Lessons for a Positive College Experience (Part 2: Find the Spark)

BY Mark Magnuson

A 5-part series on how to harness the energy of your college experience to become a lifelong learner whose knowledge transcends facts and figures.

Last week, I started sharing personal lessons from my college days. These lessons were originally presented around this time last year during my convocation speech to Adrian College’s class of 2018. This week, I want to share my advice on finding your spark.

Lesson #2: Find the Spark and Pursue it
After you’ve started to explore the world, something will come along and ignite a spark within you. There will be a brief, fleeting moment when you will experience a spark of passion and excitement. This particular moment is the moment that transforms a casual observer into a lifelong learner. I call this moment the learning spark.

Once that learning spark is ignited, it’s like lighting a match to a bonfire. There is a burst of energy, and you are motivated to learn everything you can about your new passion. That’s when you know you’re ready for the next step – dig into your passion and learn everything you can about it.

This spark often comes naturally. If you find your true passion, you will want to know everything about it. I’ve seen it with myself, and I’ve seen it with people who use Anode’s technology. Once you have someone hooked, his or her natural curiosity takes over. From that point on, the individual will pursue knowledge on his or her own. You are no longer teaching. The individual is now motivated to learn without you.

When I found my passion building interactive displays for museums and libraries and really dug in, I realized that I was better at it than anything else I had ever done. Being “really good” at one thing will open your world far more than “just being okay” at lots of different things. So when you find your passion, learn everything you can about it. I’m not talking about just Googling your favorite topic, or watching how-to videos on YouTube all day long. The information you get from reading online doesn’t always sink in, because it’s easily acquired. There is no way to fully appreciate the context of the subject. It’s quick data, but it has no multidimensional knowledge or emotion. Googling doesn’t make you think critically, or see a topic from multiple perspectives. I mean dig in. Get internships, volunteer, find an apprenticeship, meet other people who do what you want to do, and talk about it with them all day long. And listen. Just listen.

The moral to Lesson #2 is to foster your learning spark into a fire–a fire that leads you to do something constructive instead of destructive. When you dig into the topic you are passionate about, and you have real experience with it, you develop all kinds of new skills in the process. You learn valuable life skills that develop and evolve beyond the subject matter. For example, you learn about Leadership, Teamwork, Empathy, Time Management, and Organizational Skills.

These are the skills that differentiate you from someone who has a superficial understanding of a topic. . It is these life skills that will differentiate you from the rest of the pack.

Once you’ve found your spark, you’ll be ready for next week’s lesson… Lesson #3: Take Risks.

This post is part of a 5-part series:

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