July 28, 2012

9 Things Every Damn Undergraduate Student Should Know

Like the majority of undergrads, my eventual bachelor’s degree doesn’t have a pre-determined career attached to it. I’m not one of the lucky ones who has known what they wanted to do for the rest of their lives since they were five years old. In fact, the direction of my career path just changed last week.

For anyone else in my position who might be a little more worrisome, I say “don’t sweat it”. Really. It’s normal. I’m a third-year student almost ready to graduate with no solid job-action plan whatsoever. This makes conversation with relatives a little awkward because every time they ask what I want to be when I graduate, and I answer “dunno”. Their guaranteed response is usually an expression of panic, followed by a “why”, filled with concern and furrowed eyebrows. I don’t have funky relatives like the parents of Emma Stone in Easy A – “Go with the flow” is not in their vocabulary. My family would rather not deal with ambiguity, as they want to be reassured that I’m reassured with my life.

In reality however, as students, most of our future careers won’t exist until we graduate. My parents are not really aware of this fact, and so when they’re concerned, they will give me something to read. It can take the form of emails forwarded from co-workers or articles from the Metro, and it’s usually something with insightful advice. In this instance, my parents gave me “Damn Good Advice (For People with Talent!): How To Unleash Your Creative Potential“, a book by ‘Master Communicator’ George Lois, the original Mad Man of Madison Avenue.

No chapters or lengthy paragraphs here. This is an easy-to-read book, essentially a list of advice, full of images, which is perfect for any busy student to be able to thumb through and get quick doses of inspiration. Out of the 120 pieces of advice, I narrowed it down to 9 that I saw as applicable and enlightening to any student in any major field or industry:


“Follow your bliss. That which you love, you must spend your life doing, as passionately and as perfectly as your heart, mind, and instincts allow. And the sooner you identify that bliss, which surely resides in the soul of most human beings, the greater your chance of a truly successful life.”

Remember what I mentioned earlier? About the people who’ve known what they’ve wanted to be and make a living off of since they were barely able to walk? Those people know their bliss, and discovered it so early on. Easier said than done, but drop everything you’re doing now that doesn’t match with what you love doing, and start doing what makes you happy. Even if that means changing majors you’re more than halfway into finishing.


“You can never learn anything from a mistake! A failure is supposed to give you pause, shake you up, humble you. But that would be the end of being a fearless, creative thinker. Onwards and upwards, and never give your failures a second thought.”

I was metaphorically smacked across the face with how refreshing this perspective is on mistakes. Reflecting on failed assignments and bad grades is crucial, but once that’s done, why keep crying about it, right?


“Work is worship. Working hard and doing great work is as imperative as breathing. Creating great work warms the heart and enriches the soul. Those of us lucky enough to spend out days doing something we love, something we’re good at, are rich. If you do not work passionately (even furiously) at being the best in the world at what you do, you fail your talent…”

As beautifully put as this piece of advice is, as students, we can’t always take the courses we want to take. There is no doubt that you will be coerced into taking a course on a subject you despise just because you need it to fulfill graduation requirements. You will get crappy assignments, but that doesn’t mean you need to make the end product crappy. Think and work at it so that it ends up being something you will love through ideation, process, and fruition.


“To create great work, here’s how you must spend your time: 1% Inspiration, 9% Perspiration, 90% Justification.”

In your mind, you can have the greatest idea in the world. You can execute and present your idea well, but if you can’t convince your professor that it deserves an A+, then you will need to settle for that B-, unfortunately.


“If you think people are dumb, you’ll spend a lifetime doing dumb work. People always respond to an idea – a strong, central concept or image – especially if it is represented in a warm, human way.”

At some point, you’re going to take that course where the assignments and presentations you do turns every one of your peers (maybe including the professor) as your “competition”. Don’t be the ass of the class who turns “no question is a dumb question” into a lie.


“The history of the art of mankind can inspire breakthrough conceptual thinking, in any field.”

Next time you’re at a dentist or doctor’s appointment, stare at that abstract painting in the waiting room rather than flipping through gossip magazines. There are interesting things in art that are meant for your eyes only that could give you and your work the push you needed. Go to a museum. Especially in Vancouver, there are a ton of galleries you can walk into and look at the art for free (or by donation).


“Extoll your mentors. When the world deems you ‘a success,’ always, always, recognize your mentors (if you claim you had none, you’re an ungrateful liar). Years from now, when you become a hot-shot, speak passionately about your mentors.”

Yes, your mom can be a mentor too. Don’t be shy when expressing that.


“Make your surroundings a metaphor for who you are. Your home should not be a presentation to your friends. Surroundings should relate to who you are, what you love, and to what you deem important in life.”

When the library (or pub) closes for the night, you’re going to have to go back to your dorm room or parent’s basement at some point, so make your space your sanctuary for thinking, studying, creating, and being.


“A thinking person must read, study, question, evaluate, and not let the bullshitters bullshit you.”

If you’re reading this, you’re probably in university, therefore a thinking person. So get to it.

About the Author

Recultured Team
Recultured Team
This is where you'll find the blog posts that the team has contributed to collectively! What team? Wildcats! -Nope, wrong team. Recultured!

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