Words to Live By.

Well, unbelievably, it’s that time of year again, another group of students gets tossed from the nest. Many I know are talented, and will do well. Over the years, my instructors — teachers and professors — would often end class or the year with some “advice”. When I was in 6th grade, I started keeping a list of that advice in my journal. So for what it’s worth… here’s that list. I know one thing for sure, following this advice has done nothing to hold me back over the years… and in some cases, it may have even helped move my life forward.

Mrs. Bergman (my second grade teacher):

Remember to say please and thank you.

It’s stunning, but true. Teaching is sometimes a thankless job, literally. I can name off the top of my head the number of students over the years that have taken the time to thank me. I still stay in touch with most of them. I’d also do anything for them. Now imagine if I were president or something. That’s the power of a thank you. It takes 10 seconds, and the payback is immeasurable.

Prof. McHale (Professor from Architecture School)

It’s your responsibility — as a professional — to teach.

People that are much less intelligent and much less informed will likely be in positions of power as you move out in to the workplace (see also, Office Space, 9 to 5, The Office). These people will make decisions that will impact your life and your livelihood. You can change that. Share with them your knowledge, and don’t be afraid to voice your opinion. If you do this responsibly, the world will be a better place for it.

Prof. Tauke (co-chair of my Architecture thesis)

People are different. They all deserve respect.

Just because you don’t find someone attractive — whether you think they’re the wrong size, shape, height, or whatever — that doesn’t mean you have the right to disrespect them. Inside everyone is the same. Treat them with more respect than they do to you.

Miss Harrington (5th grade teacher)

Love your neighbor as yourself.

You are the center of the universe. Your OWN universe. Perception is a strange thing, because the way we view the world is from our perspective, but that’s a pretty myopic view. Contrary to what we’re taught from a young age, you’re not the center of the universe, and you’re no more valuable than anyone else on this planet. We’re all equally valuable and important. If you think otherwise, it’s time to grow up.

Mrs. Puccio (8th grade teacher)


No one owes you anything. The customer isn’t always right. Don’t assume. Politely ask when necessary and don’t expect to be granted your request. This isn’t I Dream of Jeanie. Should you be fortunate enough to have your request granted, be sure to follow up with a thank you (see #1, above.)

Mrs. Shaw (11th grade marketing teacher)

There are a million (or more) people that can do what you do.

Be confident in your own efforts and in your work, because if you’re not, no one else will be either.

Mr. Hefner (9th grade global studies teacher)

Someone was first. Don’t be afraid to be that person.

Someone was the first person to use Facebook, someone else was the first person to recycle, someone else was the first person to use e-mail. Now we do that every day. If you don’t believe in the power of one, you don’t believe in yourself. Don’t be afraid to be the first.

Dr. Grosz (graduate professor, philosopher, cool person)

We’re all connected.

The Deleuzian notion of the rhizome references the notion that we’re all connected, like the root of a plant, though the connection might be hidden or difficult to find. Use this power to connect to others, and work to keep those connections healthy. It’s a lot of work, kind of like tending a garden, but like gardening, the payoff is huge.

Dr. Bitterman (me)

How you spend the next week will impact the next 5 years.

Every future day is a consequence of a choice that we have made or will make. Our life is a reflection of our thoughts (that’s “The Secret” in case you haven’t read it.) Chances are good if you spend the day on the couch watching TV that a few years from now, you’ll likely be doing the same thing. Think about it.

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