To Ripple or Not to Ripple

Will your life produce ripples?

Have you ever considered the ripple?  A ripple (noun) is a small wave in water or some other liquid.  Ripples (plural) are a series of waves, spreading out in ever expanding circles.  Rip (adjective), as in rip dive, means a ripple-less entry into water.  To ripple (verb) means to create small waves.  The ripple effect is a metaphor for how some choose to live life.

A very important question for those entering college is:  Do you intend to live your life so as to ripple or not to ripple?

I was a bum during the my early college experience, a college student in name only.  Skipping class to play cards with friends was de rigueur.  Drinking to excess was socially required.  Messing around with the opposite sex was both a rite of passage and how worth was proved.  Studying never happened, not even in desperation.

One semester, I had to withdraw from school to avoid having a series of F grades crash my GPA.  The withdrawal form needed my advisor’s signature, so off to Professor Donald Johnson I went.

Beloved professor Donald Johnson of the University of Iowa started many ripples.

He took the form and held it.  Looking up, he sized me up with a glance.  Although he didn’t know me, he knew my type.  He made a gesture to start writing his signature, then paused.  This stopped my heart.

“So, you’re quitting school.”

“I’ll be back.”

Either he thought that I wouldn’t make it back, or I would only to resume partying.  Either way, I would be throwing my life away.  Hoping to make me see it, he asked,  “What are you going to do with your life?”

I didn’t understand.  My thoughts were only about how I was going to drink beer and chase girls, but that was not an appropriate response.  I reached deep and came up with “profesional bridge player.”  Years later I’m still embarrassed by that.

Professor Johnson then opined that playing cards wouldn’t make the world a better place for anyone else but me. And that would be a shame because I would have squandered my opportunity to make a mark on the world.

Years later I more fully understand what he was teaching me.  People won’t remember you if your make your own life better.  People will remember you if you help make their lives better.  The first is valueless to anyone else but you.  The second is of great value to the universe.

You will be fortunate indeed if the recipients of your good life in turn make life better for those with whom they come in contact.  If so, you will have started a ripple effect.

Professor Donald Johnson, in one brief interaction, added enough to my life that I remember him decades later.  He rippled me.

I’m proud to say that I’ve turned preacher in my accounting classes.  I offer that accounting is a calling, and through being an accountant it is possible make the world a better place.  Moreover, as life is lived it is important to remember always that helping others is what makes life worth living.  Living life only to make a lot of money is such a waste of really good human talent.   People may envy you but won’t respect you.  Many people need financial understanding but they don’t have a clue.  It is for such people that we accountants serve.

Living life to create a ripple isn’t easy.  Dwelling on self (aka pride) comes naturally to us.  Moreover, our culture reinforces a concept that a successful life means making it to the top.  Because the end justifies the means, it’s OK to climb over people on the trip to the top.  Perhaps you have friends whose life goal is to die with the most.  Perhaps that’s your goal too.

College is a time for preparing yourself for the life that follows.  How do you intend to live your life, to ripple or not to ripple?

— David Albrecht

1 Comment

Filed under College Life

One response to “To Ripple or Not to Ripple

  1. constantentropy

    This is beautiful. Thank you.

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