For those pursuing undergraduate or graduate degrees, December was the month of exams and essays, where achieving – or perhaps salvaging – a satisfactory GPA was front of mind.
December was also the month when many of us stepped back and reflected about the year that was and the one soon to come. Indeed, during a 365-day period of time, it sometimes seems as if there are few constants, especially for those in their 20s. People move to new cities as they begin jobs, or pursue further education. Tests are taken. Books are read. Relationships transform, for good or for worse. In 2014, I served as Co-Chair of a TEDx event where the theme was "For Certain: Uncertain." For students and young professionals alike, this theme likely rings true.
Yet, there is one factor that I feel is too seldom discussed, and which serves as a constant throughout precarious times. That constant is friendship. In a world where busyness earns bragging rights and where hyperconnectivity is the norm, relationships can feel short-lived, instrumental or superficial. And yet, there are few things more powerful in life than a genuine friendship. Indeed, for young people completing their studies, entering the working world, growing startups and travelling to new cities, there are few things more valuable in one's life than true friendship.
Students, graduates and young professionals are wise to focus their attention on grades, career prospects and cashflows, respectively, for these factors can have short or even long-term influences on individuals' lives. These early years are without question paramount in building impressive CVs, gathering the experiences and achievements required to propel us forward.
However, friendship is deeper and more enduring. I earned a strong GPA and a scholarship to the University of Cambridge, and now I employ other young people, but I can assure undergraduates that in time grades do not really matter. Salaries, cashflows and clients will come and go. You will forget about 95 per cent of the content you're memorizing for tomorrow's exam. Your investors and employers will only glance at your transcripts before slipping them into the shredder.
Friendships are the essence of a university experience and the working world, at least in the early stages. As a young person, you owe it to yourself to surround yourself with individuals who inspire you, and whose perspectives and experiences both complement and challenge your own. These individuals will eventually reflect who you are as a person, and vice-versa.
Sometimes, the unlikeliest of friendships will endure and grow into relationships that shape others' lives. In my home-town of Edmonton, for example, Mayor Don Iveson and his Campaign Manager Chris Henderson met in high school – a collision that would one day change the landscape of Edmonton politics. I am no longer surprised to learn how countless relationships in business and politics begin in university lecture rooms, fraternity and sorority houses and student association council chambers. Young people should never strive to make everyone their friend – conflict matters and will inevitably lead to disputes and unique challenges. In some cases, you will learn that friendships aren't worth continuing, and that's ok.
We can seldom go wrong by putting ourselves in the company of curious, imaginative, courageous and energetic peers, however. In short, those who inspire us with their words and actions. The energy and positive spirit that others display contributes significantly to one's own character, where a friend becomes a reflection of one's self. These experiences cannot be measured by a grade or line on a CV. As we enter the New Year, there is little better that one can do than to enjoy the time spent with friends and the experiences that will outlive what is learned in a lecture hall.
Emerson Csorba is a Cambridge Trust Scholar at Cambridge University and a co-founder of Gen Y Inc., an organizational culture consulting company.