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English November Essay November 7, 2006

Posted by sdpurtill in High School.

Background: Sometimes we look back on events—such as missing the extra point in the football game, or not saying that kind word—with regret.

Directions: If you could relive one moment of your life, what moment would you choose? Why? How would you change that moment?

It has been tough for me to actually think of one event. All the events in my life have led me to where I currently am today, and based on where I am today, there’s nothing that I would take back. I’m sure I’ve made hundreds of mistakes in the past, but all of those mistakes have made me who I am *cough* egoism *cough*. If I can look back to one single event that changed the course of my life, it was the first time I looked NikeSkateboarding.com; the rest is history.

But since I have to do this essay to keep an A in the class :), I might as well write about an event that I wish I could relive. I’ve finally come up with one: the day in 6th grade when I decided that I hated reading. I can’t clearly remember if it was in 6th grade or 7th grade that I rejected reading, but I know that it was sometime in that period. There are so many reasons why I wish I could take this back, so here goes.

In the course of life, there are many situations, events, and problems that people would like to take back. Life is a series of decisions that you make, and you can look at your life as a large binary tree of possible outcomes; one decision can drastically alter your entire future. It must have been in the middle of 6th grade that I decided that reading wasn’t cool and was a waste of time. I look back on this decision and regret it so much; I have stated time and time again in my blog that “the world belongs to readers”, as Mrs. Oates always told me in 10th grade. I was too ignorant, arrogant, and stubborn to understand. Francis Bacon once said “knowledge is power”; power is one thing I will always wish I had more of. There are several reasons why I wish I could take back this decision; I would be able to communicate more effectively, I would have a much easier time writing essays, and I would be so much farther ahead of my competition. Finally, I would like to look at where I could be today if I hadn’t made that decision.

Being able to communicate with people is one of the most vital characteristics of successful businessmen. How well you communicate with people has a serious effect on everything you try to achieve in life. Be it meeting potential clients, customer service, sales calls, relationships, interviews, or even being accepted in High School, it all involves strong communication skills. I would say the number one characteristic of an effective communicator is their relevance to any of their potential audiences; this is where reading comes into play. The more you read, the more you understand people and where they are coming from. Being able to put yourself into someone else’s shoes gives you the power to be relevant to them, and by reading lots of books, you are able to understand the different backgrounds of different people. By understanding them, you have a better chance of connecting with them; and the more connections you have, the higher chances you have of being successful. But at the same time, you can know all the right people and have no ability; at the end of the day, you will be defined by your own ability, not the people that got you to where you are.

Ayn Rand says in the Foreword of her first novel, We the Living, “Too many writers declare that they never succeed in expressing fully what they wished to express and that their work is only some sort of approximation. It is a viewpoint for which I have never had any sympathy and which I consider excusable only when it is voiced by beginners, since no one is born with any kind of ‘talent’ and, therefore, every skill has to be acquired. Writers are made, not born. To be exact, writers are self-made.” There are several attributes of an effective writer: how clearly he can organize his thoughts, how concisely he can voice his opinions, and how subliminally manipulative he can be. Writing plays a large role in the success of most businessmen, because you must be able to always be convincing people why you or your product is the best. How you write plays a huge part in how people perceive your company; if the diction you choose is that of a fourth grader, the value of your product is going to take a hit. But at the same time, you want to use a language that can appeal to the masses; not everyone went to Harvard and received a Ph.D. in English! The more you read, the bigger grasp you will have of what words to use when and where. As silly as this may sound, this could be the difference maker in your product; if an “influencer” (i.e., Mark Cuban, Robert Scoble) likes your product because they understand your friendly way of writing, you have just established a market presence without spending a penny on marketing. If I had been reading this whole time, I would be able to organize my thoughts much more concisely, and I would be at another level in my career.

To be successful, they say you must always be one step ahead of the competition. I would like to reject this paradigm and say one must be ten flights of stairs ahead of the competition. And NO, I am not talking about over-achievers; I am talking about those born with ability who use it as productively as possible. When you are compared to the “movers and shakers of this world” (more Ayn Rand for you) you could make them look like this: Warren Buffet like a homeless man; Rupert Murdoch like the owner of Friendster (hahaha); Richard Branson like an 8-year old boy with a franchise of lemonade stands; Hitler like a 13-year old babysitter; Stalin like my 3rd grade math teacher; ok this is going overboard :p. But just think of the possibilities! The first trillionaire; the world’s most innovative entreprenuer; the world’s most manipulative orator; a ruler of the masses that this world has never witnessed before; the first ruler of all seven continents on planet earth. Again, this is going a little overboard, but you get the picture :p. The number one thing that will get you ahead of your competition is real life experience, but a close second is what you know in your head. A lot of times, it is those quick decisions you make that will decide your future; you don’t have much time to think about them, so you use reason, rationality, logic, and common sense to conclusively decide what to do in these situations. The more you read, the more you know, the better you will be at making these decisions. Which, in turn, gives you a higher chance of achieving a position in this earth that I stated before.

Richard Branson once said “fantasizing about the future is my favorite pastime.” I agree with Richard; I love thinking of what could happen in the future I have ahead of me. But thinking about changing the past and what I could have become has never been something that I’ve cared for; it is a complete waste of time and is somewhat depressing. That’s why there are people that never get anywhere in life; they are always making excuses and thinking of what could have been, instead of living in reality and accepting their current circumstances. But anyways, I’ll do this exercise really quick just to hypothesize as to where I could be today had I not made the decision stop reading. First of all, I would be a much better Flash Developer. Usually, best writers are the best developers, because if you can convey your thoughts down concisely when you sit down and write, your code will mirror your deductive and organized thought process. This means less code, better scalability, faster development time, and getting paid more for each job. Secondly, I would understand a lot more about business. I understand quite a bit about the economy, and Silicon Valley as it is right now, but if I had started reading all of the books I am currently reading earlier, I would be so much smarter. One of the outcomes could have been that I would have lost touch with reality though; some people read a lot of books, and start to think that they are better than everyone else due to the intellectual capacity. I think this is a load of garbage; the only people that have the right to think they are better than everyone else are the ones that have actually accomplished anything (i.e. Mark Cuban, Warren Buffet, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, etc…).

After all is said and done, I am who I am today, and nothing can change that fact. The only thing that I can change is my future, and I believe reading has a very large impact on the outcomes of anyone’s life. I wish that I would have kept on reading through 6th grade, and not have started back up just this summer. I would be better equipped for the rest of my life if I had done so.

The more you read, the more you know: knowledge is power.

I’m terrible with conclusions. And the fourth paragraph is terrible; I was having trouble putting it together. Anyways. I am done. What do you think?



1. Mr Robbins - November 9, 2006

Sam –

Sometimes it isn’t going with the flow that is aa seminal experience. I know many people who have always loved reading, and a few who had a negative experience with it who came to be hooked on it later. For you it was whatever happened in 6th or 7th grade. For a college roommate it was a copy of Cannery Row that I lent him; my youngest son, it was a book I gave him in 6th grade that changed him from a non-reader to a reader; for me it was losing my 1st grade reading textbook. We don’t know where we would be had those events not happened. It is equally likely that without the negative experience we would never have been moved to read. It’s as pointless to fuss over that as it is to bitch about how much more money you might have made had you not sold a particular stock when you did. You have an appetite for reading that you may not have had otherwise, and you appreciate the Powe of the Word (Bill Moyers). Isn’t that what it’s all about. And thanks for sharing your url.

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