”The engineer has been, and is, a maker of history”.
– James Kip Finch
Congratulations, you recently or are about to graduate! You think you have reached the peak, but in reality you are only at the base of the tallest mountain of your life. What you have to realize is that you have made quite an achievement, but compared to what awaits you, it’s nothing. Your biggest challenges still lie ahead.
Indeed, you are well prepared to begin your career in engineering or in entrepreneurship. However, you will need to address the many other challenges in life for which you are not really prepared.
In this article I will talk about the challenges you will encounter in the coming years. I will also give you the keys to success. Life happens at the speed of a bullet train, and this article will help you avoid a major derailment by making you aware of an important approach that includes all spheres of your life.
What should be your main goal?
In the years after your graduation, you will undertake the most tumultuous period of your life. Your college education has prepared you for your career. However, you have received no training to address problems in other areas (see wheel of life below).
Your main goal should be to have balance and be successful in all spheres of your life, not just in your career in engineering or entrepreneurship.
You are ready in only one category out of eight. However, to have a well-balanced life filled with success, you will also need to address the problems in all categories.
As an engineer, you can appreciate the complexity of this problem. But don’t be discouraged because it’s a nice problem for which I will give you strategies.
What will be the next steps in your life?
Now that you have a better overview of all aspects needed to achieve balance, I will introduce other variables in the equation.
The wheel of life is constantly present in your continuum of time. In this continuum, every human being evolves through phases and natural steps. For example, in the childhood phase, we go through the following:
- we learn to walk;
- we learn to speak;
- we go to primary school;
- and so on
Most of you are currently in the natural phase called “early adulthood”, which is between the ages of 20 and 35 years. The next phase is called midlife (between 35 and 50).
In early adulthood, you will cross the five traditional bridges to adulthood, shown in the table below.
This hectic period is called “enterprise”. It takes a lot of enterprise from young adults to fulfill their many responsibilities in this phase. You become truly independent compared to the previous steps of your life, when you depended on your parents. This is a very big responsibility for which many are not well prepared.
(20 – 35)
(35 – 50)
|Five traditional bridges to adulthood
Many repeat this cycle following a relationship breakdown
Creation of debt:
Acquisition of home, furniture’s, cars, student loan.
Reduction or increase of the financial burden
Reflection on the meaning of life
To succeed in your life, you will need to do much more than simply go through these natural steps of evolution, as explained in the following sections.
What will be the major issues?
There are three major issues that you will need to take into account in this hectic time.
Issue # 1: Since almost 50 % of your time will be spent at work, it will be difficult to keep your life in balance.
Issue # 2: Up until 25 to 30 years, the path is very clear and you just need to follow the natural steps: we go to the school, one year after another, we follow a well-established program, we cross the five bridges. In midlife, however, there is a period where the path is not so clear, especially when it comes to your personal life. This will become problematic for many people because there are no real markers, no program, and no curriculum.
It is during this period that a major derailment may occur:
- Poor quality of relationship with significant other, children, or friends.
- Separated family with huge negative impact on children.
- No direction in life! No purpose!
- Career stagnation.
- Financial struggles, excessive debt/ out-of-control expenses
Issue # 3: The 3rd main issue during the early adulthood phase begins after formal education. Most people don’t start their personal development which would give them the tools to meet the challenges generated by the two previous issues.
As you can see, the problem has become much more complex with the understanding of the natural phases. You are now in a better position to appreciate the challenges you will face in order to succeed in all aspects of your life. The task may seem daunting, and it is, but it is achievable. The following sections will provide solutions.
What are the challenges?
Previously, I mentioned that your main goal should be to have a balanced life and achieve overall success. To do this we must first understand what these challenges mean, so let’s define them:
Work-life balance is a concept that supports the efforts of employees to split their time and energy between work and other important aspects of their lives
As previously mentioned, about 50% of your time will be spent at work, therefore you can understand why this will be a major challenge.
The second challenge is achieving success, so let me offer you two simple definitions of success:
Being successful in one sphere of your life simply means that it gives you pleasure and happiness in the short term and benefits in the long term.
There are five levels of success as described in the following figure:
Let’s see a few examples describing each level:
Physical activity such as biking brings short-term gratification or happiness. It also provides long-term meaning because it helps your health in both the short and long term. Therefore, it would be classified as SUCCEEDING.
