Why forgiving is good for you

Sometimes, it feels like it’s easier to stay mad.

They said something to you, or they treated you poorly.  It was wrong, and you’re upset.  You don’t think you can ever mitigate the anger, and it feels like they don’t deserve it.  But that’s not the right way to go about moving on.

It’s really hard to forgive someone, especially someone we care about.  And that’s really counterintuitive, because you think it’d be easy.  You’d think that the people we love the most would have this free pass to forgiveness because they’re close to us.

But it isn’t that way.  It’s different because the people who care about us the most shouldn’t be the ones who hurt you; we put this enormous trust in them that they’ll keep us safe, and they’ll treat us how we should be treated.  I mean, we all need people who are on our side.

But, what happens when that trust is damaged?  What happens when someone injures our feelings towards them?

You forgive, and you move on.

If you can move on together from it, then do so, and keep this incident as a lesson. But, if the relationship is damaged beyond repair, it’s something that you just accept. Some relationships are meant to last forever, and others aren’t.  And, sometimes, it isn’t even anyone’s fault that doesn’t work out.  You’re just different.  And that’s okay, because both people deserve to be happy.  Both people deserve fulfillment, and both deserve to find people who are dying to meet them.

Forgiveness isn’t the same as forgetting.  I think the two often get confused.  Forgiving implies that you acknowledge the problem, but you’re willing to move past it.  Forgetting means the problem never happened.

When you forgive, you grow and learn about yourself.  You challenge yourself by accepting that something happened, but you don’t want to dwell on it.  But, when you just forget, there’s no growth that takes place–it doesn’t get anyone anywhere, because it’s just burying the problem in a mound of ignorance.  And it isn’t exactly the blissful kind.

Forgiving is good for you.  It takes all of those hurt feelings and stress, and it frees them. When you forgive, you give yourself permission to heal.  I’ve known people who never forgive, and they’re stuck in this emotional rut, still angry at people who damaged them years ago.  That’s no way to move forward; you’re not becoming any better of a person from it, and you have this beautiful opportunity to!

You don’t have to wish the person ill if the relationship is beyond repair.  If you had a close relationship with someone, you want them to be happy, because there’s always a part of you who’ll remember how joyful their smile made you.

Sometimes, the best thing for you is to move on and wish them all of the happiness in the world.  And that’s really hard to do, but it’s so good for you.

Sincerely,

Calla

Why the most successful people of the future will be part engineer, part artist

As an engineering student, I’ve noticed the stigma against artists–“it’s not as hard,” “numbers are actually useful,” and “feelings aren’t going to cure cancer.”  This needs to stop, because we need both the right and left brain for technological advancement.

Engineering is important, sure.  The ability to use math and science to physically or virtually create something is what will generate progress in mechanical terms.  We’ll have new and improved inventions.

But as a chemical engineering major at Penn State, I know what a well-funded program stresses and overlooks.  We focus on hard data: equations, tables, dimensionless numbers…that’s all mandatory.  What isn’t mandatory is concept invention–that pure imagination that generates ideas from nothing.  We know how to make something, but we don’t know how to imagine it.  I’d argue that, at least at the undergrad level, engineering students aren’t trained to be creative;  we’re trained to be analytical, methodical, and efficient–to quickly get the right answer.  That’s not enough to solve today’s problems.

Artists are masters of imagination; I only have some experience with it from a liberal arts minor’s perspective, but from what I’ve observed, much of an artist’s degree program is based on “original quality”–not just creating something, but creating something that’s actually good.  It’s an artist’s specialty to test the limits of reality, and when you combine with the skills to act on that imagination, you’re unstoppable.

If we can foster potential that excels in both the arts and sciences, we’d have a generation of people who can not only think of an original idea, but also automously implement it using their analytical skills.

The rocket was invented by Robert H. Goddard, an engineer who was inspired by World of the Wars, by H.G. Wells: a sci fi novel depicting space travel.  Leo Szilard, a physicist, refined atomic power only after reading The World Set Free, by H.G. Wells: another sci fi novel that described atomic power for peaceful society.  Even the cellphone was initially imagined in Star Trek–that’s who Motorola credits for the idea.

