Sept. 2, 2014
Dear University of Nebraska student:
As interim president of the University of Nebraska, I am happy to welcome you to campus. Some of you are returning, some come as transfer students, and others are beginning your university experience. Collectively you represent every Nebraska county, all 50 U.S. states and well over 100 countries around the world. Each year the University of Nebraska educates more than 50,000 students and each of you faces different opportunities and challenges – but I am confident that for all of you it will be an exciting year.
I thought back to my freshman year and asked myself: "If I could talk with the 1972 version of myself, what would I say?" So here is two minutes of advice from the 2014 Jim Linder to the 1972 Jim Linder, shared while sitting in the student union. You are eavesdropping.
"First, no matter how smart you are now, you will be wiser in five years. This has been consistently true for 40 years. Every five years I look back and realize I did not know as much as I thought. So be humble in what you think you know. Wisdom grows from experiences, and those only come with time.
"Second, because experience is the best teacher, say yes to different opportunities. Take part in that study-abroad program. Accept that internship in a different state. Take that course outside your academic major. Get to know people outside your circle of friends. There is a big world outside the Midwest, filled with incredible people, and college offers you a unique opportunity to experience it.
"Next -- and this one is important – develop abilities that justify someone paying you money. It sounds simplistic, but if you want your employer to give you a dollar, you must add value to their business in excess of a dollar. The abilities you develop can match your interests -- a technical skill (coding, healthcare, engineering); communication skill (teaching, journalism, law), creative skill (design, research, arts) or something else. Maybe, Jim, you should think about medicine.
"Fourth, while it's important to earn a living, learning how to live your life is the most valuable lesson from college. Your time at the University should help you understand people and how the world works. And when you understand, compassion follows. If people are compassionate, many of the seven deadly sins are avoided.
"Finally, the current generation will look to you, the next generation, to lead change that improves the world. Don't be afraid to lead and create, even if that effort carries the risk of failure. The fear of being embarrassed by failure often is the greatest barrier to success.”
So, that would be my advice to me. I might also mention buying stock in a computer company named after a fruit, or share a tip about an Omaha-based investor.
I hope your eavesdropping stimulates thoughts on a life built on great experiences at the University of Nebraska. Chancellors Perlman, Christensen, Kristensen and Gold, and I are honored to have you as students and as future alumni.
James Linder, M.D.