By Scott Westerman
Listen to an audio version of this message.
“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” ~Ghandi
Alexander Coward is a math professor. He teaches at Berkley. His 2000 word missive to students this past week covered a lot of ground. But at it’s core there’s a message that touches everything we talk about in our weekly visits together:
We must keep learning.
Here’s the last half of Professor Coward’s email. The entire piece has gone viral. You can read it all here.
I can’t tell you what your particular role should be in the new realities of the 21st century. It’s up to you to decide if you want to make the focus of your life technological, focused on new innovations to drive society forward, or essentially human, focused on the age-old struggles of trying to get along, work together, and find happiness, or some combination of the two.
However I can tell you this:
Whatever you decide to do with your life, it’s going to be really, really complicated.
Science and technology is complicated. History and politics is complicated. People are complicated. Figuring out how to be happy, and do simple things like take care of our kids and maintain friendships and relationships, is complicated.
In order for you to navigate the increasing complexity of the 21st century you need a world-class education, and thankfully you have an opportunity to get one. I don’t just mean the education you get in class, but I mean the education you get in everything you do, every book you read, every conversation you have, every thought you think.
You need to optimize your life for learning.
You need to live and breath your education.
You need to be *obsessed* with your education.
Do not fall into the trap of thinking that because you are surrounded by so many dazzlingly smart fellow students that means you’re no good. Nothing could be further from the truth.
And do not fall into the trap of thinking that you focusing on your education is a selfish thing. It’s not a selfish thing. It’s the most noble thing you could do.
Society is investing in you so that you can help solve the many challenges we are going to face in the coming decades, from profound technological challenges to helping people with the age old search for human happiness and meaning.
…Your education is really really important, not just to you, but in a far broader and wider reaching way than I think any of you have yet to fully appreciate.
The secret to the success of the American Miracle is our belief in and commitment to the education of our people. Where education is under-prioritized, people are more likely to starve, to get sick, to steal from and kill one another. Every advance in civilization happened because someone learned something. And history shows that where the learning environment is poor, more bad things happen.
So keep learning. Share what you’ve learned with others. Support education in your community with your time, talent and treasure. Open your mind to new ideas and opinions, challenge all points of view and make your own decisions about their value.
This is the one universal law of success: We become what we think about. Continuous learning can stimulate productive thought processes. And productive thinking can ultimately lead to a productive life.