Tagged: College

Open Letter to a College Freshman

Dear New College Student,

You are about to embark on one of the craziest adventures of your life.  College will be a blast and it will change things.  You will change and transform.  You’ll probably change your major once, or 3x like me.  You might fall in love.  Or out of it.  The question is who will you be after these 4+ years?  What will happen to your inner person?  What about your character?  Here are my TOP TEN things you need to know.  In no particular order:

  1. You matter. Your life matters. What you do for the next 4 years matters.  Your decisions have consequences.  You are shaping who you will be for the rest of your life.
  2. You were meant to change the world.  You aren’t totally sure about this but let me confirm what you’ve already been feeling—you were meant to make a difference.  You were meant to have an impact.
  3. Use these next 4, 5, 6, or 7 years to find out who you are.
    1. Invest some time in your spiritual growth.  Does God exist?  If so, what is God like?  “Who is God?” might be the most important question you answer in life.
    2. Find your “yoda” or even a couple mentors that are a little older and a couple steps ahead of you.  Learn everything you can from them.
    3. Find out what matters to you and what you are excited about.  Try all kinds of stuff, not drugs or anything weird but different interests, organizations, clubs, etc.
    4. You have certain innate talents that make you feel alive.  Explore and develop these. Find out your strengths, weaknesses, passions, blind spots, liabilities.
  4. Learn how to study
    1. Only cram on stuff you don’t want to retain.  Then ask yourself the question why am I taking this class in the first place?
    2. Go to class.  Sit near the front (this will help you stay awake and pay attention).  If it’s terrible, study during class or do other work.
    3. Talk to professors and meet w/them.  Go to office hours and ask how to study and how to do well in their class. Know your class policies/how grades are determined inside & out.
    4. Go to review sessions.  Sometimes little “secrets” are given away.
  5. Learn time management – you only get one shot at life, only one time through.  Don’t you want to get the most out of life?
    1. Choose people over program and sometimes over being responsible.  Hey, you’re in college!
  6. Figure out a way to serve.  How can you give back?  It really is in giving that we receive.  That’s not just a cheesy line, it’s a profound truth.
  7. Sex is really, really good.  Actually fantastic.  But it is not to be trifled with.  It is not just physical and there is no casual sex.  It’s meant for 2 people who are committed to each other for life.  Recent research (see the book Hooked) has shown that the people who are the happiest are those who wait until marriage to have sex. Try and wait.  It will be worth it.  I promise.
  8. Meet everyone you can early.  Knock awkwardly on the doors of your hallmates.  Plan hangouts.  Take advantage of living in such close proximity to great people.  And don’t be afraid to make friends out of your dorm. Most of you will not live in a situation like this again. Everyone is waiting for someone to take the initiative.
  9. Don’t get a credit card. Don’t buy anything you can’t pay cash for.  Use your debit card for all purchases.
    1. Start saving and investing.
    2. But also don’t let $ hold you back from something you want to do.
  10. Be aware of your physical, emotional, and spiritual health.  Exercise.  Do intramural sports.  Go easy on the all-you-can-eat part of dhall.  Eating 3 meals at all-you-can-eat is a recipe for disaster.  Also, maybe don’t have dessert with every meal.  Sleep more than you think.

11. OK I lied.  I have 11.  Write down what you want to accomplish.  It can be dumb stuff but also some serious hopes & dreams.  Written goals are HUGE.  There is power in written goals. Who do you want to become?  What do you want to do?  Get some clarity on what you want to make of these next 4+ years.

GO FOR IT!  DREAM BIG!  TAKE RISKS!  And have a blast.  You were made for such a time as this.

–Pete Hardesty, former college student.




7 More Reasons You Watch The Bachelor

Bachelor gif Jojo what

Wow.  Last week was painful.  I can’t believe Ben is the champion of all Bachelors.  He told 2 women he loved them.  He didn’t need to.  He chose to.  Instead of one person being crushed after they got out of the helicopter (business as usual), it became utterly devastating.  Ben gave Jojo the most amount of false hope one can give—telling her he loves her.  This was unnecessary.  It was something he “felt” like doing.  It was wrong.  But somehow he was celebrated for it.  “I came into this not knowing if I would find love…but with you it WAS real…always.  I found love with you.  But I found it with somebody else more.”  Does anyone else have problems with this?  Maybe it’s in the definition of love.  Can you “find love” with 2 people at the same time?  That’s for a future post.  But for this week, onward.

