Author Frank Hanna on why college shouldn't be our best years

It’s a tale as old as time: enjoy college, graduate, then watch younger people have all the fun you used to have as you struggle through your 9-to-5 job. But one author believes that there has to be a lot more to life than that.

Frank J.Hanna, CEO of Atlanta-based philanthropic organization Hanna Capital, LLC, writes about this in his 2017 book A Graduate’s Guide to Life: Three Things They Don’t Teach You in College That Could Make All the Difference. The businessman has also served as a lecturer, adviser, spoken to Catholic figures at Vatican gatherings, worked in venture capital and private equity for decades and more.

Hanna spoke to Ladders about his book, his life, why we should escape the mindset that life gets worse after college and gives advice to recent college graduates:

On how his professional background shapes the way he sees the world of work:

For 35 years I have worked in the field of sophisticated finance. And in that world, wishing it were so, does not make it so. In other words, reality matters. The slogan for our business is ‘Measured by Reality.’ I am persuaded by the philosopher Josef Pieper, who teaches that the beginning of prudence (which is the ability to make good decisions) is seeing things as they really are. Most of us, however, like to delude ourselves, as reality is often difficult. One of the things I discuss in my book is the necessity of clinging to reality, always enlivened by hope in our future.

On the main thing he wants people to take away from the book:

Being wealthy and happy is within the reach of almost everyone, but you will not find it following the clichés that most people hear when they are young. Ultimately, wealth and happiness are dependent on the proper identification of those things that are most likely to lead to such wealth and happiness; and second, cultivating the habits to pursue those things. The word wealth derives from a word that means ‘well-being.’ But well-being is a hard thing to measure, and it is made up of things that are not quantifiable. Seeking the wisdom that will lead to true well-being and wealth takes effort and some degree of discipline, and thus runs counter to the milieu of the age; nevertheless, it is indeed within our reach.

On how he thinks we shouldn’t believe that college is supposed to be the best four years of our lives:

This is one of those clichés that has been peddled for a long time. At its core, it states: ‘For a brief window of your time on Earth, when you are ill-prepared to fully appreciate it, your life will reach a high point after which it will enter a period of perpetual decline.’ It leads to people trying to manufacture a sensational set of experiences in order to fulfill the cliché, rather than using their time in college to prepare for another 50 or 60 years of increasing happiness. Who wants to peak at 22?!

On the benefits of walking away from the competition:

Competition in and of itself is not a bad thing, and it can help to bring out the best in each of us. However, our current society holds it to be an unmitigated good, and it is not. All mammals compete, and many do it viciously. Our task as human beings is to understand not only the benefits of competition, but more importantly, the risks, and to understand that in many circumstances, we actually don’t want to compete, and should walk away from competition. We should be seeking a life of abundance, not one of scraping with each other for the good.

On what he calls “the secret of life:”

The secret of life is to figure out that for which we are designed as human beings, and thus that which will fulfill us, and make us happy. And the true ingredients for human happiness are entering true communion with others with hopefulness for the future. This is not a complicated matter, but it does take determination and perseverance.

On what he’d say to a recent college graduate struggling to make the most of their first job: 

I would tell the recent graduate, ‘Find some way that you can bring value to others.’ I have employed hundreds of people – I always sought to promote those who were constantly seeking to add value for me. I can’t promise that you will always be rewarded for bringing value to others, but I can promise you that you usually will, and I can also promise you that if you bring value to others, you will be happier and more fulfilled. In the end, that is what we are all seeking. I would also tell them to buy my book! If you agree with anything I have said here, you will love reading A Graduate’s Guide to Life: Three Things They Don’t’ Teach You in College That Could Make All the Difference.’ It’s a very quick and easy read, and you’ll be glad you picked it up.