Many people take an economics class at some point during their education.
Most, however, didn't expect to use what they've learned in their own lives. But this graduation season is different. Economics is about making decisions under uncertainty. If there has ever been an uncertain time to start adulthood, it's now.
So even if you're not planning a career in business, here's my advice for you: You can't control uncertainty, but you can control how you respond to it.
Know your philosophy … and stick to it. My career in finance has been guided by a philosophy. This means I always have a clear set of principles to measure my behavior against.
My investment philosophy is data-driven: I believe in being a long-term investor in markets. I understand that short-term ups and downs are inevitable, but that those who have the discipline and stamina to stay invested have historically been rewarded for their behavior.
Some years ago, I realized that my investment philosophy guides my life path as well. Which brings me to my second point: Harness the power of time.
Perhaps you've heard this quote that's often attributed to Albert Einstein: "Compound interest is the 8th wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it; he who doesn't, pays it."
Here is what I would tell you if you asked me how to get started investing for retirement: Start early, start with the market, start with yourself. Let time work for you. You already understand why this strategy works to increase the value of your savings with relatively little effort. But it can do the same for your career. Be a long-term investor in yourself.
You've already made a huge investment in your education. Don't shortchange the value of that investment by expecting huge career returns right away — this just sets you up for a cycle of disappointment. There's no quick fix when it comes to lifelong job satisfaction. Your human capital is your nest egg.
Take some time to really figure out what your long-term career goals are, then create the incremental steps — and cultivate the discipline — to achieve them. The cumulative effects of small decisions compound over time to create your future — so fight for every basis point in your life.
Implement your dreams the way you'd implement a financial plan. Not following your dreams is like getting out of the market too early. Find the will to persevere.
Judge yourself by the quality of the decisions you make, not their outcomes. There's a question we all ask ourselves when something major goes wrong: Did I do everything I could to prevent this from happening?
While it's not always possible to avoid bad outcomes, it is possible to avoid feeling regret. Always do your best to make informed choices. This isn't easy. It requires a high level of self-awareness and discipline. But you can do it.
More than once, I've found inspiration in Rudyard Kipling's poem, "If," especially these lines:
"If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too ..."
I think that poem has endured and resonated with so many people because it speaks to conviction, integrity and openness to change. These are values that really have the strength to stand up against uncertainty and the anxiety it can cause.
If I know one thing for sure, though, it's this: We've been conditioned to shrink from uncertainty, but it's uncertainty that gives us opportunity. When we deal with uncertainty in a positive way, it gives us hope for the future.
You've learned how to make decisions under uncertainty. Now's your chance to apply it.
Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.