How taking on too many opportunities has made me a thief

Jan. 9, 2018, 1:00 a.m.

It’s been said that when opportunity comes knocking, we as college students are supposed to take it without a moment’s thought. Building a resume and gaining valuable experience is expected during our undergraduate years at a university, and we are supposed to embrace the research positions, internships and abundant opportunities that seem to lurk around every corner of the Stanford Quad.

Like trying to pick only a handful of classes every quarter, it’s both overwhelming and frustrating to narrow down which opportunities would be most enjoyable, most beneficial, most unique. When you’ve finally settled and accepted to take on what appears to be the perfect opportunity, another incredible one arrives in your email inbox or shows up in your social media feed. You’re suddenly left confused and frustrated.

I’ve been in this position one too many times this past quarter. As an aspiring writer, I’m constantly looking for side hustles to grow my skill-set and make a little extra spending money. Sometimes this eagerness gets the best of me because I tend to underestimate my workload. I’m a seasoned multi-tasker, but this doesn’t mean I’m always successful at balancing class assignments with passion projects.

I remember reading a quote by Francis Bacon on the wall of my history teacher’s classroom during my senior year of high school. In the traditional sense, the saying “Opportunity makes a thief” means that anyone would steal given the chance without punishment. I hadn’t thought of this quote until recently when I read it again in an article from my LinkedIn feed. In a way, it holds a very different meaning to me now — yes, taking an opportunity has made me a thief, but I’m not stealing from another person. I’m stealing from myself, taking away time and energy from other projects and jobs I’m invested in.

It all goes back to the problem of spreading yourself too thin. As college students we’re trained to jump at opportunities, and when every single experience at Stanford is amazing, it takes a mature knowledge to say no. And I don’t think we can be taught this knowledge, but instead must experience it.


Contact Emily Schmidt at [email protected].

Login or create an account