Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Lesson 21: Never underestimate the value of experience.


Author's note: I am a compulsive advice-giver-always have been.  When my own son was in high school, he wasn't interested in his old man's advice so I wrote it down in the hope that he might change his mind one day.  What follows is one piece of that advice.  I trust it applies to all of us, regardless of age.

Life is half spent before we know what it is.
—George Herbert
  
Young adults usually don’t fully appreciate the value of age and experience. This frequently comes up during your first job search. The thought often goes something like this:
“They say they want someone with experience, but how can I get experience unless they hire me? And besides, my youth and energy more than make up for my lack of experience.”
Well, the truth is that experience is the best teacher you will ever have. And while youth and energy are wonderful (as you get older, you’ll envy those traits in younger people), experience is just as wonderful—and over time becomes even better. While youth and energy fade with time, your bank of experience continues to increase until the day you die.
We place a high value on those things that cost us a lot, right? Youth and energy are free; they are naturally present in young adults. But experience—ah, now that is earned. Experience is what Harry Truman referred to as “the school of hard knocks.” Its cost is measured in time, sweat, and pain—the pain of your own mistakes. Abigail Van Buren once said, “If we could sell our experiences for what they cost us, we'd all be millionaires.”
In his autobiography, Up Till Now, William Shatner describes how he learned to act, not by attending acting school, but by performing in plays. As a young member of a Canadian theater troupe, he played a variety of roles in a variety of shows in front of a variety of audiences. “I had no formal acting training,” he writes. “I had my own method: I said my lines as if I were the character…. The audience taught me how to act. If I did something and the audience responded, I did it again. So this experience of working every night…was my acting class.”
Think of the very best teacher or professor you ever had. Think of all the wondrous and important things you learned from her or him. All those lessons will pale in comparison to what you will learn from that greatest of all teachers: experience. You may not believe that right now, but I guarantee that you will one day. Class has just started.
Reread this in twenty years, and see if you agree with me then.


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Lesson 20: Knowledge has its limitations.


Author's note: I am a compulsive advice-giver-always have been.  When my own son was in high school, he wasn't interested in his old man's advice so I wrote it down in the hope that he might change his mind one day.  What follows is one piece of that advice.  I trust it applies to all of us, regardless of age.


   Education’s purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one.
—Malcolm Forbes

Studies have shown that there is almost no correlation between how smart a person is and how successful they become. Superior intelligence—even combined with education and knowledge—just isn’t enough to make you successful. You need wisdom to go along with it.
I recently read about a young boy in India, Akrit Jaswal, who had an IQ greater than that of Einstein. In 2001, when he was seven years old, he performed a real-life surgical operation—I kid you not.
His eight-year-old patient had been so severely burned that her fingers had fused together. Living in a poor village, her family couldn't afford a real doctor, so Akrit was called in. The operation was a success, and before long Akrit became India’s youngest university student. He showed a great gift for medicine. At age fourteen, he became convinced that if someone would fund a laboratory for him, he would be able to cure cancer within a year.
He traveled to London’s Imperial College, where he met with some of the world’s leading cancer researchers. He amazed everyone with the depth and breadth of his medical knowledge. But the researchers soon realized that, despite his obvious gifts, his theories were unworkable. He came away understanding that—as smart as he was and as much as he had learned—he had a very long way to go.
The end of this story has yet to be written. Akrit Jaswal may yet cure cancer, but I suspect it will take many years—and he certainly won’t do it on his brainpower and knowledge alone.
Believe it or not, you’re sorely lacking in the knowledge department. Do you have any idea how rudimentary a high school education, and even a degree from a very fine college, is? As necessary as such an education is, it’s still just a start. Even scholars with doctorates often say that the biggest thing they have learned from their years of in-depth study is how little they actually know about their specialty.
Understanding the limitations of your present knowledge is one of the first steps down the long road to wisdom. The good news is that you already possess everything you need to succeed. Keep learning. The more you learn, the faster you’ll advance in your life and career.


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Lesson 19: Use your God-given talents.


Author's note: I am a compulsive advice-giver-always have been.  When my own son was in high school, he wasn't interested in his old man's advice so I wrote it down in the hope that he might change his mind one day.  What follows is one piece of that advice.  I trust it applies to all of us, regardless of age.

