Everything I Learned in Four Years: Part 11

I was flying to Dallas to put on an event for my new job and I pulled out my Moleskine mid-flight. While I felt cliché writing the words, I forced myself to write the words “What I learned in 4 years of college:” on one of the pages. As I stared out the window as we soared above the clouds, I tried to look back over four years of college and boil down the most important lessons I learned so I could share with others who were about to enter college, are in my same shoes, or need to be reminded. I jotted down a list of 13 on the flight. In no way is the even close to an exhaustive list, but, as I look over them, they define some of the most important moments of my college experience. While it is all to easy to write endless posts about each statement, I do not want to get lost in the meticulous explanations of rationale that led me to think why I do. I want to offer just enough structure and guidance for you to find yourself in my experiences, in hopes that something I have learned may resonate with you and offer a new perspective to view this season of life. Enjoy.

  1. People will walk in and out of your life. [Read]
  2. Know who to hold onto and who to keep open-handed. [Read]
  3. Get involved in a local church. [Read]
  4. Live with people who will challenge you. [Read]
  5. You never know who will become a close friend. [Read]
  6. Take classes you enjoy, not just GPA boosters. [Read]
  7. Make new friends, but do not forget old ones. [Read]
  8. Keep family in the loop on a regular basis. [Read]
  9. Prioritize urgent, important, and fun. [Read]
  10. Serve somewhere [Read]
  11. Learn from someone older, inside and outside your field of study.

You go to college to learn. You sit in classes to be taught information that is supposed to shape the way you view the world and interact with it. The danger of college is that because you are surrounded by so much learning, you can drift towards the “I-know-it-all” mentality. The empowering feeling of knowing more and more is a thrill. But, college does not automatically teach you everything. In fact, there are more things that have to be learned outside of a classroom than inside. That is where other people come into play. You can learn all you can about how your industry works from books, lectures, and videos, but the reality is, until you get hands-on experience with people who have been around the block a couple times, you do not actually know that much. Because there is a disconnect between ideal and reality, between the way things should work and how they actually work. You need someone who has an understanding of how the world works to help you navigate your newfound knowledge; otherwise, you might get frustrated when things do not operate the way your textbook told you they would. That is why finding a mentor in college in your field of study is key. They are an invaluable resource for you to have to bounce ideas off, ask questions, and help steer you in figuring out exactly what you want to do. Sometimes they turn out to be professors, other times they turn out to be business connections; regardless, make it a point to find someone that you can learn from one-on-one about how your profession actually works. It will save you a lot of time and frustration and allow you to hit the real world in stride. But business practices are not the only things that college does not teach. Students are still trying to navigate life itself during their four or more years on campus. Friends and peers are not the best source of advice because, chances are, they are trying to figure out the same things you are in that moment. That is why it is of upmost importance to find someone who can mentor you in day-to-day life. For some, it might be the same person who helps you find your way in your field of study. While that is okay, it is always a better choice to strive for diversity when having people speak into your life. You never know what someone else has been through in their life and how it might help you where you are at. Do not write anyone off because they do not share the same dreams or aspirations. Finding someone who thinks different than you is valuable because they can help see things that you might be blind to yourself. Mentors have a way of pointing out our shortcomings while calling out our strengths, whether it be in the public or private sector. Find people who are willing to invest in who you are and be willing to be transparent with them in return. The growth you will see as a professional and individual will be well worth the risk.

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