Article by: Justin Shin

Featured image: Nicolai Go, one of the Career Week speakers. Credit: Going Places

Last week, ISM organized the event “Career Week” for its sophomores– experiencing tough course selections and most understandably balking at the brewing storm clouds of IB.

On Thursday, the tenth graders got a chance to listen to the experiences of eleven alumni guest speakers returning to ISM after nearly a decade of traversing the world as independent adults. Many of the guest speakers seemed to emphasize the importance of one particular point– something that everyone should have taken to heart– we must all learn to accept failure.

One of the alumni, Stef Sy, captured this sentiment perfectly by describing her life as a chaotic series of crests and troughs (a wave function minus the consistency). She pointed out how failure was inevitable in many steps of her journey and learning to accept, analyze and confronting these issues ultimately was a key catalyst in her growth– bringing her to now where she stood: at the head of a happy and healthy data consulting company.

A few sophomores stated their disappointment about how the alumni speakers didn’t provide much deep insight into their respective fields of work. When asked the question, “Did the speakers provide key insight on the areas you were interested?” most sophomores replied, “Nope.”  Despite Career Week’s apparent lack of technical profundity, it was quite evident that the rich life advice scattered throughout the alumni’s speeches could serve as more than enough compensation for this loss.

For one, an interesting thought brought up by the aforementioned alumnus was the Japanese philosophical concept of “Ikigai”– or the idea of finding meaning in life. Despite its ostensible connotations with existentialism, she explained how meaningful work was locating a compromise between four essential areas: work you love, work that you’re good at, work for the good of the world, and work that pays. The product, as is turns out, is a venn diagram with multiple overlapping regions. At the crux lies Ikigai. The side overlapping regions, while containing much of what you value, painfully lacks a core value– whether it be money, skill, interest, or virtue.

As a whole, this year’s batch of sophomores acquired a pretty interesting mixture of advice from the guest speakers. One student, interested in pursuing study in medicine, concocted the controversial interpretation: “You don’t have to go to school to succeed.” Another student, Benjamin S.– allured to the field of aerospace engineering– calmly tossed the blanket suggestion, “Make smart choices in school.”

The future does beckon hauntingly, and Career Week only gave us a mere taste of what lies ahead. We do hope for our parents, teachers, and those older than us and more experienced than us to shed ambiguity and darkness; for our friends to stand with us together to brave risk and failure with calm and confidence; that our hard work and dedication as well as no small amount of dumb luck help us blaze new paths through the complex machinery of the world.

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