15 Things I’ve Learned Since I Graduated From College
May 6, 2021 | By Stacey Mason
Of all the twists and turns our lives take as we conquer careers and grow into the true leaders that we are meant to become, nothing is as powerful as the discoveries we make along the way.
As we celebrate the graduating class of 2021, I thought I would share 15 things I’ve learned since I was a 20-something college student just beginning my journey into the professional work world.
- Manners matter.
- Pay attention … live in a state of self-awareness.
- Read, read, read.
- Ask for help.
- Listen more than you talk.
- Practice authenticity.
- Don’t keep score.
- Deliver meaningful feedback.
- Practice good stewardship.
- Take the high road.
- Control your time.
- Get comfortable with conflict.
- People make choices. Choices make people.
- Keep a journal; spend time in reflection.
There is a certain amount of civility that makes the world go ’round. Regardless of your credentials, your pedigree, or the alphabet of letters you’ve accumulated after your name, you’ll be best served to practice graciousness. “Good manners will open doors that the best education cannot.” (Clarence Thomas).
There are moments of insight all around you. You can learn something from everyone if you are paying attention.
Read often and from as many genres as possible. There is no monopoly on wisdom.
Don’t be afraid to seek outside council if your perspective needs an adjustment. Everyone needs help at some point. Everyone.
You may be the smartest one at the table, but you’re not the only one at the table.
Understand who you are, get comfortable with it and get on down the road. Give yourself permission to be who you are.
There will always be inequalities in the world – life is not fair. Get over it.
People are starving for feedback. Actually, people are starving for meaningful feedback. There is a difference.
At some point in your career, you will inherit someone else’s mess. Accept it. Fix it. Move on. The cardinal rule of camping is to “leave the campsite better than you found it” by intentionally improving the environment for the next round of campers. It’s a good rule for the environment, and it’s a good rule for business.
Under-the-bus throwing is over-rated. Don’t believe the hype. Go with Karma. “How people treat you is their Karma; how you react is yours.” (Wayne Dyer)
You can’t debate, negotiate, rationalize or intellectualize right or wrong. Right is right; wrong is wrong. No amount of conversation is going to change that. You are who you are when you think no one’s looking.
“If you’re working off your inbox, you’re working off the priorities of others.” (Donald Rumsfeld) Or as the great Wayne Gretzky puts it, “Skate to where the puck is going to be.”
If you can’t manage conflict, you can’t manage accountability. And without accountability, there is no leadership.
When faced with a personal dilemma, remember this: You’re going to have to live with whatever you do (or say) next for the rest of your life. What you choose to do (or say) is crucial, so think very carefully about who you want to be when you look back on this story. Each life moment is part of a larger story – and just about the only thing we are in charge of is who we are in our stories. What would you say if your story had an audience?
Over the course of your life, take time to write down “stuff.” Capture the messiness of the moment, the clarity of the insight, the pain of the struggle, the joy of the success, the power of a good quote and the question for which you don’t have an answer for – yet. Because one day you too might write an article about things learned since graduating from college.
Congratulations graduates! I wish you much continued success.
(Still, I am learning)