Andy Stoll Lecture: A New Perspective on Life

Andy Stoll visited forty countries in four years.

He’s lived in a Buddhist temple in Korea, a mud-hut in Zambia, and on a cattle ranch in Australia.  He’s climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, acted in a Bollywood movie, and eaten dinner with a Taiwanese supermodel.

However, Andy’s global experiences were hardly the focus of his lecture on Thursday, November 21st, in Shambaugh Auditorium; they were the endpoint.

Andy instead described several experiences from his high school years and time as an undergraduate at the University of Iowa College of Business in order to illustrate a few pieces of advice for his audience. Among my favorites were the following:

1.To make a change, you have to put yourself out there.

When Andy was in high school, a classmate encouraged him to run for Student Council.  Andy ignored him; the elections were a popularity contest and he couldn’t win.  Later that day while watching television, he was seized by the idea of spoofing a popular Budweiser advertisement into campaign propaganda for Student Council.  On Friday evening, he waited until the school was deserted and then plastered each locker with his new ad.

2. Do what you love and interesting things will happen.

He was vaguely aware of the long stares in his direction as he walked through the hallways Monday morning. People knew his name. Tiffany, the cheerleading captain, knew his name. He had run as a joke with no expectation of winning, and then he found himself on the list of new Student Council members.

3. Fake it ’til you make it.

In college, Andy Stoll became an accidental member of Student Government.  His roommate convinced him to campaign as a way to meet girls. He won without any idea of the duties of a member of Student Government, and then somehow became the vice-president.

4. Be prepared to wake up in Budapest (and embrace the experience).

While living in Germany, Andy and a fellow traveler made arrangements to meet in Paris the following Saturday. On Saturday morning, he barely caught the train to Paris and then discovered he had actually boarded a train to Budapest.  Instead of trying to return to Munich and then find another train to Paris, he remained in Budapest and discovered that it was an interesting, beautiful, and lively city.

Perhaps one of Andy Stoll’s most inspirational pieces of advice, were a pair of reflections on life he opened and closed his lecture with:  First, life is not linear, it is organic.  There is no set path our lives must follow; we don’t have to graduate high school, graduate college, get married, have two and a half children and live in Suburbia.  There are no barriers that confine us to a rigid, linear path – we only assume there are. Second, you cannot win life. There is no set of experiences that make one life better than another; there is no “best way” to live.  There are only several different ways to live. We can choose a linear path, or an organic one.  Realizing we have the choice is the first step to making one.

To find out more about Andy and his story you can go to his website, or check out the video below.

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