Checkpoints and Mastery: Thoughts on My Post-College Career

I’m relatively fresh out of school, closing in on the two-year mark from college graduation. University was a great experience, but like most things, it wasn’t perfect. Sometimes I think about how I could’ve been better prepared for life after college sports and formal education. These are just a few thoughts about career goals and values.


In some ways, I viewed school as an adventure game. Earning my degree was a four-year journey, and each semester was a checkpoint.

A semester had several key moments or experiences, and these all largely influenced how I felt about it by the time I reached the end. I used that conclusion to plan how to attack the next segment of my journey. There was a structure, rhythm, and timing to everything. I grew accustomed to that, maybe to a fault.

In my professional life, I’ve had trouble identifying checkpoints. It’s hard to do for yourself, especially coming out of an education system that defines pathways for you based on curricula. I’ve been asking myself: What does it mean at this point to advance? What am I working towards? What does it look like to take a positive step towards that?

In the past few months, I’ve come to believe that your personal goals will define the various checkpoints of your professional journey. When you set and commit to goals, it gives an identity to the journey’s current phase.

Living in the “real world” is like learning to play a long game. Take some time to think about the game you want to play, and what rules you want to play by.


While I was in school, I was on a rather tight schedule. I constantly ran between class, basketball practice, the dining hall, and the library. And, I didn’t have much control over that.

I never imagined the freedom I would have over my own schedule after graduation, and I don’t think I was prepared for it. My only concrete responsibility every day is to be accountable to my project team and our client. Outside of being present and attentive for work-related activities, the day is mine to craft.

This freedom is a blessing and a curse. If you plan ahead and stay organized, you’ll make the most of your days. You can invest time in your passions or hobbies, confident that you’re still “adulting” responsibly. But that same freedom can just as easily decay a curious, driven spirit into one who repeats, “I’ll get around to it tomorrow.”

Your time is a currency where the return on investment ultimately lies in your hands. Make it work in your favor.


I once thought I would have to know nearly everything about programming to succeed as a developer. I thought I needed to be an expert in several languages to do any meaningful project work. 

Then I actually started working and had some realizations. I found out that my assumptions were pretty crazy. To add value to a software project, you don’t have to be a master programmer. Truthfully, I have no desire to be masterful. Programming isn’t my passion, and I believe that you have to love something to pursue mastery. 

I probably won’t become a master of this craft, but that doesn’t mean I won’t do great work. It doesn’t mean I won’t provide value to project teams. And it certainly doesn’t mean that I don’t care about the quality of the work I produce.

Being masterful isn’t a prerequisite for producing value of a high quality. Time limits us from becoming masterful in every skill we learn, so we should be selective with those that we invest our time in.

Thinking For Yourself

These are just thoughts I’ve had over the first couple of years of my post-university career. I hope they provoke some thought, regardless of your age or experience level.


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