Important Lessons I learned at MIT

Although my MIT education was full of a very diverse set of experiences, I wouldn’t say that everything I did was amazing or fantastic, or that I couldn’t have been successful without having learned certain things.  However, there are a few particular things I learned at MIT, inside and outside of the classroom, that have served me well and will hopefully continue to do so after graduation.  At least, I think that they will.  Here are a few of them:

1) There’s usually a lot more to a problem that can be initially appreciated. This is a lesson I learned inside and out of the classroom.  The thought that I understood all there was to a problem was one of the easiest way for me to fail.  Always keeping my mind open to other possibilities was one of the most important things I learned in college.

2) One of the biggest mistakes we make is to not make the most out of the resources we have. This was something difficult for me to learn.  I used to believe that there was some sort of value in being able to say “I did all this by myself,” but really, no one cares.  At the end of the day what matters is what has been achieved.  If you learned how to use Maxwell equations by yourself and someone else did it in half the time by going to office hours, there’s really nothing for you to be proud of, you should have made better use of the teaching assistants yourself.  Don’t get me wrong, I still think there is great value in doing things yourself, but only if that will allow you to acquire skills that you wouldn’t obtain otherwise.

3) Overcommitting is the easiest way to do a mediocre job at many things, and not feel good about your work, VERY often. After a good semester in college, I had this overcommitting syndrome, or however you may want to call it, and I tended to want to take on the world all by myself. I would want to do sports for 10+ hours a week, and work for another 10+ hours, while simultaneously undertaking a courseload that was expected to consume 60+ hours of my week.  I would then end up doing a mediocre job at everything, and up until today I feel bad about some of the decisions I made.  The only thing that I’m glad about is that I learned from those experiences.  I learned to do as much as I can do and feel proud of, but no more than that. If I can take on 5 things and be proud of none of them, I would rather do 1 to 3 and feel proud of everything I do.

4) There’s MUCH more to life than our surroundings. This is probably one of the most important lessons I learned.  Most of us tend to live in a bubble, in which we only think in terms of what is immediately around us.  It only takes a shift in our mindset to realize that those tormenting problems we have, the ones that consume our life and energy, are silly tiny details we have chosen to focus on and don’t compare to the blessings we have received in this life.  A simple trip somewhere else, or conversations with people outside the environment we are surrounded by, are usually enough to make me realize this truth. 99% of the time we take ourselves too seriously, and think that our problems are bigger than they truly are.  We need to relax, chill.

5) Balance can be tricky, and I’m not just talking about work-life balance. Many problems I encountered with regards to bringing balance to my life were not related to work.  I actually had more issues making time for myself, rather than committing all of my time for extracurriculars, academics, and friends.  I realized that having some time to unwind, clear up my thoughts, and simply reflect about life, was one of the most important things I learned to do during the past 4 years.

6) Most, if not all, of our limitations are self-imposed. Over and over I found myself making excuses as to why I didn’t achieve something, or performed at a certain level, just to find out later on that my excuses were vague, empty and meaningless.  There was someone out there facing worst circumstances and still pulling off the results I didn’t.  This taught me to re-evaluate myself, my actions, and thoughts.  Once I started removing obstacles from my head, just like magic they disappeared from my life.

Although there are many other things I have learned, this is the first installment of things that came to my mind as the most salient lessons I have learned.  I hope you enjoyed them.  If you happen to have any reaction, comment, idea, thought, etc.  please leave a comment.

Thank you, Omar

Published by Omar Eduardo

Passionate about building great products; Product Manager @ Google; ex-consultant @ Accenture; MIT chemical engineering graduate

2 thoughts on “Important Lessons I learned at MIT

  1. agree with all of these, but i saw 1 and 2 and thought, “man, i could've written this.” i don't think i can coherently express how much i struggle with these, even now, but at least i can recognize that these are problems i have, and that i'm glad that i'm not the only one who thinks about this.


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