“The Pursuit of Purpose: Meditations on Life Lessons” is not the kind of title you would expect a college student to select for his book.
Actually, you probably wouldn’t expect a typical college student to publish a book as an undergraduate, let alone a collection of life lessons. But Garrett Kincaid isn’t your typical student, and Stevens Institute of Technology not your typical college.
“I originally hadn’t planned on publishing or sharing it,” said Kincaid ’22, who’s studying Quantitative Finance at the School of Business. “It was meant to be a record of my state of mind — to remind my future self of my goals and beliefs, and remind myself to stay true to them.”
But he got good reviews and encouragement from friends and family, turning the book into a tangible project that he hopes encourages readers to consider the importance of introspection.
“I tried to be delicate — I didn’t want to come across as preachy,” Kincaid said. “The main takeaway is that introspection is powerful, and anyone can benefit from taking time for real, conscious thought about who you are, where you want to go and who you want to be. It’s not about accepting what I’m saying outright, it’s about considering new ideas in better understanding themselves.”
A strong fit for QF program
A Leawood, KS, native, Kincaid first came across Stevens while attending tennis showcases as a high school junior.
“I’d never heard of Stevens, but the QF program really caught my eye,” he said. “It stayed my top choice because of the balance it offered — the good chance I could play on the team, and how well the QF program fit my interests.”
As a freshman, Kincaid was named to the All-Empire 8’s second team for singles tennis. “The team aspect is much more fun than playing alone,” he said. “Everyone holds each other accountable, you have a mutual goal, you all contribute to reaching it.”
Sound like a preview of the perspective you’ll see in his book? You’re not wrong. Essentially, the book is 100 lessons divided into six chapters showcasing his ideas about confidence, character, relationships and so on.
A place for 'intelligent soul-searching'
Dr. Ben Ogden, a teaching assistant professor in the College of Arts and Letters at Stevens, said he was “surprised, but happy” to receive Kincaid’s manuscript. Dr. Ogden teaches several freshman experiences courses, which are designed to refine first-year students’ writing and communication skills; he’s also a book reviewer whose work has appeared in The New York Times.
“Garrett’s book shows there is still a place in the modern university for the kind of intelligent soul-searching that is important to any student’s success as an individual — not just as a professional,” he said. “It’s not just about what we learn, but what it means. And it takes some audacity to put that on the page.”
Kincaid said his professor’s input on the book, including some challenges to his ideas and suggestions for revision, “was probably the most validating feedback I’ve gotten, including telling me he couldn’t wait for my next book.”
The next book will probably have to wait, as Kincaid’s attention is now firmly centered on his QF major as he considers a career in consulting.
“The coding piece of the curriculum has been one of my favorite parts,” he said. “It’s such a unique branch of knowledge and skills that now underlie so many of our daily interactions. To have a fundamental understanding, instead of a surface-level familiarity, is reassuring to me.”
It’s a perspective that helped him publish his book through Amazon and its suite of digital tools. And while the platform is designed to be simple for the digital novice, “having a better understanding of technology makes the user interface that much simpler,” Kincaid said. “I didn’t think about it consciously, but it was easier to connect these tools and make them work together, which helped get the book out faster.”
The book is available through Kincaid's blog as well as on Amazon.