This article originally appeared in Inc. If you like this article,
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School. Love it or hate it, education is an essential part of spiraling up in this thing called life. I don't know about you, but the most successful people I've ever met are lifelong learners, avid readers and consistent seekers of new experience.
However, school isn't all about the acquisition of knowledge; in fact, I believe that school is actually an inefficient delivery system for knowledge alone. Think about it--you could probably learn more in four hours on Wikipedia than you could in that same amount of time in a structured classroom setting.
But, that's why the people who get the most out of school aren't there for the knowledge--or at least, acquiring new information isn't the first priority. Instead, the most successful people use the school setting to do something very different with their time, which has little to do with studying at all.
That's why your strategy this Fall will say a lot about what kind of leader you are; because leadership isn't only about knowledge, it's also about how you use that knowledge to effectively lead others. And of course, there won't be any others to lead if you don't spend time curating a network of peers in the first place.
The one thing true leaders do when they go back to school is to spend time building meaningful relationships with their peers. Those relationships--forged in the fires of a shared mission to accomplish those late-night, long-term projects--can last a lifetime, if you properly form and maintain them.
While knowledge can change as the world evolves, your personal relationships will keep on giving. You never know when you'll need a reference, referral, job opportunity, new consulting clients, a place to stay, some meaningful advice, or any of the other incredible benefits you get for creating a valuable network.
To that end, here are 3 tips to keep in mind as you go back to school this Fall:
1.Try to meet everyone you can
Your immediate class sizes should be manageable enough to at least have coffee with the majority of your class (and if you attend a huge school with hundreds of people in each class, I recommend going easy on the caffeine and choosing another beverage). Make it a point to at least meet everyone to ask about their lives.
Where did they come from? What are their strengths? Where are they going? These insights will give you reference points so you can start to assemble a picture of how you can benefit them, and how they can benefit you in the future.
2. Focus your energy on a few deep, meaningful relationships
Although this seems contrary to the first point, it's not. Although it's a good idea to have some fast facts about as many people as possible, you'll only have time to develop a few meaningful relationships over the course of your time at school.
This is actually a good thing, because you'll want to develop a few key drop-everything-to-help kind of relationships as a good long-term relationship strategy. Why? Because not only will those relationships be the most reliable, but also your key people will be connected to many of the other people in your class, anyway, through their own interactions. That's why developing a few relationships you can count on will provide you more value than having lots of relationships that are more shallow, so to speak.
3. Keep track of your relationships
Keep a database on whom you meet and the conversations you have. You'll be shocked at how useful that will be when you one day have a burning question and can't remember the name of the girl you sat next to in that class that you can't remember the name of. Although it can be time consuming to create such a spreadsheet, you'll have it for life--which means you'll be able to literally tap into your network for anything you need, anytime you need.
Yes, you should pay attention in the classroom so you can soak up all that new knowledge. But, keep in mind that the greatest leaders spend most of their time curating a group of relationships that will keep providing benefits for a lifetime.