Lessons for a Positive College Experience (Part 1: Have Fun)
A 5-part series on how to harness the energy of your college experience to become a lifelong learner whose knowledge transcends facts and figures.
Over the past few weeks, countless college freshmen have confidently embarked on their college careers with their mini-fridges and laptops in tow. Around this time last year, I was honored to present the convocation speech at my alma mater, Adrian College. As the class of 2019 settles in, I want to share a few highlights from my speech.
The name of my company, Anode, comes from the Greek and means ‘the way up.’ It’s also the name of the positive terminal on a battery, which creates energy. These two concepts combine to illustrate what my company does, what my philosophy is about life and are what I want to share with any student starting college today (or with any life-long learner for that matter).
Having the benefit of hindsight, I have five lessons to help you get the best out of college and life. For the purpose of this blog, we’ll split these lessons into five individual posts. In this first article, we’ll cover perhaps the most important lesson…
Lesson #1: Have Fun and Embrace New Experiences RIGHT NOW!
You can only imagine how much fun college was for me between 1971 and 1975. I certainly took advantage of the opportunities around me. I learned the importance of meeting new people, exploring new ideas, and trying new things. The ultimate goal during this time is to find your inspiration. Identify the things that help you think creatively and prompt you to explore new ideas. You won’t know what inspires you until you try lots of things. Therefore, here is my advice on how to have fun and explore new experiences:
Have new experiences every chance you get – Your entire life up until now should also have been about exploring the world and being open to new experiences. Even before I was in college, I made it a point to soak up as many new experiences as possible. Growing up, I was so fortunate to have a grandmother who helped me see the world around me. She exposed me to opera, took me to the library, and brought me into nature to explore the woods. Thanks to her, I learned so many valuable lessons. On one hand, I learned that I didn’t really like opera, but I also learned how much I loved nature, books and stories. I wouldn’t have known these things if I didn’t have all of those experiences and been open to new things.
Get involved in any kind of activity that appeals to you – As I mentioned, I grew to love nature as a child. That love motivated me to establish a nature retreat called Woodsmoor. We host artists and students from a university outside of Nashville so they can benefit from the restorative power of nature. That’s where I get so many ideas for my business and get recharged to serve our clients. If I didn’t know about the power of nature, I wouldn’t have such a strong source of my inspiration.
Explore all kinds of interests – Oftentimes, the ideas I apply to business come from completely unrelated topics. To design digital displays for a museum, I will get as far away from a computer as possible. I’ll escape technology and get back to nature. Or I’ll read great novels. Sometimes the more unrelated the topic or experience, the better the solution to a problem. So explore all your interests. Find out what helps you come up with solutions and new ideas.
Travel – The college budget is not always conducive to travel, but I encourage everyone to explore the world as much as possible. You can’t come up with new solutions when you’re a solitary island surrounded by the same scenery every day. Even today, I maintain a travel budget for the employees at Anode. Taking trips to events, museums, conferences and digital art installations can help our team discover new solutions to daily work challenges.
Meet all kinds of new people – New people expose you to new ways of thinking and even more new experiences. When I first arrived at Adrian College, women had to wear gloves to Sunday dinner. By the time I left, we were hippies protesting Vietnam and participating in the feminist movement. My twin sister and I went to Adrian together. She got involved in the feminist movement when it began. So, I got involved alongside her. If not for her connections and her social circle, I may not have understood this important time in our cultural history. I wouldn’t have developed an understanding of the challenges women face in our society and how I can play a role.
All this advice has a moral… Enjoy the process of discovering and building your passion. Having fun and meeting new people right now is important for your development. It was important for me because I learned how to understand other people’s points of view. My norms were challenged, and I developed more respect for other cultures and ideas. I learned that others could teach me and make me a better person.
Having fun now also helps you experience passion. That way you won’t just settle for a job in the future. If you’re passionate about something, it will become your purpose and your vocation. Finding your passion will help you at that moment in your professional life when you stare in the mirror and ask yourself “what am I supposed to be doing for a living, and what is my career purpose?” I’m confident you will be prepared to find the answer to that question by having fun and pursuing new ideas now. I think I found my answer, and I feel lucky to have the opportunity to pursue my passion every day. I hope my advice can help you achieve that goal too.
In the next post, we cover college Lesson #2: Find the Spark and Pursue It.
This post is part of a 5-part series: