October. The temperature is cooling, people have begun donning sweaters (in some states), and there’s this holiday feeling that starts to rise up inside of you.
And then there’s December graduation.
For the last four years (or five in my case), most undergraduate students have lived life in a protective bubble. The greatest challenges may have been which electives to take, morning or afternoon classes, and maybe where to work over the summer. However, with graduation fast approaching for many students, real choices now exist. Is it going to be entry-level work, the pursuit of a master’s degree, making a move to a big city, moving back home? All of these choices can make this season of your life feel pretty complicated.
I have some news for you – these choices do not end once you complete your undergraduate education.
I recently made the large decision of leaving a great job at the innovation consulting firm, Kalypso, to return to school and earn an MBA. I remember attending a weekend event at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business where Dean Robert Bruner offered us a quote:
“Go where you believe you can do your best work.”
Sure, makes sense – go somewhere where you’ll be able to do good, don’t go somewhere where you’ll do poorly. Some would say it’s almost common sense, but I think there is a great deal of meaning behind those ten simple words.
First, look at the word “Go.” Go is not a choice and go is not a binary option. Go is a call to action. You must take an action, make a choice and move yourself physically into the new area of your life. And when you arrive, you must truly be there. It’s like a game show – you must be present to win. Your mind can’t wander back to that old place, wondering what might have been and thinking of all of the fun you could be having elsewhere. When you make the conscious choice to move – to go – you must dive head first into the deep end, choose to perform and choose to believe.
To me, the word “believe” immediately elicits notions of a higher power that guides your actions and decisions – but I think it’s sometimes just as important to believe in yourself. You are the most powerful person in this equation; if you believe in yourself you can achieve anything you desire.
Lastly, it’s about “best work.” You should always be pointing yourself in the direction of your calling. Yes, you will have to work some jobs along the way that are not necessarily what you envisioned, but you should always be pointing yourself in the right direction, not straying from the path for fear of getting lost. If you are doing your best work, your work will ultimately improve the lives of those around you. If you are doing your best work, you will be fulfilled.
So whether this season of your life is filled with the happiness of graduation from high school or university or perhaps you’re mid-career and the next opportunity is staring you in the face, the advice is all the same: Go. Believe. Do your best work. Strive for your absolute personal best and pursue excellence. But first, you must go.
Matthew Priest is currently pursuing his MBA at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business. When his nose isn’t in the books, he enjoys competitive running, country music, attempting to be the next Emeril Lagasse, and working with student leadership organizations like the Stelos Alliance. Hailing from the booming East Texas metropolis of Lumberton, Texas, Matt enjoys the fact that he drives a truck, knows how to two-step, and talks with a Texas drawl. Yee-Haw y’all.