A little over a week ago Stanford had its 121st commencement ceremony. The speaker was graduate, former Stanford football player, Rhode Scholar, and current New Jersey major Cory Booker. I first heard about this guy a few months ago when he allegedly juked out his bodyguard to run into a burning building to save a woman. Some versions of the story say he punched out his bodyguard to get by him. Either way, pretty baller.
Here is the whole speech for you to check out. It’s quite inspirational.
For those of you that won’t invest the time in the video, here a couple quotes I felt compelled to get out of bed to write down.
“Democracy is not a spectator sport” – funny how we expect everything handed to us. I suppose if we aren’t willing to do the job of a politician or even participate by doing anything more than voting, we have less of a right to complain. Along the same lines, Booker says most people resort to “sedentary agitation”. Great term!
“Fear is a precondition to discovery” – bam! Think about that next time you’re scared.
And ladies, unlike most of our men featured in our All That Is Man series, Booker is both alive and single. What are you waiting for?
This speech ties together the last two books I’ve read. One about a grad student that spent years hanging out in the Chicago projects to learn how they live – Booker did something similar in Newark. The other about Obama’s 2008 campaign – Booker is also a strong African American politician with an extensive education and roots in community organizing. Funny how connections like this seem to happen …
There are plenty of things people believe blindly without much evidence. You could consider these people lazy for not gathering enough information to make an informed decision. You could consider these people illogical for jumping to a conclusion immediately. You could consider them stubborn for not listening to contradictory facts. But this conviction to things you believe in can be extremely valuable. What are a couple things I blindly believe and logical reasoning won’t change my belief any time soon?
This is an area I have been thinking about a lot recently. I started a for-profit company in a space where many non-profits are trying to make an impact. When it comes down to it I believe strongly that capitalism is the best way to improve the world. As the saying goes, a rising tide lifts all boats. Of course there are certain non-profits that are necessary. But if you are providing a good or service of value to a customer that is able and willing to pay, you should collect, even if your primary aim is to help the world. Why? Because I believe it is better for everyone in the long run. I might not have the proof or even a strong argument, but it is good enough for me.
The fiction book Atlas Shrugged provides an entertaining look at the virtues of capitalism. Highly recommended.
The impact of one person
Can one person actually make an impact in a world with 7 billion people? In theory, sure. But can you or I? I have a blind faith that I can and that if everyone believed they could, the world would be a much better place (even if not everyone succeeded).
It just isn’t logical! Considering everyone has more than one problem (Jay-Z has 99 himself), there are billions upon billions of problems in the world – is it logical to believe just one person can make a dent? It doesn’t matter what your mom tells you, she is wrong, you’re not special.
“You do the little job you’re trained to do. Pull a lever. Push a button. You don’t understand any of it, and then you just die.”
“You are not important. You are not a beautiful or unique snowflake. You are the same decaying organic matter as everything else.”
-Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club
That’s one way to look at it… what a downer. But you know what? People have done it before:
Is it reasonable to believe you can make an impact? Nope, but it doesn’t matter:
“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”
-George Bernard Shaw, Maxims for Revolutionists
Is it illogical? Yes, but that makes it all the more important:
Do you have any strong beliefs that you don’t care about the lack of supporting evidence or contradictory facts?
I didn’t list a bunch of things people believe blindly because I want you to think for yourself and I want to avoid offending. It’s hard to think about things you never think about, but take a look at your assumptions.
Shout out to Adamson for blogging Sapolsky’s video a few months ago as well as the Fight Club quote. The whole video is intriguing and definitely worth watching, but only the last 3 minutes are relevant to this discussion.
Shout out to Fenner for getting me thinking about this last weekend.