“Actions speak louder than words.”

I can’t tell you who said this phrase nor when it was said nor in what context. I’m sure Google would tell me if I asked, but I would rather talk about what I do know. I know these words to be absolute truth. Let me prove it.

Who are the most influential people in our world currently? Who impacts your life everyday even though you’ve never met them?

The five different Time 100 covers for 2013.

According to Time Magazine, the top 100 people of our time include leaders such as Barack Obama and Pope Francis, artists like Jennifer Lawrence and Steven Spielberg, icons including Justin Timberlake and Beyoncé, pioneers such as Don Yeomans and Perry Chen,  and titans like Sheryl Sandberg and Lebron James.

I guarantee you know almost all of the people I just listed. And if you don’t, now is the time to use Google because you’ll discover that these people are indeed affecting your life everyday, even though you didn’t know they existed.

Why do these people matter?

Beyoncé performing her song Single Ladies at the Super Bowl in February 2013.

These people along with everyone else on Time Magazine’s list and everyone you think are the most influential people in the world do things. For example, Beyoncé grew up in Houston, the daughter of a salesman and a hairdresser. At age seven, she sang at her school’s talent show and won, beating students twice her age. After this, she pursued music in every shape and form by attending music grade schools, competing in more talent shows and auditioning for singing roles. Today, Beyoncé is known for what she has accomplished as a result of these actions. Beyoncé is known for her songs, her acting in Dreamgirls,  her performance at the Super Bowl, etc. Beyoncé did not sit around at home thinking about how much she enjoyed music. She performed as often as she could and worked hard to become the best musician she could be. Now, she’s admired as one of the greatest icons of our time.

In my opinion, we sit around and think too much in school. Yes, thinking is a critical action and extremely important. But that does not change the fact that a thought only exists in your head and affects no one but yourself. Writings and discussions have more influence, but they are still a far cry away from doing anything. For every hour spent in lecture, an undergraduate is expected to spend three hours outside class working on knowing the material. The methods of doing this consist of staring at notes/PowerPoints/book pages, homework whether it be problems or essays, and other ways to internalize knowledge. There is typically no practical use or application outside of a two-dimensional piece of paper for a full time student until a student has an internship or job.

Within chemical engineering, the closest to hands-on applications a second year student comes is the optimization of a plant process. I don’t consider this to be a proper application of theory because it is a theoretical situation. Students are not able to actually run their design project at a plant so it is nothing more than a project. A plant set-up would be impossible, but there must be a way to bring these applications to student to gain more practical experience. This is why I’m an advocate of project-based learning, despite the difficulties it can impose. Project-based learning is doing.

French author Simone Weil’s book The Need for Roots.

I’m not going to criticize honors courses. I love my honors classes. I do have a suggestion to offer to honors courses though. These classes capitalize on higher thinking, but many do not use the idea of action enough in conjunction with thoughts and words. Some do, for instance when I volunteered to receive honors credit freshman year, but this is not the norm unfortunately. Last semester, I took a wonderful course titled French Intellectual Thinking. Yes, thinking was even in the title. We spent a lovely hour and half twice a week talking about French writers’ works all semester. What if we had taken their writings an actually lived them though? For example, we read parts of Simone Weil’s The Need for Roots where she listed the “needs of the soul” which included responsibility, truth, freedom of opinion, etc. Instead of discussing the importance of these, what if we students had made the effort to live a day without truth or without responsibility? At first it might be fun, but the end of the day, we would realize why it’s a need of the soul.

Barack Obama is known because he is the President of the United States, but he did not get there without campaigning and he wouldn’t be doing his job correctly if he wasn’t constantly acting as the president. He’s meeting world leaders, signing legislation, proposing his own solutions for problems in the US, etc. Ultimately, this translates well to undergraduate students. We wouldn’t be students without studying and homework. However, employers are increasingly looking at extracurricular involvement because these activities are opportunities where we, as students, can actually do something. Personally, I can’t imagine my life without student organizations. So, stop sitting around and thinking; start doing. That is what needs to be happening more and more in students’ lives, adults’ lives, everyone’s lives.

So, do you have an idea? A dream? A thought? Something you keep putting off until tomorrow for when it’s the right time?

Stop waiting. Share your idea, whether you talk about it or write about it. But don’t stop there. After sharing it, do not settle.

Start doing.



Personal note: I’m working on a follow-up to last week’s post, but it’s not ready yet. I sincerely apologize. I’ll also be on hiatus until June. For the next week, I’ll be in Scotland and Ireland and then I will be returning to the US for the first time since January. See you then! xx

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