Oh hey, new graduate.
Congratulations on finally getting yo’ ass a diploma. I know it’s probably attached with an assload of student loan debt, but hey. At least you finished. Imagine being that guy who has a bunch of debt and works at Starbucks who doesn’t even have his degree. At least you have bragging rights.
You might not remember, but delivering these messages is kind of a tradition around here. I did one in 2013, which urged you all to pay off your debt at all costs. I followed it up last year with another one, which said that y’all should work smart and take alternate paths. I’m sure they were all forwarded to dozens and dozens of grads, where they were promptly ignored because if there’s a group of people who think they know it all, it’s 22-year old college grads.
So let’s keep the party going. After the last four years of being circle jerked in your little protective bubble, frankly, you all could use a little cold water splashed on you.
Let’s get the basics out of the way first. You know how all your teachers and guidance counsellors and your mommy and daddy told you that all you needed was your degree and you’re all set? Yeah, that’s not true. Sure, having that degree helps, but at this point all it really shows employers is that you’re capable of making it through school.
Your first job will suck, which is exactly what should happen. Brenda from accounting will be a major c word, and you will totally get passed up for promotions that you deserve. The office hot chick/funny guy will get perks like you cannot believe, while Bill Lundbergh shows up at your desk four times per day bitching about TPS reports.
Oh, you’re going to avoid all that? By going to work for a start-up? Don’t make me scoff. There are a million startups out there that think they’re reinventing the wheel who have found some venture capital guy with more enthusiasm than brains and a bunch of investor cash. It’s all a giant bubble and it’s all going to end badly.
At least none of you think you’re the next Zuckerberg, right? Oh God. Look, don’t even think about it. Somebody who has never held down a full-time job has no business starting their own company right out of college. You’ve already raised money? Just give it to me, and we’ll light it on fire together.
Look, I know you’re full of piss and vinegar and probably some recreational drugs, but the real world doesn’t work like that. If you want to show the world you can build a better do-dad, go and learn the ropes while somebody is paying you. Become a really good employee before you even think about going out on your own. Get a promotion or two under your belt first, and then we’ll talk.
I know that you want to change the world, or start doing really cool things. And hey, maybe you’ll get around to it. But graduate, you gotta stop being so damn impatient. The world is a really difficult place, and chances are you’re lazy. Besides, I’m pretty sure most super achievers didn’t get a B in intermediate statistics. Oh, sorry, a B+.
At a minimum, your first decade in the workforce should be spent trying to learn the ropes. I’ll be 32 in about six weeks, and let me tell you from experience that most 22-year olds don’t know a damn thing. And if you’re 18, I suggest shutting your mouth for a few years and just listening to the grown-ups.
Sure, Bill Gates accomplished a lot during his 20s. So did Elon Musk and that Zuckerberg guy. Fine, I’ll give you those. But there’s no way you can compare yourself to them. Let’s temper expectations a little. They’ve already gotten four hours worth of work done, while you’re procrastinating by reading this blog post. And by setting your expectations too high, you’re all but ensuring a lifetime of disappointment and failure.
For the next five years, here’s what I want you to do.
One, put your head down and work. You’re young and have the energy. If work doesn’t give you the chance to exchange extra hours for extra money, start a side hustle. Instead of the side hustle aiming for the stars, do something practical. Don’t try to invent the next Snapchat. Do ref sports, or something else from this list.
Secondly, learn everything you can about the world around you. Sacrifice time you’d normally spend with your bros and crack open a book or ten. Your bros are probably dumb anyway.
And finally, I want you to embrace the ordinary. Accept the fact that you’re not gonna change the world. Accept the fact that you’re mostly average. Accept the fact that, like most people, you’re going to value time with your family more than you do work.
By tempering expectations, you’ll create a life where you celebrate accomplishments instead of getting down on yourself because things haven’t happened as quickly as you’d like. But most importantly, you’ll create the temperament to just keep chugging along.
Warren Buffett made 99% of his wealth after his 50th birthday. So did Sam Walton, Ray Kroc, and millions of other successful people. Do you think they lamented how they were 29 and still hadn’t accomplished all their dreams? Do you think they had a “quarter life crisis”? Hell no. They were out working. They were doing the little things that get no credit.
You have to be incredibly lucky to change the world. But to get rich, have a great career, or do some cool stuff, there’s not a lot of luck involved. You just have to do the right things every day, and repeat them for decades. Most people just can’t pull that off, which is why they’ll only be mediocre for the rest of their lives. Conquer this impatience and realize things take time and an assload of work. Once you figure that out, the sky truly is the limit.