More than two years have passed since Dr. Condoleezza Rice left the White House as Secretary of State. Now Condoleezza has a lot more time to sit back, relax and rock a benefit concert with Aretha Franklin?! Life might have slowed down a little bit, but it still can be intense. Her experience living with deep segregation taught her to roll with the punches and overcome intense and difficult circumstances. In Condoleezza’s new book, Extraordinary, Ordinary People, she describes her life growing up in Birmingham, Alabama, and how her family inspired her to get to the point where she is today. ME had a chance to ask this political, intellectual and musical rock star about getting the best out of your college experience.
“Try something hard”
Are you great at math, but not so good at writing? Take an English course! Do something you think you’re bad at to get better and to get an extra boost of confidence. “Doing something hard, and overcoming it, is sometimes much more fulfilling,” she said.
Even though downers are around every corner these days, Dr. Rice prescribed optimism to make it through. She said optimism can help fight your two worst enemies: “aggrievement and entitlement,” or in other words, the “Why don’t I have” and the “Why don’t they give me.” Keep those two away for a clear head and a stronger focus on your amazing goals.
Get to know the world
One of the perks of being Secretary of State: free trips around the world! Condoleezza said meeting new cultures and studying abroad are great opportunities to take advantage of. She knows so many languages, including Russian. She said mastering Spanish is something she’d really like to do.
Don’t just read books…
Now Dr. Rice teaches at Stanford University, so she’s around people like you all the time! She’s not the kind of professor who throws facts and dates at you — “I expect my students to have read the facts,” she said— she wants you to be able to take it a step further: Take the facts you know and put them together to create a convincing argument on the subject at hand. Being able to analyze, place facts into context and question whether or not actions were correct will help you grow, she said. Another tip: Don’t just hang around people who agree with you all the time, hang out with people with different views and who challenge yours to exercise your brain muscles.
“Slow down a little bit”
When you dream of your Forbes magazine cover shoot, smiling next to Oprah and the Queen, press pause and enjoy where you are right now. When students ask her how they can get to her status, her answer: “Start as a failed piano major and go from there.” Life happens, life changes so channel your inner Miley Cyrus and remember it’s the climb that’s just as important as your destination. Instead of planning your life 25 years ahead, “Just find the next thing you want to do and do it well,” she said.
“Find your passion”
Condoleezza could read music before she could read words, so it only seemed natural for her to major in Piano. When she went to Aspen Music Festival and School she had an epiphany: though she loved music, she couldn’t help seeing herself using her classical, prodigious skills at a piano bar or Nordstrom. That wasn’t exactly what she wanted: “Finding your passion is everything, so look for it… you’ll find it,” she said. Condoleezza found her passion in an international politics class. There she fell in love with Russia, its history and its culture. Then she changed her major to Political Science!
So what’s next for Condoleezza? Maybe not a bid for presidency in 2012, “You have to know what you want to do what you don’t,” she said. Right now she loves being a professor, a musician, getting involved with education issues and the Boys and Girls Club, she said she’ll stick to those!
Editor Note: This oldie, but goodie, was originally published on February 10, 2011