College Won't Help (Much)

This is a guest post by Matthew Williamson, my new Chief of Staff for the The EDGY Empire. He's a sharp dude -- and he practices the #1 rule of Waldschmidtland: "Don't Be Lazy...". He's an accounting graduate with a good sense of business and all things EDGY.

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One year ago today, Dan Waldschmidt spoke for the premiere business organization at my university in South Carolina (of which I happened to be president). It’s hard to overstate just how much of an impact that event had on me. He lit a fire under both me and my officers that propelled us to more than triple our single-meeting attendance record as well as quadruple our average meeting attendance figure throughout the rest of that school year.

While I learned a truckload in college, that was all tested when I entered the big, bad “real world” after I graduated in May.

Now I'm not writing to bash the educational system as completely pointless. College was necessary to get me where I am today, but much more of life is learned outside the classroom than inside. After applying EDGY to my own post-grad job hunt, I started working for Dan in July.

Look, I’m not the brightest college graduate in the history of college graduates, but I’ve learned a few gut-punching lessons I didn’t pick up in college...

...although that might’ve been because I didn’t listen as closely as I should’ve to some of my professors. Sorry, Dr. Garris.

Lesson #1: There are very few black and white “right” answers.

In college, you solve the math problem, write the paper, or take the test, and you walk out with a definitive score. The questions are generally set up with only one right answer. Black and white. Nice and easy.

Except that’s not reality. Even in just a few months, I’ve learned that most of the time, there are almost always multiple equally good options. An educated guess is about the best you can do. Do you offer this product or that product? Choose this design or that design? What are your prices? How do you handle shipping costs? What should you say in this particular situation?

Analysis seems to only get you so far. At the end of the day, it’s just your logic against reality. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and sometimes you tie because you're unsure if there's a better way even if you're experiencing some success. You can never really be sure until you just go for it.

Lesson #2: Success is painful.

It’s hard. I mean, really, really hard. It hurts.

I sort of knew this in college. Judging off of grades, I did well. I worked long, and I worked hard (but more on that later). The pain of those long nights pales in comparison to how tired I feel coming home from work on an average day now.

Most of the time, I’m exhausted by closing time -- I can barely take the next step, let alone go for a run. I’ve realized why Dan always advocates the importance of automating as much of my life as possible. The less I have to worry about remembering to do something like get groceries or manage my finances, the more my mind is freed up to focus on other important areas like trying to maintain my relationships with friends and family.

I enjoy reading biographies of Silicon Valley legends like Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Paul Allen. While their biographies touched on how difficult it was building a billion-dollar company, I always thought of those events in awe. I admired them. I just never realized how gruesome it’d be.

Every fiber of my being fights for the easy. I have to continually discipline myself to obsess over the details because my input directly affects more than just my grades. If I forget to proofread copy on the website, I don’t lose points on an assignment—we look like morons and could lose sales (if you find any errors, let me know. It’s a big pet peeve of mine). Getting sales tax laws wrong could spell serious IRS trouble, not a poor test grade. If we get our inventory management wrong, we’ll have stockouts and lost sales galore.

Lesson #3: You always have time to give.

I was a selfish workaholic in college. I sacrificed so many friendships because “I had homework to do.” Actually, I was once told that if I were dating a girl, and she were in the hospital dying, I probably wouldn't go because I would be too busy working. That statement wasn't entirely wrong. See, some people are gym rats; I was a library rat (though there’s certainly nothing wrong with reading). By the time I graduated, I was averaging about 70 hours/week between classes, homework, work, and other extracurricular activities (not counting intramurals).

To those of you who put in more because you’re also putting yourself through college, I commend you. You’re far more awesome than I am (which, admittedly, isn’t hard to do).

Sure, I enjoyed giving most of the time, but I mainly only gave when I had the time or it’d benefit me. Or if it didn’t benefit me, I usually grumbled about it later. That wasn’t EDGY. That was being a jerk.

After graduation, I moved out to Dallas, TX. Since I was working remotely, and I’m not built to work all day from home, I found the best co-working space in the state of Texas—Common Desk. As a member, I’m just expected to make a new pot of coffee if I see it ran out during the day.

But I try to live EDGY now, and part of EDGY is giving big. I won’t just make a pot of coffee during the day, but I’ll unload the dishwasher if I notice it’s clean throughout the day. In fact, putting on fresh coffee and unloading the dishwasher has become part of my morning routine, no matter how busy I am. I’m not trying to brag here. I actually look forward to unloading the dishwasher and making coffee in the morning. I’ve discovered that helping people first thing in the morning is a great way to start the day. It puts you in a good mood. It’s a great reminder that it’s not all about me and the stress that I have going on.

Of course, I wouldn’t say I’m an incredibly generous giver by any stretch, but I’m trying to improve.

It’s been one year since I first met Dan, and it's certainly been a wacky year. I learned so much in college, yet I know there's still much to learn.

Game on...

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Dan here: "Game on, indeed"... What's your dishwasher to empty and coffee pot to fill? It's the small stuff and often goes the most unnoticed -- until it doesn't. He's on LinkedIn here & Twitter here. Matthew is here guarding the details for us each day. Which is pretty damn awesome. Pick up your sword. Go find your dragon to slay.

Attitude, BusinessStephen Palacino