My good friend, Deepa Tojan, recently posted on LinkedIn that she received an invitation to give a lecture to the commerce grads at St. Francis College in Bangalore. She asked if there were anything that we felt we should have been told before graduation. Here is my reply.
I wish my professors would have admitted that what they taught me was very small compared to what I needed to know to be successful. They did not encourage lifelong learning. They did not tell us that university would be the easiest study phase in our lives if we were truly committed to personal and professional growth. I think many youngsters graduate believing that they have finished their education. It is truly the exact opposite. The main thing they teach you at university is to learn how to learn. It is critical to take those skills and apply them diligently for the rest of your life.
Let me add a few more topics I wish I had learned more about when I was younger.
There will always be challenging times and people in our lives. I cannot remember a single class on dealing with these difficult situations. I could have avoided many painful lessons had I possessed better skills and knowledge in this area as a young man.
In college, I focused on gaining knowledge and getting good grades. Yes, I went to parties and had lots of friends. Still, I was not exposed to training about the importance of interpersonal relationships. It has taken me many years to embrace the practice of vulnerability, transparency, and compassion in my life. Now that I’m more comfortable in this behavior, it has contributed significantly to my leadership effectiveness and created much stronger bonds with the people around me.
I grew up in an era where we were taught to put our heads down, get our work done, and don’t complain. Coming in early, staying late, and working weekends were a badge of honor. So was not taking any vacation days or sick days. If my boss said jump, I said, “How high sir, and how many times?” I now realize how incredibly self-destructive this attitude was. Life is far too short to spend all of it at work, even if you love what you do. Taking time for yourself is not selfish. Being kind to yourself is not being self-centered. Creating boundaries to protect your time and energy is critical. I wish I had learned a little earlier that if I don’t help myself, I won’t be able to help anyone else.
What are the things you wish you had learned before you graduated?