Career speaker recap: Environmental lecturer on defining your future

Ryan Wisowaty and

Environmental lecturer and writer Jeffrey Ball addresses Palo Alto High School students on the fourth day of career speaker series on Thursday. Recalling his background as a journalist, Ball told students about why it is not always important to have life figured out. “I never ever would have been able to predict where I ended up,” Ball said. “That’s actually a really wonderful thing.” Photo: Ryan Wisowaty

With a passion for climate change, writing and “pissing people off,” environmental writer Jeffrey Ball shared his lessons on life in front of a crowd of Palo Alto High School students in the Media Art Center as part of the Career Speaker Series on Thursday.

Before becoming a Stanford lecturer and freelance writer, Ball began his career in journalism. Graduating from college in the midst of a nationwide recession, the hard truth that Ball had to confront was that not many publications were hiring.

Ball recounted how application after application he sent to newspapers across the country came back with rejections.

Eventually finding a job at a newspaper in Corpus Christi, Texas, Ball recounts how he worked through the ranks and found his way into his dream job at the Wall Street Journal.

Wanting to write about his passion for the environment, Ball convinced the Wall Street Journal to let him write about the environment as an economic issue.

As Ball continued his career, he faced a major decision: to accept a promotion at the Wall Street Journal or accept an offer to teach and write at Stanford.

For Ball, the choice was complicated — and he was almost drawn to continue at the Journal.

“I am supposed to want to do that [continue at the Journal],” Ball said.

Instead, Ball chose the Stanford option.

Reflecting on his decision, he would have never imagined where he would be, he said. During his high school and college years, Ball remembered always asking himself what he wanted to do and feeling the need to have his life defined. But you cannot always do that, Ball said.

“Don’t worry about where that is going to get you in 10 years,” Ball advised Paly students, “because you don’t know.”