Call on God, but row away from the rocks.
—Hunter S. Thompson

Broadcaster Earl Nightingale told the story of a clergyman who was traveling through a rural countryside when he came upon an extraordinarily productive and scenic farm. There were bounteous crops in neat rows, and all around the freshly painted farmhouse and outbuildings were flower beds and neatly trimmed shrubs.
The clergyman noticed the farmer taking a break from his work, so he took the opportunity to strike up a conversation. “The Lord certainly has blessed you with a beautiful farm,” the minister commented.
“Yessir, he has,” replied the farmer, wiping the sweat from his brow. “And I’m grateful. But you should have seen the place when he had it all to himself.”
Many people just show up to work and do the bare minimum. They complete the tasks that are given to them—and that’s about it. They never take the initiative to improve their workplace or to really serve the people around them.
Others see unexplored possibilities in even the lowliest of duties. They envision a well-tended farm where others see just a job. They throw themselves enthusiastically into every task, and as a result, they make everyone around them better.
You’ve been given a lot. You have a fine mind and at least a basic education. You have judgment and maturity, both of which will increase with time. And you live in a country filled with good people and limitless opportunities. So what do you plan to do with all these blessings?
If you believe in God, you may agree with me that he gives us the tools with which to make our own way and to make the world a better place. I don’t pretend to know the mind of God, but I suspect he has given us all these tools so that we can use them to make reasoned decisions, to take decisive actions, and to work toward the advancement of those worthwhile values and priorities we set for ourselves.
Use those God-given talents. Apply them to your work, and it will sing.



Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Lesson 18: Set your priorities, and follow them.

 

Author's note: I am a compulsive advice-giver-always have been.  When my own son was in high school, he wasn't interested in his old man's advice so I wrote it down in the hope that he might change his mind one day.  What follows is one piece of that advice.  I trust it applies to all of us, regardless of age.

 Action expresses priorities.
—Mahatma Gandhi

In an earlier lesson, we talked about living by a set of values. Priorities are driven by your values, and in fact some of your values may also double as priorities. But whereas your values are principles to live by, priorities are more like a set of rules. Think of your priorities as a list of the most important things in your life, in ranked order.
 For many people, the basic personal priorities include family, career, and religious development, but personal priorities can go well beyond these. Some may set their leisure activities as a priority. Athletes place a high priority on improving their performance, musicians on practicing their craft. Young couples often want to save money for a new home or a child’s education.
We need priorities because we have a limited amount of time. We want to make sure we spend our time on things that are important to us, rather than wasting time on worthless activities. Priorities are our way of budgeting our time so that we get to the important stuff.
Now that you’ve graduated, your priorities will become even more important. As we’ve already seen, time becomes more precious as you get older. And as you enter the world of full-time work, you’re likely to find that your non-work hours are very valuable to you. You want to make sure you spend them on activities that are important.
You may have never thought much about your priorities, but they’re there, all right. They reveal themselves in your behavior. Wherever you spend your time and effort, you’ll find a priority.
Whenever our actions don’t match up with our stated priorities, discontent is sure to result. A man may say that his children are his number one priority, but if he neglects them, then something’s wrong. He either needs to change his actions or admit that his kids really aren’t as important to him as he says they are.
Ask yourself: Where have I been spending my time? What are the priorities that are revealed in my actions? Are they the priorities that I want for myself? If not, now is the perfect time to set your priorities, and then reflect them in your actions.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Lesson 17: Make yourself useful.


Author's note: I am a compulsive advice-giver-always have been.  When my own son was in high school, he wasn't interested in his old man's advice so I wrote it down in the hope that he might change his mind one day.  What follows is one piece of that advice.  I trust it applies to all of us, regardless of age.

The be-all and end-all of life should not be to get rich, but to enrich the world.
—B.C. Forbes

Having a good heart does not make you a good person.
That may sound callous, but think about it. What makes for a good person? Don’t you think that a good person is one who makes the world better for his having lived there? The fact that you care about something means absolutely nothing to anyone other than you—until that care takes the form of action.
Let’s carry the concept a step further. A caring heart unaccompanied by action is a recipe for unhappiness. Why? Simple. If you truly care, then you know you should be doing something, but because you’re not, you feel like a failure—or worse, a fake.
Let’s take a simple example. My Kiwanis Club spends a few Saturday mornings each year picking up litter along a local highway. One such day, as I prepared to leave for litter duty, I asked a friend if he wanted to come along. He said in all seriousness, “No, thanks. I think that’s just for show, so other people will think you care. For me, it’s enough to know I care—it doesn’t matter if anybody else knows.”
Hmmm. That’s not an uncommon view for a kid, but it doesn’t wash for an adult—even a young adult like you.
The truth is I didn’t really care much about that road litter; I never really noticed it. And I doubt that anyone recognized my hunched figure as I picked up beer cans and McDonald’s bags. But I was out there cleaning up while my friend was at home on the couch, “caring.” Even though I didn’t care very much, my actions made the world just a bit cleaner. Who felt better about himself afterward?
This big ol’ world couldn’t care less about your personal happiness—or about the fact that you “care.” The world wants to know: what are you doing for me?
The first thing you should do when you get a job is get busy and try to make things a little easier on everyone around you. By doing so you’ll quickly become a valuable employee, you’ll put yourself in position for raises and promotions, and you’ll feel good about the fact that you’re making a contribution. Keep applying this simple concept, and you’ll never be without a job for long.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Lesson 16: Life is different now.