Nuclear, aerospace, electrical and computer.  That’s just four engineering specialities that advanced because of the arts.

We nurture this mirage that science and the arts are separate–that you can advance one without the other…that they aren’t intertwined.  The two programs focus on fortifying different skills.  We need to stop thinking that we can just forget the arts and focus on the STEM in order to technologically improve; we need to stop thinking that artists are inferior because their assignments aren’t attached to an equation.  An artist’s program specializes in what the engineer’s program lacks in: pure creativity and original ideas.

Sincerely,

Calla

What you can learn about social comparison from horse racing

Let me be totally up front with you: the most important point of this thought is that comparison hurts individuality.  It can damage your confidence in your unique strengths, just because they don’t match up with someone else’s.  It can send you on this head-trip that you’ve somehow fallen behind on your goals–you’re not on par with your peers, your competitors.

I get it.  I compare myself to people all the time.  Because, if I’m being totally honest, it’s really difficult not to.  When you’re young, you’re trying so intensely to have things work for you and make this glistening future for yourself. You’re looking to your peers for examples of success.  A perfect test score.  A record-breaking 100m backstroke time.  A publication in a magazine.  Success is inspirational, and it’s exciting to feel proud of someone for accomplishing what they’ve worked for.

But when you start weighing their achievements to your’s, we get this soup of rancid emotions.  It’s almost like carbon monoxide to your thoughts; you don’t realize it’s harmful until it has already poisoned you.

Have you ever watched a horse race, paying very close attention to the horses?  They’re wearing blinders on their eyes, and it prevents them from seeing their competition when they race.  It keeps them focused on their own race and what’s in front of them.  It keeps them from getting distracted by their surroundings.

Now, let’s use this equine example as a metaphor for a second.

Suppose the competition and the comparisons are getting to you.  You’re getting distracted by what everyone else is doing, and you’re starting to doubt your own choices. Use the Kentucky Derby as your inspiration to block it out–now, what used to be competition is just background noise, and you’re focusing on moving yourself forward and finishing the race.

But, this takes practice.  I’ve been thinking a lot recently about why it takes such a long time for people who are addicted to social comparison to knock it off, and I’ve come up with 3 reasons: competition is addicting, especially when you have potential, society is virtually build on ranks and comparisons, so it’s hard to shake the idea when it’s practically engrained into your psyche, and finally, it takes a while to become so comfortable with your own goals and objectives that you can look at someone else’s and think “well, that’s great for them! But, it’s not something I’d want… what I’m doing is the best possible option for me right now.”  I think the need to compare has a negative correlation with self-esteem and maturity.

Don’t get me wrong: I think social comparison is what keeps competition alive.  Look at the Olympics: that’s 16 days of competition between the most hardworking athletes in the world.  But, when it gets to where you’re spending time you could be using to accomplish your own goals on worrying about how whoever else is doing, that’s a form of comparison that’s lost it’s productive value.

What do you think?  Is social comparison necessary, or could we do without it? Leave a comment below!

Genuinely,

Calla

 

Some rhetorical fallacies you should NEVER use when forming an argument as a leader

Even if you don’t realize it, you’re probably using rhetoric when you’re trying to persuade someone to join or agree with you.  If you mention that you have previous experience with the task at hand, you’re using an appeal to ethos (using your credibility to gain trust).  Using facts and statistics to back you up? That’s an appeal to logos (using logic to appeal to your audience’s intelligence).  And, if you’re using an emotional story that relates to why you need their support, there’s your appeal to pathos (using their emotions to gain support).

Out of all of the modes of writing, rhetorical composition is probably my favorite.  It’s highly purposeful and springboards nearly every field in some form.  If you need to convince someone of something, persuade someone, or define something, that’s all rhetoric.

But here’s the tricky part–rhetoric comes in a variety of shapes, and there are some forms that you should avoid if you’re trying to become a respectable leader.  With every rhetorical strategy, if it’s taken too far, there’s a logical fallacy to accompany it.  For example, if you take your inductive reasoning too far, it risks becoming a hasty generalization.  So, here are a few rhetorical fallacies to avoid at all costs to when forming an argument as a leader.

