Reflecting on the past couple years, there are a few things that I’ve learned at the intersection of the professional and the personal. I was talking recently to a bright young guy coming out of undergrad and found myself giving to him the advice that I most desperately needed a couple months ago:
- The most important skills that come out of your first years in the working world are not so much narrow and task related as they are broad and emotional. They have to do with coping with mediocrity and monotony, with recovering from miserable days and discovering fresh stores of self, with crafting new means of motivation, with developing perspective, and appreciating the comedy and richness in the absurd dramas you’ll encounter.
- If you can make it through the day, you can make it through the week. That seems obvious to the point of being a refrigerator magnet truism, but there have been a lot of days that when I woke, I couldn’t see the end of; there was only the crushing weight of the things I had to get through. But then the day ends, and the morning’s impossibility gives way to the fact that you’re still breathing and nothing is broken beyond repair. You get up and do it again, and again, and next thing you know the week is over.
- Things can change remarkably quickly, in our inner emotional lives, and in the circumstances that we construct our lives in compromise with. Develop a capacity for differentiating between momentary internal crisis and real, potentially life-shattering crisis. Don’t build your happiness around small, passing events. I think the word for that is “Equanimity”. Practice it. Play a long game and ignore the noise. Few of your mistakes are likely to condemn you and no one achievement will guarantee you comfort.
This and other things from pep talks and graduation speech babble. [edited]