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New advice to new grads

Published: June 07, 2017

Last month I shared the speech I gave at my college graduation. I wrote what I knew, which at the time was really just a vague understanding of the world outside of classrooms. I couldn’t speak from experience because I hadn’t had any experiences yet. Not really.

I was a 22-year-old trying to give advice to a roomful of other 20-somethings about a world none of us understood. Rather than speaking from a place of personal experience and hard-fought wisdom, I made assumptions instead. Assumptions about the things I thought would leave me and my classmates happy and fulfilled.

That was 4 years ago. I’m 26 now, and honestly, my understanding of the world is still pretty hazy. It’s getting clearer though. I’ve learned a lot these past few years walking and falling on my own outside the bubble of academia.

Don’t be late

Being late is a selfish act, probably moreso than you think. It’s an implicit declaration of value: “My time (and thus my life) is more valuable than yours.” Time is too precious a thing to frivolously waste what little of it anyone has left.

There will always be enough time

You’re going to complain about time a lot, but there will always be enough time. We’re all given the same 168 hours each week to work with, so when time feels scarce, it’s usually your priorities at fault.

Never stop asking questions

Life outside the classroom doesn’t come with a curriculum, so learn like you did when you were young. Let your curiosity guide you. Nothing else will take your learning further or grow you faster.

You’re allowed to change your mind

It’s never too late, it’s never too early, and there’s no such thing as changing too many times. It’s okay to double back on a path you’ve been following for 10 minutes or 20 years. Never let anyone shame you into thinking otherwise.

You will fall in love with strangers

Most people in life are only visiting. The ones you love. The ones you tease. The ones you lean on. The ones who lean on you. The ones you can’t imagine living life without. Few people stick around for a lifetime.

Your closest friends were strangers once, and many will become strangers to you again in the years ahead. You can’t hold onto everyone, so focus your efforts on the few who truly matter.

Everything normalizes

Don’t lose sight of how amazing your life is and how fortunate you are to be living it just because what you have is no longer new to you. It doesn’t matter how difficult something was to achieve or how happy it made you initially, the excitement of new things always fades.

Reminding yourself that what you have is special, and believing yourself when you do, will be far more challenging than you think.

Freedom costs money

Saving money is still spending money because every dollar saved is an investment in your future self. Debt and reliance on others for financial security are shackles on your freedom to choose how you spend your time, but every dollar saved brings you closer to the keys.

You have to be brave

The best things in life are often guarded by fear. A new love, a needed career change, a fresh start. All scary things. This fear will feel insurmountable at first, but it usually only takes 20 seconds of courage to push through this fear to the other side. You’re strong enough to endure anything for 20 seconds.

. . .

I wouldn’t call any of these lessons learned. That kind of talk implies mastery. They’re more like lessons I’m learning. A little bit every day.

I have a lot of thoughts about each of these, and I plan to dig deeper into them in the months ahead. My goal is to eventually give each point its own blog post.

Until then, be brave and ask lots of questions.


Image credit: Giovanni Calia