As graduation is right around the corner, I thought I’d give my top 5 things I wish I knew when graduating high school. I’ll keep it short because you probably should be studying for finals right now.
1. Find the hard thing and do it.
One of the most important things you can do as a teenager is to get out of your comfort zone, stop asking, “what if?”, and find the hard thing and do it. This could be in the form of a job, starting something, or taking the class that’s harder with a better teacher than the easy one.
An example of this is a thing I do every year, referee soccer. This ranges from recreational league to varsity, and even some adult leagues. It’s simultaneously the best and worst thing I do every season. It’s the best because it forces me to deal with people, make quick decisions, and take charge. It’s the worst because I naturally tend to avoid conflict, be very indecisive, and I'm passive by default. You can see the dilemma here and yet I’ve done it for the past 5 years. Find something like this that challenges you’re weaknesses.
2. Pursue many things, not just what you’re passionate about.
If you don’t know what you want to do with youre life that’s normal, but don’t start racking up debt just to find out what you love doing. Instead, go to a cheap community college and take as many inexpensive classes as you can, while getting you core classes out of the way. Then when you have a good idea of the direction you want to go, get after it!
Here’s what I thought growing up: passion + work ethic = success. In other words find what you love doing, work hard, and you’ll be successful. The problem is we’re not always good at the stuff we love doing. And what if we love doing something only because we haven’t tried anything else? When we are young we are like blank canvases. Every experience is like the stroke of a paint brush. The finished product is finding our true passion in life. The more stuff you try, the faster you’ll learn what you’re good and bad at, what you like and dislike, and what you’ve always wanted to do with your life, but just didn’t know it quite yet. And that’s the finished piece when you learn your true passion.
3. Look at failure like other people look at success.
If our goal is to reach that finished art piece, then we should chase as many strokes as possible. This is going to mean failing at a lot of things. But as I’ve mentioned in another post, failure isn’t always a bad thing and can often be better for you than succeeding. Think about the stage of life you’re in right now. This is the greatest time to fail at things and take the biggest risk. Failure and risk only punch harder the older you get.
Given that we are learning from our failures, we should just go ahead and get them out of the way as quickly as possible. The older you get the more you should know and the less you should be failing. Therefore, the younger you are the less you'll know and the more you should be failing. We can then learn, recalibrate, and move closer to success.
4. Don’t judge someone based on where they are now.
It’s easy to look at people and want to envy them or think you could easily get to where they are if you wanted to. The problem is we don’t always know the factors that went into where they are now. They may have had an advantage we didn’t, or worked day and night for years to get to where they are now and we simply can’t see that by just looking at them. So don’t think success is easy or your dream job should just be handed to you.
5. Don’t take things so personally.
I’m very egotistical. It’s easy for me to think everything is about me. Every comment, laugh, and look is directed towards me. When in most cases it’s not.
It’s rare to see a good debate nowadays. I think this is because everyone throws their identity into a certain belief system and then feels personally attacked when that belief system is questioned. I’m thinking mainly about politics, but this could work for all beliefs that don’t have an absolute truth. The more I learn, the more I realize that both sides of the coin are right. It’s good to take a step back every no-and-then and ask yourself why you believe what you believe. This leads to a greater understanding of your beliefs or a correction in what you thought was true.
Bottom line, don’t feel personally attacked when you’re system of thought is put into question. Look at it as a chance to refine your own views and to helps others understand.
These are just a few pieces of advice I thought every high schooler, and now young adult, should know. So if this helped or you have questions or comments, let me know!