Personal Attacks (argumentum ad hominem)

I remember in one of my high school English classes, we watched a slew of presidential debates and counted how many times the candidates slandered each other.  This method is highly ineffective because all it’s really doing is undermining your opponent’s character in an attempt to disprove their argument.  I’ll be the first to say it: bad people can make really good arguments, and sometimes, personal morals and persuasive arguments aren’t necessary correlated.  But, this isn’t the type of rhetoric that’ll encourage support on your part–it isn’t using any high level diplomacy or analytical skills; I see it as a cop out, and it damages the speaker’s credibility because it comes across that the speaker can’t find anything wrong with the opponent’s argument, so s/he is resorting to issues in the opponent’s character instead of issues with the actual issues in an attempt to disprove.

Examples:

  • “You wouldn’t understand the importance of welfare, since you’ve lived a privileged life.”
  • “How can you make laws on trade with Sweden if you’ve never even lived there?”
  • “I’d expect you to think that about global warming, since you own a Hummer.”

Hasty Generalizations

Hasty generalizations are the easiest way to convince your audience that you’re close-minded or uneducated about a subject.  When you oversimplify an argument, you’re not eliminating its complexity–what you’re actually doing is eliminating proof of your understanding of it.  Some of the largest social issues we face today are severely complex: discrimination, climate change, and ethics, to name a few, are issues that your audience realizes has many sides.  To ignore those sides promotes the thought that your opinion didn’t take any of those into account and that, as a speaker, you might be totally alright with making an opinion with very limited information.

Examples:

  • All lawyers became lawyers so they could argue all day.
  • People who shop at department stores are pretentious.
  • Everyone on enemy line is evil.

Genetic Fallacies

Genetic fallacies can sometimes be thought of as the cross between ad hominem attacks and hasty generalizations.  What a genetic fallacy does is propose something about someone or something because of its origin; it attempts to eternally classify or predict the future of something based on its history.  It relates to ad hominem attacks because it could involve, say, accusing someone of being of poor character because of his/her origins, and it generalizes by assuming that everyone/thing from a particular origin are a certain way. Hasty generalizations can even be used to negate an idea because it wasn’t how you were taught.  As a speaker, using this fallacy is kind of like capitalizing on stereotyping and selective listening.  If you’re only relying on what you’ve been taught to be true, and you’re not interested in hearing from anyone with a different background, we’ve got a much bigger problem here.

Examples:

  • “I always went to church when I was younger, so Allah isn’t real.”
  • “You’re Italian, so you probably would’ve agreed with Mussolini, right?”
  • “I don’t eat Black Forest Cake–the Nazi’s liked that.”

Overall, rhetoric is tough.  It’s really an art of knowing your audience and understanding how you’re coming across to them.  There seems to be a balance with persuasion as well, and the most skilled you are in tactfully utilizing a variety of rhetorical strategies, the stronger you can present your argument as a leader.

Genuinely,

Calla

 

Why students without 4.0s make the best researchers

I’m a strong proponent of research because it applies what we know to what we don’t.  I think it drives scientific advancement, and if we’re to compete with the rest of the world, pouring funds into research–medicine, technology, space–is the way to go.

I think research sometimes gets this intimating connotation, because it’s discovering something no one else has before… there has to be a certain intellectual capacity that goes along with that, right?

Of course.

But, I think a student’s capabilities for contribution often relies solely on grades and test scores, and I think this is the wrong approach.  Students who can academically succeed with minimal effort show impressive mental capacities.  However, I think that the student who must work harder to understand develops skills that the effortless straight A student might never exercise.

At some point, we’ll all come across a concept that doesn’t immediately click.  This is the moment where pure intelligence and perseverance diverge.  A student who must turn to his/her resources, like textbooks, notes or office hours might know how to solve the predicament more effectively than one whose never had to use them before.

Additionally , if a student spent all 4 years at the library reading textbooks and in office hours going over missed exam problems, you know they’re disciplined, determined, and hard working.  I won’t pretend I’m an expert at research, but from what I’ve observed, the ability to use your resources and seek out experts who can answer your questions is almost more valuable than natural intellect.

