The Power of a Paddle Talk

As a pledge for USC SEP, we have the opportunity to sit down with the group’s active members one-on-one to get to know them and to assist with the introduction of new members into the SEP family. These conversations are called paddle talks because each active has to sign our paddle at the end of the conversation to prove that we met with them. I had my earliest one yet with Haris Bjelevac at 9:30 am yesterday. Let me preface this by saying these paddle talks are only required to be at least 30 minutes; this paddle talk ended up being 3 hours of high quality conversation if you count the hour we ended up talking to SEPer Anisha Pathak. It was so amazing that at the end of the conversation we were upset that our conversation had not been recorded to share with the rest of our SEP family. I’d like to share some of the topics that we discussed with you.

What made this conversation so great isn’t that we made any ground breaking realizations or came to any life changing conclusions about what steps we want to take next in our life. It was great because the pure and genuine nature of the conversation allowed us to share our greatest moments of success, our greatest moments of failure, our worries and our reflections on our past choices with each other. While we’ve had such different experiences over the course of our lives, it was amazing to see how similar our internal struggles were, how similar our perception of success and failure have been at different points in our lives, and how our motivations to be entrepreneurs stems from such different experiences that end up leading to end goals with such similar core values.

One of our main topics of conversation surrounded a mindset change around GPA. Both of us have a history of making a high GPA our number one priority, doing everything we can to get the highest GPA we can. This stems from being told while we are growing up that a good GPA will get us where we want to be and will in turn make us happy. Well, this last summer, we had internships at well-respected companies and were making a lot more money than we had made at any other point in our lives; but we weren’t happy. Compound this with the knowledge that we will both eventually be running our own companies and we have to answer the question, “Is getting a top GPA really that important after all?” We never truly came to an answer on this problem, however, we were able to agree that establishing time to build a network, and our happiness and health cannot be compromised in pursuit of a GPA or money for that matter. Our life experiences led us both to find a primary end goal of simply helping other people. To do this on a big scale, we are going to need money, of course; however, a blind pursuit of money will not do our personalities, our life journeys, or the privileged opportunity we have to educate ourselves any justice.

This is any issue I have been struggling with a lot this school year, as I have been debating what the intermediate steps are for me to actually make progress in developing ideas that can really change people’s lives. Maybe the idea can be found in my next Mechoptronics lecture, or maybe I missed out on an amazing idea because I chose to stay in one night to finish a Mechoptronics lab report. I might not ever know, but I do know I need to listen to my heart and my gut — it knowns what really matters at different points in my life.

Haris and I both wished we had recorded our conversation to give other people a chance to connect with some of the challenging decisions and experiences we are going through. The most powerful knowledge is the knowledge that we are not alone in certain decisions or struggles at various points in our lives. While these few paragraphs do not do our conversation justice by any means, I hope it helps someone see that they are not alone in deciding whether or not a perfect GPA or even massive amounts money are worth pursuing. Maybe we can find a way to share the most profound moments we have in our day to day conversations In SEP for everyone else to benefit from as well.