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On Greatness by Chris M. '12

I get a ton* of emails from both applicants, newly accepted frosh (and occasionally even current students) saying basically the same thing:

“MIT is full of amazing people, I don’t think I’m all that amazing, how can I fit in?”

It’s a question that’s been on the forefront of my mind lately, and it’s got me thinking about incredible people and what it is in them that makes them incredible. And the surprising conclusion I’ve come to is:

No one has become great by wanting to be great, greatness is a natural by-product of following your passion.

The people who are most remarkable don’t do it for any reason beyond that it’s what they love to do, a deep intrinsic call to follow their dreams regardless of whether or not people say it’s a good idea, or whether or not it has any practicality. The important thing is to find what you love and do it to the utmost of your ability. Live and breathe it, take it in deep into your person and be the best you can be at it.

Why? Because if you do this, greatness in some sense will naturally follow. Some of you will take in math and science and become great engineers, great entrepreneurs. Or some of you will become great parents, great husbands, mothers, mechanics, etc. if you find what it is you love to do and funnel your energy into relentless pursuit.

So for those of you in high school, wide-eyed and unsure of how to get the most out of your life, theres a simple pseudo-algorithm for you:

if passion == known:
pursue it

else:
try new things

And that’s it. If you know what you love, do it non-stop. If you don’t, try new things until you find it. You’d be surprised at the number of people who’ve told me stories about starting college with an idea of what they want to do, taking a new class and being sent off on an entirely new trajectory because they loved it so much.

So that’s what I think in a nutshell: try new things until you find something you love, and then do it as much as you can. If you do, you’ll be great in some sense, or at the very least happy.

8 responses to “On Greatness”

  1. hope says:

    Chris, World love You & Snively as much as they love MIT….

  2. hope says:

    @Vanissa
    if you really love Physics then as Chris said ‘Live & Breath’ it i.e make it your life, then all other subjects will only revolve around your love(Physics), and it is only a matter of time till you get into your dream school like MIT then you can major in Physics and you’ll get to Study only Physics all the time..

  3. Math=O2 says:

    Awesome post, Chris!!!!! This is exactly the way I feel about math. I live it and breathe it and it is such a huge part of who I am. I love the fact that MIT would rather see students pursue things that they are passionate about than participate in x number of extracurriculars and take x number of AP classes just to get into college.

    Go MIT!

  4. vanissa says:

    I’ve a natural love for physics.But other subjects(that I would like to flick away)just don’t leave enough time.
    Nice post by the way.Pl give tips on managing things together.
    Thanks.

  5. anon '14 says:

    I agree with this,
    however!
    I also think there’s merit in trying new things even when you think you know your passion. There are a lot of people who become single-mindedly focused on one thing too early, thinking they know what their passion is, and don’t allow for other experiences that can broaden their mind and perspective.

  6. Was your conclusion at all inspired by http://xkcd.com/896/ ? This post reminded me a lot of it. Either way I wholeheartedly agree.

  7. Chris says:

    @Banana equivalence

    Actually I hadn’t seen that, but that’s eerily similar to how I feel—though much better worded.

  8. vanissa says:

    Thanks hope. I’m sure world would love you as well smile