A good friend recently shared this video of entrepreneur and venture capitalist Mark Cuban giving his advice to high school students and college graduates. There are some great insights here on the financial and opportunity costs of college, but one piece of advice toward the end particularly struck me:
“Don’t expect to have all the answers and don’t expect to get the perfect job. Go out there and out there and get paid to have different experiences. It’s OK to jump from job to job [. . .] You are getting paid to learn. Flip it, and then use that to build your knowledge, learn more about yourself, learn how to learn a business, and see where it can take you.”
Cuban is highlighting an important fact. There is tremendous upside to being young and little downside to reversible error early in life. People in their late teens and early twenties are free to experiment in ways that most younger and older people are not.
The irony is that their educational institutions rarely let them discover that fact. Many young people probably don’t already have full visions of what they want to be and do immediately upon high school graduation, but college admission essays, scholarships, and majors reward committment to known career paths. If they are admitted, college applicants discover another irony: full knowledge of their future career is encouraged to cooexist alongside a deferral of any test of that knowledge or experience of that career.
If you are in this position, you should know that you don’t have to surrender your right to experiment and learn. Take a gap year, write a book, raise a herd of water buffalo, start a business – find out where you are most creative and hungry to learn. No one expects anything of you now, especially if you don’t play by the rules. Take advantage of that underestimation to do something relevant to your life and values. In other words, prove them wrong.
Note: This video contains some strong language.