The arrival of 2016 signalled the beginning of a new year and a fresh start. Of course, that also meant scribbling down some thoughts on the back of an already-used piece of paper and calling them my “New Year Resolutions.” On the list, I had written down some of the same things I’d written every other year. I told myself to eat healthier, concentrate more on school work and remember to look at the bigger picture. The unfortunate truth is that, like other years before, while I remembered my resolutions, I tended to break them right away. Had I already eaten ice cream for four days in a row? Of course. Had I already put off buying my textbooks from class to delay the readings I had to do? You bet. And had I dwelled on the smallest details and blown up situations far more than they had to be? A resounding yes. Basically, resolutions were things I tried to adhere by. Sometimes I was successful, other times not so much.
A few weeks after I shoved the small slip of paper I had written on New Years in the bottom of my desk drawer, I attended an art exhibit at the Perelman Building — the annex of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Bruce Mau, creative director of Bruce Mau Design and co-founder of Massive Change Network, had created 24 principles of Massive Change Design to help people change the way they see things, create innovative solutions and set goals. He showcased his work in “Work on What You Love: Bruce Mau Rethinking Design.” In this artistic exhibition, he allowed viewers to learn important life principles and demonstrated to the power of design in order to produce positive change in the world using graphics, videos, objects and interactive digital displays.
The most important principle of Massive Change Design is “Work on What You Love.” It’s a concept that suggests connecting our energy to our passion and allows us to devote our time to work that has meaning and a positive impact. Mau’s belief is that by demonstrating so-called “selfishness” — working on things we are passionate about — we end up contributing one of the greatest things humans can offer: love.
In “An Incomplete Manifesto for Growth,” another part of Mau’s exhibit, he displays 43 points, printed on an enormous wall, on how one can sustain a creative, meaningful life. Although I found all the points to be intriguing and thought-provoking, a few stood out.
1. Allow events to change you.
In today’s society, I feel as if people are not just afraid of change, but of being changed. They seem to think that remaining true to themselves is of the utmost importance, and “changing” means not being sure of who one is. But allowing events to change you means accepting that events help you grow. I can instantly think of places I have traveled to, people I have met and specific life events that have changed me as an individual. Allowing events to change you opens the doors to opportunities you would not have experienced if you were not willing to change.
3. Process is more important than outcome.
I remember listening to an NPR interview with Margaret Atwood, a Canadian poet, novelist and essayist. She explained how older people are more confident and at ease with themselves because they have experienced life already. They know more or less how their life will turn out. Young people, however, are afraid of their future. There is no guarantee on how events will unfold, where they will end up and who they will become. They tend to focus more on the end results than the process of getting there. But the process is equally as important as the outcome. Making mistakes and trying new things is part of becoming a creative and thoughtful individual.
5. Go deep.
This is one of my favorite points Mau makes. It is a fundamental aspect to life that enables one to find meaning and value. Superficial conversations don’t lead to substantial experiences. In Mau’s words, “The deeper you go the more likely you will discover something of value.” As scary as it may seem, don’t be afraid to dive deep and uncover parts of yourself that would have remained hidden if you were too scared to take the chance.
Although we need to know when to take things seriously it is similarly important to know when not to. There should never be a day when we haven’t smiled or laughed at something someone has said or something we’ve done. Laughter releases stress. It allows us to realize that things will be okay. Laughter shows how comfortable we are with ourselves.
My family’s spontaneous decision to attend Bruce Mau’s exhibit was one that inspired me more than I thought possible. Maybe it was my love for the artistic and visual portrayal of his ideas, or the reassuring feeling I had that these points and principles were actually realistic in helping me lead a life of creativity and meaning. Since then his principles have guided my words and actions and have led me to create my own principle: use what you learn to inspire others. And that is exactly what I’m trying to do.
Gaby Leung is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org. Serendipitous Musings appears alternate Thursdays this semester.