A quick story:
While standing in line on the day of high school graduation, I asked a friend standing in front of me,
“What do you wish you did more of?”
His answer astonished me,
I asked, “why?”
He said something along the lines of,
“I wasn’t worried about my rank, I did well in my classes, and gave myself the time to do the things I wanted to. ”
I wished I could say the same but I couldn’t.
I was a mess in high school. I worried too much about my grades, my rank, and getting into college. I didn’t know what I was doing. No one told me what I should have been doing or how I should have done it. I felt alone and scared.
For most immigrants, this is the case.
Navigating the school system alone as a first generation student is one of the hardest things I’ve done in my life.
Fortunately, you’re not alone.
Here’s what I wish someone told me:
1. Find the magic and understand the tricks.
When we’re young and see things for the first time, they seem like magic.
Computers, internet, cars, planes, skyscrapers, movies, and more…
How does it work? Who built it? Why does it exist?
Understanding the tricks starts with asking the right questions.
Don’t ever be afraid to ask questions about how something works. Find the answer. If you’re unsatisfied with it, build the alternative.
“When you grow up you tend to get told the world is the way it is and you’re life is just to live your life inside the world.
Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family, have fun, save a little money.
That’s a very limited life.
Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.
Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.”
2. You’re not lost.
When we’re young, we often feel like things aren’t going a certain way.
This feeling often arises when there’s a bump in the road: lockers not opening, getting bad grades, friendships not working out.
In times of hardship or when things aren’t going a certain way, we should remember that there is no “path” and whatever hardship you’re facing will pass.
Ten assignments in one week, five hours of volunteering, three tests in one day?
As daunting as this may sound, the key to getting through it is starting.
Don’t look at the entire list, focus on putting one foot in front of the other. Taking one step at a time will get you through it.
“You’re not lost, you’re just early in the process.” — Gary Vaynerchuk
3. Focus on the habits, not the goals.
Contrary to popular belief, most things in life are easy.
Do you want to be healthy, get a 4.0, and a scholarship to college?
The way to do it is by having patience and discipline. Start to build both in high school, and it’ll help you for the rest of your life.
By studying every day for 3–4 hours at a set time, sleeping well, and eating right, you’ll never have to pull an all-nighter. I know it’s much easier said than done. I struggle with this myself.
“For me the starting point for everything — before strategy, tactics, theories, managing, organizing, philosophy, methodology, talent, or experience — is work ethic.” — Bill Walsh The Score Takes Care of Itself.
4. Take care of yourself.
We often neglect to think enough about ourselves.
We often overestimate what can be done in a day, week, or month and underestimate what can be done in a year.
Don’t just do things. Understand why you’re enjoying them, not enjoying them, and how to make them better.
Always remember what you’re in control of:
“Things you control:
- Your effort.
- Your beliefs.
- Your identity.
- Your actions.
- Your attitude.
- Your integrity.
- Your thoughts.
- The food you eat.
- How kind you are.
- The media you read.
- How reflective you are.
- How thoughtful you are.
- The people you listen to.
- The type of friend you are.”
5. Think for yourself.
To think for yourself, you must go against the grain. Don’t follow the advice of others, question everything, and make your own decisions.
Understand that the people around you are well-intentioned, but also know that you see something that they don’t.
No one else is in your shoes. Only you know what’s best for you.
Remember not to shy away from the hard decisions. By making these hard decisions you’re thinking for yourself.
Keep this in mind when making hard decisions:
“Hard choices easy life, easy choices hard life.” — Jerzy Gregorek
Here’s one of my favorite passages on this topic:
“Indefinite attitudes to the future explain what’s most dysfunctional in our world today. Process trumps substance: when people lack concrete plans to carry out, they use formal rules to assemble a portfolio of various options. This describes Americans today. In middle school, we’re encouraged to start hoarding “extracurricular activities.” In high school, ambitious students compete even harder to appear omnicompetent. By the time a student gets to college, he’s spent a decade curating a bewilderingly diverse résumé to prepare for a completely unknowable future. Come what may, he’s ready — for nothing in particular.
A definite view, by contrast, favors firm convictions. Instead of pursuing many-sided mediocrity and calling it “well-roundedness,” a definite person determines the one best thing to do and then does it. Instead of working tirelessly to make herself indistinguishable, she strives to be great at something substantive — to be a monopoly of one. This is not what young people do today, because everyone around them has long since lost faith in a definite world. No one gets into Stanford by excelling at just one thing, unless that thing happens to involve throwing or catching a leather ball.”
– Peter Thiel. “Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future.”
Don’t be like me.
Remember to have fun.
Be grateful for the opportunities and people in your life.
Be yourself and don’t have anything to regret on the day of graduation.
– Your Brother ❤️