12 Things to Have by Graduation

Written from Brienz, Switzerland

Having recently graduated college, I have an incredibly clear hindsight of what was worth my time and investment over the last four years. Here are twelve things that I have found to be invaluable in making a clean transition.

1. A Board of Mentors

You might as well admit it - you don't know everything. College was an incredibly small percentage of your life and came at an incredibly young age (relatively speaking). Now that you're graduated, you will have a lot of life-changing decisions to make. Despite your wealth of experience, it would behoove you to have two or three older, wiser people who love you and who's life choices you generally respect that can act as guides in your life.

To be a man, a boy must see a man.
— J. R. Moehringer

2. An Impressive List of Failures

I'm not talking about how you started playing football and then quit halfway through the season because it got to be too tough on you. I mean those failures where you took on a task that perhaps was a little too big for your britches and despite a valiant effort, you didn't succeed. Failures that showed you mustered up courage, battled the odds and shot for the big dreams not the small ones.

You’re not a failure if you don’t make it. You’re a success because you tried.
— Susan Jeffers

3. A More Impressive List of Successes

Okay, so you tried a lot and failed. We can applaud you for trying. But if your record is 0/10, we can't take you too seriously. Tell of your successes, your victories, your triumphs! Let us know of those stories where you persevered and it paid off.

Success is not the result of spontaneous combustion. You must set yourself on fire.
— Reggie Leach

4. A Portfolio/Resume

In part, yes, you need a traditional paper resume. But perhaps more importantly, you need a resume of experiences that exist outside of the workplace, pushed you to your limits, and define who you really are. Be bold and be vibrant!

Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing worth knowing can be taught.
— Oscar Wilde

5. A Responsible Sleep Schedule / Morning Routine

Don't underestimate its power. It helps keep your body healthy, your stress levels down, your day productive and your mind rested. Don't burn yourself out due to poor habits.

Finish each day before you begin the next and interpose a solid wall of sleep between the two.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

6. A Desire and Ability to Learn on Your Own

Learning doesn't stop at graduation! The great part is that now you have the ability to choose what you learn.

If you think education is expensive, try ignorance!
— Andy McIntyre

7. A Legacy Project

Everyone needs a project that they are passionate about because of its virtue. Something that will last and continue giving for generations.

Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.
— Robert Louis Stevenson

8. A Solid Book List

Reading might be one of the most important things you can do. Hopefully, by the time you graduate, you will have read a good bit other than school textbooks and The Hunger Games. (Here's my list)

Books are a uniquely portable magic.
— Stephen King, "On Writing"
A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen. The man who never reads lives only one.
— George R.R. Martin, "A Dance with Dragons"

9. A Rough 3-Year Plan

Anything more detailed or long-term restricts your ability to be spontaneous and grasp opportunities as they present themselves

You cannot get to the top by sitting on your bottom.
— Proverb

If you aren't sure of which direction you should head in, pick one that interests you and go for it! You can always change direction later but don't waste your life hunched over an undecipherable map and compass.

The rewards of the journey far outweigh the risk of leaving the harbor.
— Unknown Author

10. A Good Work Ethic and Self-Motivation

If you aren't willing to get dirty, crank out quality, take responsibility for failure, show up early, stay late and generally work hard, you are going nowhere. On top of that, you must be internally motivated. Rather than move under the threat of a whip, push forward toward excellence and victory for you.

Recipe for success: Study while others are sleeping, work while others are loafing, prepare while others are playing, and dream while others are wishing.
— William A. Ward

11. A Personalized System to Budget, Spend and Track Your Money/Debts

You're an adult now - it's time to take responsibility for your money. Earn an income, pay off your debts, begin saving and be smart with your spending.

Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people they don’t like.
— Will Smith

12. Personal Dreams and Goals

A person without dreams and goals is merely a cog in the wheel. It's okay to dream and dream big, for that matter! You have a lifetime - if you have to, build a mountain and climb it to get the view you want.

Every man is the architect of his own future.
— Appius Claudius
What is worse than having no sight is being able to see but having no vision.
— Helen Keller

13. An Enthusiasm for Living Vibrantly

If you're going to read from a script society hands you, don't whine when you're asked to play the part of the fool. However, those who choose to construct their lives around meaningful experiences write a new script and craft their own character.