With graduation weekend at the University of Michigan upon us, a few new graduates have asked me about what I have learned since college. It is a monumental year for me in some ways, as it has officially been five years since my undergraduate graduation from the University of Michigan and one year since my IMBA graduation from the University of South Carolina.
What can I share with the new graduating class from my alma mater and any other university?
Two words: Be Prepared.
But not in the traditional way you have been prepared all of your life up until this point. There is no studying that can prepare you for the life tests of your 20s. The next few years of your life will likely be less prescribed than ever before. Unless if you are continuing with school, you will no longer be on a regular schedule, anticipating spring break, 3 month summer breaks, and long weekends every month.
Be prepared for the most adventurous time of your life. You will likely move to places you would have never imagined, try jobs you would have never imagined, and have the freedom to travel.
Be prepared that people in your life may come and go, but they will change you forever. The friends will be in your heart forever as they help you laugh and wipe off your tears as you go through transitions and experience the turbulent 20s.
Be prepared for relationships that will succeed and others that will fail, but all of them will help you grow. And it is up to you to choose to stay in the relationships that help you grow for the better and that do not hold you back from your true self or your true potential.
Be prepared for choices that will challenge your values and your vision of who you are. But view the choices as an opportunity to shape who you are and to stand your ground when others won’t.
Be prepared to make mistakes. A cookie cutter life is not always realistic…you may have a plan A, but always have a plan B. And don’t be surprised when a completely different plan ends up taking place. As long as you stay rooted in your values and stay positive, any plan can end up working for you.
Be prepared that everything that happens to you is part of your life experience. Good and bad, your experiences will prepare you for the next decades ahead. I’ve always heard to take risks in your 20s since you will have more time to recover from them. In one way or another, everything you do can be viewed as a risk, but I view it as an opportunity…at the very least to gain life experience. If you remember that everything is life experience, you will be inspired to get through any situation…maybe with a few more wrinkles, but ultimately with a smile knowing that you made it.
And finally, be prepared to not be prepared. Let go of trying to control what happens to you. Plan enough to make sure you are stable and secure in the present and near future, but remember that spontaneity is a beautiful thing. Allow new experiences to come your way on their own schedule. Envision a bright future and truly believe it, and it will come to you. Congratulations to the Class of 2018!
For my fellow wolverine graduates, never forget…for now goodbye, for tomorrow good luck, and Forever Go Blue!
And for my fellow gamecock graduates, Forever to Thee!