Ever since April, I’ve been in a rather reflective mood, and I think it has to do with the fact that four years of university literally flew by. My parents always told me that time flies by, but it really didn’t hit me until a month ago when I started seeing people post their graduation pictures and future plans on social media. Anyways, as I was strolling down memory lane thinking about all that’s happened, I realized a couple of important things and I thought it would be really interesting if I bundled those important realizations into a series of bite-sized pieces of practical life advice. I think this blog is perfect for those who are just graduating high school and are about to start university as well those who are about to start a new chapter in their life, whether it be graduate/professional school or even a new job. I also think my future self is going to appreciate me writing down these tips, so it’s a win-win for everyone.
Understand The Game You're Playing
The game I was originally playing when I started university was the future doctor game. Deciding to play this game basically dictated a lot of my university decisions. It dictated what clubs I would join, the types of things I would study, and it even dictated my thoughts regarding others. Now, there’s nothing wrong with playing the doctor game. In fact, anyone who knows me can tell you how much I love and appreciate doctors. The problem was that I never made the conscious choice to play the game. I was just playing it because everyone around me was playing it.
I played the doctor game for three years and for the most part it was pretty fun. I met some smart people, and I even kind of enjoyed the toxic competitiveness around grades and extra-curricular experiences. That said, it never truly excited me. At the moment, my dream would be to run a successful startup that reduces global suffering through some new innovative biomedical solution. It’s also my dream to not be tied down to a certain location and be able to be anywhere at any time. This is a game I deliberately chose to play. Yes, it’s very optimistic and risky, but it excites me and makes studying and learning difficult things in my free time feel worth it.
The truth is there is no right game to play. At the end of the day, I think we’re all seeking to live a life that excites us, makes us happy, and is purposeful in some sort of way. The major takeaway from this story is that the earlier you consciously decide to play a certain game, the more time you can spend playing it and actually enjoying it. It’s also important to note that the same game isn’t fun forever. It’s important to pick a game and get really good at it, but it’s just important to know when you want to play a different game.
Ask Yourself How Hard Should This Really Be
Stop making hard tasks seem harder than they actually are. Essentially, whenever you're really struggling with something ask yourself "how hard should this really be?" Then ask yourself "how hard can this be?" Lastly, ask yourself "what would this look like if it were easy?" The reason for doing this is actually more straightforward than you think.
Let's say your first big break. You got into a top tier university or you just landed your first big job. You're going to think it's a big deal and that it's going to be really hard. By convincing yourself that something is hard, you're going to sabotage yourself by acting in a way that mentally makes the task feel harder than it actually is. That said, by asking yourself the questions I wrote in the paragraph above you can stop approaching things as if they were really hard, which ends up making things a lot less stressful and a lot more enjoyable.
I got this tip from Ali Abdaal. Ali, if you’re reading this, thanks for the videos!
Be Friends With Different Types of People
A core friend group is essential. They just make life more fun and over time they end up feeling like family. However, that doesn’t mean they should be the only people you hang out with. For starters, if all you do is spend time with the same group of people, you’ll eventually get bored of them or they might get bored of you. Secondly, if the group has been together for a long time, everyone’s “role” or “identity” in that group has probably been solidified. Thus, if you want to change yourself or present yourself in a different light, then they may not be able to pick up on it or they might not take the “new you” very seriously. Lastly, there are a lot of different walks of life out there and you’ll never be able to properly grow if you don’t take the time to go and meet other people.
Throughout university, I had an amazing core group of friends and we practically did everything together. The problem was that we were all in the same program and we always did the same things. We studied in the library most days, went to the club or some party on weekends, and occasionally went and did some activity like mini golf or bowling. Now I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with this. In fact, I think most friend groups operate on some sort of repeating cycle. That said, in order to meet new people who were out of my program and vastly different than I me I did the following:
1. I joined a fraternity.
I never considered myself a “frat boy”, but joining a fraternity was probably one of the best things I ever did because it gave me a family of people that were unpredictable and very unique. Through the fraternity, not only did I gain new perspectives, I learned that it’s possible for people to be family even when their world views and concepts of fun don’t align.
2. I started taking Brazilian jiu jitsu classes
There’s nothing that scares me more than fighting, and that’s exactly why I decided to take jiu jitsu classes. After I got over the initial fear of wrestling people, I actually really started to enjoy going. More importantly, everyone who came to the classes had different backgrounds. Some people were in law school, some were in the arts, and some were engineers. Wrestling and the drills we were all forced to do pretty much took out all the awkwardness there would normally be when it came to talking to people who you didn’t think you would have mutual interests with. What’s even more fun is discovering that someone who you thought didn’t have anything in common with you actually does.
3. I played music at random bars and tried hanging out with the other performers
It’s no secret that I love music. Ever since high school, I would spend as much time as I could performing wherever I could. This led me to meeting a lot of people who were a lot older than me and a lot of people I could confide in and talk with because music is such a personal thing. Funny enough, it was actually through music that I got my first gig as a hospital research assistant because one of the party attendants asked what I was studying in school.
Anyways, there’s a lot of ways you can meet people, so challenge yourself to do different things with different types of people. This way you will always be growing and you’ll never get bored of the same people because you’re always doing different things with different people, and what’s even cooler is the fact that you have the power to introduce people and connect different groups of people together.
I hope you found my reflections useful. The truth is there are a lot more tips and realizations that I wish I had learned when I was younger. This was just part 1 of a series of those tips and realizations. Be sure to subscribe to my email list for my more personal newsletter and to stay up to date for when the next blog comes out. Also, I think it’s safe to say that university is a total roller coaster ride. If you have any things that you learned during your time in university that you think should be heard by others, send me an email or connect with me on social media because I’d love to share your tips and lessons with my friends and readers.
Honorable Mentions From My Friends:
A couple of weeks ago, I created a submission column on my instagram (@farshadmurtada) and asked people to submit tips or things they would tell their younger selves. Below are the submissions:
I'm Farshad. I'm an undergraduate health and medical science student 🔬, musician 🎶, and productivity nerd 🤓, who's currently researching vaccines as a potential form of cancer treatment. In my spare time, I enjoy learning and exploring new ideas in the world of science, technology, and philosophy. I'm also always exploring new ways to help myself and others live better, happier and more meaningful lives.