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Dear college opt-outs,

Photo by Vasily Koloda on Unsplash

Dear college opt-outs,

You really need to think critically about what you’re doing…

but not because you’re opting out of college.

Your duty to become an intelligent and open-minded person who constantly strives to follow the truth wherever it leads isn’t some kind of punishment or compensation for deciding that college is a bad fit for you.

You need to think critically about what you’re doing because that’s just part of what it means to be a decent human being…

but I digress.

Back to my point…

Dear college opt-outs,

Don’t let anyone make you feel stupid, foolish, uneducated, or guilty with bad arguments for why you should do something that you have no interest in doing.

The dreams you’re pursuing matter just as much as the dreams of all those people who get tons of congratulatory remarks on their status updates about going to college.

Congratulations on being true to yourself.

And while I strongly encourage you to think critically about everything you do, remember to do it for you.


T.K. Coleman

The Conclusion Comes Last

How do you know if a shoe fits? Try it on.

How do you know if the blue shirt is a better fit for you than the red shirt? Try them on.

Even if you already know your size, the best way to know if something is a good fit is by trying it on.

Ditto for your career and your curiosities.

If you’re wondering “Is this sport, subject, or style good for me?”, the best way to find out isn’t by guessing or navel-gazing.

You find it out by trying it out.

Instead of pressuring yourself to make a religion out of some specific passion you think you need to have, give yourself permission to playfully explore the ideas and interests that intrigue you.

Discovering what you love is like doing science:

1. Start with a hunch (ie. “this seems interesting”).

2. Formulate a hypothesis (ie. “I think I’d really like this”).

3. Conduct an experiment (ie. “I’ll sign up for one lesson to see if I’m good at it” or “I’ll take an online course to see how it goes” or “I’ll do an internship to see how it feels from the inside-out” or “I’ll invest a small amount of money that I can afford to lose”).

4. Form a working conclusion (ie. “I think I would like to do this for the next couple of years” or “I’m ready to invest more money into this”).

5. Be willing to revise your conclusion in light of new evidence and future experience (ie. “my passions are not religious beliefs that I need to be loyal to. They’re evolving interests that I’m free to upgrade along the way”).

Notice something here: The conclusion comes last.

Instead of announcing to the world “this is what I’m born to do” after having a single rapturous experience or after making a single interesting observation, you take a “wait and see” approach.

The “wait” in “wait and see” isn’t about waiting on taking action. It’s about waiting on the decision to commit the rest of your life to the things that interest you.

Discovering and doing what you love is analogous to dating: Before getting on bended knee to propose to a beautiful stranger, it’s usually more effective to flirt with the person first and see where that goes. You start small with something small like “Sooooo, what brings you to this event?” If that goes well, you work your way towards something like “Would you like to grab coffee or lunch?” And if that goes well, you go for a second date and so on. A passionate and committed relationship with someone you’re interested in is the by-product of a series of small actions that don’t require a quantum leap.

If you meet someone you’re interested in, take your time and see what it’s like to make small talk with this person. See what it’s like to have a phone conversation with this person. See what’s it like to watch a movie with this person. See what it’s like to have a disagreement with this person. See what it’s like to share a problem with this person. See what it’s like be around this person when they’re having a bad day.

There’s no need to make an immediate jump from “this person has captured my attention” to “I’m ready to spend the rest of my life with this person.”

In the same manner, get to know your interests before you get on a mountaintop and declare “this is the whole meaning of my existence” or “this is the one thing I want to do for the rest of my life.”

You don’t need to put your entire life on the line for the first beautiful thing that captivates your attention.

You can afford to relax a little.

Before you commit to “following your passion,”  it might help if you slow down and flirt with your curiosity.

At least that’s the way I see it.

Neither a Contrarian Nor a Conformist. Simply an Individual.

Photo by Jacek Dylag on Unsplash

True self-authenticity is the willingness to like what everyone else likes when it stands to reason to do so.

Being a contrarian has value, but only when it’s practiced non-dogmatically. When the crowd is moving in a constructive direction, it can be useful to go along with the crowd. If going along with the crowd serves your priorities and principles, then to resist the crowd is to resist yourself. And that is the complete opposite of being self-authentic.

Being true to yourself is about following the path that best meets your wants and needs. The amount of people who are also following that path is irrelevant. Useful things don’t magically become useless just because lots of people like to use them. If you’re getting rid of something because it’s taking up space, draining your energy, eating your time, or becoming a distraction, that’s a good thing. If you’re getting rid of something just because it’s becoming more popular, that’s an ego thing.

“I don’t want to be seen as someone who likes the same things as everyone else” is never a good reason to deny yourself the advantages, opportunities, and pleasures of that which genuinely captures your interest.

Conformity doesn’t equal “fitting in.” Conformity equals “fitting in at the expense of who you really are and what you really want.”

If you’re suppressing who you really are and what you really want in an effort to maintain a brand that says “I’m different,” you’ve fallen for a self-defeating trap.

It’s better to live as you believe and be considered a conformist than to spend your life chasing things that don’t really satisfy you in the name of seeming like a unique person to others.

A real individualist cares more about feeling interested than about looking interesting.

The Greatest Form of Loneliness

There is a least one form of loneliness that’s greater than the kind resulting from having no friends: the kind that results from having no conviction.

No amount of company can appease you if you have to compromise your ability to be truthful in order to keep it.

It’s only fun to be liked when it’s the real you that they like.

Authenticity & Acceptability

Honesty is necessary for personal growth, but it’s not sufficient.

Being real is the first step towards dealing with what’s wrong. The second step is learning how to build the right habits and do the rights things.

“I’m authentic about where I am” ≠ “I’m acceptable as I am.”

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