Neil Harris, a senior majoring in business administration, likes to challenge himself. He’s involved as an innovation consultant for the Student Association as a member of Enactus and is a co-founder of Creativity+, a team that focuses on school pride. Pipe Dream sat down with this determined student to hear more about him and his outlook on life.
Pipe Dream: What are your hobbies?
Neil Harris: Reading. It’s important. I realize if you don’t read then you get stuck in your own head, but if you start reading you get stuck in someone else’s head. It’s a lot more fun. And DJing … I was at a festival and got a nickname: Keith Positivity. It just became my nickname over time. Someone misheard my name, they started calling me Keith then someone gave me the name Mr. Positivity [and] then it was Keith Positivity. I was listening to all of this awesome music and I’m like, “It’s time for me to start DJing.”
PD: What are you passionate about?
NH: It’s going to sound weird, but I’m passionate about human interaction. That’s important. Like just being nice to people. You’d be so surprised the amount of impact your words have. In terms of if you say something negative. Like, I remember when I was in first grade and my mom went to the parent-teacher conference the night before and left a note in my desk which read “billion tillion” with a bunch of kisses and hearts, and a kid took it and was just making fun of me in front of the whole class. For the longest time, I just became uncomfortable with any kind of affection. Like love became this sort of bad thing. It’s important to love people and not cut them down, ever. It’s okay to give them realistic criticisms, but in a way that’s beneficial to them. But if somebody goes around and says something negative, they do a lot of damage. It takes a lot of saying something nice to undo the mean things people do.
PD: What makes you the person that you are today?
NH: I could get into the whole nature [versus] nurture thing. Discomfort. The human quest to get away from suffering. That’s everyone’s goal; how do we suffer the least? Realistically, because life is difficult. I think it’s a matter of being thrown into different environments of my life and figuring out how I best survive. Then you hit the same key things. You’ve just got to love people. Don’t be a jerk. Relating and trying to understand people is more important than being obsessed with yourself and how other people view you. Be concerned with doing something that you agree with according to your core and morals … when I went to Texas for my internship a couple of summers ago, I was just like, “I’m not going to worry about it.” I’m just going to be nice and try to help people. We started Creativity+ there too. We won the intern showcase out of 33 teams. It’s sort of like you find these universal things in life to be true. It’s not overnight. It happens one by one. When you find something that is true, you can’t say “ignorance is bliss” because you’re kind of going against yourself. I think we need to align as much as possible with this universal code.
PD: Who has helped you get to this point in your life and how?
NH: Obviously, [my] parents. But, in terms of someone that’s not family, is Sean [Francis] D. Arcy, my mentor this summer at Northwestern Mutual, who sold the second most life insurance policies of all time. He was the absolute man. Good vibes. Good karma. I saw myself in him in a lot of ways … here’s a guy that’s just trying to help people, that’s it. That’s what he does. He helps people. He helps them figure out what they’re passionate about. He changes lives. He changed my life. Basically, I’m doing exactly the same thing before I met him, but now I’m conscious of it, and I’m working a little harder. That’s the difference at the end of the day. He helped me realize I should be reading more. I’ve read 15 books since I got back to school. Once you know what you want to do, and say, “Here are your good habits, here are your bad habits,” you can be conscious of the fact like, “Hey, is this really going to be making me happier?” Typically, a lot of the things we do don’t necessarily make us happier.