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There are a handful of major transitions most people make in life. We all start with the transitions within our adolescent years of school from a certain grade to the next leading up to high school graduation. All the changes college and college life brings (freedom and responsibility all at a whole new level). Finally followed by college graduation, for most one of the major life achievements gained. Later there could possibly be marriage, children, and family life. Of course in all of those years there could be many, many, many vocational changes (statically, people will transition from one job to the next every 18 months).

These transitions go on and on and on, yet, one of the most difficult ones goes back to the transition from college to the life beyond. Many feel that they are ready and fully equipped to tackle life only to have that dreamy bubble burst in their hands only moments after putting away the cap and gown. This often leaves one asking the question, “What now?” or even, “What’s next?” These questions and others are hopefully addressed and even answered with what follows.

Dr. Mark Rutland, former president of ORU and now founder of the National Institute of Christian Leadership, expressed it like this, “You might think you’re smart when you get out of college, but I suggest that the real education is only just the beginning.” In other words, there is much gained by the four to five (dare we say six or seven) years of undergrad learning.  Nevertheless, there are many things that a classroom or laboratory or role-playing exercise simply cannot prepare you. Some things must be experienced first-hand to truly be learned from and understood!

Therefore, to better prepare you for life beyond the college years, here are 20 things I wished someone had told me thus helping me make the transition smoother and more enjoyable.

  1. God designed you to be a steward not an owner. Don’t hold things too tightly. Those who are blessed with abundance have open hands not clinched fists.
  1. Not every hill is worth dying on. Some things seem important in the moment, yet have no lasting value. Step back. Be introspective. Then chose wisely.
  1. Who you are is more important than what you do. A Christ-centered identity is a must. This allows you to do a great many things with joy and excellence.
  1. Leadership is stewardship. It comes and goes. It is temporary. But in all of it we are held accountable. Act wisely and people will follow you anywhere.
  1. You will fail. So allow yourself to fail well. Weakness is a sign you are human, not a failure. Learn from your mistakes and press on. Experience is the greatest teacher of all, since there is no such thing as a wasted experience.
  1. Put all the energy you can into developing your strengths. Stop trying to fix all your weaknesses. Focusing on your strengths will increase your confidence and your drive. “When a leader grows and gets stuff right, everyone wins,” teaches Bill Hybels, founder of the Global Leadership Summit.
  1. Be generous. Serve as often as you can. Give as lavishly as you can. Generosity not only blesses others, but also transforms the lens of which we view all of life. Generosity is one of the greatest attributes that will compel you to turn your attention and resources outward instead of inward.
  1. Building character permeates all areas of your life and wellness. Spend more time developing a solid character, so as you increase, your foundation sustains you through the many transitions (expected and unexpected).
  1. Forgiveness doesn’t always fix the damage caused by our actions. The outward heals quicker than the inward. Learn to have a greater tolerance of others (personalities, ideas, quirks, etc.).
  1. Teams are always better than individuals. We all have strengths that bend us towards individuality, so focus hard on being counter-cultural by adding your strength to a team. Your strengths enhances the team, and the team’s collective strengths counter your weaknesses.
  1. Learning is greater than education. Leaders are learners. Getting an education focuses on making the grade, while learning focuses on being inquisitive, learning for learning sake, and embracing true growth. Combine the two in a healthy balance and you will succeed. Oh, and never stop learning…ever.
  1. Pay off debt as soon as possible. Learn to delay gratification. Always remember your parents worked for years for the top dollar things they own. You will not start out with and you are not entitled to having the best for the get go. Work is required.
  1. Be flexible. More than likely, your plan and your back up plan and your back up to the back up plan won’t quite pan out like you envisioned. Allow setback to open your mind to new possibilities you would not have encountered otherwise.
  1. Laugh often. It’s okay to be serious and focus on success, yet if you can laugh in the face of failure and success, your life will be a whole lot more tolerable and enjoyable. Surround yourself with friends who encourage you to live, love, and laugh.
  1. You make your own place at the table. Some get by with slacking because of whom they know or whom they are related to, but the majority of people do not have such luxury. Work hard to demonstrate why you belong at the table.
  1. Do not despise small beginnings (Zachariah 4:10 NLT). Education doesn’t trump experience, while experience that comes with age is no proof of superiority. Nevertheless, you are not entitled to anything. Entitlement has no benefits. Begin where you can, learn the process, and work in excellence. Those entrusted to the small things eventually gain a voice and place at the table of large things.
  1. Don’t let your platform grow larger than your character. There is nothing wrong with taking life slowly. If you have cracks in your foundation you miss as you hustle blindly towards greater success, time will only tell when the platform comes crashing down.
  1. Success is relative to your situation. As Mark Batterson so aptly defines success, “Do the best you can with what you have where you are.” So don’t let culture define success for you. Stop and ask what success looks like for you in your present situation so you can rightly plan for your preferred future.
  1. Prayer is not an option. It is not a nice platitude. All relationships function on communication. Never stop communicating with your source, Jesus Christ. The benefits of prayer transcends into every segment of life. Prayer takes you beyond the level of your giftedness into the level of God’s supernatural giftedness – where fruit is produced.
  1. Grace, Grace, Grace! Grace is the supernatural ability to accept what is instead of woefully longing for what could be. Grace allows us to set down in the messiness of life and see the beauty of the Lord in the midst of brokenness. Grace is the core ingredient of living out contentment, which leads to a healing of not only the body, but more importantly the soul.

So my prayer for you is a one that is centuries old, found in a small letter written by a pastor to those he led and loved. It is a fitting verse of Scripture to conclude a teaching on living a thriving life through the college years and life beyond college.

Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.” 3 John 2 (NKJV)