Two weeks ago, my wife Lyn and I flew to Dallas with our only daughter, Kelsey, to do all of the things needed to help her prepare for her freshman year of college. While we were busy visiting the dorms, registering for classes, buying the obligatory sweatshirt and meeting her future roommate, I started to reflect on what kind of advice I could give her that she might listen to; the kind of advice she would truly to take to heart.
Thinking back to the kind of advice I wish someone had given me at age 18, here are three things that rose to the top:
- Surround yourself with people who make you better. You will meet people throughout life who will be lots of fun or really popular, but don’t necessarily share your core values or have the same safety nets in place, meaning failure doesn’t have the same consequences for them as it will for you. People that don’t challenge you or make you better can be a lifelong liability. Instead, put yourself in a position to be among people who encourage you to grow, stretch and to be your best self.
- Invest in yourself. In college, it is possible, easy even, to spend too much time on clubs and activities that don’t best prepare you to go out and make a difference in the world. This is a time to invest in yourself to build your capacity for the future. We must develop ourselves, honor the talents and strengths we’ve been given and then go out and benefit the world.
- Expose yourself to different ideas and thought leaders. College campuses are great places to seek new ideas and new knowledge. As Woody Allen famously said, “80% of success is showing up.” Take advantage of guest speakers, lecturers, professors and residents. Use this time to learn and expose yourself to great thought leaders across a variety of subjects. You won’t always understand the why or how, but you will certainly gain great insight from the processes of other creative and successful people.
I trust Kelsey to make good decisions in her college years, but the truth is that it’s up to her. At the end of her college career, she will be the sum total of the people she meets, the books she reads and the ideas she’s exposed to. My dream for her is that she leaves college with the personal resources and capacity to change the world.
Looking back, this is probably good advice for all of us, at any point in our lives. Maybe I should take some of my own advice to ensure that with each life experience I come out better and more able to change the world.