Ultra Vires


Do Things

David Pardy (4L)

The University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law is a fascinating place for its sheer brainpower. In my fourth year here (sigh), after meeting many alumni and current students, I have begun to see what I would describe as a problem and an opportunity that stem from this.

The problem is laziness. Many of us are lazy. We skip class and don’t do readings. We stay in bed all day. We binge watch Netflix. We surf the web aimlessly. We engage in armchair activism by posting links to Facebook. And then we worry about the future.

You know what will serve you the best in the long run? Doing things.

Create art. Learn to play an instrument. Learn to code in Python. Build a website. Experiment in the kitchen. Start a small business. Solve a problem you see. Write and perform a song. Join the board of a non-profit organization. Join a sports team and attend every practice and game. Write something for the Toronto Star. Start a new charity event. Listen to an audiobook. Read every book by Kurt Vonnegut. Read every day. Write every day. Become an expert in origami. Learn about the four different financial statements. Complete a Coursera course. Meditate every day. Become great at chess. Join Toastmasters. Listen to and compare all of Mozart’s piano concertos. Start a club. Make a new great friend. Become an expert on Nelson Mandela’s life. Run a half marathon. Run every day. I don’t care—just choose something and do it! Just make sure it challenges you.

Why am I saying this? This might sound crazy to a law student drowning in readings. Let’s take a step back.

Firstly, doing things that you want to do is a method of self-actualization. If you do something you want to do, you will feel better about yourself and your life. You will create and understand your own identity. This will provide immense value to you, especially as you become busy professionals and you engage in potentially long term relationships with other people.

Secondly, it’s important to be well-rounded. You use the skills and qualities you cultivate in your life. Maybe origami won’t teach you skills applicable to lawyering, but it will teach you patience, focus, and dexterity. The greatest of our alumni (and people, generally) exist on the edge of their own capabilities. They encounter and overcome pain. When you think you can’t focus any longer, when you struggle, then you evolve into a new version of yourself, one that is more capable of conquering its surroundings.

Thirdly, doing things is helpful for a recruitment point of view. When you do things, you signal to others that you have self-determination and you have unique skills and qualities. You also become more interesting to speak with. You know what’s more impressive than being at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law? Being there and completing a triathlon.

Fourthly, you will become better able to shape your own career. Observing the paths of many of our alumni, and listening to the frustrations of young lawyers, it is obvious that many of us will not be lawyers forever. You will become more desirable and useful if you can do things that others cannot do, particularly if the things you choose to do involve learning or solving real-world problems. As you do things, you will uncover problems in the world and maybe some solutions. You will also learn what you like doing.

Fifthly, you are your most productive when you are busy. JD/MBA’s can attest to this by virtue of their year at Rotman. When you are busy you prioritize and you focus. You set short term goals and you accomplish them. You engage your your cognitive effort and stretch your physical stamina. And you learn how to relax when needed.

Law students are not too busy to do things (certain moments in 1L being excepted). There are many examples: Serin Remedios, who cooks amazing things and creates art; Rachel Kattapuram, who served on the SickKids Foundation board; Joe McGrade and Veenu Goswami, who are among the world’s best debaters; recent alumni Ramin Wright, who helped build the company Blue J; the entire SLS. The list is long. These people are great, but they are not gods. You too can find the time to do things. But again: make sure the things you do challenge you.

If you are content with what you are doing, by all means, live your best life. And for those of us looking for new meaning and challenges: do things.

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