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Author's note: I am a compulsive advice-giver-always have been.  When my own son was in high school, he wasn't interested in his old man's advice so I wrote it down in the hope that he might change his mind one day.  What follows is one piece of that advice.  I trust it applies to all of us, regardless of age.

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Life is not divided into semesters. You don’t get summers off, and very few employers are interested in helping you find yourself.
—Bill Gates

Congratulations on your graduation. They call it a commencement ceremony for a reason: you’re heading out on your own into the future. Life’s great adventure is before you. If you embrace it, you can have a fuller, more meaningful life than you can possibly imagine.
Don’t get me wrong. It won’t be easy—nothing worthwhile ever is. And it won’t be at all like the life you’re used to. Life in the adult world is radically different from school life. For example, if you just graduated from high school, you’re used to a life regulated by the school year and the school day. The school day is spent in a school building with others of about your same age. You change classes every hour or so. School ends sometime around 3:00 in the afternoon. The day closes with extracurricular activities and/or homework, and maybe a part-time job. College is different, of course, with its own routines and schedules.
Your authority figures are your parents, teachers and professors. Your parents provide money for the basics of life, as well as some luxuries. Adults are authority figures simply because they are adults.
 But that life is over. As comfortable as it may have been, it was a child’s life. You’re an adult now. The life of an adult is better than that of a child—if you make it so. On the other hand, the responsibilities are much greater, and the price of messing up is much, much higher.
For one thing, instead of your parents providing for you, you’ll have to provide for yourself. In our society, you’re expected to pull your own weight. If you don’t, you end up completely depending on others. So I expect you’ll do what is necessary to make your own way.
The daily routine of an adult is generally determined by your job. There’s no telling what your typical day will be like, but it is highly likely that your workday will be longer than a typical school day. And those frequent vacations and days off you’re used to? In your first year on a job, you’ll be lucky to get a week’s vacation and a few holidays. Other than that, they’ll expect to see you at work every weekday.
All of this is not to scare or depress you. Remember, an adult’s life can be wonderful. But the change is sudden. Just try not to be too shocked when it hits you all at once.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Lesson 15: Relax, and expect the best.


Author's note: I am a compulsive advice-giver-always have been.  When my own son was in high school, he wasn't interested in his old man's advice so I wrote it down in the hope that he might change his mind one day.  What follows is one piece of that advice.  I trust it applies to all of us, regardless of age.

Those who look for beauty, find it.
—Unknown

Let’s review the concepts we’ve talked about so far:
Your attitude is the prime factor in achieving long-term happiness, career success, fulfilling relationships, and triumph over adversity (Lesson 1). What’s more, you have complete control over your own thinking (2). Thinking only of yourself is a recipe for disaster; personal fulfillment comes from improving the world around you (3). Happiness does not come from your circumstances—if it is to come, you must create it for yourself (4). And you can create it, here and now (5). Embracing personal responsibility gives you the ability to determine your own destiny (6). Your personal values system is the internal compass which guides your actions (7). Time is slipping by; you can’t slow it down, so every moment is precious (8). Perhaps for the first time, you are now in a position to really live the Golden Rule (9). Forgiveness gives you the power to liberate yourself and others (10). The secret to living a regret-free life is to be bold (11). You can’t always change your circumstances, but you can adapt and make the most of them (12). Your expectations will probably come true (13). Don’t feel bad if you haven’t made the most of your life up to now, because it’s never too late to start creating your future (14).
The recurring theme throughout this list is as simple as it is meaningful: You have the power to shape your own destiny.
That is a fact. If you haven’t thought about it before now, take a few minutes to let it sink in. That power rests entirely with you. Nobody can take it from you without your permission.
So relax and know that all is well. Start believing that life will bring you everything you want. Decide to take control of your destiny by taking control of your life. Expect the best, and know that it will happen for you.