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April 5, 2016
“How are you?” We probably here this question multiple times a day. Throughout my time at Harvard and beyond, I have sought to find or create a community that truly answers the question. Many times, people will often respond with the superficial, “Good and you?”, which lacks the emotional depth that is required to form actual connections with people. There have been a few communities in which I feel comfortable allowing myself to be vulnerable and show them that not everything is okay, despite what appearances may be. One of these has been the golf team, another has been the Franklin Fellowship.
The Franklin Fellowship is a weekly dinner series that is focused on building a strong community centered on self-improvement that allows each person to push their limits in order to grow. It is modeled off Benjamin Franklin’s junto, which was a group of 12 community leaders in different fields that came together in order to discuss the pressing issues of the day. Out of these conversations, we had the first public library as well as other revolutionary ideas. With similar goals of challenging our thought, the Franklin Fellowship is a tight-knit community that will bring in thought leaders to share their ideas and tales of failures and successes. Previous speakers have included Mateo Messina, Grammy-winning composer; Dean Khurana, Dean of Harvard College; Mike Norton, Harvard Business School professor on Happiness; etc.
Each dinner will start off with “Check-ins”. This is an uninterrupted time period to answer the question of how are you in a way that allows for more depth and details than the normal answers we receive. Once the 12 fellows + 3 leaders + guest of each share their day, the discussion begins. We recently had Professor Dan Gilbert, Harvard psychology professor and author of the New York Times best-seller Stumbling On Happiness, join us for dinner. Our discussion naturally revolved around happiness and how it is the common factor we are all looking for. The two ways we often look for happiness is through our imagination — it’s best described by our ability to learn from mistakes we have never made; and the second is through asking other people. His advice for happiness, which I have found to be true, is that all that truly matters is the people. The relationships we form with other people enrich our lives while the other achievements, while important ultimately fade in terms of importance. Furthermore, it’s important to enjoy the things we do and not take everything too seriously.
As a co-leader, it has been a joy and honor to see how the community has evolved. What started as a group of strangers who were brought together through a rigorous interview process that ensured that they shared the same values of the community has transformed into a friend group of very driven, passionate people who all would like to make a positive impact in the world. I’m very fortunate to have such a multi-faceted and enriching college experience through my extracurriculars that have allowed me to meet incredible people.