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Friendships, Favors, and Footwork

Glimpses from the Honors Gala

Story by Jayci Eyre, Photos by Ben White

This year’s Honors Banquet and Ball was another big hit! With tickets sold out the week before the event, there was not an empty seat at the elegant tables in the Hinckley Center Assembly Hall. Beautiful ball gowns sparkled and dressy suits stunned as attendees arrived.

The evening began with a lively dinner. Students loaded their plates with tri-tip beef steak, rosemary Dijon chicken piccata, salads, rolls, and—in a taste of homey Thanksgiving—stuffing. Sparkling cider and Nutella cheesecakes complemented the meal.

Old Honors friends reconnected over dinner, and new connections were made. “I’ll meet a lot of Honors people in one class and I won't really see them again for a long time,” said student Alyssa Hall. “So, it's really nice to see people from a couple years ago and keep the community vibe strong.”

As the program for the evening got underway, we enjoyed the rare treat of a current Honors student introducing her father, an Honors alumnus, as the keynote speaker. Macy West added a personal touch as she introduced and welcomed her father to the dais.

Then Andy West, the keynote speaker for the evening, rose to the microphone. His address was entitled, “How to Love Your Problems (and solve them too!).” He shared personal experiences, humorous pictures, and anecdotes to teach his audience about the processes of both accepting and overcoming challenges. West included three main points for each. Here are the highlights:

“How to love your problems…”

1.      Remember that this is what we’re here for.
“Solving problems and growing by overcoming obstacles is, in a very real way, the reason why you are even here at all. But we're so surrounded by problems that we forget that they play a role in our lives that could not be played by anything else. They are the very means by which we become what we are meant to be.”

2.      Love your fate.
“It does seem unnatural to love things that we wish never happened—and we usually don't love them…. we spend a ton of time regretting our mistakes and wishing our lives were different. But Nietzsche invited us to see the interconnectedness of all things—that our greatest triumphs in life can be attributed to our suffering. And in this respect, our problems are not things that happen to us, but things that happen for us. Your problems are the most interesting part of your story, and a life without problems is a life without meaning.”

3.      Say “maybe.”
“Maybe you don't get accepted into that graduate program that you're hoping to, or maybe the person you have a crush on in your class doesn't like you back. Whatever it is, at least contemplate the possibility that there might be a plan for you. [Consider that the] so-called problems that you encounter along the way are just forks in the road helping you to avoid disaster and pursue the path that you are meant to follow.”

“…And solve them too!”

4.      See past imaginary constraints.
“[I worked on] a dispute between a company and a former employee who had been laid off. The employee had sued the company for wrongful termination…. During the mediation, we figured out that what the former employee was really mad about is that everyone else who retired from the company received a set of golf clubs, but that because he had been laid off, he didn't get any golf clubs. Once we learned that, we offered, somewhat on a whim, to settle the case for a set of shiny new golf clubs. To our amazement, he accepted the offer!

Most people will see [a] puzzle and immediately start limiting their potential solutions with rules that don't exist…. You think you have one tool to solve a problem, but you just made up these constraints. You have lots of other tools at your disposal.”

5.      When it comes to people-problems, don’t be afraid to ask for a favor.
“[There] is a well-documented psychological phenomenon known as the Ben Franklin effect. It basically boils down to the idea that someone will like you more after they do you a favor. This is counterintuitive, because our default assumption is that to make someone like us, it's us who has to do something for them.

“It works. It's proven, and it will not only help you solve or even avoid certain problems, but it's also likely that you'll make a friend in the process.”

6.      Always be the moving party.
“Even if you don't know what you're doing, the simple act of working on it will eventually inspire the right ideas to show up in your head.

“The world isn't going to intervene and solve [your problems] for you. In life, you need to be the moving party, constantly making forward progress on solving your problems even if the progress is slight. As you go through life, I urge you to have a strong bias towards action.”

Students loved West’s address. Sophie Richards said, “There was a sense of optimism: that we all face trials, but since that's a given, we can work on moving past them. It was empowering to feel like you can do something about this.”

Another student, Landon Shumway, said that he loved when West talked about asking favors as a problem-solving strategy, describing it as a way to “bridge their differences and agree much better” than otherwise.

After the banquet, the “Ball” ensued! First, students were treated to a dance performance from Addision Parmenter and McKenna Martino. Then the two led everyone in some Foxtrot instruction. The ballroom was a dizzy circle of Honors students and partners as they practiced the basic steps.

Addison laughed afterward when talking about the instruction. “I love teaching. I like dancing. The floor was definitely really slippery and I slightly slipped a couple times, but I recovered and it was great!” Student Emmie Hall joked, “learning to Foxtrot was really fun. I mean, we're pretty much professional now!”

After the instruction, the live DJ kicked on his music and students let their moves loose. Susie Pontious said she loved being “in an environment where it's so fun and happy with other amazing students.” From the Macarena to “Dancing Queen,” many students went home with sore feet.

As the evening wound to a close, people snapped pics at the photo booth and chatted with friends. Jokes and memories were traded as coats were donned. One visitor, Spencer Arrington, said, “I think the biggest strength that I see in the Honors Program is a sense of community. People know each other here and they have something in common.”

Thank you to everyone who helped create another successful Honors Gala, especially to the West family for their enthusiastic support of BYU Honors and the success of our students!