But, most importantly, I think that students who must work harder make the best researchers because they’re familiar with failure.  They aren’t afraid to fail, because they’ve learned to persist through the confusion, less than par grades, and opinions of others.  And you’re going to fail during research projects–experiments won’t go as planned, data might seem like pure anomalies, and it’ll seem tumultuous.  However, it’s the tenacity of the ones who’ve strove and struggled with success who won’t be stared off by a couple misunderstandings.  If research is trial and error–adjusting until you find the right solution, wouldn’t you want a student whose done the same?

Genuinely,

Calla

Why introverts make great leaders

I think there’s this certain stereotype that only the most outgoing, extroverted people can lead a team–that managerial skills are based highly on conversational skills, and if shyer individuals aren’t small talk pros, they might be most useful in a cubicle, working alone on their computers.

I’m here to challenge that.

I’ve had supervisors and mentors who’ve ranged from ask you about your weekend as soon as you walked in and others who you’d have to approach first to converse with.  One thing I’ve learned from the variety is how many factors go into being an effective leader.  I used to think that it was just how well someone could conduct him/herself in a social setting, but as I observed different leaders more, I realized that becoming one isn’t limited to a certain personality.  I think it’s more that certain personality types make for different leaders–for example, I’d hypothesize that extroverts might thrive on making their presence highly known throughout the team, and that leader might take pride in winning their team members over.  Conversely, introverts might make less forward appearances in the group, but the members know the leader will lead in times of distress.  I think it’s more of a “hands on” vs. “hands off” approach.

I’m an introvert, and I think we have great potential for leadership for different reasons than my extroverted counterparts; here’re a few reasons why I’m sure of it:

  • Introverts are natural listeners

We specialize in listening.  We enjoy hearing what others have to say, and a lot of the times, we’ll only comment once we’ve formed a fully-formed opinion.  It’s not in our personality to constantly interrupt or take over the conversation; this is a great leadership quality because it allows the leader to get a more complete view of his/her team members’ ideas, understand a situation from a variety of perspectives, and allowing the team members to feel heard (I’m going to write a thought on this soon, because I think it’s a vital, but often overlooking quality).

  • Introverts spend a lot of their time thinking

As I implied before, we aren’t usually ones to talk extensively until we’ve formed a well-thought-out opinion about the topic.  When you hear us monologue, you can be sure that we’ve spent a lot of time debating and assessing the situation.  This is a great quality for a leader because you want one who doesn’t take concerns flippantly–you want someone who you know will give a dilemma ample time to think about and give as best of a solution as possible.

  • Introverts aren’t concerned with being the center of attention

You don’t have to worry about us trying to steal the spotlight–we’re not naturally ones who enjoy being the center of attention, and I think that’s an excellent leadership quality.  It gives the group members time to shine and recognize each others’ value.  It’s highly important to realize how skilled your team members are, and when the leader is not forcing him/herself into that light, it indirectly creates that recognition system.

  • Introverts are best with one-on-one communication

We’re much more comfortable with one-on-one communication than with group communication.  This is an awesome leadership quality because it gives the team members the opportunity to form an individual relationship with the leader and develop a unique relationship with him/her.  This can facilitate personal growth and mentorship, and it can prohibit the team member from feeling like just a number or another employee to the leader.

  • Introverts like being alone

We find value in spending time in solitude.  This is a beneficial leadership quality because it can prevent the leader from becoming overbearing and obnoxiously involved.  You also don’t have to worry about us feeling lonely when we’re by ourselves because being alone is sometimes what we look forward to; additionally, you’ll know that when we come out of our offices to visit, we’ll be more energized and ready to socialize or tackle problems.  I’d assume that you wouldn’t have to worry about an introvert leader always trying to steal his/her group members’ attention for meaningless topics; we have an intuition for when it’s best for us to stay out of the way.  It also gives us this enhances self-awareness (more about that in the next bullet point) and self-control.

  • Introverts are self-aware

We know ourselves really well because we spend a lot of our day thinking.  We make efforts to understand the roots of our emotions and thought processes.  This is an important quality for a leader because, a lot of the time, it leads to heightened emotional maturity and empathy.  We can put ourselves in another’s place because we spend so much time thinking and relating our experiences to each other to find trends in our own psychological behavior.

