Around this time of a year, parents and kids celebrate an important milestone….graduation. Whether it’s my youngest son, finishing pre-K or my daughter completing elementary school; this is a truly a special time of the year. Over the course of my life, I’ve had the good fortune to earn 3 degrees (BS Mechanical Engineering - University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, MS Mechanical Engineering - University of Michigan & MBA from Harvard Business School). So, I thought I would share some advice for all the graduates from the perspective of a 3X student.
Celebrate Your Accomplishment
While there are some that say we shouldn’t celebrate ‘intermediate’ degrees like pre-K, elementary, middle school or even high school, I disagree. There are both journeys and destinations in life. We should never get so focused on the destination, that we forget to enjoy the million steps in the journey along the way. Anytime you graduate, you should celebrate your accomplishment. Not only does it recognize the work that you put in to get to this achievement, it also creates an important milestone marker that you can look back and see the progress you have made since your last accomplishment.
Never Stop Learning
During the completion of any academic accomplishment/milestone, there can be a tendency to rest. While this is helpful and can be a key reflection point for a period of time, it is even better to get yourself into the mindset of continuous learning. This can be as simple as learning how to bake a cake from scratch using an online tutorial or enrolling in a summer technology program to learn how to code. By training your brain to always be on the hunt for new opportunities to grow, you will find that you maintain the sponginess of your brain throughout your life. For the current generation, I believe those who will excel over the long term are those who are able to learn, unlearn and re-learn. This is primarily due to the rapid pace of technological development that will see continuous innovations developed in the marketplace and then rapidly disrupted by newer, more elegant solutions in much shorter periods of time. No longer can you hope to develop a core set of knowledge that will last you for an entire career.
Don’t Settle for Average….Be Excellent
Everyone isn’t going to be good at everything. There are some students who will excel at many things. And, there are some students who will struggle with some things. However, it is less important to compare yourself to your peers and more useful to develop an internal metric of personal excellence. This is a combination of knowing when you have put in your best effort and really stretched and pushed yourself to achieve your maximum potential. For those who excel at many things, this does not mean that you got the best grade because you found it easy; instead it means finding another level of performance that challenges you to move beyond performing well when you find a project or a class easy. And for those who may struggle with certain classes or topics; that means that regardless of the grade if you know you have done your best then you are pleased with the outcome.
Be Thankful for the Teachers
As you go through life, you will find that there are many teachers who find great joy in helping students learn. Be thankful that there are a group of passionate men and women who want nothing more than for the students under their care to become great learners. Whether in a formal academic setting like school or in after school activities like swimming, baseball or coding; these instructors invest a ton of time in your growth and development. Be appreciative of their effort and let them know as you reach key development milestones as that helps validate the hard work they put in on a daily, weekly, monthly and annual basis.
Congratulations to all the 2018 graduates! You have reached an important milestone. And, hopefully, the advice above will help as you continue to progress on your journey.