You made it. Graduation.
Maybe you’re the first in your family to do so; perhaps it’s normal and expected thing where you come from. Either way, you’re set to enter that “real world” that people always talk about.
I’m writing this to share a few of the most valuable real-world lessons that I wish I’d been told when I was where you are now.
Violate these at your own peril.
When you see opportunity, don’t ask for it — take it.
Don’t ask for permission — ask for forgiveness.
Everyone has heard this one.
Most people like the idea that it conveys.
Few live it.
Rules can be broken. Laws shouldn’t be broken — that can lead to trouble — but rules are nothing but suggestions that everyone decided to agree on.
Fuck the rules.
When you seize opportunity and take the initiative to make things happen instead of waiting for things to happen, here’s what happens.
- People move out of your way. Because they’ve rarely see anyone actually live out that cliche.
- Everyone follows your lead. Because most people don’t want the responsibility of leadership. It’s a burden.
- You get what you want more often. Because your assertiveness puts people on their heels. You win the game mentally before you win it physically.
Nike still has the best slogan of all time.
Just Do It.
Learn to discern who wants to help you from who wants to take from you.
If I could go back to graduation day and do only one thing differently, this is it.
I’d find a wise, knowledgeable and connected person, and make myself valuable to that person — valuable enough that they’d let me stay around them.
I don’t know about you, but aside from $300 in graduation gift money, I was broke when I finished college — I couldn’t have paid this person, this mentor, anything.
But, here’s something else that I didn’t know back then: there are many things that people want in their lives besides money.
Every human has an angle, something they want as a result of their actions. No one does something for nothing.
Many people are seeking a come-up: more money; “inside” information; status; attention.
There are a few people, though, who are actually looking for people like you; looking for someone to pay it forward to.
Find these people. Make yourself valuable to them. Shut up and listen when they talk. Take notes (or use your voice recorder) so you don’t forget what they said. Act on what you learn: that’s the payback they get, to know that their knowledge actually works for other people.
A simple observation that you’ve probably made unconsciously about people: those who have the most are usually the most gracious and giving. They don’t need or want anything from you — except, if you qualify, for you to be an example of their wisdom impacting other people. A legacy.
Make finding these people your #1 priority, even above finding a job. Do what you have to do to stay close to them. It will pay itself back much more than you could ever make at a job.
Hard work matters. But only after you’ve made a good choice regarding what to work on.
The speaker at your graduation ceremony probably told you something about how (s)he outworked and outlasted their peers over the long run, and how there were many times that it seemed they would never reach success — but, alas, they made it!
Believe everything the speaker told you.
Also understand something that many of your favorite motivators would never tell you — simply because it doesn’t occur to most people — especially those who are lucky enough to never need it.
Choosing what to work hard on is more important than your willingness to work hard.
Find something that exists at your intersection of:
- You have the ingredients to be the best at it. Not a plan to be the best, mind you — something in which you have naturally occurring gifts that set up to be the best.
- You can figure out a way to make money from it. Because you need money to live, if for nothing else.
- You have a passion for it that will push you through the rough days (because they’re coming).
Any other choice will result in either failure or a very unfulfilling life.
Timing and luck matter, too.
You can’t hard-work your way past the world. But, hard work combined with good timing and a dash of luck can make miracles.
Luck and timing are not always a matter of happenstance or serendipity. And, luck is more than that cliche regarding working harder to get luckier.
What luck and timing are about:
- Paying attention.
- Asking yourself the right questions.
- Insight over information.
Seeing things that other people don’t see. There’s no how-to guide for this skill; your school didn’t offer a class on it.
Which is why most people think luck and timing happen by magic. They happen when most people aren’t noticing.
Build a post-graduation resume by working for a person who can teach you.
When you talk to people who are older than you, the common question the younger person asks is, “What do you know now that you wish you knew back then?“
Notice how no one ever says, “How much money are you making now that you wish you made back then?“
The knowledge, experience, and insights are more valuable than money for you right now.
We all want money, of course. But the job that will pay you the most money probably won’t invest much into teaching you — they’ll feel that they’re giving you enough by even offering you a salary.
Education doesn’t end at graduation. That’s why it’s called commencement — the beginning. Take less money to work somewhere or for someone where you can learn. With someone who will invest in you, not just with money, but with their knowledge, experience, and insight. These are more valuable than having a few extra dollars in a biweekly paycheck that you’re gonna blow on bullshit anyway.
Don’t hide behind your smartphone.
Which means —
- Don’t say anything from an app (comment, caption, story, video, snap, tweet, text, etc) that you wouldn’t say out loud to the person you’re referring to.
- When you’re alone out in public and feeling awkward because there’s no one to talk to, don’t play with your phone to occupy yourself. Just stand there and observe the people.
- You haven’t built any real relationship with someone until you’ve met them and felt their energy in-person.
- Be more interesting in person than you are online. You don’t want to disappoint people who believed your online persona.
I’ll leave it at that for now; you did enough reading in school.
- Work On Your Game Podcast
- What Is Work On Your Game?
- #568: The Communication Skills You Must Learn For Life
- #1028: The Skills You Need For The Future
- #634: What School Doesn’t Teach — But You MUST Know