Ultimately, introverts have the potential to make great leaders.  Theymre self-aware, they understand when it’s time to leave their team members alone, and they work well with one-on-one communication.  Sure, the leading style might differ from an extrovert’s, but, in some cases, a different leadership style (introverted OR extroverted) might prove most suitable.

Genuinely,

Calla

Why open coursework will change the world

In my opinion, education is the single most important method we can use to change the world.  The desire to learn and grow is what will drive our society forward–in the arts, in the sciences, in society.

I think knowledge is so important to the advancement of our society.  I believe that everyone has the potential to become an expert in a subject; once you figure out what that subject is, you have the power to learn as much as you can–to become the specialist of that area and revolutionize the field.

Given this, education also works as a business.  College is expensive, and sometimes, finances prohibit a student’s acquisition of knowledge.  I know I’m taking the typical college student approach, but I don’t think that money should ever prevent a student from learning–I think that interest should drive education.

So this is where open coursework comes into play.

I discovered the concept while I was interning.  I think I found my first class on iTunesU, and I finished it, How to Think Like a Psychologist, within 3 days.  Soon, I discovered MITOpenCourseWare, and I took pharmacology classes when I came home from work.  I think this is a revolutionary educational concept because all of the necessary materials are so easy to access!  All you need is a computer, wifi, and a yearn for knowledge.

Sure, completing an open course isn’t ultimately contributing to a degree.  However, if you find that you don’t understand a concept as well as you should for your job, or you’re struggling in a class, this method can heartily supplement the confused crevices of your brain.

Ultimately, this is one of the coolest educational innovations I’ve seen in a while.  From my research, you can find a course online on nearly any subject from about 1.2 billion universities.  If you’re interested, the next step is figuring out what you want to learn about.

Genuinely,

Calla

How to build the perfect team

When teams work well together, they can conquer the world.  When they don’t, in some cases, they risk destroying it.  Over the past few years of college, I’ve worked in teams as a student, as an RA, as a club officer, and as a researcher.  Throughout these escapades, I’ve noticed a few tricks in synthesizing the perfect team.  In this thought, I’ll share a couple of what I think are the 4 most important mechanisms in building a highly effective team.

  1. A mix of different personalities

I used to think that a team of one particular personality would create the best team.  However, once I began working more in groups, I realized that a balance of introverts and extroverts is essential for pleasant team dynamics.  For example, pretend that you have this entire group of extroverts; if you sat down to have a meeting with them, you might find that they’re all competing for talking-time.  They’re all outgoing, possibly talking over each other, and they want to be talking to someone at all times.  Conversely, with a group of introverts, you might see that no one’s talking to each other–they’re all pondering silently in their own minds.  You need a healthy balance of every personality to create that optimal group dynamic.  When I first thought about this, I thought it was counterintuitive; I figured that the personalities might clash.  But, think about it this way: with that balance, you have people in the group who naturally want to talk, and others who naturally want to listen.

  1. Team members who are specialists in different areas

When I was in high school, I tried to have minimal experiences in a variety of areas.  But, once I got to college, I drifted towards my niche–writing.  From a engineering discipline perspective, when I interned at Texas A&M this summer, I had the most experience with chemistry.   So, even though I worked at a biomedical engineering lab, I worked on a chemically based project.  I think that having a team who has expertise in multiple areas promotes effectiveness because there is someone whose spent extensive time on a particular subject available to you; and you have an expert opinion for each detail or problem you come across.  If you have a team who knows a little about many things, you can’t fully rely on any of them for an expert opinion, which is something a team might require.

  1. Team members who want to improve

This is pretty simple to me: if your teammates don’t want to improve, your group won’t improve.  Challenging how we think and complete tasks is how we discover better ways to accomplish things.  If the team members decide that they are flawless coworkers, then they’ll have no desire to get better.

You can also think about this another way–if the teammates don’t have enough energy to commit to improvement, or they aren’t fully invested in the project, I believe that the cause could suffer.  To create the most effective team, I think that every team member must be invested in the project and bring a prime amount of excitement for their job that drives said refinement with time *and energy*.

