Today is the first day of classes at public schools and UW campuses throughout Wisconsin.
In case students don’t learn these lessons, I present them from Finer Minds:
However, if I had to a write a list of life lessons to add to my 15-year-old self’s class timetable now, these would be them:
1. Not Everyone in Life Will Be Like You (Thank God!)
The reverse side of this is, you won’t always like everyone (and sometimes you can’t even pinpoint why). All you can do is treat everyone with kindness and be yourself. If this isn’t enough, they’re not worth your time. This equally applies to friendships and dating!
2. Be Your Own Best Friend
This follows on from my above point, looking for other people’s continuous approval will lead you down a lonely path (particularly if you’re looking for it from the wrong kind of people). Be kind to yourself and focus on what your greatest strengths are. No one is perfect, so don’t waste time wishing you were. Where there is room for improvement, do what you can and listen to your inner voice.
3. Don’t Beat Yourself Up
Things will go wrong from time-to-time, it’s what makes us human. The best thing to do is dust yourself off and try again. Of course if you keep making the same mistakes, it might be time to change tactics, although sometimes our mistakes turn out to be the biggest blessings in disguise and take us down a greater path.
4. Set Goals… And Write Them Down
When your head is swarming with a list of everyday tasks, the bigger picture and less urgent goals can get pushed until tomorrow. And then the week after, and then maybe the year after that. Writing them down not only gives you a sense of purpose, it helps you realize what’s a priority in your life. Stick your goals up somewhere you can see them, so when you feel yourself going off track, they’ll act as gentle reminder.
5. You Can Be Whatever You Want (Within Reason)
The statement “you can be whatever you want” is one I’ve always been a little skeptical about. Can I really be the next Beyonce when I really can’t sing? The truth is, not matter how hard I try, probably not (my school principal will even vouch for this). But I can find what I am really good at, or something that I am incredibly passionate about, then shoot for the stars and make it happen.
7. Don’t Compare Yourself With Others
There will always be people who are better at something or have more than you do. Whether they’re more attractive or smarter than you, or have the financial freedom to live a more luxurious life. Yes, it would be amazing if we could live the “dream life” we have conjured up in our heads, however the life you’re living is the one that you have. So make the most of it and follow the kind of dreams that will bring you happiness.
8. 80% of What You Fear Will Never Happen
I’ve heard this statistic a lot over the years, and now that I’m 31 (gulp), it certainly feels this way (now why didn’t they teach us this in math class?). Knowing it doesn’t always take the worry away, but it can put things into perspective when your mind is going into overdrive with fears of “what if.”
Time is Not a Limitless Commodity – I so rarely find young professionals that have a heightened sense of urgency to get to the next level. In our 20s we think we have all the time in the world to A) figure it out and B) get what we want. Time is the only treasure we start off with in abundance, and can never get back. Make the most of the opportunities you have today, because there will be a time when you have no more of it.
You’re Talented, But Talent is Overrated – Congratulations, you may be the most capable, creative, knowledgeable & multi-tasking generation yet. As my father says, “I’ll Give You a Sh-t Medal.” Unrefined raw materials (no matter how valuable) are simply wasted potential. There’s no prize for talent, just results. Even the most seemingly gifted folks methodically and painfully worked their way to success. (Tip: read “Talent is Overrated”) …
Social Media is Not a Career – These job titles won’t exist in 5 years. Social media is simply a function of marketing; it helps support branding, ROI or both. Social media is a means to get more awareness, more users or more revenue. It’s not an end in itself. I’d strongly caution against pegging your career trajectory solely to a social media job title.
Pick Up the Phone – Stop hiding behind your computer. Business gets done on the phone and in person. It should be your first instinct, not last, to talk to a real person and source business opportunities. And when the Internet goes down… stop looking so befuddled and don’t ask to go home. Don’t be a pansy, pick up the phone.
Be the First In & Last to Leave – I give this advice to everyone starting a new job or still in the formative stages of their professional career. You have more ground to make up than everyone else around you, and you do have something to prove. There’s only one sure-fire way to get ahead, and that’s to work harder than all of your peers.
Don’t Wait to Be Told What to Do – You can’t have a sense of entitlement without a sense of responsibility. You’ll never get ahead by waiting for someone to tell you what to do. Saying “nobody asked me to do this” is a guaranteed recipe for failure. Err on the side of doing too much, not too little. (Watch: Millennials in the Workplace Training Video)
Take Responsibility for Your Mistakes – You should be making lots of mistakes when you’re early on in your career. But you shouldn’t be defensive about errors in judgment or execution. Stop trying to justify your F-ups. You’re only going to grow by embracing the lessons learned from your mistakes, and committing to learn from those experiences.
