I think the reason I am in college now is related to Nietzsche’s principles. I decided that I wanted to do one more hard thing before I got too old; I decided that hard thing was to go back to college. Many of my long-time friends have gradually faded out of my life in the last couple of years, mostly because I replaced casual ‘hanging out’ sorts of activities with studies and intellectual discussions. I hear a lot of “good for you” from old friends, but the look on their face says “well, you aren’t fun anymore.”

My takeaway from Nietzsche’s work is that our human need to feel like we belong homogenizes us, turning talented, potentially driven individuals into generic vessels of mutual interests and beliefs. We choose a political party, a church, and a favorite version of “Law and Order” – and we call anyone who attempts to exercise free will things like “radical” or “dissident” or “troublemaker” or even “heretic.” The word “heretic” originally came from the Greek word for “choice.” Nietzsche was telling us that we cannot reach our own potential unless we learn to think independently, and stop worrying about what others think about us – and choose our own path.