I originally wrote this set of lessons and stories as a Graduation present to a friend (a daughter of a business owner I work with at Zaarly).

After she found it helpful, I started sharing it with more and more people until it seemed best to just publish it for all the world.

I hope you enjoy, and if you know any Freshmen—pass it along!


Friends & People

Make lots and lots of friends. BUT only let a select few influence your decisions. If you have lots of friends, many will be dumb. That’s perfectly ok, so long as you know which they are.

Assume all people, words and actions are well-intentioned, even if they don’t come across that way. This makes life much easier.

Everyone is starting over—everyone wants to meet new people and make friends. Don’t be shy, go say hi.

Go introduce yourself to people in your dorms, classes, etc in the first days/weeks—(it gets a little harder after the first month or so). Leave your door open in your dorm. Invite everyone to everything. Going to dinner or a party? Invite everyone in the vicinity, and everyone you meet along the way. People will reciprocate this and life will be good!

Make adult friends of all types: Teachers, Mentors, and Locals. Learn to connect with them both professionally and informally. This will be an invaluable skill in life, and you’ll learn a ton and gain perspective from them that your college friends won’t provide. They also help you get jobs.

This is as easy as asking them to coffee and being genuinely curious about them/their work. Honestly, it’s easy. Check out 52cups.tumblr.com for an amazing example—this is a friend of mine from school.

Find friends with your interests, not just in your proximity.

- Friends in your dorm/floor are great, day to day.
- Friends with your prof interests will be helpful, and teach you things.
- Older friends throw better parties. They also give great advice.

You’re never done finding and making friends. It took me until Junior year to find the group of people that I wound up loving the most in college. I met them by going to a pretty random group meeting, where I wasn’t sure what to expect. These are risk-less adventures that can pay off.

Get a partner-in-crime or friend to come with you to things, even if he/she doesn’t really care. This safety net will give you confidence to go new places.

People you’ve known for a long time will change a lot. Everyone will be making new friends. You’ll lose touch with some—that’s ok. Don’t let it get you down. Be patient, it will all work out.

Be close friends with or become an organizer—someone who organizes things or makes sure there’s always something to do. You’ll keep meeting new people and seeing new things, which is what life is all about.

Ultimately, it’s your responsibility. If you accept a friend group that will lead you down a path you know you don’t want to be on, it’s your fault, not theirs. This is a harsh reality: You choose your friends. You become like the 5 people you are with most—make sure you’re around people you respect.

Trust your gut. When in doubt, call your parents.

Eating, Alcohol & Overall Happiness

It’s terrifyingly easy to get fat, gotta watch that

Been there; I accidentally ate exclusively pizza and fries for a year, and after being an athlete in high school didn’t exercise—this is a bad plan.

Drink lots of water as/after you’ve been drinking. Hangovers suck. Avoid super sugary drinks, or mixing too many types of alcohol, this will help.

Never, under any circumstances, be proud of being the drunkest. There’s no honor in that. I’ve never thought: “oh man I really wish I drank more.”

No drinking contests. In fact, never let anyone else influence what you are eating or drinking.

Police do not have senses of humor; never assume you will get a break. Avoid serious legal troubles. BUT, do not avoid adventures.

Nerf Guns, Squirt Guns, Frisbees and other fun things make friends. Share everything with everyone around you. Anything you can do that will involve others is probably going to cause greater happiness.

Take calculated risks. Never take risks without weighing them, but lots of risks are not as bad as they seem at first. Writing it down helps.

Do not confuse something risky with something scary. Lots of things that are intimidating (meeting new people, trying new things) are completely riskless… they’re just scary. Be brave.

You teach people how to treat you, even if you do it implicitly.

Ultimately, it’s your responsibility. If you drink/eat too much, get fat, do poorly in classes, or get sick—it’s your fault and no one else’s. This is is a harsh reality, but it’s better to know from the start. When it really comes down to it, these choices are yours to control. Pretending that they’re not for any period of time will not be helpful.

Trust your gut. When in doubt, call your parents.

‘Succeeding’ Professionally

There’s a 0% chance you’ll learn everything you need to know in classrooms. Know that you’ll need to find/create your own lessons for some things.

You’ll need to get lucky. But luck can be engineered. Expose yourself to the possibility of good things. Luck happens when hard work finds an opportunity.

My current life situation (which I love dearly and couldn’t be happier about) was absurdly lucky, and only worked because a random event happened to lead down a fantastic path. I didn’t have amazing grades or scores—just a lucky moment and hard work that led to a great connection, and a different kind of life.

Don’t be afraid to start things (or join/improve them). Meet-ups, traditions, events, or groups. If you need something in your life or want it to exist, go for it. 0% chance everything cool or helpful already exists and/or you know about it.

Don’t be afraid to think that things are wrong. Don’t be afraid to want to change things. Don’t be afraid to change things. Steve Jobs said it best.

Do as much as you can to get out of the conventional or common classes and study some weird or interesting stuff. Math101 is guaranteed to suck. Design of Environmentally-Friendly Icelandic Civilization is definitely more interesting.

Doing what everyone else does will not mean success. You have to do things differently.

In fact, doing what the most other people are doing means that you’re competing with more people for grades, scores, and jobs. If you choose a more niche major or area of interest, you’re a bigger fish in a smaller pond.
Don’t rely on job fairs, good grades, or any other standard credentials. Go get an applicable part-time job, and start impressing people with your work ethic, maturity, and eagerness to learn asap. This is what pays off most.

There’s always room for the best. (There are plenty of jobs, there are just not enough great people.)

Get off campus; explore the city and the people.

Find a job that is relevant to your professional interest ASAP. Don’t just take any job (no cafeteria, no check-in desks). You want every minute of ‘real-life’ working experience you can get. This is where the real lessons come from. It’ll be hard early on—too bad. Don’t wait. Keep looking.

You will be happier and more successful the longer you work on what makes you happy and keeps you interested, so find that area as soon as possible. Be curious, follow your gut, jump in eagerly to what you want to, and don’t be afraid to quit if you’re not loving your most recent experiment.

Only work for people who you respect and who respect you, and take the care to help you grow and learn. They may not be easy to find, but it’s worth it. Don’t settle on this. When you find one, work your face off for them to earn their respect, and earn more opportunities. This is the greatest investment of time and effort you can make.

Ask for what you want. Jobs, opportunities, introductions… just ask for it. Nothing bad can come of this.

Read, listen, and do things outside of what’s required of you for classes. Let curiosity guide you as much as you can, so you’re always passionate about what you’re learning about.

Ultimately, it’s your responsibility. If you can’t get a job, find work, or do what you want to—it’s because you didn’t do what you could have to control that. This is a harsh reality, but it’s far better to know now than realize in 5 years.

Trust your gut. When in doubt, call your parents.


I’d say good luck; but most often luck is a choice. So go be smart.

PS: All advice is born of limited experience and a biased worldview. Don’t take any of it too seriously.

PPS: Advice tends to be ignored until it’s backed up by a life experience you’ve actually been through and can relate to. So just keep this in the back of your mind, you’ll learn it all yourself soon enough.