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.
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.