Humans > Politics: Why I Don't Use My Political Science Degree (At All)

Despite having graduated from college with a degree in political science, you'll be hard fast to find me discussing politics over dinner.

I thought for a long time that I wanted to be a lawyer. When I realized that wasn't right for me, I decided I wanted to be an educational policy expert. Then I realized that wasn't for me either.

Partially because of what acclaimed investor, Paul Graham, writes on not falling trap to obsolete beliefs:

"The first step is to have an explicit belief in change. People who fall victim to a monotonically increasing confidence in their opinions are implicitly concluding the world is static. If you consciously remind yourself it isn't, you start to look for change."

There is a certain degree of rigidity that comes with the political path. It is this very rigidity--the desire to stay true to what one believed in the past--that has begun to corrupt us collectively from the outside in.

I'm not embarrassed to say that my political beliefs have changed tremendously over the last decade. I believe things now that my 16-year-old self likely would have scoffed at. There are plenty of reasons for these changes. But most, if not all of it, can be attributed to the rapidly changing landscape around us and my own personal experiences.

I imagine that anyone who can note similar changes in themselves would attribute the same few reasons.

Yet in all of it, there has always been this lure to stay rigid. To stay put. To stay strong. To champion what my 16-year-old self believed in, if even blindly and naively.

Why? Because the truth is, if you stay rigid in your beliefs, you don't have to admit you were wrong. You don't have to admit to the fact that ideas and beliefs aren't as stable as you once thought. You don't have to admit that there's still a lot you don't know or understand. You acquire some sense of certainty, even if it's a false sense.

Rigidity is a dangerous trap to fall into.

Because my experience tells me it is only in accepting our inability to know everything that we can catch up to the speed of change. Not of society necessarily, but of self--the speed of personal growth. And it is by that speed which we should measure ourselves. Because, if you believe like I do: becoming a better human is all that matters.

And if we want to become better collectively, it would seem what we need now more than anything is a radical openness to change. Not the big sweeping ideological change, but the kind of small, incremental change that only we can allow in.

As I continue to learn, my beliefs will continue to update. They are based off of incomplete information today. And therefore, what I learn tomorrow may reshape them.

I'm okay with that because I know my job is not to know the capital-T truth today. Same for you.

Our job is to keep moving towards Truth, towards goodness. To commit to being open enough to allow life experience to change us. To not be so sure of ourselves that we miss the good in front of us. To be ready and able to admit we were wrong. To be vulnerable and honest when it's hard.

Rigidity is the opposite of growth, the opposite of Wisdom. Rigidity is born of our desire to belong to something greater than ourselves. To be a part of the "in group." To fit, rather than be exiled. It is the manifestation of a deep fear that we are not enough.

But I believe there is a better path.

It is to feed radical openness. It is to become so radically open that we begin to love ourselves--even the little ugly idiosyncrasies within the shadows. It is to see and accept ourselves so we can accept others.

This is how we become comfortable with the uncomfortable. This is how we make change a friend. This is how we move forth.


So here's my challenge for you: decide to be a Seeker of Truth. Be someone who is acutely aware of how little he knows. Someone who acquires self-worth--not from having the right answer--but from his ability to listen to others and find the right answer quickly.

The Seeker of Truth is not afraid of that which she does not know. She approaches the world with curiosity, care, and courage. She isn't afraid to admit when she's wrong. She can hold contradicting ideas in her head. She doesn't measure herself by the opinions of others. She sees empathy as a moral duty. She sees learning as a spiritual exercise. She doesn't rely on politics as a proxy for asserting her morality or constructing her identity. Wherever she goes, she knows she belongs there.

She doesn't know what the future holds and she doesn't claim to.

But no matter what happens, you can count on this:

She won't bet on transient ideas, she'll bet on humanity.

Because that is the group that matters most.

Kate Ward