Monday, August 10, 2009

" Ummm... "

Unfortunately, it would be impossible to touch on everything that I have learned or experienced at Ivy Scholars. Therefore I’m just going to reflect on the overall effect it has had on my life so far.

Something I learned at Yale in these past two weeks was never to say the word “Um.” This advice was meant to be taken in terms of public speaking but I have found that it can be applied to more aspects of my life than just speech.

During our time, many people tried vigorously to implement this advice but those with less speaking experience, such as myself, had a difficult time to say the least.

However, the more I tried the more I began to think about whether this advice never to say “um” was valid or not. I started to think that, although it may sound unprofessional, taking time to say “um” allows you time to think. I thought about how it gives you a sort of short prep time that would ultimately allow you to better convey your message.

This idea made me begin to think that I may need to take some prep time from my own hectic schedule and step back to say “um.” However, as we continued further into the program and watched more and more people speak, I realized that the advice I had received before was indeed valid. I realized that those who said “um” too frequently lost valuable time that could have been spent conveying their message. More importantly, I realized that those who never said “um” were more confident, better respected and in the end, much more successful.

I know now that I can’t take a break to say “um.” I know that if I want to be successful in life and make the greatest impact on the world I have to be dynamic and keep moving.

Ivy Scholars has given me the motivation to carry on in an impossible effort to help all those in need. Through this opportunity to have conversations with extremely intelligent, successful, and genuine people, I have learned that I cannot waste any breath by saying “um.” It has shown me that if I want to be successful and have the greatest impact possible on the world, I need to be dynamic and always keep moving.

The staff has shown us many ways to accomplish this almost impossible task of always being dynamic and in motion. However, the best answer I found was to rely on other’s help. We learned numerous times about how difficult it is to be successful without a strong network of friends. However, the message was not that you could rely on these people to do your work for you. It was about understanding that you will never be able to do everything you want to do by yourself. We need to understand that even if you do the best you can do as an individual, you could always have done even better if other’s had invested in you.

I am extremely grateful and humbled to feel that the truly amazing people of the Ivy Scholars Staff and the Ivy League Connection have invested in me in some way.

At the end of the camp I was awarded the Walter Russell Mead Leadership Award for overall performance. After this was announced it was painfully obvious that I had an involuntary "um" moment. I couldn’t really walk, or talk, or think correctly. This award means to me something so much larger than I could ever express. I could not believe that some of the people I respect the most in this world had chosen to invest in me and allow me to receive this honor that I otherwise really would never have dreamed of obtaining. I still can’t believe it. However, instead of saying “um” and trying to figure out how and why I obtained this honor, I’ve decided to spend the rest of my life attempting to prove that I deserve it.

Now I’m going back to my hometown of Richmond California; a place where 85% of students belong to minorities; a place where 60% of kids receive free or reduced lunches; a place with a school district that was hit hard by the economic crisis; a place where the residents will have to make some extremely difficult decisions in the near future; but most importantly, a place where I know I can make a difference. It means so much to me that people at the highest level of education have believed in someone from this community. This has given me energy to keep going and to try to make a difference at all costs.

I could not have had this opportunity were it not for the gratuity of the WCCUSD Ivy League Connection program. This, combined with the generosity of the Ivy Scholars Staff, has shown me that anyone from a place like our district can achieve, all they have to do is try. It has shown me that anyone can create opportunity in their own community, no matter how economically disadvantaged, they simply have to support a program like the Ivy League Connection. Programs like these have the capability to change lives, like mine.

In the future we will have to rely on the generosity of amazing and intelligent people, such as the ones that have helped me these past two weeks, in order to change this world. However, for now I just want to thank these people for all their support by doing all that I can to become more like them and maybe one day, by contributing to that change that I know their going to bring.

As always, thanks for reading.

1 comment:

  1. Matt,

    A nice tool we all ought to take advantage of is to have someone video tape us in a formal speech and even in a normal conversation so we can analytically look at how we project ourselves. Many times we fail to see in ourselves what so many others notice right away. Things that can kill us are putting our hands in front of our face impeding our words, speaking to the ground instead of the audience, saying ‘um’, ‘you know’ and ‘you guys’ when they don’t belong. Even mumbling and failing to enunciate can hurt us.

    All too frequently we’ll use colloquialisms, local idioms and even swear words that make us look like intellectual pygmies.

    When we see the video tape, if we’re honest, we can see some of our flaws and work towards improvements.

    As you pointed out, when we speak with confidence it sends a message that we know what we’re talking about and not just making it up on the fly. Our words can carry more weight and we can be perceived in a higher light.

    You’ll hear motivational speakers tell you that a large part of your success will be determined by the way you present yourself. The way you speak is one area but also the way you look. Dressing for success has some merit. There is a time to dress in a t-shirt, sneakers and ball cap and there are other times when a suit and tie are appropriate. Knowing when each is appropriate is an important part of your education.

    You have many of the tools to make something of yourself, Matt, and the best part is that you didn’t scrimp on the quality of those tools. Now you have to learn how to use those tools to your best advantage. When you finally pass away in about a hundred and thirty years we want you to open up your tool chest and show us those tools that you’ve worn down to a nub. Don’t be the guy that shows us his perfectly preserved tools that have never been used for fear of wearing them out.