Last week I wrote about a quote from Albus Dumbledore, headmaster of Hogwarts School of Wizardry. “It’s our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are; far more than our abilities.” But as I was reading through it I realized something. Something way more encouraging than simply choosing…
For the most part, ability, is programmed. To use my examples from last week, you are either tall or short. You either run fast or slow. You can’t make yourself taller. You can’t make yourself that much faster.
But choices are within our control. You can’t really do much about how high you can jump. You can practice hard. You can work out. You can develop some coordination and build leg strength. You can even take a class at the gym that focuses just on “exploding” off the ground. But if you’re 5’8” with a three inch vertical leap, there is no natural way for you to jump like a professional basketball player. They work hard to develop athletic ability and they had a head start on you that you’ll never make up.
So it becomes critical to identify and honestly assess our abilities early on. This thing is what we do well. This thing is where we struggle. This is what we can improve. This is what it is. Accept it. But the democratizing factor is choices. Anyone can choose. And we can choose anything as long as we are smart in what we choose.
A person with exceptional hand-eye coordination can choose to be a professional baseball player. But if they won’t admit that they can’t run fast and think that just turning lap after lap on the track will transform them into a pro baller, they will fail. Choosing to be a pro ball player wasn’t a smart choice. But if that same person also identifies that they do well in biology, then a better choice for them could be medical school. Maybe they have the potential to become a great surgeon. Depending on their other abilities (and challenges) they could also be a famous engineer. Or skilled welder. Or creative pastry chef. It all depends on making am informed choice based on the hand you’ve been dealt.
After last semester a lot of our students found out what major they could enter. Many more found out the one they can’t. Dean Jarley wrote about the Hard Conversations that took place (https://pauljarley.wordpress.com/2016/01/18/hard-conversations/). Being told you can do it feels good. Being told you can’t is tough. But the friend who tells you that the person you love doesn’t love you back is the best friend to have. What they are telling you is make a smart choice. Be kind, be attentive, and be giving. But do those things for the right person. Choose to do them for someone who will reciprocate.
On Friday 1200 students in GEB 3003 will participate in Welcome to the Majors, our unique welcome to UCFs College of Business. It’s one of my favorite events because at no other time does your future look as wide open as it does on that day. There they will hear what it takes to differentiate themselves in a sea of sameness. They will begin the process of making choices.
To go back to Harry Potter, wizards are different from muggles because they have a different set of abilities. I would argue that alone, these abilities are not what make the wizard powerful. What makes the wizard powerful is the same thing that can make the muggle powerful…choices!