6 keys for success for the new graduate

There are so many young adults either graduating high school or college right around this time. Its refreshing to think about. Its been 8 years since that was me and man a lot has changed. If I could go back and live those 8 years I would certainly have done things differently. In this post I will share the keys to success that I wish I would have known way back when.

I wouldn’t say that I have regrets because the experiences I had made me into the person I am today. However, maybe I could have gotten here a little faster with some pushes along the path!

I’m not saying I’m not happy with my life. I’ve accomplished so much! I’ve gotten married, had two wonderful children, grown my career, started a side hustle (thank you for reading), made progress on my financial goals and have grown as a person so much.

You know what? I’m not satisfied. I have put myself on a path for greatness. Of course this is greatness as I’ve defined it and you should have your own definition. Here I’ll lay out 6 things I believe new graduates should do not only right now but continue to do throughout their life.

Some may disagree with some of the words below and that is more than fine. One thing I do know is that I haven’t once regretted the hard work, the early mornings or the sacrifices I’ve made to get here. I’m on a path to become the best and hardest version of myself.

Seeing that growth fuels me. It fuels me to become even better. To go more all in on life.

Why should I care about keys to success

Some people will read the words below and think, that seems a bit strict. Where is the fun in life? I’m not saying don’t have any fun. My key point is all about the path.

This path of health, wealth and happiness we all WANT to be on sounds great. However, once we are off the path life is just too comfortable. Its too easy. Staying off the path is easy.

keys for success

Reversing the bad habits. The partying. The spending. Reversing these things is too difficult. The longer you’ve been off the path the harder it is to find your way back on.


What does all this mean? Figure out your why. Ask yourself questions about the future. Where do you want to end up? Wherever you want to end up, put yourself on a path to get there.

How do you move yourself along this path? Lets find out.

#1 Work hard and get after it

If I had to choose the most important key to success it would be to work hard and get after it. This is becoming more and more rare in today’s society and working hard may be the single best way to both make progress on your path as well as set you apart from your peers.

All the heroes you look up to now have been at it for at least a decade, oftentimes longer. Growing up I was a huge Kobe fan. He gave a speech after accepting an award that explains it better than I ever could.

Most people see the finished product of professional athletes and it think they just get handed the success and the championship rings. What they don’t see, as Kobe alludes too, are the two a days, the early mornings, and the sleeping in your car.

The greatest part about it is that others have said all this before. If you are in your low 20s and you just graduated the single best way to say this is that your actions need to match your ambitions. Again, more successful people than I have said this much better than I ever could.

Because this is so important I wanted to get a little more granular with this. What does getting after it look like?

Discipline yourself to get up early

Getting up early is something that countless successful people do. Whether you want to have a successful military career, business career, become wealthy or deepen your connection with your god, it pays to be up early.

Getting up early is a great way to get a start on the day and knock out your most important tasks or work. This discipline will also lead to other beneficial habits.

Stay in shape

It is easy to not stay active after college. Typically the college experience provides easy access to workout equipment as well as easy ways to stay active with other people your age.

When you get out in the real world both of these things take initiative to accomplish. Whether it means doing bodyweight work at home, getting a pass to the gym or joining a local soccer league its important to stay in shape.

If you are physically in shape you have more energy, will live longer and will feel more confident about yourself. It isn’t about getting jacked and working out to blaring music. Staying in shape is about developing the habit of physical activity to support a long life.

Take Action

Become known at work for someone that takes action. Sure its important to evaluate your options and be strategic but taking action is something that most people either don’t want to do (because its hard) or they are scared to do.

What if you mess up? What if you don’t do it quite right?

It doesn’t matter. Take action.

#2 Be patient and play the long game

The second key to success is all about waiting. I hate to say it but the millennial generation tends to want things now. We have seen our parents thrive financially over the past decade or so and think that is been so easy. We didn’t see the twenty years before that where they were working hard and saving.

As millennials we want progress now. My best advice is to play the long game. Great things don’t happen overnight. Of course social media isn’t helping either. It makes it seem as is everyone is living a great life while we are stuck at home hopefully waking up early and getting after it. Trust me, their life isn’t as great as they make it seem.

Don’t expect that raise or that promotion. Don’t expect the great financial windfall. Understand that greatness takes time. No I’m not talking months or years. I’m talking decades.

In the video below Gary Vee talks about how importance patience is.

The more patient you can be the better your future self will appreciate you. Trust me.

#3 Stay Focused and Don’t chase the rabbit

You know what fools do? They try and capture two rabbits at a time. Imagine yourself trying to run around your backyard trying to do this. You’d look like a fool right?


Then why do people do this with their time and energy?

I’ll never forget the period of my life after graduating college before I had my first child. I got involved coaching a baseball team, volunteering for a non-profit and being on the alumni board of an organization at school.

Of course, at this time I was also a husband, trying to stay in shape  and trying to do my best at work. Sounds like a lot right?

You need to stay focused. If you are going to be involved in something you need to be all-in. I’m not saying don’t have a life outside of work. Get involved in things. Just don’t overdo it. If you are going to volunteer or coach or whatever your passion is, just choose one thing.

As a young adult its easy to get involved in everything under the sun. Stay focused on the path you’ve set yourself on and let very little, if anything, try and take your attention away from that.

#4 Become a learning machine

Most people, especially recent college graduates, believe that they leave their learning days behind them at school. This is 100% completely wrong. You are just getting started.

To be successful in life, regardless if how you define success, you’ve got to continue learning. The beauty of this situation is, there are countless ways to learn. Additionally, there a countless number of topics to learn about.

Here are a few ways I use to learn nearly every day:

Paula Pant’s Afford Anything podcast should be at the top of your list

What to learn about you ask? Dig deeper into topics that will have a long-lasting impact on your life like personal finance, being a better spouse, or how to have better health. You could also learn about work related topics. You could even pick a hobby and dive deeper.

The important thing is to keep learning and keep growing. Push your boundaries. If you don’t keep growing you may grow stagnant.

#5 Keep living like a college student

I’m going to sound like an old man when I say this but it absolutely the truth. If I’ve seen it once I’ve seen it a thousand times.

Kids (yes I’m old) graduate from college and think they’ve got all the money in the world. They buy a house thats too big, they buy a car thats too much or they go out every weekend.

Don’t do that.

Keep living like a college student. Did you have fun in college? (I’m sure you did) Did you have money in college? (I’m assuming not as much as after you graduate).

The longer you can keep your expenses low the better off you’ll be. Keep delaying gratification and playing the long game.

The longer you can push off enjoying the fruits of your labor the better off you’ll be. I’m not saying you have to live like a pauper. Enjoy life. Just don’t make it about having the nicest things.


My wife and I have been married for the better part of a decade and the combined age of our cars is 16 years. We live a great life. We just don’t put a big priority on having the nicest things.

#6 Hoard cash like its your job

I’ll be the first to admit most people will disagree with this. That is more than fine. One reason I’m so partial to this is because I did this very same thing when I graduated.

I wasn’t throwing every last extra cent I had at my student loans. Gasp! I saved up every penny I had and just held it in cash. When the pile got to be big enough I typically paid off a student loan.

I paid cash for the first car I bought as an adult. That was a pretty cool feeling.

I’m not saying be stupid with your money. I’m simply saying having cash gives you options. It gives you the freedom to kick the decision down the road. Don’t worry about optimizing every last dollar or investing in index funds with every last penny.

Focus on the big rocks. Keep your lifestyle down. Work hard. Grow yourself. If you focus on these things you’ll end up just fine.

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