On the day that this article is published, I will be sitting down to the final exam of my first year at Liberty University. I have loved the opportunity to learn and grow through my classes and professors this year, but as I look back, I realize that the lessons which I remember most vividly had nothing to do with class, but everything to do with life.
One professor in particular, Jason Leverett, who taught Speech Communications, taught me how to develop my public speaking skills but also those about life: to invest in the people around me, to learn on a deeper level, and to live a life that I am proud of. At the end of every week, I would look over my notes from the class and read the short comments and quotes that I scribbled into the margins—they encouraged and inspired me, so I chose five to share here.
1. "People are walking, dynamic books."
Sometimes you can learn just as much from the person next to you as you can from a book or class. Everybody has a life, unique skills, and thoughts to share. So, take the time to get to know people beyond the shallow level of acquaintances. Learn their names, their habits, and genuinely care about them. You can never know who has the power to change your life, or even to change you.
2. "Learn the skills that you need for the job...
… and even more, for the person you want to be."
This quote has become a foundational part of my freshman year. It taught me that my future and my career should not be the ultimate focus of my college years. Jobs change and so do the fields in which one pursues a career; the common denominator throughout those changes is the person who enters them. I can and do focus on developing skills for my vocation—that is paramount—but in the process, I make choices that train me to be the person that I want to become. These choices can apply to things like classes—maybe a foreign language or a speech class to develop untapped skills—but also to the little choices I make every day—like choosing to listen empathetically to someone instead of thinking about myself.
3. The balance between a lifestyle of greatness and of goodness.
Oftentimes society praises the concept of greatness, excelling in a particular area, which requires sacrifice. A woman might sacrifice her dreams of a demanding career to be a great mother instead of a great businesswoman. In an email, Professor Leverett explained to me that "the concept “good” here is not synonymous with morality or ethics. It simply means wholesome and suitable." Goodness implies a balance between all areas of life. It may never receive the recognition that greatness does, in fact, it requires the sacrifice of greatness.
However, it provides a much-needed and valuable balancing aspect to life. There may be people who are called to greatness and others called to goodness. Looking past greatness and goodness, Professor Leverett asks, "What should a person strive for in life? Answer—Character. Consistency. Responsibility. Loving God and thy neighbor. These are the characteristics of Christ."
4. "Take ownership of your work."
The work you do—in school, at your job, and at home—is yours, it reflects on you. Don't simply coast through by giving the bare minimum or even average amount of effort—you are an extraordinary person with a unique skill set. Take ownership of your work and make it into something that you are proud of.
5. "You can give students information, but you can't make them think."
Learning is one thing. It's relatively easy to sit in class, to write down lecture notes, and to answer your professor's questions. It's quite another thing to take the information from your professor and think about it critically. Is this true? How does this apply to life? How can I use this information? These kinds of questions change my approach to learning; it is no longer a passive process, but a choice that requires action.
Aside from these five lessons, I also learned to value my professors as sources of wisdom outside of their field. Their perspectives on life have been invaluable to me. Life wisdom can come from anyone; every person has the capacity to teach you something. So, wherever you find yourself learning, whether in an actual classroom, the workplace, or a church, I encourage you to walk in ready to learn and to be inspired. Anyone has the power to speak the truth that can transform your life—let them.