You Should Be Getting Your Butt Kicked –Meryl Streep in “The Devil Wears Prada” would be the most valuable boss you could possibly have. This is the most impressionable, malleable and formative stage of your professional career. Working for someone that demands excellence and pushes your limits every day will build the most solid foundation for your ongoing professional success. …
People Matter More Than Perks – It’s so trendy to pick the company that offers the most flex time, unlimited meals, company massages, game rooms and team outings. Those should all matter, but not as much as the character of your founders and managers. Great leaders will mentor you and will be a loyal source of employment long after you’ve left. Make a conscious bet on the folks you’re going to work for and your commitment to them will pay off much more than those fluffy perks.
Map Effort to Your Professional Gain – You’re going to be asked to do things you don’t like to do. Keep your eye on the prize. Connect what you’re doing today, with where you want to be tomorrow. That should be all the incentive you need. If you can’t map your future success to your current responsibilities, then it’s time to find a new opportunity.
Speak Up, Not Out – We’re raising a generation of sh-t talkers. In your workplace this is a cancer. If you have issues with management, culture or your role & responsibilities, SPEAK UP. Don’t take those complaints and trash-talk the company or co-workers on lunch breaks and anonymous chat boards. If you can effectively communicate what needs to be improved, you have the ability to shape your surroundings and professional destiny. …
You Need At Least 3 Professional Mentors – The most guaranteed path to success is to emulate those who’ve achieved what you seek. You should always have at least 3 people you call mentors who are where you want to be. Their free guidance and counsel will be the most priceless gift you can receive. (TIP: “The Secret to Finding and Keeping Mentors”). …
Read More Books, Fewer Tweets/Texts – Your generation consumes information in headlines and 140 characters: all breadth and no depth. Creativity, thoughtfulness and thinking skills are freed when you’re forced to read a full book cover to cover. All the keys to your future success, lay in the past experience of others. Make sure to read a book a month (fiction or non-fiction) and your career will blossom.
You may disagree with some of those. I’m not sure about “The Devil Wears Prada” example, for instance. Independent of the fact that people are hired to do jobs, not out of the benevolence of their employer for self-actualization, bosses should demand excellence, but there is a line between pushing excellence and simply being abusive. There are bullies in the workplace, and many are bosses. It would be nice if every workplace was a meritocracy, but life isn’t fair. As for that part about getting your “butt kicked,” have too many “F-ups,” and you will get your “butt kicked” out the door.
Dan Calabrese disagrees with some too:
Nazar writes: “Pick Up the Phone – Stop hiding behind your computer. Business gets done on the phone and in person. It should be your first instinct, not last, to talk to a real person and source business opportunities.”
I disagree. Phone calls still have their place, of course, but the idea of picking up the phone instead of sending a message via e-mail, text or social media does not reflect my experience in the business world of today at all. Sometimes you clearly need to talk directly, but usually in that case you use other methods of communication to schedule the call, and then you have an agenda, you get to it, and you say goodbye. Gone are the days when a blind, unexpected phone call (especially if he’s talking about prospecting by cold-calling, for crying out loud) is the most effective way to initiate business communication. No way. I’m with the 20-somethings on this one.
Nazar also writes: “Pick an Idol & Act “As If” – You may not know what to do, but your professional idol does. I often coach my employees to pick the businessperson they most admire, and act “as if.” If you were (fill in the blank) how would he or she carry themselves, make decisions, organize his/her day, accomplish goals? You’ve got to fake it until you make it, so it’s better to fake it as the most accomplished person you could imagine. (Shout out to Tony Robbins for the tip)”
Maybe I’m recoiling because it comes from Tony Robbins (yeah, not a fan) but I never like advice that encourages you to mimic someone else. Learn from others, sure, but making someone else an “idol”? If it’s true that you’re uniquely you, I think it’s a much better idea to recognize things you respect about others and adapt them to your own approach. If you’re always asking what X would do, you don’t learn to think for yourself. For instance, would X go to Tony Robbins seminars? Then I won’t be emulating X!
By the time this week is done, one surmises students will be thinking fondly of this song, applicable eight to nine months from now: