The Eight Most Important Things I Learned in College

First of all, I want to say congratulations to every single person who graduated, or is going to graduate, during this graduation season. Whether it is for a an associate, bachelor’s, graduate, PhD, or whatever other degree, you should be proud. We made it! I am graduating from Pacific University Oregon with a B.A. in Business Administration, specifically with a concentration in finance. My college experience was exciting, fun, interesting, and enlightening to say the least. By enlightening, I mean I learned a lot. Obviously, I learned a lot from my classes and things related to my major. What this article is about, however, are the valuable lessons I learned that I know will help me in my life as an adult in the real world. This article includes stories from my own experiences. Refer to this list whenever you need some guidance, please. These are not listed from most important to least important, or vice versa; it is listed the way my mind decided to list them. The life references examples in this article might get a bit deep and personal.

  1. TIME IS MONEY.

The application of this phrase is one of the most, if not the most, important determinants to our success and happiness. As I progressed through college, I began realizing how crucial it is to have this phrase as an everyday principle to ground myself. Many things come to mind when thinking about this phrase; however, one word summarizes it best: PRODUCTIVITY. I cannot tell you how many instances I regretted wasting precious time doing something that pleased me for the short term, when I could have been doing something else much more productive to help me reach my goals. I remember freshman year, during my first week of school, I heard a rap lyric from one of my favorite rappers, Dizzy Wright, that has stuck with me to this day, but on my life I ain’t the type that want to kick it with the homies all the time, sitting around wasting time, when everybody wanna shine.

Look, I know that it is good to spend time and have fun with friends, and it is actually healthy, but the key words here are “ALL THE TIME”. I know a good amount of people my age, with similar goals as me, who spend a large portion of their time watching Netflix, doing unproductive things with their friends, watching television, watching porn, or doing all of the above. I try not to judge, but to myself I always think, “WHAT THE F*** ARE YOU DOING, WHY AREN’T YOU TRYING TO REACH YOUR GOALS.” In actuality, though, I only get upset because I look at them as a reflection of myself. I want to see everybody reach their goals, just like I want to see myself reach my goals.

There was a short period in my early years of college in which I got into binge watching movies. I brought this up to my mom when I was home during one winter break and she told me something I would never forget. She told me, ‘“Nobody ever got rich watching movies.” Technically, this is not true, but I understood her point. From this moment, I began to understand the reasons why I stayed up so late finishing school assignments: I WASTED TIME. I knew I had to stop.

I might have went overboard, but I began researching every non-work related activity that was good for my mental health and doing only those activities. In other words, I stopped partaking in all of the activities that I did outside of my goal-related responsibilities that did not benefit me in the long term, such as binge watching, scrolling through social media all day, etc. At the same time, I prioritized my main responsibilities (related to work/my life goals) to where most of my day was spent involved with them. I essentially attempted to have the most productive day I possibly could every day. This relates to the belief of trying to be better than you were the day before. I am still working on this and am no where close to being fully successful at it, but I am getting better every day!

2. SOCIAL MEDIA IS YOUR BEST FRIEND, AND YOUR WORST FRIEND.

Everybody can relate to this, but I feel like it hits especially close to home for millennials. Social media, whether it be Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, or whatever else, serves as an escape for most of us; an escape from the stress of our everyday lives. I know I am not the only one who gets a jolt of excitement every time I see the Instagram app just as I am about to click it. It’s like the brain has the same reaction that a crack-cocaine addict has when he/she sees an eight-ball of cocaine. This was the influence of the picture above. Ironically, the picture above is partially a reality; we literally get a dopemine high from social media. Social media can actually be an addiction, and it can be more serious than most people think. What this addiction leads to is essentially the wastage of time, which brings us back to the previous lesson I learned. What’s alarming is, this is only one example of how social media can be your “worst friend”.

The other main negative effects that social media brings is distractions/less focus on your goals and worrying about what others are doing. Distractions and less focus pertain to the last lesson on this list: mindfulness. Social media obviously distracts you from your goals while you are using it excessively, but what I am referring to is the distractions that remain present even while you are not using it. Focusing on social media throughout the day trains your brain to be distracted; it literally makes it harder for you to focus on your tasks because your brain becomes used to spending time on it, to the point that it craves it when you are not using it. All of this circles back to social media being addictive. This addictive distraction is also an effect of worrying about what others are doing. This problem of worrying about what others are doing is most prevalent, I feel, with Snapchat and Instagram. The constant accessibility to people’s daily actions and successes can be dangerous to your mental health. In my experience, it can be beneficial to see what others are doing because it has motivated me before; however, it has created envy and less confidence for me as well. Specifically with Instagram, seeing people’s successes, amazing pictures, and cool lifestyles has been disheartening to me in the past and made me feel less confident about myself. What I realized, however, is that I should not worry about what others are doing and what lifestyles they live; I should focus on my own goals and try to be as productive as I possibly can. This is when I am the happiest and perform the best.