7 more reasons you watch The Bachelor:

  1. You like to cringe. It is CRA-ZEE.  We want to see people do unbelievable things to win attention or win someone’s heart.  But secretly we wonder if we would do the same things.  (especially after copious amounts of wine and having an open bar 24-7).
  2. You are a hopeless romantic. We want to see this work.  It makes love seem so simple.  We love to see crazy dates that almost no one else will ever get to go on.  We want to see 2 people fall in love amid crazy circumstances and weird challenges.
  3. You are a voyeur. (and so am I)  We love to peek into people’s dates, intimate moments, conflict, make-out sessions, brokenness, and love life.
  4. You like to escape. It’s easier to talk about other people’s love lives than our own.
  5. You like to watch with other people. It is one of the few shows that people still watch live to be in the loop.  It is community-building and just plain fun.  It is as addictive as Chewy Spree, but much better for your teeth.  (one friend said she started out watching it reluctantly to make friends but got hooked).  It is the best water cooler talk and fodder for exciting conversation.
  6. It has a continuous storyline, even between seasons. It is so smart and savvy to use use people from the season before, because viewers are already invested in their “journey.”
  7. You get to judge and feel just a little bit morally superior with no repercussions. If we are honest, the show makes us feel a little better about ourselves.

Next week:  THE FIRST GUEST POST!!  Who will it be?  Drake?  Beyonce?  The Rock? Someone even better.  Stay tuned.


10 Ways to become someone’s soulmate (Part 2)

Bachelor soulmate towels

Thanks so much for all the feedback.  I really appreciate the conversation and dialogue.  I’ve gotten so many emails and texts back with ideas, articles, thoughts, opinions, disagreements, etc. and I LOVE it.  Keep them coming.  Check out Part 1 The first 5 ways to become someone’s soulmate. 

Here is one of my favorite thoughts from one of my favorite people.  Shari Gaffney writes about The Bachelor:

“The one (and maybe only) redeeming quality [of the show] is the ability to see how a person you’re interested in relates in a group. Often dating takes place in isolation ~ But how does that person interact with others?…Have I shared my idea?  Scrap the swanky Fantasy Suite and replace it with the Reality House.  This is where a mini-van littered with cheerios (rather than a limo or helicopter) picks up the couple and takes them to a house full of kids with the flu. They need to care for the kids, make dinner (and there’s no ABC stocked pantry) there’s a checkbook on the counter with very little money for groceries and a pet is running wildly around the house. Let’s see if they are still soulmates and can envision a lifetime together 🙂  That’s more like real life ~ haha!” 

I watched a little bit this past Monday and it was painful.  Caila was blindsided after she put herself out there and was vulnerable.  Onward.  The second 5 ways to become someone’s soulmate:

6. Be vulnerable. Be transparent.  Take risks.  (maybe not like Caila though.  I’m no expert but pretty sure it’s not good to tell someone you love them if they are dating 2 other people at that time).

7. Serve God. Give your lives away together.  Soulmate = soul alignment.   “Love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.” –Antoine de Saint-Exupery.  It is in giving that we receive.

8. Serve each other. Put a serving towel over your arm and follow Jesus’ example.  Learn their love languages—how do they give and receive love? Gary Chapman has a great book about this.

9.  Be grateful for them. Have a posture of gratitude.  Work hard to see and recognize the incredible blessing that a partner/companion is.  See the best in them.

10. Encourage them. Dream for them.  Have a vision for who they could become. Not just complimenting or flattery but look for the greatness and help to draw it out.

OK next week back to the Bachelor.  Why is it so scintillating?

In coming weeks:  Can you fall in love with the wrong person?  Can you be in love with 2 people at the same time?



Is there life after college? Advice for grads Part 4

Star Wars graduation

New talk Bob Mitchell’s farewell address at the 1990 All Staff conference is LIVE.

Check out the first 3 “Top 7” bits of advice for entering the real world.  WEEK 1.  WEEK 2.  WEEK 3. Now here are the last 7 tips and tricks.  The theme is professionalism.  One quick word before we jump into the advice:

With James Madison University’s graduation a little over a week away, many of the soon-to-be grads I work with experience deep bittersweet emotion.  Many have a sadness starting to envelop them.  Some of this is natural as they are moving away from newly developed lifelong friends but some is from wondering if their best times of life are over.  So many adults claim your best years are in college.  This is sad.  The rest of your life is downhill?  If you get married and if you have children, that time with your family is a slow, downward spiral?  No.  This is NOT TRUE.  Every season of life brings with it an increasing capacity for joy and experience.  As you graduate and enter the “real world”, your best years are yet to come!  Onward.

