As the semester wraps up, it’s hard not to reflect on the successes and setbacks you’ve experienced along the way and how they’ve changed you.
In less than two weeks, I’ll be skipping across the stage at graduation to shake hands with Dean Ceppos and receive my master’s degree in strategic communication. To people sitting in the audience, this is a seemingly simple act. To me, this fleeting moment symbolizes 6 years of blood, sweat, tears and tenacity – minus the blood and sweat. I’ve come to realize that after the celebration is over and everyone goes home, it’s not the diploma that matters, but the experiences I’ve gained.
During my undergrad and graduate career, I’ve made more mistakes than I can count, but I also learned from all of them. Hundreds of tiny moments can make a big impact. So, before I say farewell to the Manship School, I’d like to share 3 lessons I’ve learned that can be applied to almost any area of life.
- Your comfort zone isn’t doing you any favors.
“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”
– T.S. Eliot
I’ve learned that more often than not, staying in your comfort zone is hurting you, not helping you. You can conjure up one hundred reasons to limit yourself – or you can think of three solid reasons to march forward into the land of the unknown. Leaving the comfort of the expected is just as scary as it is necessary for professional and personal growth.
Pushing boundaries can be as simple as socializing with a group of people who are smarter than you or as intimidating as giving a TED Talk in front of hundreds of people for the first time.
Since most people are creatures of habit, I’ve learned that the best way to kick your comfort zone to the curb is by keeping diverse company. Surround yourself with people who are ridiculously smart. People who can teach you things that you may not realize you needed to be taught. People of different ages, different personalities, interests and careers can provide a fresh perspective, and more importantly, countless opportunities to grow and push the envelope.
- The best leaders are humble leaders.
“Humility is the mother of giants. One sees great things from the valley; only small things from the peak.”
I’ve come to understand that pride and confidence exerted in small doses, when appropriate, is a good idea. But, usually it’s best to let your work ethic and talent speak for itself. This is because overconfidence can hinder your capacity to learn and grow in all aspects of life, especially as a person and in your chosen field. It’s all about striking a balance. It’s okay to acknowledge (at least to yourself) that you’re not the smartest person in the room. Put aside your pride to ask the question you’re afraid to ask. Only then, will you be open to learning as much as you possibly can.
Leaders who demonstrate humility tend to be more accepting of other people’s ideas and points of views. As a leader, it’s important to be decisive when a situation calls for you to think on your feet, but it’s even more important to not only listen to the input of others, but to value it, making their words feel heard and appreciated.
Be responsive to the needs of others, especially in a team environment, and you’ll reap long-term benefits. Admit mistakes when you make them. Owning up to your mishaps shows that you’re only human and want to correct the situation. People tend to jump at the chance to help others who want to help themselves.
Take every opportunity to learn from others to better yourself. Learn how to take constructive criticism with grace and acceptance to avoid becoming discouraged. It’s common for professors and bosses to practice different methods, while expecting different, sometimes even conflicting, results from you. Try to find a middle ground by learning from every low grade, comment, edit and red pen mark that you encounter, so you can eventually forge your own path.
- Tenacity + Grit x Resilience = Success
“I look forward to getting knocked down because it’s a chance to stand back up and show life the grit from which I’m made.”
– Chris Holmes
Grit can be defined as having “courage and resolve; strength of character,” despite unpleasant or harsh circumstances. Some synonyms for grit include raw endurance, perseverance, backbone, determination, spirit and passion.
Years ago I practiced gymnastics competitively and had to learn new skills on a 4-inch surface that, at the time, seemed life threatening and made my heart pound at the thought.
Fear is 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical. My gymnastics coach drilled that quote into my head hundreds of times. At the time, I used tenacity, grit and resilience to push through my fears so I could master new flips and twists that had once made me want to run screaming for the hills.
It wasn’t until grad school that I truly experienced the power of that formula again. During the last two years, my limits and mental capacity were continuously tested more than I thought possible. I also found myself in the fetal position more than I feel comfortable admitting. But, by pushing through the fear of failure and the unknown, I was able to resurface on the other side as a stronger person.
While I’ve always been a hard worker at my core, grad school has truly taught me how to persist under an overwhelming amount of self-doubt. And odds are, I’m better equipped to handle all the struggles life will continue to throw my way.
My advice is to learn how to overcome setbacks with a strong drive to seek solutions. Never give up on your goals and your dreams when the going gets tough. Persevere when all of the odds seem to be against you, because it is those moments in which you’re truly tested that carry the most weight.
“She was unstoppable, not because she did not have failures or doubts, but because she continued on despite them.”
– Beau Taplin
Whether you’re graduating, just starting college, or gaining entry-level experience so you can land your dream job, just remember to stay humble, push your limits, and that Tenacity + Grit x Resilience = Success.