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Screen Time: Lessons from House of Cards

The philosophical musings of Congressman F.U.

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With the second season of House of Cards released on Netflix on Feb. 14, it’s worth taking a look back at the lessons we have learned from Congressman Francis Underwood in season one.

1. Accept Pain:

“There are two kinds of pain: the sort of pain that makes you strong or useless pain, the sort of pain that’s only suffering. I have no patience for useless things.”

No pain, no gain, as the exercise motto goes. That same physical pain is comparable to the psychological pain of a boring class or an unpleasant professor. Just make it through, you tell yourself. The semester is almost over.

You made the commitment to go to university and it’s admirable that you wish to see it through. However, ask yourself: what do you hope to achieve? If you don’t see a tangible reward in your near future, then it may be time for you to change programs. No sense suffering for nothing.

2. Your Words Matter:

“Words matter very much … you should care more about them given your profession.”

No matter what program you are in, your stock in trade is the written word. Even mathematicians and athletes need to put words on paper. Words are what allow others to understand your reasoning and to grasp your accomplishments. Choose them carefully and learn how to use them effectively.

Academia is rife with pretentious jargon. Don’t fall prey to that particular temptation. What use is being smart if the greatest number of people cannot grasp your brilliance?

3. Keep Moving Forward:

“Forward: that is the battle cry. Leave ideology to the arm-chair generals. It does me no good.”

Ideology is a fickle beast. It is impossible for any single school of thought to explain the sheer complexity that is life. So don’t become trapped by your allegiance to one. Never allow ideology to direct your pursuits. Set your mind to something and then choose the ideologies that will help you get there.

4. Never assume:

“I don’t want to assume. I want to know.”

Never assume that you are right; know that you are. Always deal in concrete examples and verifiable evidence. Never bullshit your way through an assignment. Mistakes cost money, careers and lives. Honesty is the best response to uncertainty. Unless you are certain that you are right, don’t risk being proven wrong.

5. Location, location, location:

“Power is a lot like real estate. It’s all about location, location, location. The closer you are to the source, the higher your property value.”

In a few short years you’ll look back at your time in university and realize how short a time it was. Don’t squander it. Future leaders walk these campus halls. Find them. Befriend them. Connect with your professors. Surround yourself with people who will help you succeed.

Go ahead and waste your scholarship at the campus bar, just make sure someone important is drinking across from you.

6. Power over money:

“Money is the McMansion in Sarasota that starts falling apart after 10 years. Power is the old stone building that stands for centuries. I cannot respect someone who doesn’t see the difference.”

Money is useful. It buys things, sometimes even happiness. But money is not the same as the power to influence people, to influence events. A lucky streak on the stock market is the same as a winning streak in Las Vegas. Luck can change. But with power and influence, money can always be found. It is power that makes things happen, power that separates the great from the merely successful. Don’t settle for financial success. Aim higher. What kind of legacy are you going to leave behind?

7. Don’t swerve:

“You see, [he] believes that if a fridge falls off a minivan, you better swerve out of its way. I believe it’s the fridge’s job to swerve out of mine.”

Shit happens. It’s how you deal with it that makes all the difference. The key to success is to never deviate from your goal. Be tenacious and never compromise for others. Don’t move out of other people’s way while they pursue their dreams. Hold fast to your own and be willing to step on a few toes along the way.

8. Poor grades:

“How quickly poor grades are forgotten in the shadow of power and wealth.”

Class work and good grades aren’t everything and a failed course isn’t the end of the world. Even a semester or two on academic probation means nothing if you succeed later.

Many skills required to succeed aren’t learned in a classroom. Skills you develop in student clubs and at college parties have value. Every single profession in the world involves interacting with other people and learning to use the social and networking skills you develop along the way. You won’t achieve greatness if you keep your nose in a textbook.

Sean Sullivan watches more TV than is good for him. To prove his time was well wasted, he writes a column looking at television and movies.

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