Written Senior Perspectives: Al Muzaurieta

Written Senior Perspectives: Al Muzaurieta

The 2017 Senior Perspectives is the 12th in a series of annual collections. Senior captains and representatives of teams at Harvard have been invited to contribute viewpoints based on personal experience from both their senior seasons and full varsity careers at Harvard.

Al Muzaurieta, Men's Lightweight Crew
Hometown: Jacksonville, Fla.
Concentration: Romance Languages & Literature
House Affiliation: Quincy

I have never in my four years here thought of Harvard as a cut-throat place. Thankfully we don’t rip out pages of textbooks and secretly hope for our classmates’ failure so we get the better  end of the curve. However, Harvard is, without a doubt, an extremely competitive place, with every student striving to be the best of the best. If you think about it, this is the very best thing about our school! How inspirational is it to have people around you who always want to be the best!? But singularly gunning for “the best” can be draining and, just by the numbers, not everyone comes out in 1st place, so when we show up at Harvard from our previous lives where we might have been big fish in a small pond and, suddenly, become just “average”, it can be a little jarring. Some people cope with it better than others, and I think the happiest students at Harvard conceptualize the word “achievement” a little differently from most.

Outside of class, I spend most of my time down at Newell Boathouse as a lightweight rower. You could say that HVL, or Harvard varsity lightweights, is somewhat of a cult: we crowd the dining halls after practices, talk about racing and dieting all day long, and wear “Harvard Rowing” on pretty much every inch of our bodies 24/7. The reason we’re like this is because HVL is, at its core, a family - a family that encourages and supports all its members to be their absolute best. We push each other side-by-side every day to be stronger, faster, tougher, and “silkier.” All winter long, we grind our bodies in the tanks and erg room, with shirts and medals on our minds, until finally, sometime late March, the Charles unfreezes and we can focus on rowing on the water, in sync, moving together as an 8+. Being a Harvard rower has taught me an important lesson about achievement: achieving something as a group means so much more than achieving something by yourself. Nothing feels better than crossing the finish line after a blazing fast race, knowing that you and everyone else put in all he had, and if one person hadn’t been there, you couldn’t have accomplished what you did.

Thinking of achievement in a collective sense is critical for sports teams, but its value extends far beyond athletics. You can sing a really difficult piece in your a-cappella group, build a complex machine with your engineering team, or brainstorm with your roommates to solve the world’s next big problem. Your individual contribution to that team will undoubtedly require your best effort, but a team-oriented approach to success will help you grow far beyond what any individually-oriented approach would allow. 

So my simple recommendation to grow the most during your college experience is to find yourself a team here at Harvard, and make your team strive to “win”, whatever that means in your context. There are plenty of teams out there, and if you don’t find one you want to join, create and build up a team that others would want to join. In the end, whether or not your team “wins” doesn’t matter as much as growth you experience together through the process.