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In 11 days I will be walking down the stage as a graduate of Skidmore College. I will become a young alumn and start my career in technology as a DevOps Engineer. These final 11 days are for me to reflect on what was and what are some key things I am going to take with me once I begin my professional life. This post is not to write about the technical knowledge I acquired nor is it about showcasing the projects I built. This is about more profound, fundamental things I internalized.

To this end, I wanted to list 5 things I learned. In general, these five things made me a better, happier, and kinder person. It helped me understand how we are all different, how we have our own journeys, and how important it is to be mindful. Let’s jump to the list.

1. It is OK to grow apart from people

A lot of college students are terrified of losing people in their life when they begin changing. It often results in being stuck and unwilling to grow—scared of losing friends from childhood. Do you want to have friends who don’t support your growth? A lot of successful people agree that surrounding themselves with other knowledge-hungry people makes them better, more motivated people.

It took me many years of traveling and living in various places to realize that everyone who is worth my time will be in my life. If I am busy, they understand or they find ways to join you. Good people understand your priorities. Friends who pressure you to party often and change your priorities are not good friends. I know it is hard to hear; it is true though. To calm your nerves, I can say with certainty that you will find your people at some point.

2. Growth happens only when you are uncomfortable

I used to seek out comfort and give up quickly when things got hard. It took me my first and second years in college to realize that I can only become better when I am uncomfortable. There is no learning when doing things I am comfortable doing. Continuously pushing myself to learn and grow has become a huge part of me. This is paired with my third point about being humble and understanding the importance of learning.

3. Be humble and understand the importance of learning

I love this quote that I also have on the landing page of my website. it is by Samuel Beckett and it goes like this, “Ever tried. Ever Failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail Better.”

Every failure is a chance to learn and reflect. It helps you to be humble again, knowing that you are not perfect. It shows you things that you have yet to learn. Don’t think of this as exhausting feedback and another list of stuff to do. Look at it as a chance to become better. It is all about mindset and perspective. Imagine you have an essay to do. If you think of it as another time-consuming writing, then you will be unmotivated; however, if you look at it as a chance to express your thoughts on the topic, you will probably be more excited.

Learning is what keeps us going. Learning is what makes you excited to be alive. It is more fun to learn being a humble student because you are less afraid to ask stupid questions.

4. Learn from mistakes others have made

This is a big one. A lot of people think that they must experience things to truly learn them, but I strongly disagree. When you listen to someone’s story of their failure and truly listen to the steps they took and really understand it, you are less likely to repeat it. However, if you think that they just didn’t do a certain step correctly and you can do better, then go ahead, but at least you know not to repeat something exactly the same.

It might apply more to my own professional field because if someone crashes a server by doing 120 changes at the same time, I can easily learn to have a better change management system and organize things better to not pile up 120 changes to be done at the same time. In your personal life I let you be the judge if you want to learn from someone’s similar experience or not. But in tech, truly listen and read about what other people have done wrong.

5. Importance of intrinsic motivation

Intrinsic motivation is what is the most fundamental thing I have learned during my college career. If you are motivated by your passion within, you will love going above and beyond, you will learn more, and you grow so so much. Once you learn this, grades won’t matter to you but learnings new things do. You are more humble and excited to know more instead of stressed to keep up that perfect GPA.

I have two simple questions I ask myself every morning.

  1. What do you want to achieve with your life?
  2. How badly do you want it?

The answers are personal; however, the more personal the better. That means your intrinsic motivation runs deep and nothing will slow you down.

I look forward to starting my professional career and keep learning. I cannot wait to see what comes next. My every day will be filled with learning new things, growing in new ways, and building new connections. Thank you for reading my Ted talk 🙂