To my younger self
To my younger self,
I am writing this letter from a future that might seem distant to you at this point in life. It might seem like you have an eternity ahead of you before this experience called college comes to an end. But as they say, time waits for no one. This ends before you realize it and whether you like it or not, you’ll be sitting at the end of it analyzing and wondering if the whole thing was even worth it. Assuming, I am a few years wiser than you, here are a few things I’d like to tell you- if this ever makes it through the vortex of space and time to you.
1. Do not be quick to judge people and categorize them. Everyone — ranging from the lady running the vada pav store outside campus to the director of your master’s campus has something, from which you can derive value. The trick is in knowing how to tap that side of them and learn from them. At the end of the day, learning in college is not really about the textbook content they give you. It is about the people that make the experience worth it. Network and learn from everyone you meet.
2. To learn is one thing, to be influenced another. At your age and time, it might seem like there is just so much going on and you are not a part of any of it. Do not ever do anything to appear ‘cool’ or be a part of something. If something intrigues you, be an adult and learn the ins and outs of what you are about to do. Man is a product of his habits. The habits you pick up now will stick with you a long time. Choose them wisely. However, understand the fact that your age brings along with it a certain level of freedom that can be used for good. Take risks you find important to your growth as an individual.
3. Speaking of growth — Read. Like your life depends on it. It really does. It might seem like a lame, mundane thing to do but somehow, reading has benefits that far supersede just being the smart one in a room. Spending time through thick chunks of text between strong binds will open your eyes to the world in a way 140 character tweets and memes can’t. It is for a reason that they say, books are a man’s best guide. At the end of the day, they are nothing but a comprehensive walk through some of the brightest minds of our time.
4. When it comes to attendance, there is a simple formula to see if you should attend a class. If the benefit of skipping class >> the benefit of attending class, then for the love of god, stay away from college. This “benefit” has to be measurable, trackable, documented and tangible in terms of individual growth. Let me explain. Skipping class to sit and read in the library might be more beneficial than staring at slides from the late 90’s, but until you can turn that reading into a tangible research paper, it is usually not worth cutting classes. Once you figure this, you will be able to cut all the classes you want and still escape without a TNG at the end of the semester. Make your professors and director a proactive process of your growth. Let them know what you are working on, how it adds value to your ecosystem and follow up with updates even if it seems irrelevant. Their guidance, input and occasional help with attendance will help you get out of college on time.
5. People are the what, how and why of all businesses. It is unfortunate that they do not teach this in a B-school. All great businesses are built upon the sentiments and emotions of people. Due to the same, it is important that you force your overly introverted self to go out and meet people. Talk to the pretty girl in class that keeps dropping acid about her experience and share what you’ve read about it. Talk to the awkward guy with a weird liking for machines about some circuit you built in high school. Everyone has things you can relate to. It is important that you find yourself able to strike a conversation and connect with them. Your network is useless, if you cannot connect with them.
7. At the end of the day, regardless of all the motivation, support and love people shower upon you externally, until you find strength within to deal with life’s turmoils, you’ll sit there rolling in the same crap all day long. Due to the same, have extreme control on what happens in your mind. Vet who influences it like a filter for the coffee you keep drinking and ensure there is no junk feeding into it.
8. Learn all you can. Spend your nights reading about the future of economies, finance, cultures and the world in itself. The price you pay for a lack of knowledge is far higher than the price you pay for attaining it. There will come a point of time where knowing certain things will let you multiply the principle you work with.
9. Hate is a cheap emotion. Learn to focus on where you want to be in the future and work towards it every day. This would mean angering a lot of people as you will have to say no to a lot of pleasures through college. The reward for this might seem distant, but you experience it sooner than you realize. When you do, make sure you continue to ignore overly opinionated individuals and continue to focus on your goals. Success is not ever attained for eternity, it is paid for in bits and pieces through consistent effort.
10. Don’t ever take your education for granted. There are millions out there much smarter than you that couldn’t make it to a college due to their circumstances. Be grateful for the opportunity you have and make the best of it every single day. If you are ever low on gratitude, please, go stand next to the slum near college early in the morning and see the love and enthusiasm young kids show in going to school. Use your opportunity towards improving the lives of people that never had the kind of opportunities you have access to.
11. Keep your family close. Your inner circle of friends define how you’ll be in college. Choose them wisely, back their dreams and push them towards greatness. They are the ones who will keep your ego in check and push you to do better when it seems like a lonely fight. Learn what they fear, what drives them, what molded them into the beings they are and the aspirations they have. Always look to give them more value than you take from them and believe in them. There’s no such thing as a ‘self made man’. There are only men who chose their circles wisely, worked consistently and kept their visions large.
12. Experiment. Do not be afraid of doing things others don’t. Cut some classes and build something of value. No employer will turn his doors down on you for a lack of GPA or attendance. However, be responsible with time you take off classes and ensure your return of investment is in multiples of what you miss out on by cutting classes. Build things of value and present them to relevant people when the time is right.
I hope you find it in you to stick to these words. The strength to keep going when it looks like there’s a lake of fire ahead. The tenacity to wake up and get back to work after seeing something you spent months on fail. The curiosity to sit reading books when you’d rather be at the club. The wisdom to see through people and understand their motives. The generosity to find time for a fallen friend. The passion to keep going when it all seems impossible. The humility to understand that success is a facade and the work is all that matters.
Your future self.
Writer: Joel John
Editor: Diya Mathew