  1. A mentor who believes his/her team is worth teaching

Blatantly stated, if a mentor has no interest in working one-on-one with his/her team, the team won’t improve.  The mentor is the team’s guide through the shadowy path to achievement.  The mentor likely knows the necessary steps to take in order to complete the task at hand, while the team members might not fully understand the necessary protocols.  Frankly, the mentors probably knows the answers.  And if the mentor chooses not to share those with the team, s/he risks a team who doesn’t fully understand how to complete the project most accurately or efficiently.  Appropriately, if the mentor believes that his/her members are below him because of their experience or education, or because the members are not on his/her “level”, an undesirable power dynamic reveals itself.  However, if a mentor spends time with each team member, s/he comes to understand each member’s strengths, backgrounds, and weaknesses that they bring to the team.  S/he can also provide appropriate guidance based on each member’s target contribution to the goal.  This goes along with playing to the strengths of the team–if the mentor spends appropriate time caring for his/her members and fostering their potential, a more desirable outcome could subsequently grow from it.

All in all, from my observations and experiences, I believe that it’s a mixture of personality, expertise, will for improvement, and mentor mentality that drives a world-changing team.  What do you guys think?

Genuinely,

Calla

How to shake your shyness

I have no objections to admitting that I was a very shy child.  Early on, I struggled to make friends and talk to strangers (even though I used to pretend that I only avoided those conversations because my mom told me never to talk to strangers).  Looking back, I now think of it as genuine introversion with a splash of social anxiety.

Even though I feel like I can talk to many types of people now, sometimes I feel like shyness still keeps me back  from fully expressing myself. Sometimes my thoughts appear externally choppy, even though they’re internally fluid.

Shyness doesn’t mean you won’t be successful.  But, in my opinion, shaking the shyness sure does make it easier.

This isn’t to say that introversion is necessarily a drawback.  I think it’s actually an asset sometimes–for example, during the semester, I usually spend long hours studying at the library.  If I felt like I needed a lot of human interaction during that time, I might have more trouble with productivity.

However, sometimes shyness can be the factor that hinders you from connecting with people who can really enrich and benefit your life.

So here’s my trick to conquering shyness: forget you have it.  I admit that that statement sounds borderline condescending if left alone–but let me explain.  The way I experience shyness, it’s like an emotional cage.  You try to break from the cage, but your fears and anxieties keep you locked in an invisible prison.  If you pretend that you aren’t shy, you can eventually diminish that timidness because you see that there’s actually nothing to fear.  I like to think of it as half acting, half faking it until you make it.  It’ll feel awkward at first–like you’re playing a part–but with time, your genuine disposition might amalgamate to accommodate a more socially secure self.

This doesn’t always work, and it takes a little bit of getting used to.  However, if this is something you struggle with and wish to change, it’s definitely worth the effort! 🙂

Sincerely,

Calla

Why scientists + engineers can’t discard the arts

The National Math and Science Initiative is a non-profit, backed by Exxon Mobil, Lockheed Martin, Dell Corporation, and Boeing, that encourages the advancement in primary and secondary STEM education programs.  At the collegiate level, the Intel Corporation Stay With It Campaign encourages first and second year undergraduate engineering and science majors to stay enrolled in their degree programs.

This is important, because the world needs problem solvers of all kinds.  Economic crises, the environment and natural resources, energy, medicine, and warfare are all world issues that need problem solvers, so to increase the volume of skilled workers is vital for the future of the world.

But we don’t need humanistic robots.  We can’t just only focus on analytical and quantitative subjects because that’s only half of the solution.  Even in science, there is quantitative and qualitative data.  In terms of problem solving, I refer to the quantitative data as the numerical outcomes and data, and the qualitative data is psychological and sociological reactions.

One of my closest friends once told my that, in some cases, arts classes provide more of a challenge than science because you can’t get a tutor for an art project.  You can ask someone how to solve a heat transfer problem, but you can’t ask someone to paint a landscape for you.  In my opinion, the thinking style in art is important for engineers because it encourages genuine inspiration and a pursuing a totally new idea.  I think engineers can build off of this because they can apply this to ideas an concepts we already know about, and perhaps build upon those.  This shows real promise in scientific + engineering research, where the researcher must devise a totally new idea based on previous knowledge.

Ultimately, the style of thinking that artists use can benefit scientists + engineers– it requires genuine creativity, and to move society towards solving problems we don’t even realize are problems yet.

Sincerely,

Calla