  1. Be early. EVERYWHERE.  Especially to work.  This shows people you value their time (as well as your own).
  1. You go from top dog to underdog in about 2.3 seconds. We often have an unrealistic perspective when it comes to finding a career. You want the job now that you will earn in 10 years.  That’s OK.  How do you get there?  Work really, really hard, be loyal, be a go-to person, and be unselfish at work.
  1. Dress up and be well groomed. Dress how you want to get treated.  When in doubt, shave and dress up.  Don’t give people any reason to doubt you.  You don’t regret overdressing (a couple taunts) as much as underdressing (people doubting your ability).  You don’t get a 2nd chance to make a 1st impression.
    1. Purchase 2 or 3 “ballin” outfits. These are high quality, correctly fitting, great-looking whole outfits that you can wear for all kinds of different occasions. They are worth the investment.  For the fellas, this also means one really good suit and one pair of really good shoes.
  1. Ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life. We are all very busy, but hurry communicates all kinds of negative things.  Prioritizing and precision are better goals.
  1. Write compliments down, share criticism orally. “Insults should be written in the sand and praise carved in stone.”
  1. Have a professional email and a professional voicemail greeting on your phone. Your potential new boss doesn’t want to email you at youwishyouwereme@aol.com or hear freestyle rapping on your voicemail.
  1. Figure out how to manage email. One of my mentors, Michael Hyatt, has some great articles on this.  Find one HERE.  Only touch each email once and only check your email a couple times a day.  That and social media/indiscriminate web surfing are the 2 biggest time wasters of the day.  Make sure that your social media accounts portray the image you want to portray.  One that you would be comfortable with your boss seeing and reading.  Once it’s on the interweb, it’s there forever.

Remember grads, your best years are ahead of you.  Great things are in store!  Many blessings on the journey.

What advice or counsel would you suggest to a graduating senior?



Is there life after college? 7 MORE tips for succeeding after you graduate

graduation game of loans


“If I went back to college, I’d concentrate on two areas: learning to write and learning to speak before an audience. Nothing in life is more important than the ability to communicate effectively.”  –Gerald Ford

NEW TALK LIVE HERE.  Part 2 of “How to Prepare a Message” by Mal McSwain is now downloadable. What are the 3 books that Mal recommends all Young Life leaders read?  What are the questions to ask as you write a talk?

I just got home from our second gathering with JMU seniors on this “Friday Eve” to talk about “Is there life after college?”  It’s basically life wisdom advice that I’ve gathered over the years.  Check out the first “Top 7” from last week HERE.  Onward to the next 7 tips and tricks.

  1. You must PRIORITIZE. Ask yourself “What’s the most important thing I should do today?” And then attack it with everything you have. Right away.
  1. Get in the habit of writing hand written notes. They are gold, especially in this digital age. GO THE EXTRA MILE IN COMMUNICATION.  Be clear and concise.
  1. You need somewhere that you write EVERYTHING down. It’s your hub, your headquarters. Doesn’t matter if it’s paper or in your phone or on stone tablets, but you need somewhere that is your brainchild.  Don’t commit to something unless you can enter it into your hub.
  1. Have a planning time for your week. Maybe Sunday night.  Maybe Monday morning BEFORE you go in.  Plan out every day in the morning. 10 minutes of planning will save an hour of time**
  1. Be early, everywhere! And bring something to read or work on (not just your phone). This will show the older co-workers and employees that you take yourself seriously and you take their time seriously.
  1. Cut back on possible hours to increase efficiency. Have you ever noticed that your work expands or contracts to the time allotted for it? For example, if you only give yourself a half hour to do all your email, you get it done.  But it could take 2 hours if you let it.
  1. Friendship looks a lot different in the “real world.” It is a little harder. Be the person at work or in your group of friends that organizes hangouts.  Even if you are introverted (just make it with less people).  If you want friends, be a friend.  You have to reach out.  Organize happy hours.  Have a dinner party.  It might take a couple of ill-attended gatherings before you find your crew.


What other advice or counsel would you suggest to a graduating senior?