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Michael Cross tells students prepare today to have the best future

In a presentation organized by Housing and Residential Education, Michael Cross used anecdotes from his life to guide students to live their best lives. ORACLE PHOTO/ALEXANDRA URBAN

Michael Cross, a faculty member in the Judy Genshaft Honors College, had been given the opportunity to fly first class on a private jet from his office in San Antonio to a meeting in Phoenix. He was 23 years old, fresh out of college and eager to prove himself — only to oversleep and miss the jet’s departure by 10 minutes.

When he called his “boss’ boss’ boss” to confess to the mistake, he was told to “never do that again.” He expressed his gratitude for his boss’ firm, yet calm response as he looked back on the people in his life who aided him in his success.

In his presentation as part of the Last Lecture Series, “The Quiet Part out Loud: Living Your Best Life,” Cross spoke about his lifelong journey in cultivating beneficial relationships and recognizing his goals.

The event was hosted by Housing and Residential Education in the Marshall Student Center Oval Theater from 6-7:15 p.m where Cross presented in front of an audience of approximately 60 faculty, graduate and undergraduate students. 

The concept of a last lecture was initially popularized by Randy Pausch, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon. After being diagnosed with terminal cancer, Pausch gave his last lecture, “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.”

Others, such as Cross, now give their own versions of the lecture, as if it too is their last, to inspire others with the wisdom they have acquired.

Pausch’s book, “The Last Lecture,” co-authored by Jeffrey Zaslow, was distributed for free at the entrance to the theater.

Using a series of vignettes portrayed through photos, Cross delved into the people in his life who aided him in achieving what he has today. Ranging from pictures of his siblings and parents to selfies with Synapse Florida CEO Brian Kornfeld, the pictures were intended to show the value of the support from others.

Included in the presentation was a series of books that had honed Cross’s approach to living his best life, including “Blank Slate” by Steven Pinker which discusses how the role of peers in personality and behavior exceeds that of parents. Cross attributes some of his success to the people that he associates with.

“I don’t really know if this is a quiet part out loud,” Cross said. “But you really must choose your company wisely.”

One major factor in achieving personal goals is doing what must be done — the pleasant and the unpleasant, according to Cross.

Cross played the piano when he was younger, but was discouraged from pursuing it seriously due to the low likelihood of success. This was something he recognized as a necessary sacrifice to achieve larger goals.

“Do you know the difference between a musician and a 14-inch pizza?” Cross said. “A 14-inch pizza can feed a family of four. Yeah, I guess that’s the quiet part out loud.”

To drive his point home, Cross drew upon the words of former President Theodore Roosevelt.

“It’s not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better,” Roosevelt said. “The credit belongs to the man who was actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood.”

This ideology must be applied in reason, according to Cross, and that there is a point at which to stop. He was only 16 years old when he first enrolled in college, and had begun pursuing degrees in computer science, electrical engineering and mechanical engineering.

He ultimately graduated with his bachelor’s in computer science, saying that attempting triple majors had been “stupid.” Cross argued the best degree to get is one that can be fully completed.

Students in attendance were able to ask Cross questions in a Q&A-style discussion, with topics ranging from making a graduate application stand out to balancing parental life with a loaded schedule.

A common theme in Cross’ answers was that all decisions had to be intentional. Going to graduate school and raising kids is expensive and time-intensive. If someone is unsure about attending graduate school or having kids then they should wait, rather than committing and waiting to see what happens, according to Cross. 

Having worked in e-commerce in fortune 500 companies for a decade, Cross advised the audience to model their impressions around the needs of others to succeed in professional endeavors. To get employed or accepted into universities, one must appeal to the problems that these entities face, according to Cross.

“They have a problem and you’re able to solve it. So the interview is not about you,” Cross said. “If you’ve gotten to an interview, that is your opportunity to lose.”

In 10 key takeaways summarizing the information, Cross advised the audience to act in a way that supports what they wish to achieve in the future, starting now.

“Put your effort in today so that you will be proud of it tomorrow,” Cross said. “Prepare your mind to pursue your dream and increase your chances of a successful outcome.”