What I Learned From College Commencement

Binghamton University Commencement

I’d like to apologize for my lack of posts lately. Having just graduated, I’m in the midst of a storm comprised of both rapid change and activity. I’ve finished classes, graduated, moved out of my apartment, moved back home, re-packed, moved back to my college town, and am preparing to begin full-time work next week. It’s been pretty hectic; this is my first chance to have a few hours alone at a computer in quite some time. As I write this post, I’m also reviewing my bucket list to update a few items I just realized I’ve completed during my college years.

If you recall from my last post, I applied to be the student speaker at my college commencement ceremony (I didn’t get it). In the process of applying, I was asked to create a draft of the speech I would give and read it in front of a panel. So although I didn’t get the honor of speaking (the student chosen over me was very qualified and delivered an excellent speach), the process of aggregating the lessons I’d wish to impart unto other students was a very valuable process in of itself.

So instead of letting my thoughts go to waste, I decided to re-post the speech I would have given in the hopes that others may benefit from it. Although there is some humor and specifics referencing my particular school (Binghamton University), the main lessons are applicable to all students and I believe college seniors and recent graduates will find the advice relevant and actionable. Enjoy!
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Failure & Success: The WiseResume Story




I’ve always believed in exploring opportunities at every turn. As Seneca once said, “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” But at the same time, if I see opportunity and I’m not quite prepared, I go for it anyway. This results in plenty of demotivating failures. But as I’ve said before, you must fail to succeed. In the past few months…

I’ve failed at becoming commencement speaker.
I’ve failed at becoming recognition ceremony speaker.
I’ve failed at being hired at Google and numerous other companies.
I’ve failed to win multiple scholarships I applied for.

But for all of the opportunities that didn’t pan out, there were also some major wins. One of these wins is WiseResume.com, which started because I chose to take an entrepreneurship class last semester, even though I was swamped with work and had no good ideas to contribute to the class.

Eight months later, not only did my business idea for a community-based resume critique website win the business plan competition that went along with the class (which also secured us seed funding), but we’ve been able to find a very skilled web developer and have finally reached the stage where we can launch our idea to the world. We just launched WiseResume.com today, and I encourage you to check it out if you’re a student or young professional that would be interested in having a community of other students and professionals help you with your resume.

This big win in my life didn’t come easy though. For example, three of our team members, who were all brilliant and had unique skills, had to leave us because their graduation plans weren’t in line with continuing the WiseResume project. The loss of their strengths has made continuing forward all the more challenging.  But we never quit.

So this post is half of an inspirational message and half of a request for you to check out something I’ve been working very hard on for eight months. If I’ve inspired you, great. If you check out WiseResume.com and find it to be valuable, also great. If both occur, even better! All in all, jump on opportunities whenever they arise (even if there is some risk involved), learn to ignore the failures you experience, and focus heavily on the big wins in life. Happy opportunity hunting!

Personal Development Happens Everywhere

There seems to be this long-standing myth that personal development is an activity that’s separate from your normal activities. This makes sense if you can only see personal development as a set of isolated activities that include, for example, books on motivation, podcasts on positive attitudes, or seminars on success. Although this is one route that can be taken, it takes a certain type of person (ahem, like me) to sit through seminars, pour through stacks of books, and follow many blogs and podcasts on the subject.

Aside from the occasional book on personal development, most people will do just fine extracting personal development lessons from their everyday life.  And yes, these lessons all around you. From the conversation you accidentally struck up while on line for coffee or that sci-fi thriller novel you started this morning during your commute to work. The problem is, most people aren’t paying attention to the lessons that they can learn from everyday situations. By understanding that there is so much to learn from every conversation, every book, every movie, and every encounter, you can begin learning valuable lessons that have previously passed you by. In fact, I’d argue that the observant person who can extract the lessons from daily life will learn more than someone who sits at home and reads personal development books all day.

To show you what I mean, here are examples of books, movies, and even a comic series that I’ve read/watched in the past six months, and some valuable lessons in personal development that I picked up from each:

Watchmen by Alan Moore – Without experiencing uncertainty and the emotional highs and lows that go along with it, we are no longer human. The greatest pleasures in life are just so because we’re not guaranteed them.

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller – Conflict, pain, and/or discomfort are required for you to live a worthwhile story. Have you ever watched a movie where the main character had everything go perfectly the entire time and experienced no conflict, pain, or suffering? I doubt it. When you look back on life, you want to be able to reflect on and appreciate all of the hurdles and challenges you overcame.

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas – When we’re trapped by our situation, the only proper course of action is to learn more, develop new skills, and challenge ourselves until we’re strong enough to reinvent ourselves and alter our circumstances.

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin – When an individual takes responsibility for their own learning, holds themselves accountable for ethical and virtuous behavior, works harder than his peers, and understands how to interact with other people, success will always be nearby.

The 40 Year Old Virgin – It’s never too late to change your life circumstances. Just surround yourself with friends who are willing to help you and be ready to persevere through embarrassment, failure, and doubt.

Do you think there are plenty of people who read the same books and watched the same movies as me and didn’t take any of these lessons to heart? You bet. Don’t be one of those people. The best lessons in life are free and readily available to those who are paying attention.

image via americancorner