Advice from the past

I started my summer off with a heavy dose of nitrous oxide and four cavernous holes in my mouth. My wisdom teeth had overstayed their welcome, and the orthodontist finally did me the pleasure of yanking them out. For the next few days, I was couch-ridden and responsibility-free. With more time on my hands than I knew what to do with, I decided to write a manifesto of sorts and called it “Thoughts from the End of Freshman Year.” Near the bottom of the doc, I wrote some key takeaways and advice for my future self. I’ve posted this little list below with the hope that you’ll be able to take something from it as well.

  1. You have lots of free time; it’s just spread out across little wasted chunks.
  2. Don’t be afraid to take on big projects. You’ll always be able to make time for them if they’re important enough to you.
  3. Make sure you sign up for courses that teach you more than you could learn by reading the Wikipedia entry for the class’ title.
  4. Linger after class and get to know your professors. A quote from writer Yishai Schwartz:

    The best of what I learned from my professors didn’t come in the lecture hall or the seminar room, or even in office hours. It came in the half-hour after class when most students had dispersed, but a few of us lingered in the hallway. Classes and appointments are scheduled in advance; you enter with a plan and leave at an appointed time … There’s no hand-raising or phony pontification in the hallway. Professors let their hair down and engage, and you learn what they really believe, enjoying the freedom to press and push.

  5. Newsflash: you learn a lot less at 9am if you go to bed at 3.

  6. It’s very hard to remember your state of mind at any given point in time and very easy to overestimate your ability to remember your thoughts. Write them down.
  7. You’d benefit a lot from trying to implement Google’s 20% time into your own life. Set aside time for side-projects, and stay curious.
  8. Don’t waste time in philosophical debates with close-minded people.
  9. Every day, ask yourself “What do I want to accomplish today?” and “What will ‘future me’ wish ‘present me’ would have done today?” Pre-empt regret.
  10. Forming new habits is hard. If you plan on doing so, make sure you pick out a time in your schedule that will work for you no matter what. Find someone else to hold you accountable.
  11. You will not “have more time next week/month/semester/year.” Ever. If something is important to you, do it now.
  12. And lastly, a quote from Mark Twain:

    Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”