November 6th, 2009

11 Things I’ve learned since graduation – Top 2

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In December, I graduated from Babson College with a focus on entrepreneurship and renewable energy. I graduated in December because I took a semester off from school to travel. I extended my study abroad term for an additional 8 more months. I traveled throughout Argentina, Chile, the USA and Bermuda, and crewed on a schooner for a month. Here’s a picture on deck in Norfolk, Virginia.

sailing

Since December, I have learned, observed, or noticed a number of things that have helped me both personally and professionally. Most of these realizations fall under the umbrella that I like to call ‘things that I always knew but never really knew’. What I mean by this is, there are a lot of things that we learn from a young age that are considered ‘common sense’ but that you really don’t understand until you feel or experience them.

I’m going to publish these in multiple posts but here’s the whole list of the most important things I’ve learned.

  1. Love to learn
  2. There’s always opportunities – but you have to look
  3. You’ll never do it right the first time
  4. Everyone is afriad
  5. Act! Perfection is not the goal (and it’s the enemy)
  6. Love People
  7. Persistence is key – you don’t have control
  8. Direction vs. Efficiency
  9. Sales is Like Dating Women
  10. It will take more time then you thing
  11. Someone is always watching

1) Love to learn

Obviously, learning is the only way to improve, to develop, and it’s a great way to meet new people. However, I’ve noticed that there is a HUGE difference between people who learn reluctantly, and those who seek it out.

I learned this when I graduated college. When I finished college, I loved it. Don’t get me wrong, I love to learn, but I was never one for school I found it too constricting. When I graduated, I quickly became bored and realized that I enjoyed college because of how it easy it made learning, constantly being in touch with amazing professors and events. I realized that in the ‘real world’ out of college, you need to force yourself to learn. I began to create my own personal schedule based on things I wanted to learn or improve upon. I tried things out and found out what I really liked. It’s been hard and its a constant struggle, but It’s always hard to try new things.

The key is to learn proactively by determining what you are interested in and push yourself out of your comfort zone. Once you become comfortable, you need to push again. I learned to snowboard when I was a kid, my friend Hugh who taught me used to say,’if you’re not falling down your not trying hard enough’ and the same applies here.

It has created many benefits for me. Loving to learn has made me look forward to every conversation I have and every experience, constantly trying to seeing what new piece of information or insights I can gather. I’ve met TONS of cool people, people that I never would have met if I only hung out with the same friends and watched TV all the time. It’s made me more interesting, I’ve had more experiences and perspectives and can hold conversations about a broader range of subjects.

Since graduating, I’ve started drumming and blogging. Music is completely new, everything is a struggle but its really fun. I’ve always wanted to improve my writing, learn about technology, voice my opinion, and connect with like-minded people and blogging is my project to do this.

Here’s how to make a ‘learning’ schedule:

  1. Create a list of things that you are interested, passionate, or curious about. If you can’t make a list, try harder, its there.
  2. Find and go to places to learn about the subject. Anything will do; schools, informal meet ups, non profits to volunteer, for profit companies. A couple things I found helpful include, asking friends, using facebook and twitter, or meetup.com. Without a doubt you should be able to find a group in your area on meetup.com that is centered around the interest you have. The key is to go regularly, participate, and you will eventually meet new people.

2) There’s always opportunity – but you have to look

There is one certainty  in the world, things are always changing. Change creates opportunity. So, you need to prepare yourself to take advantage of change. When I say opportunity, I’m referring to a very broad definition, not just making money. I define opportunity as there are always opportunities to help someone, make a friend, start a company, get a job, have fun. The more opportunities you take advantage of the more opportunities will present themselves.

There are two ways that I have found to always be ready for and take advantage of change and opportunity.

1. Change your perspective

The hardest part is seeing the opportunity. I have noticed that having more perspectives and ways of looking at situations will make it easier to spot the connections and opportunities.

When I was in college I felt the number of opportunities in the world had a limit. I felt if I helped someone, I would do worse. If someone was starting a company, there would be less companies for me to start. This way of thinking leads to a lot of jealousy and its not true.

That changed when I first tried to start a company and while I was looking for my first job along with all my friends. I realized we were all in it together and I started helping everyone I could. The more I helped people, the more knowledge and resources I gained to help other people. When you help people, they like you, and they will help you in the future. The larger your network and friends the more opportunites you have and so on, you get the point.

2. Get your hand in a lot of pots.


I’ve noticed that the more information and types of information that I am consuming the more opportunities I see. The information can be from the news, your friends, blogs, or hobbies. For example, every week I skim through blogs on at least 7 different subjects and I remember the important stuff. If one of my friends expresses interest in one of these subjects, I refer them to the blog. Boom! I just helped someone, and people always remember when you help them.

If you’re interested in seeing more opportunities here’s an exercise for you to try that I’ve done:

  1. First, think how many information sources you currently learn from. How many different newspapers or blogs do you read? Where do you volunteer? What types of meetups do you go to?
  2. Find 6 different information sources to start reading every week and 1 meet up to go to.  When I say read, skimming is okay. I read so much information I don’t have time to read it all and I’m sure you don’t either.
  3. A couple times a day reflect on something that has happened and analyze how it could have been an opportunity for you. If you didn’t take advantage of it this time, it will prepare you the next time. The more you do this, the more you will see everything as an opportunity.

Three questions for you:

What are some things that you always knew but never really knew?

Do you think you are a reluctant or active learner?

Is it easy for you to see opportunities?

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Chris Williams

About Chris Williams

Chris Williams is the editor of Green Light Distrikt and Chief Marketing Officer at HeatSpring . He has experience in business development, prototyping and new venture research with a focus on geothermal heat pumps, solar thermal and solar photovoltaic technologies. Chris is an IGSHPA accredited geothermal installer and NABCEP certified solar installer. Chris is focused on solving customer facing issues in the creation and adoption of clean energy technologies and products. Chris has installed over 300kW of solar and tens of geothermal systems. He's invented the PV Pal , developed many trainings at HeatSpring, publishes the NABCEP Study Guide , the Hitchhikers Guide to Cleantech and has done due diligence research for Urgent VC . Feel free to connect with him @topherwiliams , on Linkedin , or through email about new ventures, collaborating, writing, research or whatever is on your mind.