Yesterday I was on an alumni panel at my law school for first year (1L) law student orientation. These students have three challenging but exciting and rewarding years ahead.
One of the questions asked of the panel was:
"What do you wish someone would have told you when you were sitting where these students are today?"
Here was my answer (more or less):
First: From where you sit now, you can do and become almost anything you want. There is a tremendous amount of opportunity ahead of you. How you navigate the years and opportunities ahead will determine who and what you will become. Take it from someone who has had the most unlikely career so far, but who also asked for every position and title I've had. It is an adventure...and one largely of your own choosing...and a lot of luck.
Second: Make your own luck. Remember, luck favors the prepared. It also favors those who work incredibly hard and are very self (and situationally) aware. So hustle, but be mindful and self aware in the hustle. And also be yourself. Unless you're a jerk. Then don't be yourself. Be less of a jerk. That's where mindfulness and self awareness comes in. But assuming you aren't a jerk, be true to who you are. This will lead you on the most rewarding journeys of all with the right people in your life who will value you, champion you, and will care as much about your success as you do. I am forever indebted to the great mentors in my life. I usually found them by asking for help and/or opportunities that felt right and were consistent with who I am.
Third: Remember that you can only connect the dots looking backwards. That's a Steve Jobs quote, not mine. And it is true. Whether you think you know exactly what you want to do or whether you have no idea at all, remember that every challenge and opportunity you struggle through is preparing you for what comes next. Find comfort in uncertainty. That's usually when you're learning the most important lessons. Remember that everyone struggles with insecurity - everyone. I've had an improbable, exciting, and rewarding career to date. One for which I am profoundly grateful. But as I've begun a new stage of my career, I'm in many ways just as unsure about what the future holds as I was when I was a first year law student. But I'm having more fun than ever, feeling good about the work I'm doing and the amazing people with whom I get to do it, and am incredibly excited about looking back on this time and connecting the dots in the future. I hope you are excited too!
Finally: Have fun. If you aren't having fun, you're doing it wrong.
Good luck to every 1L everywhere!