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Don’t Worry, It’s Not the Alpacalypse [Sherpa]

10 Dec
Sherpa, the sherpa

Sherpa, the sherpa

A Young Scholar Writes:

Dear Sherpa,

I have a really tough finals schedule, and all of them will make or break my grade! (i.e. determine an A or A-). I’m getting completely overwhelmed thinking about all my tests and papers at the same time. How do I make sure I’m putting enough time into studying for/writing all of them?

Freshman Fearing Failing at Finals

Dear F.f.f.a.f.,

I felt the same way when I saved the world from a complete Alpacalypse. I was the leader of a team commissioned to destroy a large asteroid headed toward the planet. I recruited my old friends Bruce and Ben and we set off for the great endeavor.  Continue reading

Difficult is Doable [Ask the Sherpa]

6 Nov

Sherpa, the sherpa

A student asks:

Dear Sherpa,

I’m in a really tough science class right now.  It’s so hard, I’m actually getting a bad grade!  That is to say, it’s not an A.  Here’s the problem: I have to take the second half of the class next semester, too!  It’s a requirement of the program, so I can’t just bail on it if I don’t want to get kicked out.  I’m freaking out. I don’t think I can do it.  What should I do?


Avogadro’s Blunder

Continue reading

Well, I Do Declare [Ask the Sherpa]

2 Oct

Sherpa, the Sherpa

A student intones:

Dear Sherpa,

I know what I want to major in, and how I want to spend the rest of my days, doing philosophy and only philosophy. But I’m scared to declare my major, and become a real person. What if I change my mind? Does this mean I have to start working on my thesis right now? I’m only a sophomore…why do I feel like I’m donning my cap and gown already?

Dare to Declare

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It will Probably Be Ok [Ask the Sherpa]

6 Sep
The Sherpa

Sherpa, The Sherpa

A telegram from a student reads:

Dear Sherpa,

So, I’m super excited to be at college, but I’m finding myself really frustrated and a little overwhelmed with everything that I have to do now that I’m here.  There are so many things that just don’t make sense, and frankly seem kind of dumb to me.  Why does everything have to be so hard? It makes me want to just throw my hands up in the air and go home.


Drowning in Bureaucracy

Dearest Drowning, Continue reading

Seeking Something Special, sans Striving

1 Feb

This month, Sherpa recalls a conversation he had with a student many years ago about effort, worth, challenge, and value.  His response to her is below:

Easy things are rarely of any real value.  It’s an obvious truth, but one that escapes most people.  The reason climbers seek the tallest mountains is precisely because such mountains are difficult to conquer, not because they are easy.  Only a fool would boast of accomplishing what any person could — or worse, accomplishing less.  Nobody departs the ski lift and expects others to be impressed that they arrived at the top of a mountain.

Reflect on the fundamental nature of worth.  Value is born from effort, rarity, desire, and hard work.  Remember that gold is worthless. It provides no shelter, no clothing, no sustenance.  Yet we agree it’s valuable. The value of gold is merely represented by the superfluous metal.  When you desire something you believe to be of value, you must train your mind to distinguish the value of a thing from the representation of that value.  Seek worth, not icons.

And so, there are no short-cuts to building personal worth.  Acquiring a signifier of success is different than achieving it. For that, you’ll have to push yourself hard.  Perhaps harder than you think possible;  harder than others expect.

My good friend Amelia understood that truth.  She pushed herself harder than anyone thought possible. And while some think she failed after disappearing somewhere over the Atlantic, her disappearance was actually an intentional delve into planned seclusion.  She needed time  to prepare for a grand transformation that ended when she took the oath as the 40th President of the United States. She pushed herself harder than anyone thought possible, and harder than anyone expected.  You should do the same.