Another season of graduation has come to pass. Sights of fresh graduates flinging their square caps always harks me back to my time at college; which is strange since my college did not hold a convocation ceremony for us. Though I am sure, it must be extremely gratifying going through the ritual.
It has been 2 years since I did my majors in computer science. The four years I spent at college have been the four most fulfilling years of my life. My past self might argue that my time at school was possibly the halcyon period of my life, but the sheer joy in discovering oneself and learning to make more sense of the world around you, mostly throufgh friends and often through failure, simply make my days at college peerless. It’s funny because I distinctly remember longing for school for at least a month into my course.
Easing myself out from the confines my graduate school was an exercise in letting go. Suddenly, there were no classes to look forward to, and my days seemed longer than usual. On one hand, people scrubbed the town in search of a decent job, and on the other, pictures of batch mates getting married started popping up on social networks like unwelcome guests.
Things had changed. Change is uncomfortable.
“It’s a big bad world out there”, a portly professor would often drawl in one of his lectures. “Jobs are scarce and employers are bootstrapped” had became a platitude towards the end of our course. But going to college often exerts a reassuring influence on you – a touch of invincibility, an abundance of pride and apparent knowledge that a glorious career awaits us.
This influence can be insidious.
To all heads off which caps have ever been flung, and to graduates who didn’t get the occasion to, here is sage advice to find your feet when the bubble of college bursts. You won’t hear the pop sound. Act. Now.
1. Do not go looking for money
I repeat “Do not go looking for money”. Instead, look for work which empowers you with skills to help you learn and grow. Accepting a job solely due to the remuneration is is like pretending to water a plant by spraying water over its leaves. It looks shiny and attractive, but the plant eventually crumples and wilts since little attention was paid to nourishing its roots.
Money, in this case a fat pay packet, often warps perspective and leads people astray. It is especially hazardous when it’s tethered to a position considered prestigious in a milieu that respects convention and sneers at failure. The concept of owning boastful wealth is a treacherous mirage created by the society and people around us. Of course money is important, but I doubt if anyone goes to their grave lamenting that they couldn’t buy a Rolls Royce.
Cultures often lionize uber-rich celebrities and entrepreneurs but fail to throw light on the path they took to become successful. To lead truly fulfilling lives, it’s important to –
2. Do what you love
I’m sure you’ve heard this before. Yet only a few manage to wrap their head around this adage. Taking up work that you enjoy doing, and making a career out of it is probably the easiest way to lead truly rewarding lives. Imagine being given the opportunity to pursue a childhood hobby like origami or painting or any other activity through your entire life. If your heart is in the right place, you could grow up to be an world-class architect or an artist. The penthouse and a BMW will follow suit.
When you work on something you enjoy doing, you add immense value to this world and make yourself valuable in return. An artist adds value by regaling people through various forms of art. An entrepreneur adds value by solving large-scale problems and creating jobs. A sportsperson creates value by enthralling his/her fans and making nations proud.
Some people like Sachin Tendulkar find their passion at an early age while others like John Grisham take a while longer, which is totally alright. The important thing here is to keep looking and not settling for a life which seems insipid.
Like Jobs intoned at his Stanford commencement speech, “You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle”
What makes your heart sing? If all jobs paid the same what would you be doing? Look at the man in the mirror and ask him these questions; and when the man has spoken, renounce everything to follow his calling.
3. Believe in yourself
Having full, unvioable faith in oneself is the best defense against a world saturated with naysayers. Remember that doubt has killed more dreams than failure ever will.
Believe that you are meant for the big stage, that you’re destined for greatness, that you can improve lives and make make the world a better place.
Never compare yourself with anyone. Every successful person was once an ordinary face in the crowd, grappling with the ladder to success. He too had the same doubts as you, and possessed very limited access to some resources that you take for granted; but he ploughed on; irrepressible faith in himself and and a healthy disregard for the doubting Thomas. It doesn’t matter if people did not take him or his idea seriously; the failure forged a smarter version of him.
Mistakes are good. Taking a wrong turn allows you to backtrack and sear the incorrect road into memory, never to be taken again. Sometimes the journey of a single step starts with a thousand miles in the opposite direction. Next time, our headstrong friend goes back to present an idea to someone, he will no longer be the callow bloke who was whisked away, but a hard-boiled egg which is tougher to crack than all those coming fresh out of the farm.
4. Invest in yourself
You are the best project you will ever work on. Try to learn something new everyday. Go to bed being smarter than when you woke up.
Work. Work while others play so that you can play while others work.
Believe in the power of preparation.There’s no glory in practice, but without practice there is no glory. Unyielding grit has the power to move mountains and change destinies. Renaissance artist Michelangelo said “If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all“
Read. It will help you like nothing ever has. A good book will give you sanctuary whenever you find yourself doused in drudgery. To reap the true joy of reading however, you would need to make time for reading – it should not be something you do in your free time, but something which has its place in your daily schedule.
Start a blog. Write. Put pen to paper. Vent your innermost thoughts. Bare your soul and write a journal or just shake the dust off the poet which had become dormant under the weight of textbooks. You don’t have to write the next best-seller but make sure you are the author of your own destiny.
“I start early, and I stay late, day after day, year after year, it took me 17 years and 114 days to become an overnight success” – Lionel Messi