The following is a guest post by Jorge T. ’18.
The Power of Intuition
The deadline to accept college admissions offers is only a week ahead, so I thought I would share some of the things I’ve learned about making decisions in life. Some of you probably received offers from several excellent universities and may still be deciding which university to attend. If this is you, I hope these words help decide.
A couple of weeks ago I had to decide what I would do over the summer. On one side, I had the option to work at a startup in Cambridge called GeoOrbital, and on the other side, I had the option to join a team of students from Harvard and MIT to go on a cross-country bike trip (Washington D.C. to San Francisco) and inspire high school students with hands-on technology projects along the way. Both of them were excellent opportunities, and there was no way of weighing which one would be better for me. On one hand, I had the job opportunity that I had always been looking for (a job in an entrepreneurial environment, a job in a consumer electronics company, a job where I would be working on electrical engineering related projects, etc.) On the other hand, I had the option of going on a challenging adventure, where I would have time to write, read, play music, be with myself, and be with a great group of friends.
I thought about these two opportunities for a few days, and one morning it became clear to me. As I was meditating early one day (I meditate every morning), thoughts about this impending decision invaded my mind. The rational side of my mind was trying to convince me that I should accept the job offer. After all, it was a great opportunity to develop skills in the field of electrical engineering and it would be a great experience to develop communication skills, teamwork skills, and other professional skills. However, something was making me doubt. My heart felt like I needed to go on the bike trip. It was a feeling that emerged from beneath the rational part of my brain. Therefore, I decided to join the team biking across the country. This gut feeling I described earlier is what we call intuition.
In his Commencement Speech at Stanford, Steve Jobs said, “Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition, they somehow already know who you truly want to become.” During these last years, I have finally begun to understand what these words mean. Life is unpredictable, and you will never be sure what is right for you. That is why you must learn to trust your intuition, which guides you toward what you truly want to be. In Steve Jobs’ biography, Walter Isaacson explains that Steve Jobs realized the power of intuition during his trip to India after dropping out of college. During his search for spiritual enlightenment, he realized that the masters of the east guided their life by intuition. They didn’t make plans, they simply followed their heart.
Therefore, if you are having trouble deciding what school to go to, I encourage you to try listening to your heart. Thoughts are constantly changing. One day you will be inclined to go to one school, and the next day you will be inclined to go to another. If you’re capable of letting your thoughts subside, you will be able to listen to your heart, and the decision will become clear.
Erick’s thoughts: Lydia brought up a great point in the comments so I’ll try clearing up some confusion. Does intuition have all the answers? Well, no. Intuition is just one of the many things we’re equipped with. Intuition is when we immediately understand something without consciously thinking about it. We also have instinct, which is intuition built up from experience. We have our rational mind, weighing the pros and cons of each choice. We have peer pressure, pushing us towards a particular decision. Understand the roles they play and weigh them all when making a decision. You can be making a rational choice that maximizes your utility, but if that choice makes you feel sick to your stomach, then it’s worth exploring why. Likewise it might “feel” right to drop everything and travel to India like Steve Jobs, take a moment to think if that’s your best choice. The goal is to get your rational mind with your emotional mind working together to be happy with your choice.
And sometimes, unfortunately, you can’t follow your heart and you have to go against it. I wanted really badly to do a SuperUROP next semester but I’m pushing it off until I have more Course 6 classes. Some of you may have to pick a college because it offers a better financial aid package than another. Intuition is great when you have two equally available opportunities but when it feels like the choice has been made for us, what we can change is how we look at the situation. Since intuition comes from the emotional side of our mind, then changing how we feel about something changes our intuition about it. Then you can get your emotional and rational mind in agreement.
“Let your intuition and your rational mind work together to come to a solution.” Tweet This
Careful with Peer Pressure
Kudos to Jorge for choosing Spokes America, I can tell he’ll get a lot more out of that than an internship. While I love internships, I feel like there is a lot of pressure on students to do some form of formalized job or else feel like they’ll be “wasting” their summer. Last year I was so afraid of not having an internship for the summer that last minute, as soon as finals week ended, I applied for and got an internship working at Boston City Hall. This semester I squeezed two UROPs into my schedule because it felt like everyone else had already done a UROP and now had research under their belt. I loved my internship and both of my UROPs but, as I’m finishing up my second year, I now see how I didn’t need to squeeze everything in as soon as possible. You get four years, there’s plenty to do and plenty of time to do it. Who cares if your freshman neighbor had a high school internship at NASA and is now in another internship at Apple? Focus on you.
Yesterday a high school junior from Arizona emailed me about how they got an internship for the summer but their friend didn’t. Their friend is now worried because he won’t have done any science competitions or worked in a lab by the time college application season rolls around. I can’t speak for how effective these are on your application but I can say that it’s definitely not the most important thing they look for, at least for MIT.
I did no science fairs, no research, and no internships before MIT. The two competitions I participated in (FBLA and SkillUSA), I did my senior spring AFTER I was accepted and I lost in both of them. Yup, I was just a dude who really liked computers. And I did everything I could to build on that passion. I chose to go to an out-of-town vocational school for computer repair classes. I worked in the technology department for my school during senior year. I spent a good part of my free time setting up home servers and linking my devices together in unique ways. I didn’t learn coding or electronics until coming to MIT, but I knew all about computers and operating systems and networks. I didn’t know it at the time, but everything I was doing was gearing me towards having a stronger application.
Was I valedictorian? No. Did I do research in a laboratory? No. Did I win science competitions? No. Then what did I have? A concentrated interest in a particular field and proof that I was consistently getting really good at it over time. And the ability to work hard for extended periods of time without any rewards in sight. If you have those two things and can articulate them all over your application, then you can beat out the kid with a string of unrelated internships.
Have you been able to use your intuition to make a difficult choice in the past? Has peer pressure made you make a decision you later regretted? Share your stories by:
It may even appear in my next blog post!
Erick is an MIT sophomore blogger, engineer, and innovator. For a full archive of Erick’s posts, visit www.erickpinos.com.