The Only Lesson That Stuck After Graduating

Sah Kilic

And it has nothing to do with the degree. anja./Unsplash

Here’s a confusing thought: I often find that I learn more from the things surrounding the main thing, rather than the main thing itself — let me explain.

During my Uni days, my housemates and I had a big cylinder of ping-pong balls. Of course, these were for beer pong, but on the off days where the sun was up, and work was to be done, we used them more creatively.

The go-to procrastination method was to pick up this full cylinder, walk over to someone’s room, and dump the entire thing on them, their desk, and whatever they’re working on — then you’d walk away with a shit-eating grin.

Of course, they would have to clean up, but once they did, suddenly, they had a full cylinder of ping pong balls, and you know that it’d make it’s way back to you when you least expected.

Cardboard dicks stuck on walls, Maccas trips and living room football. This is what it was like to live with housemates during University.

We were all boys if that makes a difference? All were doing something programming related, and all poor, as is the reality of being a student.

And of course, just like any humans in any group, we argued about things.

A lot.

The Arguments

Our arguments fit into two categories, pointless and practical. And this might be an excellent place to say that you can split up most arguments into these two categories — especially when it comes to living situations.


Here were some pointless arguments from that time:

  • “I called shotgun! Get out of the front seat.”
  • “Why would you use magazine cut-outs as posters?”
  • “That show’s shit though.”


Here were some practical arguments we had:

  • “Mate, stop leaving trash out in the kitchen.” — living room, bathroom.
  • “It’s your turn to take out the bins.” — vacuum, clean.
  • “Dude stop, I’m trying to study.” — sleep, concentrate.

The Cycle

Pointless arguments would lead to practical ones, and practical ones would end in pointlessness. This was the reality of dick-measuring and frustrations.

But of course, the good outweighed the bad — otherwise, we wouldn’t live in societies, would we? We’d all be loners.

There were camping trips, bike rides, laughs, pranks, and parties. It was all very much worth it, and some of the fondest memories and nostalgia that I’ll ever get to relive — and relive, I do.

Reliving these moments always shed light on something I didn’t notice during this time, but something I’m very grateful for to this day.

I started this article by saying that I often find that I learn more from the things surrounding the main thing.

The main thing back then was University.

One of the surrounding things was living with people.

People that weren’t my family. People that were my housemates.

What I Learned

In those first few years, I learned more life-long lessons by living with others than any class at Uni teaching programing languages, corporate legislation, or design methods.

The learning started with the realisation, “People are weird, man.”

1. People are different from you

Yeah look, you know this, but until you’re spending most of your time with someone, you really don’t know.

This was the realisation that was the foundation for both practical and pointless arguments.

One housemate preferred to eat on the floor, even though there was a table or couch. The other needed to have a carpet in his room, although the place was already carpeted — harmless, pointless, joking-with-you arguments.

One housemate had five alarms and loved hitting the snooze button — frustrating, inconsiderate, asshole-turn-off-your-phone arguments.

This leads me to my next lesson.

2. Everyone can be annoying

You just don’t have to be a dick about it.

I learned to accept that people will be annoying; they’ll have certain habits that are just soul-crushing.

Some of it will be manageable, others will be changeable out of courtesy, most of it will be ingrained in them, and if you can’t handle it, then you might not be surrounding yourself with the right people.

And hey, you’re not perfect either, Mr Man in the Mirror. There are some things you can change, and some things you can’t, it’s very much to do with who you are and how you grew up.

3. People’s motivations aren’t uniform.

After food, shelter, and sex are sorted, it’s the wild west of human-ing. You don’t operate the same way as the next guy, and the next guy doesn’t have the motivations of the other.

I imagine the scene out of The Matrix where Neo is on hundreds of screens that are showcasing every possible way he could react to a thing.

We all have different ways we process emotions, do our work, prioritise things, and it never fully matches up with anyone else’s ways of doing things.

Finding these motivations and observing how people act is one of the wonders of the world.

If you can do this, you gain a level of empathy and understanding that makes you a better human — I believe that wholeheartedly.

What Does All This Mean?

This article really isn’t about people, but the experience for me was a crash course in people.

It was this amalgam of Anthropology, Psychology, and Conflict Resolution 101 that taught me so much about people that I made an irreversible shift in the way I see the world.

It was a learning experience far superior to anything I had experienced prior.

What I didn’t know at the time is that it set the stage for a fact of life — a fact that was broader than people, a fact about learning in general.

When you’re focusing on one big thing, day in day out, you miss everything that’s happening around it — that’s where you find the true-life experience.

At University, it was my new living situation. Uni was the driver and living in a share house was the guy in the front seat that called shotgun, and I learned a lot about people from that guy.

But it’s not limited to University, and definitely not just about people.

  • It’s going for morning coffees before work and hearing about everyone’s dealings at home, or the new class that’s working for them — not the job.
  • It’s the pain-management, dieting, and being attuned with your body’s capabilities and limitations — not the workouts.
  • It’s time management, problem-solving, self-motivation and mental strength you gain — not the solo travel.

We tend to neglect the second and third-order effects of our pursuits, but these lessons hit us in the future and are often what brings the real value.

This is the good stuff, the bits and pieces of nostalgia we remember, and the building blocks of our character — these main-thing-surrounding bits of golden nuggets make us who we are.

These are the memories comedians use as bits, and they’re the inspiration for scenes in movies.

You have these memories and lessons tucked away in your head, and thinking back on them is only ever a moment of gratitude and learning.

So the next time you’re grinding away at something you think is a means to an end, remember it’s not the only thing, it’s not wasted time, and there’s much more to it.

All you have to do is have a look around.

Best of luck,


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