Bearing Witness: Words of advice for my students (and others)

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[Note: As a law professor at Suffolk University Law School, I’ve been serving as the founding faculty advisor to a new student-edited law journal, Bearing Witness: A Journal on Law and Social Responsibility. BW just published its second issue, and I contributed a short column of advice to the students in response to a request from the editors. I thought I’d share it here.]

When the editors of Bearing Witness invited faculty to contribute short pieces of advice for the second issue, I wasn’t sure what to offer. But then I started thinking about life in general, and suddenly the words came easier. Do not assume that I’ve done all these things right; rather, some of these points represent lessons learned. Here goes:

1. Living a fulfilling life beats living a mindlessly happy one. Just my opinion.

2. Pick your battles carefully, but don’t use that maxim as an excuse for never getting involved. The world is littered with people who always find reasons not to take a principled stand.

3. When it comes to people you want to be around, political affiliations may be important, but overall character and a sense of humor count for even more.

4. The years ahead will be very challenging ones for this world. Concerns about the economy, jobs, and the environment, to name a few, aren’t going away. Strive to contribute solutions.

5. Personal setbacks and hard times are never good, but they can teach us about resilience, recovery, and renewal.

6. A dose of self-promotion is often helpful toward success, but rather than constantly trying to impress people, let your work and deeds do most of your speaking for you. Avoid becoming one of those highly credentialed individuals whose greatest talent is “wowing” people in an interview.

7. The Golden Rule is hard to live by sometimes, but it’s a key to a better world.

8. If someday you reach a point where you have a group of friends going back 20 years or more, consider yourself blessed. Make those friends now, and in 20 years you’ll know what I mean.

9. All that stuff about finding your own way, choosing your own path, etc., may sound trite, but give it some hard thought. Few things are worse than living an inauthentic life.

10. Be accountable to yourself. Own up to your miscues and mistakes. It’s easier said than done, I know, but you’ll feel better about yourself in the long run.

11. Keep learning and growing. If someone wrote in your high school yearbook, “Stay the way you are! Don’t ever change!,” don’t take it literally.

12. Whether you loved law school, hated law school, or fell somewhere in between, you can use this knowledge to make a positive difference. Good luck!

 

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