So here I am – just shy of a month and a half from graduating, and starting to work full time. I was reflecting on what personally I thought has been the most important takeaway from college, and although the answer didn’t surprise me – I felt it often goes unacknowledged, and needed a little mentioning.
Was it coursework? Not quite, although I have to credit it (see what I did there) with keeping me sharp over the years. A lot of these courses were challenging and a revelation in terms of how the world could be affected, and I’m better for having studied them.
Was it the extra-curricular pursuits I was involved with? Partially, and these build up towards the most important thing. The reason why you become a part of a club or a council has two aspects – the responsibility, and the people. Both of these push you out of your comfort zone. And that’s something that you should always be doing. I read a book recently — the autobiography of one of my favourite cartoonists (Scott Adams of Dilbert fame), How to fail at everything and still win big — and he says that every new skill that you acquire doubles the odds of your succeeding. I felt that I made the greatest gains through my involvement with various bodies on the campus (no pun intended), and would’ve lost out on something irreplaceable had I not.
At the risk of reiterating a cliché – you’ll find that your peer group is the most important takeaway from college. Given yes, that your friends here are some of the most important friends that you’ll make in life; but more importantly, it’s through observing others – that I have made the greatest strides in who I am overall as a person. I drastically improved my skills at small-talk, making conversations and being confident – by observing people do the same with me and others. I lost a fairly decent amount of weight and turned into a marathoner – by letting my running friends force me into it and then closely observing their schedules and stalking their progress on Nike+. And I plan to keep doing this as I move forward into my career, where it’ll be more crucial than ever that I stay ahead of the curve.
So while ego and self-belief are important for being confident and decisive in what you do – always keep a close eye on the people around you, and take part in whatever they’re doing in the hope of seeing them do the things they’re great at. And then be a sponge – and absorb whatever you can. You’ll be surprised at how much you can potentially improve by this.