chair for my university’s Activities Programming Board.

1a: This opportunity lead to me stay another full year, rather than graduating that May like I planned.

2: Staying an extra year also encouraged me to pursue a minor in Communications.

3: I raised my GPA from a 2.8 to a 3.5. I made the Dean’s list. I finished my last semester of college with a 3.7 and the prior semester with a 4.0.

4: I was inducted into Marketing Honors Society.

5: I landed and began my digital marketing career 3 weeks before I graduated from college.

Despite my accomplishments, do not be fooled. I emphasize that it was hard to face my emotions. It was even harder to face my flaws. But it was detrimental to never letting life pass me by again.

I challenge you to get everything you can get out of life. In turn, I challenge you to also give life all you can give it.

Put everything into your school work. Stay after and ask your professors questions, for advice, or for tutoring. Always be present and available as possible during group projects. Join academic and non-academic groups. Do a couple of internships. Network with professionals in your industry.

And of course it doesn’t stop with school. When you make it into your career, ask LOTS of questions, fearlessly. Learn and collaborate with those around and above you. Keep up with your industry by reading and connecting with those within it. And if it suits you, get your Master’s degree.

As the classic Outkast song quotes:

You need to git up, git out and git something

Don't let the days of your life pass by

You need git up, git out and git something

How will you make it if you never even try?”


You can’t control what life throws your way. However, you can control how you respond to it.

Take hold of your life. Plan, revise, and plan again. However, don’t forget to be flexible for when things don’t go your way.

But most important, don’t ever just go with the motions. Make sure you are the motion in your life.