I recently graduated from Indian Institute of Technology, Madras. Here's 8 lessons I learnt from my 8 semesters and stories of how I learnt them so this is not some lame vanity post.
Semester 1: It's a big world and trying everything, even lying outside your comfort zone is free. Be open to talk to everyone and make tonnes of friends. Semester 8 will teach you why its important. I picked up this lesson while borrowing 300 from a hostel guard to pay for pizza at 3am, attempting failed jokes at open mics and also while countlessly sitting in club orientations. It's always a good time to suck at new things :)
Semester 2: It's college, you can sign up for tonnes of things and asking anyone for help is free - people genuinely want to help. I learnt this while being disciplined and trained by the legends of the Raftar Formula Racing team as we championed 3 national trophies against all odds. Discipline and accountability take passion and convert it into wonders.
Semester 3: Just build projects that teach you skills you find cool. Persistence and hard work will help you trump all odds to be good at what you love. Maintaining motivation is 2/3rds of the game. Sitting in a COVID ridden world, using my neighbour (Jay Bafna's) WiFi to learn software development and making dumb projects like todo apps taught me that just inching a little closer to ambition. Preferably start an online presence of you that tracks your work well - write about your work and share
Semester 4: At this point, I'd say start taking bets on yourself and bold risks is the best - you're young - what's the worst that could happen? I learnt this core lesson when I decided to leave home and work at Farmako (YC S20) with a different set of legends. Having very little resources and pure hunger to survive and succeed over 9 months taught me a lot about the brilliant impact a small determined set of people can have on the world. Be stupid, take more bets. You're young and smart - you'll figure it out
Semester 5: You'll see a world of people who seem to have figured it out and gotten it right. But most of us are just winging it. I'd say at this point, just being real with a couple friends and still believing and taking bets is the hard path. I personally learnt it through shit tonne of mistakes, self-doubt and pain and tears that 2 things in life mattered - I was working on something I cared about, and I was around people I loved. I follow this principle to date. Not caring about a lot of external stimuli is a superpower you can acquire by just self-assessing.
Semester 6: You're growing now. Tension is building up and you're probably expected to have figured out life. You don't. In fact it's a good thing if you've failed over 3-4 times by now - it means you're trying and getting back-up enough. Having a vague idea of how you want to spend time - that's something I'd recommend having. A good idea here is take up something, and no matter how much it pains, see it through completion. Working with Logistics Lab, IIT Madras and Coursepanel taught me that enduring and reaching the finish line is way more important than procastinating for perfection or giving up midway. That's a major differentiating factor too.
Semester 7: You're probably multi-tasking at this point. Become boring, routine-driven - use a calendar and documentation tools to string multiple tracks together. Write a lot - it helps unclutter the mind and think clearly. I know it's boring but having control over how your time, energy and money flows by writing stuff down goes a long way. It helps aim long for a year and piece it down to what you and your team need to do today. I learnt this while helping Institute Technical Society (TechSoc), IIT Madras frame its vision from to 1700+ participants, 14 events and countless projects. I learnt that small tasks with directed effort moves mountains.
Semester 8: It's your turn to give back now. Now your old friendships will blossom and it's time to be ready for new ones. Be there as a mentor your junior self would have appreciated. Preferably take up a position of responsibility that's undervalued and difficult and lead a team through and through, no matter what it costs. I think the Inter IIT Technical Meet at Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur where we went from stranded on a railway station to nailing medals in Kanpur (2000 miles away) in under 40 hours.
Most lessons are not my own and have been taught to me by amazing amazing mentors, friends, family members and I'm undeniably grateful to.
This blog won't solve your problems - hell, mine also took a fuckload of meanderings before I got to understand them. Think of it as more like - not repeating my fuckups. College is a mix of confusion and opportunities, wins and losses - in a short time frame so screw everything and feel free to ping me anytime if you're going through something and need a ear. Listen to all this - but the best part is - don't do it like me, do it like you. 😉
Ole ole Alakananda !