As the oldest of three, MIT junior Vick Liu didn’t have a big brother to look to for advice. So when he moved from California to Cambridge to attend MIT, he was excited to share everything he was learning with his younger siblings back home. That wasn’t always easy across time zones, so he created a Google Doc full of newfound wisdom that his brothers could easily check in on.
As Liu added new insights to the document—everything from how to make friends to learning to value experiences over things—he wondered if people beyond his family could benefit from it. He shared the document with his fraternity brothers at Phi Beta Epsilon—and received resounding support. “My roommates convinced me that this could be helpful for all [first-years] at MIT,” he says. Soon, the idea for a by-students/for-students advice book was born.
The result, Points of You: Four Friends from MIT on Growing Up, also features contributions from Liu’s classmates Julia Rue ’18, Drew Bent ’18, and Mina Fahmi ’19. Liu assembled his team of coauthors by exploring his personal network and meeting with potential contributors over coffee to share stories and experiences. “I knew I needed more perspectives, because I was living just one of many potential paths. This led me to look for really introspective, passionate individuals who came from different backgrounds,” Liu explains. The final group of authors represents five different MIT courses and a number of student activities and living groups.
Points of You is aimed at high school and college students, but Liu believes the personal nature of the book gives it wider appeal. “It was important to me that we weren’t just giving pieces of advice, but telling actual stories that show our real struggles,” he says.
The book is grouped by subject, including “Communication,” “Striving for Success”, and “Romance.” One of Liu’s anecdotes, for example, describes how he learned to be OK with a certain degree of selfishness. “Sometimes, you need to put yourself first to take care of yourself mentally,” he says. In a following chapter, recent graduate Rue highlights the importance of scheduling time to connect with long-distance friends. “Have you ever considered what you may be losing when you lose a talk with a friend?” she ponders.
The creation of the book—which the quartet self-published earlier this year, and which has sold nearly 3,000 copies to date—may offer one final lesson in itself: Liu and his coauthors managed to complete the project while also launching startups, graduating from MIT, and beginning new careers.
“It’s all about priorities,” says Liu. “This book means a lot to us, so I worked on it whenever I got the chance to. You just allocate your time and effort to what means the most to you,” he says.