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Emily Bennington Headshot

Students: Now is Your Time to Go Big

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"Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid."
- Goethe

One night when I was a freshman in college, my roommate Susan and I decided to have a contest to see who could pick up a guy the fastest. We were at a bar (of course) and the general idea was that we would each locate a complete stranger for the other to approach, and the "winner" would return with his phone number first.

As a gorgeous blond tennis player, Susan was back within five minutes flat, proudly waving a cocktail napkin scribbled with digits. Intimidated, I knew I had to do something big. So I walked over to my target and, doing my best to channel Marilyn Monroe, I tapped him on the shoulder and said, "Aren't you going to kiss me?" At first he looked confused. Then, without saying a word, he did.

I lost the bet on a technicality (no phone number), but I remember feeling strangely empowered by the experience. Just to be clear -- it wasn't about the guy. It was about me, a.k.a. the shy girl from West Virginia, doing something bold for the first time.

These days, I make a living studying professionals who excel in an effort to find out what they do right and share it with others. Without question, it seems the most successful people have one thing in common: They think big. They regularly get outside their comfort zone and tend to view life from a prism of what is possible versus what isn't and why.

In other words, they are bold. It's not that successful people ignore fear. They just choose to see past it, focusing instead on the desired end result.

Here's my point: Since college is a notoriously formative period, NOW is your time (i.e. in the cozy cocoon of youth and higher education) to learn how to think big and take strategic risks. Note: This isn't a license to approach random strangers in a bar or to be reckless; it's a call to action to make something great happen while you're still relatively free and mobile. It's a challenge to stop thinking, "I could never do that," and see what happens when you try.

Think about it: How much of your life thus far have you spent safely inside your comfort zone? If your answer is "most-to-all", let's get something clear right away: These are years you simply can't waste, people. SO GO. Study... and dance on tables in Spain. Do an internship... with Gloria Steinhem. Pitch your community service project... to Good Morning America. You get the idea. At the end of the day, someone out there is doing these things. Why not you?

Personally, I'm proud to say that after my freshman year, I wound up doing a lot more (respectably) bold things in college. I moved to London, took a Greyhound bus to New York in a short-lived dream to become an actress, and snuck into the Paris after-party for the film Studio 54 among other adventures. Okay... so maybe they weren't all that respectable but, collectively, these experiences played a huge part in shaping the person I've become, just as your experiences in school will affect the person you become. So learn -- right now -- how to think big and act bold. You may miss your target occasionally but, don't worry -- if you aim at nothing you'll hit it every time.