Muller: Working hard can be the toughest NU lesson of all

Yoni Muller, Columnist

If my experiences here at Northwestern so far have taught me anything, it is that the college education goes well beyond the classroom.

College teaches life lessons beyond the scope of computer engineering — lessons like, “American beer is glorified water,” and, “Talking to a girl about her hotter friends won’t impress her.” All students can learn valuable life skills during their four years in Evanston if they are willing to do so. They can become more adept political observers, better critical thinkers or more well-balanced keg-standers. Yet the one thing that all college students should learn is the lesson that the fewest seem to enjoy: becoming a more dedicated worker.

Throughout my life I have always been a bit of a slacker. I would do the bare minimum required of me and procrastinate every assignment to absurd extremes. From middle school on, I saw coasting in the same light I saw making fun of teachers and committing crimes: awesome. All the cool kids did it, and God knows I wanted coolness more than anything, except maybe a pony. So, that’s what I did. It became a serious problem. I slept during the day, I stuffed myself with chocolate and wallowed in self-pity, only to burn the midnight oil half-assing a book report due the next day.

My grades hadn’t suffered before in school, so I just assumed I had everything all figured out. Life was so easy. For years I could stay in my room, pirating old episodes of “Kim Possible” while successfully competing with those around me … until I couldn’t.

It happened so gradually, I didn’t even notice it at the time. Entering NU, I was sure that, just like in my other competitive atmospheres (school, little league baseball, etc.), I could be the best without working for it. I blamed my first bad grades on stupid and ambiguous questions, complained to anyone who would listen about my professors’ unfair grading policies and joked about classmates sleeping with my professor for good grades. I disregarded the hard workers by saying things like “they got an A, but they studied forever for it” or “I could do that too, if I wasn’t so busy juggling school and Super Smash Bros.”

Only gradually did I realize that those kids I was disregarding for studying were the majority of my classmates, and I was the one in the wrong, not them. While my coasting has been pleasurable and gave me the chance to know way more about pop culture than my peers, they were the ones who were getting better grades, interviewing for better internships and working more successfully toward the Nobel Prize (apparently going 19 years without killing someone doesn’t guarantee you the Peace Prize).

Hard work is critical to a person’s success in any endeavor. The problem with hard work, however, is that it’s hard. Nobody wants to put in the extra hours to make sure he or she can integrate without messing up, just like nobody wants to stay late in the office putting cover sheets on all those TPS reports, but it’s just that kind of work ethic that leads to success. Between a genius and a hard worker, the third kid with the rich and influential father wins every time. But take that kid out of the picture and the hard worker is the person who will get what he wants.

So go ahead, Wildcats: Party like there’s no tomorrow, skinny dip in Lake Michigan and fall asleep on a park bench with hot pizza down your pants. College is the best time to learn about yourself, do things you’ll never have the chance to do again and drink alone in the morning without being an alcoholic. But there are other things to be gained from school than a story about egging a cop car, such as an education and a strong work ethic. It’s tough to bring yourself to sit down and do the work, but the sooner you learn that skill, the more it will benefit you for the rest of your life.

Yoni Muller is a Weinberg sophomore. He can be reached at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, email a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].