College Graduation – Exciting and Terrifying All at the Same Time
(This one’s dedicated to my Monica and her friends who I pray will follow their dreams taking on their post-college challenges with gusto.)
Last week I wrote “My Daughter’s Graduation Reminds Me to Keep on Dreaming.” College graduation is such an exciting time! In its own way, it’s also terrifying. A few months back I remember a fellow speaker at a high school career day dish out these words of wisdom.
He said that from the beginning, our lives are neatly cut up into segments. We start in preschool and look forward to elementary school with the big kids. In middle school, we look forward to high school. Four years later, we finish and start another four years in college.
Well here’s my daughter at the end of segmented living. Real life in all its glory is unfolding before her. There’s no turning back.
That same speaker likened college graduation to being born. In the womb, infants get all the warmth, comfort and nourishment they need. Their environment’s controlled with a lot of predictability. Then one day they get kicked out of their protected cocoon to deal with this noisy and painfully confusing world. Sure babies are physically prepared for all this with Mom and Dad nearby to take good care of them, but it’s a terribly terrifying transformation.
Graduating from college’s the same. Schooling is predictable. Every semester starts with a new set of classes and instructors. You get feedback on your performance, you get a chance to improve or fail. Then it repeats itself again and again.
But here you are perched at a crossroad with nothing but unpredictability ahead of you. It’s like visiting the Grand Canyon for the first time. The hugeness of it all is awe inspiring, but it comes with a fear and it can really mess with your sense of security. “What happens if I slip and fall in?”
But there’s one thing that’s so exhilarating.
In life beyond college you make your own rules and, better yet, your own grading scale.
Let’s say I find some successful people and ask them the following questions.
- What college did you attend?
- What was your major?
- What grades did you get?
I would bet the correlation between the best college students and the best life performers has very little correlation. Your ability to learn in a classroom environment, no matter how advanced the school’s teaching methods, is not a predictor of success in business, life and relationships.
My poster child for this message is a millionaire acquaintance of mine. He skipped college and mowed lawns for his father-in-law’s residential lawn care business. I remember him telling me years ago, “I got the Mobil gas station account.” Then he told me, “I got Pizza Hut.” I lost touch with him, but heard through a friend that things were already going well for him when Hurricane Andrew hit Miami in 1992. Because of his business, he had access to a lot of equipment that came in handy when needing to help people clean up after a mess like that. This guy’s been chasing floods, storms and natural disasters ever since. He’s worth billions today.
I’m sure if you ask around you’ll find dozens and dozens of examples of people who were less than qualified for the success they have today. They weren’t the MD or Juris Doctor super stars. They were people who found something they were good at and took the risks to take on the opportunity. (Check out my Arnold Terminator 3 article for a word about taking on the challenges that unexpectedly fall in your lap.)
As I spoke to my daughter and her friends at graduation, I could see their excitement. But in the middle of all the excitement and sense of accomplishment they were also experiencing a loss. They’ve developed some great friends who have become their family. Life and the routine that’s been comfortable for them will be left behind.
But once they establish a new normal (and I hope their normal isn’t just some oh hum uninspired normal) and set after their real life goals, they will realize this new thing is so much better. Like I said before, the segments are whatever they want them to be and you can make up your own grading scale.
Scary? Sure. Unpredictable? Absolutely! I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Hope this helps.