Finding Inspiration                                                            by Patti Brugman


Part of the journey to creating your own best college list is to discover who you really are. While that sounds a bit philosophical, consider how many students change majors after they start school, or worse, change schools. While changing majors is part of the road to self-discovery, changing colleges can be an emotional and financial setback. Students who are wise enough to find their inspiration now, might save anguish later.

Recently, I found inspiration by listening to former CEO, Howard Behar, speak at Occidental College. Mr. Behar grew the company from 28 stores to 400. He had the distinction of taking Starbucks from regional success to becoming an international icon.

This is big stuff, and yet Mr. Behar is an ordinary guy who professes to having been a bit of a partier in his youth, someone who got his start in the furniture business and learned more from thinking deeply than from school. I know this type if person. Richard Feynman, the famous physicist from Caltech, admitted that to learn anything, he had to learn it in his own way. Mr. Behar did just that. He pursued what he needed to know. He learned enthusiastically. All the while, people were watching him because that kind of energy is inspirational.

Now that he's retired, Mr. Behar has a chance to reflect back on what made an ordinary guy like him dream big. His personal motto, which became the Starbucks philosophy, is the title of his book: "It's Not About the Coffee." The subtext is that it's about the people. He says that coffee is cheap, but personal relationships are precious.  That is the basic wisdom of Starbucks and the wisdom that could take you in the right direction.

From what I have seen from students and colleges, Mr. Behar would have an excellent chance at college admission these days.  His college essay would move away from "me" to focus on "others." He says that his mission in life, and all of our missions, is to help each other. That's it. No matter what you choose to do in life, no matter what you choose to be good at, the final product is that you will be helping people live easier, be happier, and more productive. Being conscience of that future now as you're starting your college process will energize your actions. You might ask yourself, What can I do right now to help someone else?

We see the best of our students take their own philosophies to action every year. They take their passion and do something really big, but within their communities and change lives. The result, not surprisingly, is excellent college admission choices, but even more. The students, who challenge themselves outside of school, find their own confidence and direction in life more clearly defined and their own success easier to attain.

Brew yourself a cup of medium roast and think big!