6 Pieces Of Life Advice For College Graduates
In December of 2015 I graduated from college. I did it.
I was finally finished and ready to take on the world. I felt destined for greatness and knew any company would be lucky to have someone as devilishly handsome and awesome as me. My hubris was at an all-time high and I was ready to start making bank, get put on the fast track to management, and change the world.
Except none of that happened. And I’ve never been happier.
The world post-graduation is a lot different than I expected. Once the celebratory glitter settled and the beer lost its appeal, I realized a couple of things. Things that weren’t really talked about while I was in school. Things that I wouldn’t have believed even if they had been.
These things are about life. How the post-graduate world actually is. Not the fairy-tale the career advisors and professors preached. Not the fantasy I had in my head. Just the slightly mundane yet beautifully intricate reality of life after graduation.
1) The world doesn’t give a shit about what you do with your life
Not even a little.
You’re not destined for greatness. You’re not so special that anyone or any company would be lucky to have you. You’re an adult, and if you want your chance at a slice of happiness, you’re going to have to be proactive and earn it.
The truth is, we grow up being told that school – especially college – is essential for leading a successful life. This narrative is becoming outdated by the minute.
Yes, education is important but the world is changing. You don’t work at a company for 40 years and retire with a hefty pension anymore. Technology and globalization have disrupted the old way that college used to guarantee career success. You’re going to need to adapt if you plan on staying relevant and competitive in today’s world.
The sooner you accept this stinging truth, the sooner you can break away from the post-grad fantasy and actually start making progress.
Which leads me to my next point…
2) Skills and experience are a lot more valuable than your GPA and awards
I graduated with a 4.02 GPA. Guess how many people have come to my door handing out jobs?
Even though the world is changing, basic economics still apply. In order to earn money, you need to provide a good or service that someone else finds valuable. It’s that simple, and it’s never going to change.
I’m not saying your GPA and schooling don’t matter. They certainly do. But not to the extent I thought they did.
Your GPA doesn’t necessarily make you valuable, it just means you’re good (or bad) at school work. This can either help or hurt you.
If you are or were a kickass student like I was, you’re going to have to get over yourself and accept that the skills and knowledge you acquired from school aren’t going to be enough. You’re going to have to continue learning in order to navigate the nuances and complexities of post-grad work and interpersonal interactions.
If you were a poor student, you have an opportunity to overshadow that by cultivating skills that people find valuable. Find your unique competitive advantage and start exploiting it.
Provide value and get paid. Don’t expect anything more or less.
3) You need to get real clear on your priorities
I used to think the point of college was to get a job. This isn’t untrue but it’s also not so simple. I believe the point of college is to provide you with time, perspective, and education to help you decide which direction to take your life.
So which direction do you want to take your life?
Start getting exceptionally clear on what your priorities are – they will set the foundation for your future. Yes, you’re going to have to think and practice some self-awareness. Don’t worry, you’re a big kid now, you’ll be okay.
Do you want a jump start on building your finances and repaying loans?
Do you want a job you love?
Do you want to move or travel?
Do you want to improve your relationships with friends and family?
Do you want a healthy intimate relationship?
Do you want to try something completely crazy or “out there”?
Do you want some time to explore and learn about yourself?
Figure it out. And no, you can’t have it all.
4) Now is the time to stop being a weenie and take some risks
I decided to forgo full-time employment after graduating in order to drive 11 hours to my friends’ apartment and sleep on their couch for 5 weeks while trying to figure out what the fuck to do with my life. I can’t say I figured it out entirely, but I did gain an immense amount of clarity. I also came to the following conclusion…
You’ll never get what you want in life without taking risks.
You won’t necessarily get what you want either. But would you rather feel the pain of pursuing something and failing or not pursuing something and forgoing the option of possibly succeeding?
This is an important question to ask yourself and there’s no right or wrong answer.
I decided that I didn’t want to pursue a traditional post-college route. I decided I wanted to start a personal development website and write articles. I decided to put my heart and mind out to the world and risk my reputation, credibility, and future options with the hope that I might help a few people. Is this what I’ll do forever? I don’t know. But regardless of whether I “succeed” or not, I do know that I’ll never have to wonder “what if”.
If there’s something you want to do – whether it’s career, relationships, self-discovery, or whatever – then figure out a way to do it.
Use a combination of logic and intuition to take calculated risks. What’s your propensity for risk? Ask yourself what the worst/ best possible outcomes are. Think of the pros/cons associated with your decision. Be creative, flexible, and adaptable. Summon whatever courage you have and step into fear because you never know what might happen.
Oh, and by the way, there’s no perfect way to make a decision or take a risk. You won’t have all the information you need. The timing won’t be perfect. You’ll have responsibilities and restrictions that limit your ability to go “all in”.
You can either go for it or not – the decision is yours.
5) Don’t settle for bullshit
Bullshit is anything directly impactful to your life that goes against your reasoning, intuition, and values. And life is going to throw a lot of it at you. You can either take it or not.
Don’t settle for that relationship that’s comfortable but sucks. Don’t settle for that mundane and disengaging career. Don’t settle for shitty friends and acquaintances that bring you down rather than lift you up. Don’t buy that timeshare for the love of god!
Learning how to say “no” is an underrated but immensely powerful skill. The more you can say “no” to bullshit, the more you’ll be able to say “yes” to the things that matter.
Speaking of things that matter…
6) Enjoy your fucking life
I’ve learned that life is completely unpredictable. No one knows how much time they have on this earth and everything should be taken day-by-day.
Life is a strange journey through consciousness and, whether or not there’s a greater meaning to the whole ordeal, it’s a privilege we get to exist at all. We might as well make the most of it.
Do things you enjoy. Nap. Talk with people. Explore. Question the nature of reality. Jerk off. Binge watch episodes of Orange Is the New Black. Work towards goals. Contribute to humanity. Have fun.
The only completion in life is the moment you pass from this world. Your achievements, ambitions, problems, thoughts, feelings – none of them follow you to the grave.
I’m not trying to depress you, but rather put things in perspective the next time you get pissed at McDonald’s for putting ketchup on your burger (which I absolutely sympathize with).
Oh, and don’t spend so much time obsessing about the “next thing”. You’ll get there. Take a step back every-so-often, smell the roses, chill out, and enjoy the ride.
You’ll be happy you did.