The most valuable asset to leave school with is not a high GPA or SAT score.

The end of the school year is fast approaching. And what a school year it has been! At graduation time I often reflect on my own schooling. It’s interesting to see just how much detail I can remember from that time. I can still picture where I sat in each class, the grades I received, and the number of times I laughed until I sprayed milk out of my nose.

The Numbers

There were a lot of numbers in school. And not just in math class. Do you remember your high school GPA? Or your class rank? How about your College GPA? Or your ACT, SAT, GMAT, LSAT, or MCAT scores? (If you had experience with BVDs, HPV or OPP you probably remember those too.)

Most of us have a pretty good memory for these scores. Because it is how we measured how successful we were in school. They represented the scorecard of academic success.

However, there is another number from our school days that is even more important to your long-term success and happiness. Very few people think about it. Almost no one has it memorized.

Perhaps the best indicator of long term happiness and success is the number of friends you make in school. While the overwhelming focus is on academic statistics, the great residual value of your schooling is measured in humans.

Me and some of my University of Wisconsin dorm mates. We had a pretty good time in Madison.

Chuck the Clique

It can seem cool to find your core group of friends and circle the wagons. Or to create an exclusive group. But that won’t serve you best over time. A much better approach is to become part of many different social circles. This vastly expands the total number of people you are exposed to. And if you volunteer to be a sketch or sculpture model for art classes you get exposed to even more people.

Me and some of my high school friends just before graduation. With t-shirts. And no masks. It was a simpler time.

Get Involved

There are a wide variety of high school and college opportunities that are ideal for developing long-lasting relationships.

  • Sports
  • Dance Team
  • Cheerleading
  • Band
  • Orchestra
  • Streaking The Quad
  • Clubs
  • Plays
  • Smoking In The Boys Room
  • Volunteer Programs
  • Yearbook
  • Food Fights
  • Homecoming Committee
  • Fraternities
  • Sororities
  • Epic Prank Planning
  • Class Trips
  • Outing or Adventure groups.
  • Special Interest Groups Of All Sorts
  • Breakfast Club
  • Detention
Me and my college track & field teammates. I am still in touch with many of these guys. We smile more now.

High School

In high school, make a point of knowing as many people as you can. Get involved in extracurricular activities. Introduce yourself to your classmates. Learn names. Meet the kids in grades above and below you. It is especially easy and beneficial as an upperclassperson to introduce yourself to younger students. Because younger students will highly value having older friends, who can drive a car, and grow a mustache like Pedro.

A high school graduation night party pic. We’re looking tough because we just slammed some Capri Suns.

College

In college, live in the dormitory for 2 years, or even become a Resident Hall Advisor (dorm leader). By doing this you are exposed to far more kids than you are living in off-campus housing by yourself or with a handful of roommates. Having hundreds or even thousands of other kids within your orbit on a daily basis vastly increases the total number of friends you are likely to make during that time.

Me and some of my college roommates revisited our off campus house several years after graduation. The wallpaper was still there. But they were out of paper towels.

Introduce Yourself

At parties and at bars introduce yourself to other people. Make a point of meeting someone new every time you go out. Then connect with them on social media too. Because social media is an easy and informal way of turning weak relationship into strong ones.

My college roommates at Dave and Angie Schatz’s wedding. (I have no idea if that is how you possess a plural word ending with Z.)

The Number That Really Matters

My GPA in high school and college was fine. My SAT scores were fine. But I know far more people than most people I know. And that has been one of my greatest advantages in life and business. And one of my greatest sources of happiness and fulfillment.

Me and my high school friends at our last class reunion. The guys with bad backs asked to be up front.

Key Takeaway

Make as many friends in school as you can. Because the benefit of having many friends lasts the rest of your life. And while there is little chance for you to Billy Madison your way to a higher GPA or class rank later in life, it’s not too late to make more friends. Make it a lifelong habit. Or hobby. Or both. Collect as many people as possible. Because at the end of our days the person who has made the most friends wins.

*If you know a student who could benefit from this message please share it with them.

How much does it take to make you happy?

Happiness can be elusive. So can peace, comfort and contentment. But when I was in college I regularly found a state of complete peace, comfort and happiness. It wasn’t alcohol or drug-induced. Although I did listen to Dr. Dre’s The Chronic more than this parent of 3 would like to admit. But I skipped the Gin, and was simply sipping on juice. #sobersincebirth

Different Times

Looking back, I really can’t tell if college was a simpler time or more complicated. School, with its odd schedule, intense studying and testing seemed harder than my job seems now. Despite the fact that I now run a multi-million dollar business.

Dating was far more complicated than marriage.

My track and field demands at the University of Wisconsin were both significant and complex from a mental, physical and nutritional perspective.

My finances seemed much more complicated back then too. I had to wrangle a combination of my own money, my parents’ contributions, student loans, grants and an athletic scholarship. I was in a perpetual state of relative poverty. And I remember one of my roommates commenting that it looked as if I did my grocery shopping at Goodwill. Maybe that is why dating felt so complicated.

Despite the complexities of my college life, I remember a state in which I felt whole, complete and longing for nothing. In fact, I still remember summarizing that feeling in a brief email to my parents during my junior year.

When updating my parents on my wellbeing in Madison, Wisconsin, 1000 miles from my home in Norwich, Vermont, I wrote:

I have a fridge full of food. A tank full of gas. And a dresser full of clean clothes. Bliss.

With those 3 simple needs met I had everything I needed in life. I have never forgotten that feeling. Ever since that time I have felt whole and at peace with my minimum needs met. And it has led to a tremendous amount of happiness. Like Pharrell Williams, in a room without a roof.

Key Takeaway

I hope that in this complicated time that you can find happiness in the simple pleasure of having your basic needs met. The rest is all gravy.

*If you know someone who would benefit from this message, please share it with them.