The Five Things I Learned in College

college studying

I wish I remembered more from my college classes. The truth is that most of what we covered is long gone. These are the top five concepts I do remember, the ones I carry with me and use in my daily  life at home and work.

5. Less is more (from my Art class)

Popularized by architect Mies van der Rohe via Robert Browning. I’ve tried to keep my life relatively simple in line with the less-is-more philosophy.

4. Homeostatis (Philosophy class)

Explains why some people and organizations are so resistant to change.

3. Systems Theory (Biology and Sociology)

I studied biology and sociology at the same time and was struck by the similarities–the mirrored  patterns and truths–whether we were discussing cell life, individuals, families, tribes, cultures or nations.

2. The law of diminishing returns (Economics)

I still remember the example the professor gave. If you are getting an “E” in the course, it takes minuscule effort to move your grade to a “D”   but it requires considerably more effort , proportionately,  to move from a “D” to a “C.”  It takes a whole lot more work to get an “B” and a Herculean amount of effort to achieve an “A.”  As you move your grades up, an  application of additional resources yields less than a proportional return; you have to keep working harder and harder for smaller improvements.

I have taken this principle, flipped it, and used it to help me stay disciplined with my weight and eating habits. I noticed the first bite of [fill in the blank] is absolutely divine; OMG, this is the best thing I’ve ever eaten; I’m in heaven. Second bite:  this is yummy. Third bite: this is pretty good. Fourth bite: I’m just shoving it in my mouth. Lesson: three bites is often enough. And if I know I’m not going to truly relish three bites, I’ll forego it altogether.

1. Vote with your dollar (Economics)

The idea  is that consumers show support/nonsupport for goods, services, ideas, trends, etc., through their expenditures. You put your money where you mouth (wallet) is, in other words. If you want to see more of it, you spend more. If you want less of x, you spend less on x. You live out your values through your wallet and checkbook.

My greater takeaway is that we also vote in other ways. We also vote with our time. We vote with our attention. We vote with our laughter; we vote with our energy.  We can vote for snarkiness (or not) depending on how we use our time and attention. Ditto trashy TV, gossip, hate, fluff, unhappiness, addictions, whatever.

What do you remember from college? What were lessons you still use to this day?

photo by Michael Oh

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