Becoming a "Real Human Being"

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

  • Dave Howlett, speaking to incoming Guelph undergraduates at about the RHB Philosophy

    Dave Howlett, speaking to incoming Guelph undergraduates at about the RHB Philosophy

Written by Alice Lin

Looking back to my introductory years at the University of Guelph, I really didn’t care much for orientation week. Like most students, it was a week to claim and accumulate as much free stuff as possible.

However, the real purpose of orientation week is to introduce new incoming students to academic, social and cultural communities at the university. Activities and events are intended to give students the foundation they need to succeed not only in school, but hopefully, in the real world later on.

One such event featured an inspirational speaker, Dave Howlett, whom spoke to students about the “Real Human Being” (RHB) philosophy on Sunday September 1st at Peter Clark Hall. His talk provided students with the kind of jump-start I wish I had in my introductory years in university. He didn’t just give tips on how to succeed as a student, but how to succeed as a human being.

Howlett began his session by telling everyone in the crowd to get over themselves and assume that everyone you meet is intelligent. This really caught my attention because I had always valued the importance of a first impression. Especially when it comes to a job interview for example, I wouldn’t want to come across like an unintelligent fool. However, there’s a clear distinction between a first impression and pre-judging somebody that unfairly puts them into a category in your head which is often based solely on superficial characteristics, i.e. mullets and dreadlocks.

Howlett then went on to identify three personalities that we come across daily. First, the person that walks through the door without holding it behind them. Second, the person that holds the door for the person behind them but becomes angry when they are not thanked. Lastly, the person that holds the door for the stranger but doesn’t get angry when they were not thanked. This inevitably forced everyone in the room to reflect upon themselveswho were they? For me, I was the person that expected reciprocity.

As human beings, we naturally thrive on reciprocity. If we do something for somebody, we expect to be acknowledged and appreciated for those actions. It is this type of mentality, Howlett points out, hinders us from becoming a "real human being".

To succeed in life, Howlett says we must all practice being that third person. In addition to assuming that everyone you meet is intelligent, exercising selflessness and not expecting reciprocity will help build your reputation as a person of knowledge, integrity and empathy.

One of the main organizers of the event said that he’s seen Howlett before and clearly felt that he has great value to add to students at the university. “[Howlett] leaves me thinking about my life choices and how to be a better person. [He] is great at making you really think about … how we all have a duty to try and be the best person we can.”

After the event, I couldn’t help but reflect upon the type of person I am and wondered if others felt the same way, particularly first year students. Sure enough, an attendant at the event confirmed the impact of the RHB philosophy. “I am a new incoming first-year and was very moved by the talk and it made me feel very motivated to become a better person.” They said through an e-mail correspondence to the event organizers. “I think the university should have made the attendance mandatory.”

For more information about the RHB philosophy, visit: http://realhumanbeing.org/

Note: This event was organized collectively by two colleges; the College of Arts Student Union and the College of Social and Applied Human Sciences Student Alliance.

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