We all know the Nike slogan, Just Do It. Speaks volumes. It’s as good a mantra for companies as it is for people. I’ve worked for companies that I’ve wanted to scream this at. I used to work for a company that hired me to help them enter the web-based video market. But they never pushed the service in their sales calls. So for the most part, I wasn’t very busy. Our video camera, a super-cheap version of a super cheap camera (the best I could get my boss to invest in), literally sat there for months in the corner with dust and possibilities gathering and being cleaned away. So much more could have been done. Why invest only half way?
I found it frustrating back in college when I switched from Biology to Communications. Pre-med was all about competition, 50 pages a night and sleepless regurgitation of molecular models and insect nomenclature. The caliber of students in the communications program was slightly different. If it interfered with sleep, or feeling OK, the tasks were usually complained about until dropped like a hot potato. I suddenly found myself at the top of my classes burning the midnight oil while those around me chose to sleep in. I was in a class with one of the basketball players. These were the worst students at our school, and Loyola hadn’t won a championship since 1969. The university hung that single banner up with “pride” (and mentioned it whenever they could) but gave no serious money to the sports programs. My high school’s sports programs absolutely dominated those of Loyola University’s. And that’s fine. They just chose to invest their money in other things like tenure. But giving a kid a full scholarship in sports and then not putting any more money into that sports program is a nonsequetor. It’s like inviting volunteers to skydive out of your plane without parachutes while promising to reach great heights together. It’s the wrong answer to a question that no one ever asked. I would look at that 1969 championship banner and laugh at its loneliness. Either honor your past by continuing to try, or stop living in the past and move on to other things. Colleges are not people. They don’t accomplish things and then look back on that lifetime with nostalgia as they approach death. Colleges should be places of continued renewal and the pursuit of things intellectual and great. They should either commit to striving for excellence, or they should sell off the desks and the books and stop wasting everyones time.
So maybe I became bitter and cynical after attending the University of Southern California for a summer program. After my three months there, going back to Loyola was like returning to grade school. Please, are you kidding me? USC had a tram. They had a Nike sponsorship deal for the hopscotch program. They had stadiums and people with advanced degrees in hydrodynamics and dolphin behavior teaching diving to ripped and shaved young men and women. They had signed hall of famer shoes in glass display cases resting under the maroon banners of championships as numerous and intimidating as a medieval superpower. At the film school, they had buildings named after George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Johnny Carson, Robert Zemeckis. Returning to Loyola’s analog tape to tape edit machine after spending time with computer-based Avid non-linear edit systems and state of the art digital movie theaters was aggressively nauseating. Seeing the goldenrod 1969 basketball banner was laughable.
So here I am living my life tempered by the luke-warm water of people half-trying to teach me and make me better. The flash of brilliance I felt at USC makes me feel like I’ve missed something in life. I often feel that the fault lies within myself peering behind a lens rather than joining the party. I wear cargo pants, but I’ve never served. I complain about my contacts, but I’ve never surgically corrected my eyes. I take credit for my achievements, but feel that I could be accomplishing so much more. If I were only to just go for it, just do it, where would my life take me.