If you think your job is okay but not great, and that you will grow in it but it will not have a significant long-term impact, then it would be classified as SUSTAINING.
Watching television might be interesting in the short term, but it’s not particularly meaningful in the long term (unless you are watching something that is life-changing). Therefore it would be classified as STIMULATING & SATISFYING.
During your school years, there are many mandatory ’’useless’’ topics we have to study. We don’t like it but we know that in the long term they will contribute to getting the diploma or degree. Therefore it would be classified as SACRIFICING.
Working in a job that you don’t like (like 70% of the work population, according to recent surveys) but helps you pay the bills would be classified as SURVIVING since it only provides low amounts of short-term satisfaction or happiness and low amounts of long-term benefit or meaning.
“Success is nothing more than a few simple disciplines, practiced every day; while failure is simply a few errors in judgment, repeated every day.”– Jim Rohn
Success is also the ability to solve problems. The bigger problems you will solve in your life, the more success you will have.
Peter Diamandis, Engineer/entrepreneur and executive chairman of Singularity University, said:
“If you want to become a billionaire, solve problems that will impact a billion people.”
So what is the solution?
The solution to deal with these issues is to undertake personal development.
This is what I call the third education.
The first is the formal academic education that has prepared you for your career as an engineer.
The second is the continuing education that allows you to keep abreast of cutting-edge innovations in your particular field.
The third form of education that should not be overlooked is personal development.
Because the first 2 types of education fail to address the problems of early adulthood and midlife in the other categories of the wheel of life.
Jim Rohn has shown the power of personal development by saying:
“Formal education will make you a living; self–education will make you a fortune.”
Indeed, formal education will get you a job but it is not sufficient to ensure success and balance.
When Jim Rohn speaks of wealth, he does not speak only of monetary wealth. He talks about all the true riches of life as the richness of your experiences, your relationships, discovering your potential, and so on.
What are the skills required to achieve success?
The skills that I propose will be useful both at work and in your personal life.
Here is the list:
- Leadership (Responsibility, Values, Vision, Mission, Goals)
- Emotional Management
- Communication (this will determine the quality of your relationships at work and in your personal life)
- Time Management
- Financial Management
This list may not be complete, but it is nevertheless a very solid base to improve your quality of life.
Why learn those skills?
The application and mastery of these skills will help you achieve work-life balance and success. This will also allow you to be well-equipped to overcome the problems and hardships that you will encounter.
Imagine you’re a high-speed train, and the wheel of life is the engine of your train and the railway infrastructure. It is necessary to do the maintenance on each component in order to avoid mechanical failures. We cannot neglect any of them. In the continuum of time, your life will take place very quickly but it will be necessary to go through all the steps and stop to do maintenance on your train and your infrastructure. If you neglect these steps, there will be major breakdowns and even the possibility of derailment.
These skills to achieve success are like your own maintenance program and the tools you need to ensure that your train and infrastructure are working well.
LEADERSHIP is about influence. The biggest challenge in leadership is leading yourself. Therefore you need to know yourself. You need to take responsibility and become proactive for what happens in your life. You have to understand that you have much more control than you think you do, and avoid the victim mentality. You need to clearly know what your values are. You need to develop a vision (know where you are going) and a mission (find a cause) for your life. You also need to establish goals to help you move toward your ultimate self. It is about taking charge of your life and having a plan.
Your engineering studies helped you to understand that to achieve a significant goal or complete a project, you need a strategy, and concrete plans/drawings to achieve your goals. Your life can be approached in the same way, with strategies and plans.
You need to be able to MANAGE YOUR EMOTIONS because they influence your DECISION-MAKING process, your COMMUNICATION, and your relationships.
You need to learn to MANAGE YOUR TIME and make the most out of your days, weeks, and years in order to have a successful and fulfilling life.
You also need to MANAGE YOUR FINANCES well. If you don’t, you will struggle all your life. Managing your finances well will remove a lot of stress and it will help you focus on building your life. Managing your finances well will lead you toward financial relief and then to financial freedom.
During the tumultuous period following your graduation and the beginning of your career, the personal development sphere is often one of the most neglected. It must become a priority as it is what will ensure success in other spheres, since it will enable the learning of the skills necessary to solve problems and to have a plan to build your future. The application and mastery of these skills will help you achieve balance and success.
While it is important to have plans, strategies, and tools to be successful in engineering, it is also essential to have them for your entire life!
I wish you the best for the future!
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