Why the Ivy League is a Blessing and a Curse

Are you an Excellent Sheep?

'It's hard to build your soul when everyone around you is trying to sell theirs' 

William Deresiewicz

Happy Sunday, and thanks for opening this week’s story from #TheLifeofJLOWE!

If you’ve been here long enough, you’d know that a lot of my writing talks about perspectives, and how your outlook on life can impact how you live. If you’re new here, take a moment to read about timelines or how to define success for yourself.

My Ivy League Experience

As you may know, last year I graduated from Cornell University with a B.A. in Economics. If you know me though, I didn’t take Economics in high school, and in fact, some would say I was on track to become a STEM major in college based on my academic history. 👨🏻‍🔬

At Cornell, I enrolled in the College of Arts & Sciences, so I had the opportunity to pursue a liberal arts education, with broad exposure to a variety of academic disciplines. I took classes in fields like philosophy, history, anthropology, and astronomy in addition to things like biology and economics. My education was academically diverse and I found real value in a liberal arts education.

But as you can see by the title, the Ivy League and other elite Universities across America can be both a blessing and a curse.

What is an “Excellent Sheep”? 🐑

I recently finished a book called “Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life” which I got from my best friend and recommend to anyone who finds themselves at a top-ranked University in the US. 

It outlines this idea of elite Universities creating students funnelled into America’s leadership class, by educating them for corporate jobs and almost stripping them of the things that they were passionate about before starting college. Top students from these Universities often end up in consulting, finance, law or medicine, because that’s the next ‘metric of success’ that’s defined for them by society. 

This is a big reason why I’ve begun a journey to learn how to define success for myself. I feel like I may have fallen victim to studying a popular “career-oriented” major and then matriculating into finance post-graduation. 

I’m so grateful for everything that I’m learning in my current role in wealth management because I’m learning how to build wealth and be financially healthy, but the career path that I’m on today feels like it came out of a desire to fit in with other Economics majors at Cornell, rather than from my own personal definition of success

I may just be an Excellent Sheep. 🤷🏻‍♂️🐑

Experiences, not mistakes:
How perspective can help you to count your blessings

The blessing about this though is that I graduated last year, and I’m not even a year out of college yet. I barely have work experience so I have the leeway to make mistakes with my career path. And oftentimes we have to make “mistakes” for ourselves to be able to learn from them, instead of just hearing lessons as advice from other people. 

I put the word mistake in quotations because in my opinion, your journey through life and your timeline is not comprised of mistakes, but rather unique experiences that you can always find a lesson in. Throughout my life, many of the things that I once considered to be mistakes have turned out to have taught me a lesson that would help me in another situation in the future. 

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. In fact, when you look back at your experiences, don’t even call them mistakes. 

Ask yourself, “What did I learn from that?”

Maybe given the chance, you would’ve done something differently, but then you don’t know where your life would be today.

Somehow, there’s beauty in not being able to hit the “undo” button on our lives. Move forward, learn and become better from those experiences that you once would call a mistake. 

Conclusion

Universities in America are hugely important for education, and elite universities should represent the best of them. But oftentimes, that elitism (stemming from American capitalism 🙄) can bend the mission of the University to focus on placing you into a certain job or industry, rather than providing the wholistic, passion-and-love-for-learning education that it seems to promise at the start. 

If you’re a US university student or recent grad, read the book “Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life”. If you’re a professional who graduated from an elite university, far removed from college, but feel like you may be in a career field that you don’t love, recognise that it’s not your fault. 

And if you feel like you made a mistake recently, whether with a job you’re in, a wrong turn you took on a drive or maybe even a bad purchase you made, count it as an experience and learn from it. 

Recognize that dwelling on the past that you can’t undo is not productive or helpful, and move forward to making tomorrow a better experience for yourself because of the experience you had yesterday. 

And if for some reason you haven’t subscribed yet, subscribe now to get my newsletter every Sunday at 9:00 am EST! 

Until next Sunday,
J

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