Through all these detriments, social media can also be helpful; I just like to put a greater emphasis on the negatives because they are easier to affect you than the positives are. As I mentioned before, seeing what others are doing can be motivating. In addition, it can help you stay in contact with old friends, meet new people, spread positive messages and awareness (such as this list), build your personal brand if you are a model or entrepreneur, or a number of other things. Social media is definitely beneficial, just control how much you go on it and it will not bring harm to you.

3. NEVER LET THE HATERS MAKE YOU HAVE A CHIP ON YOUR SHOULDER

I realized this lesson fairly recent, within the past three months actually. For those of you who do not know what having a “chip on your shoulder” means, it refers to having a grievance about something, usually a personal attribute, that causes one to feel like they must prove themselves based on that attribute. An example would be a short person who is constantly ridiculed and mocked for their height developing an insecurity about their height. From this point, the short person becomes constantly focused on ways to prove that he/she is worthy, and even sometimes superior, to everybody they come in contact with, especially those who ridiculed him/her to begin with. Along the way, this short person might even develop a consistently angry attitude filled with animosity. Here is a definition from Wikipedia.

Most of us, if not all of us, have experienced senseless mockery from certain people, people who are most commonly referred to in our culture as “haters”. It is very easy, and sometimes even feels necessary, to develop a chip on your shoulder due to these haters. In one of my senior classes, I found out that a good amount of people thought I was dumb because I asked a lot of questions and made humorous comments in class. I immediately felt like I needed to prove myself; therefore, I stopped asking as many questions and remained serious in class. I was also not as friendly with my classmates as I was before. Over time, I realized that my class performance began to decline. Moreover, more of the questions I answered in class were wrong because I was so focused on proving my classmates wrong and what they thought. I realized at that moment, that having a chip on your shoulder leads to a lower performance and less happiness.

When I realized this, I thought of two different quotes from two of my friends. One of them said, “Do not let the evil in the world steal your sweetness”. The other friend said, ever so elegantly, “F*** what the haters have to say”. To elaborate on these two quotes, I realized to not let negative opinions about you take away your happiness/charisma and not focus on the unreasonably negative comments about you. What I noticed is that most, if not all, haters actually have emotional insecurities about themselves and are jealous about you. In my situation, I had one of the highest GPA’s and most promising futures out of anybody in my class, yet they still called me an idiot. In addition, I was probably the most socially popular out of anybody in the class. It began to occur to me that they were probably jealous of me in one way or another. Haters are not important enough to let their comments negatively affect you. Stay happy, stay positive, and always prevail through the haters; let them motivate you!

4. ALWAYS CONGRATULATE AND HOPE PEOPLE DO WELL, NOT HATE AND HOPE THEY DO BAD.

I learned this lesson during my first year of football in college. I always got playing time throughout high school, so I did not really have to deal with feeling envious of somebody getting more playing time than me. In college, however, I really had to deal with genuine competition and having somebody get much more playing time than me. In any situation in life, it is common to feel envious of a person who is doing better than you. From this, it can sometimes lead to hoping that that person fails in whatever they are doing. Kendrick Lamar, my favorite rapper, speaks on these emotions in his song “Black Boy Fly”, with lyrics such as, “Some saying, ‘What up? What up? N****, you made it’ So I’m saying, ‘What up? What up? N****, I hate it’… frustrated and I’m riding down the back streets… I wasn’t jealous cause of the talents they got, I was terrified they’d be the last black boys to fly out of Compton”.

In this song, he raps about the jealous emotions he felt towards other successful peers from his hometown of Compton before he became successful. The description of his jealousy coming from the fear that he would not become successful is similar to the reason why I would be jealous of the players who started ahead of me during college football. During practice scrimmages and games, when these players would be in live-game situations, I would almost always hope they made a mistake or had a mediocre performance. The reason is obvious and similar to Lamar’s logic: I wanted the coach to take them out and put me in.

There is no logical reason behind this, but I promise you that I did not start getting a good amount of playing time until I began truly hoping that the players ahead of me performed well. I am a very spiritual person and I do believe in karma. Due to this, I slightly believe the reason why this is happened is because of karma: when you hope people perform poorly, you perform poorly; when you hope people perform well, you perform well. The actual reason for me getting playing time, however, probably had more to do with the following lesson: not worrying about what other people are doing. When you hope that others perform badly, you tend to focus more on their actions than your own; when you hope others perform well, you focus more on your actions because you do not care as much how that person does. To summarize: DON’T HATE! CONGRATULATE!

