Widgets Magazine

The pros of being stubborn

My freshman year at Stanford has been one of squeaky bike brakes. Starting about week two of fall quarter, the brakes on my (brand new) bike began making a god-awful screech every time I used them. It got to the point where I brought it up at dinner in my dorm one night and a friend said, “Oh, yeah, I always know when you’re getting back to the dorm because I can hear your brakes.”

My solution to this problem was not to take the bike into the shop like a sane person, but instead to keep riding like normal, pressing the brakes hesitantly so that the screeches wouldn’t deafen passersby. This worked for most of the year, until the brakes themselves started to slowly deteriorate. This, also, did not convince me to take my bike into the shop, because the brakes still worked to some extent, and it didn’t feel absolutely essential to get the bike looked at.

That is, until one morning the first week of spring quarter when I was screaming down a steep hill and realized that I was pressing the brakes as hard as I could and the bike was not slowing. The end result sadly involved a light crash into a fellow classmate (both parties and bikes involved were fine). However, the incident finally convinced me that it was perhaps time to take my bike into the shop to get some working brakes.

Clearly, stubbornness has its downsides. Learning this the hard way was not, in fact, a pleasant experience.

I have been a fairly stubborn person for most of my life. I stick doggedly to arguments that don’t always make sense, even when friends have pointed out the logical loopholes in them, and I refuse to eat avocado because I “don’t like it” even though the last time I really tried it was in fifth grade.

This quality is something I’ve noticed in a lot of my peers at Stanford — this determination to stick to one’s position and defend one’s actions.

But while stubbornness definitely has a negative connotation in the English language, I think it is closely linked with persistence, and perhaps this is why it is so common among my peers. We are stubborn because we care, because we try, because we push ourselves to learn more and to do better.

And while this drive can perhaps be a negative thing at times, acting as an added stressor (we feel the need to constantly be better and do more things or be more involved in campus life), I think it is also one of the reasons why Stanford is such an amazing place to learn and grow. Being surrounded by students who are stubborn and persistent means being immersed in a student body of individuals who care deeply about what they’re doing and why they’re doing it.

So yes, it’s silly to be stubborn to the point where you’re screaming down a hill on a bike with no brakes. But sometimes stubbornness is underrated. After all, think about how you came to be at a place like Stanford: my guess is, partly because you didn’t give up and you stuck to your guns.


Contact Julie Plummer at jplummer ‘at’ stanford.edu.