13 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I Graduated College

You get to choose what kind of adult you want to be.

Photo: Baim Hanif

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” -Annie Dillard

My friend and I are both 33 years-old. My friend’s younger sister, who is 21 and graduating from college this May, recently came to visit us in San Francisco. She asked me what advice I (an “Old Millennial”) had for a “Young Millennial” who was about to graduate college. Needless to say, my friend’s sister was freaking out about joining the real world at such a volatile time. Here’s what I told her:

1. ‘Killing it’ is overrated.

The people you think are rocking it are often incredibly lonely, anxious, and depressed.

2. Be courageous in what you ask for.

People can’t help you unless they know what you need.

3. Real life is much cooler than Instagram.

If you try to capture or share every single amazing moment on social media, you will never be content. If you spend your days comparing yourself to yourself to your friends on Instagram, you will never be happy. If you spend your days thinking about how you can best brand yourself on Instagram, you will never be fulfilled.

4. Magic happens when you invent your own path.

There is no tried and true path in the current job market. Choose your own adventure and treat your career like a grand learning experiment.

5. Patience and persistence trump passion and perfection.

It takes time to build a career that matters. Work is a classroom. Every job opportunity is a chance to learn what works for you, and what doesn’t.

6. Don’t do what you love. Serve the people you love.

Meaning comes from not from personal gain, but from service, compassion, and sharing your gifts with others.

7. Resist the temptation to chase growth, scale, and large numbers.

Create something beautiful that benefits a few people in a significant way, and you will leave your mark on the world.

8. Monday mornings are not supposed to suck.

If you are living for getting drunk and high on Friday night, you have a problem. Spend your weekdays doing something that matters.

9. Speak your truth.

Up until the age of 30, I had never really stood in front of a room full of people to tell a story or give a formal presentation. Not because I was scared, just because I had never even thought of myself as worthy enough to have something interesting to share. Today, public speaking is how I make a living. And it never would have happened if one day I didn’t just stand up and share what was on my mind. Everyone has a story and everyone is worthy of sharing it, including you.

10. Don’t be afraid to piss off your boss, your parents, and your friends.

The most important decision I made in my twenties (to quit my secure job working for the federal government in Washington, DC, and move to San Francisco to start writing) pissed off my boss and my parents very nervous. But it also led to me writing a book, getting a book deal, building a profitable speaking business, and becoming much happier. If you’re making people around you nervous, you’re probably doing it right.

11. Looking at a screen is a choice.

Most of the really good things (creativity, adventure, friendship, love, joy) happen when you’re offline. Embrace the weird, ridiculous, inexplicable, infinite, offscreen, unplugged, real, natural, beautiful, present moment, happening right now.

12. Community is the true currency of life.

Surround yourself with people that believe in the beauty of your dreams. Prioritize in-person experiences, with friends and strangers who make you forget what time it is and challenge you to reach your potential.

13. You get to choose what kind of adult you want to be.

Be as weird, dorky, playful, boring or revolutionary as you want to be. There is nothing more beautiful than a human who is comfortable in their own skin. Don’t let labels, stereotypes, or other people’s opinions keep you from being your most authentic self.


Read my latest Medium article: The “quit your corporate job and follow your bliss” mantra is complete horseshit

Adam Smiley Poswolsky is a millennial workplace expert, keynote speaker, and author of The Quarter-Life Breakthrough: Invent Your Own Path, Find Meaningful Work, and Build a Life That Matters. He speaks to companies about how to attract, retain, and empower millennial talent, and foster inter-generational collaboration in the workplace.

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