5. DO NOT LET WHAT OTHER PEOPLE ARE DOING DISTRACT YOU OR BRING YOU DOWN; STAY FOCUSED AND LOCK IN.

This lesson pretty much further stresses the importance of the previous four lessons. To summarize, do not hate, excessively worry about what people on social media are doing, waste time doing unproductive activities, or let the haters make you have a chip on your shoulder. All of these lessons have one thing in common: DO NOT LET DISTRACTIONS GET TO YOU. In addition to these lessons, this lesson also has to do with all other distractions. For example, I know many times, while I am working on a task, I will randomly think about a situation or problem of mine that has absolutely nothing to do with what I am currently doing, and it completely distracts me. Biting your nails or fidgeting with things are also part of these distractions. You must put your absolute focus to whatever task you are doing if you want to finish it as efficiently as you possibly can. Efficiency leads to productivity; I can plan to have the most productive day ever, but if I frequently distract myself with a few small actions a day (scrolling through social media, thinking about randoms things, etc.) it can lead to hours of lost time, which can lead to hours of lost sleep.

You must focus. Like my football coach always said: LOCK IN!

6. STAY CONSISTENT AND TRY TO GET BETTER EVERYDAY.

This lesson pretty much speaks for itself: consistency is everything. It is similar to a recovering drug addict: if he/she CONSISTENTLY stays off drugs, he/she is progressing. In contrast, if he/she frequently stops using drugs, relapses, then does the same process all over again, did he/she actually progress? NO. All of the lessons above are useless without practicing them consistently. I learned this the hard way when I decided to feel proud of myself for not using social media excessively for a week. I decided to award myself by going through my social media accounts for a few minutes, which lead to a few hours. Sure enough next week, social media was, once again, a consistent distraction of mine. PLEASE BE CONSISTENT.

7. BE MINDFUL

In my opinion, this is the most important lesson I learned because it is the hardest one to determine as a problem. How many of us think about a million things at once while taking a shower? I know I do. This is an example of not being mindful. Mindfulness is when you are focused on what is happening at the moment, as opposed to a bunch of other things that have nothing to do with your current situation. More easily put, being mindful refers to being in the moment. Excessive use of social media can actually be a cause of not being mindful. Referring back to lesson #2, it trains your brain to not be focused. This anti-focus that I spoke about in lesson #2 is essentially the same thing as not being mindful.

Aside from social media training your brain to not be focused, it is very easy, in general, to think about things that have nothing to do with what you are doing. It is very important to be focused and in the moment when you are doing something, even simple tasks, such as taking a shower or washing your hands. Avoiding this has the same effect as social media: training your brain to not be focused. I mean, just think about it, if you are constantly not focused on the small things you do, do you think it will be easy to focus on the hard and more important things you do? What is the biggest thing that this generation complains about? PROCRASTINATION! WALLAH! All of this difficulty of focusing leads to procrastination. So be mindful, focus up, and lock in. You will be much more efficient with your day-to-day tasks.

8. BE ACTIVE AND ALWAYS ON THE MOVE, NEVER MISS AN OPPORTUNITY, AND STAY OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE

Have you ever seen the movie “Yes Man” starring Jim Carrey? I do not, by any means, live my life by this movie, but it did provide an insightful message to me: never miss an opportunity to do something; you never know what you will experience or how much it will benefit you. Obviously, if the idea is absolutely horrible or dangerous, do not do it; you are smart enough to determine what opportunities you should absolutely avoid. I remember I got invited, last-minute, to a finance networking conference this past year and it was difficult for me to commute there, but it was possible. In addition, it was a professional networking event; therefore, I had to wear a suit, prepare my elevator speech, etc. It was a very stressful situation with such short notice.

Nevertheless, I decided to go and ride the train an hour to get there. This decision ended up being extremely beneficial for me because I met a mentor who was very connected in the finance industry, and he actually ended up connecting me to another person who got me an interview at an asset management firm that was very hard to get a job at (I am currently waiting to hear back from them). I could have easily stayed at home and not gone to that event, BUT I DID.

What this taught me, overall, is to get out of my comfort zone by any means. There are many more situations I can talk about where I got out of my comfort zone and did something more creative and extra to benefit me. PLEASE LADIES AND GENTLEMAN, GO OUT AND GET IT REGARDLESS, BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY. THE GRIND DOES NOT STOP.


Originally published at www.theodysseyonline.com on June 28, 2017.