Archive for May 27, 2015

Three Important Pieces of Advice for New Graduates!

It’s that magical time of year once again. Mortar boards are being decorated. “Pomp and Circumstance” is playing on football fields across America. Thousands of people are gathered to hear hours and hours of names being recited, all for that brief moment where they recognize the name being called as their relative.

It’s heady stuff. It’s graduation.

Whether you’re moving on to college, to grad school, or to the battlefield known as the job market, here are three pieces of advice as you move on to the next great adventure in your life. The author’s qualifications for dispensing such advice are only that he’s been there, done that, and survived more or less intact to tell the tale.

1. You Probably Don’t Have Any Clue What You’re Doing (and That’s OK!)

In working with a lot of other young people, one of the primary concerns I hear from soon-to-graduate students is “I don’t really know what I want to do with my life.” Which is equivalent to my ears as saying “I am a human being without psychic abilities or a single-minded desire to do any one thing.”

Those people graduating alongside of you who seem to have their lives plotted out in front of them like a route on Google Maps? Most of it is just an illusion. I’m sure they THINK they have their life plan all organized into bullet points and start dates, but life just doesn’t work that way. And it SHOULDN’T work that way. How boring would it be if your whole life followed a predictable path from your youth, not allowing you to find anything exciting that would cause you to wander on to a new, less predictable path? And what good would it be even if you succeeded at that? There’s no trophy given for “Best Adherence to Adolescent Life Plan.”

Embrace a little bit of uncertainty. Most people change their careers at some point, and the people who do often end up being better compensated and more stimulated as a result. If you have a folly, follow it – you’ll likely be happier in 20 years knowing you pursued a passion than if you stayed stationary (at least that’s what I tell myself).


2. Consider The Cost Of Your Happiness

I graduated with a double major in Economics and Political Science, which is most often parlayed into admission into law school. Why did I pick those majors? Because they seemed interesting. How many law schools accepted me for admission? The same number to which I applied: Zero.

Someone asked me a few months ago why I never ended up becoming a lawyer, despite being interested in it earlier in my career. The answer: I couldn’t imagine myself doing any of the careers requiring a law degree every day while maintaining my happiness and sanity. Instead, I ventured into the world of leadership development, which has been enormously fulfilling and stimulating. Hardly a day goes by where I don’t love what I do and why I do it.

Certainly we need to have income in order to buy important things like food and toilet paper, but above a certain level, how much would someone have to pay you to be miserable? Or, put another way: How much would you pay to be happy? If someone came to your door offering true happiness in a bottle, how much would you be willing to pay for it? Isn’t the whole point of making an income to provide a life that makes you happy? So why accept more money to hate what you do?


3. Don’t Let Tight Finances Get You Down

Unless you are graduating with the lifetime ATM card known as an engineering degree, you’re likely going to move on to the next phase of your life with less money than you would like (or in some cases, even need). Independence is wonderful, but also comes at the cost of having to pay to sustain yourself.

And let’s be frank – it’s not going to be easy, especially if you’re graduating with student loans. You likely will make the least amount of money in your career right at the beginning (duh). But it will go up. Draft a budget, stick to it, and most of all, try to enjoy life outside your bank account. Go play in a park. Take some deep breaths while sitting in the run. Embrace the challenge of getting to do things on your own, knowing that in a few years, it will most likely get easier.


In short, life is too short to spend being miserable when things are challenging. Most of the challenges that come at this stage in your life are being shared by MOST people your age. Stumbles aren’t failures, and success isn’t the same as living without struggle.

Or, to frame it differently: Graduation means not having to live and die by a letter grade anymore, so stop trying to assign one to your own life.

Good luck!

Stumbles On The Road To Success? TRI, TRI Again!

“That which we persist in doing becomes easier to do, not that the nature of the thing has changed but that our power to do has increased.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

A simple concept right? Practice makes perfect after all.

Just a few short weeks ago as I sat on a chaotic city street enjoying lunch at my favorite pizzeria, chatting with the familiar waitress who has become my friend and confidant, I realized something: I was completely at ease. The language that once felt so awkward and impossible rolled seamlessly off my tongue. The noises, sights and smells once so overwhelming were as comfortable as my mother’s kitchen. This is home in the truest sense of the word.

It was nearly two years to the day from when I’d first arrived in Bella Napoli. Those first few months in this chaotic and authentic Italian city were spent stringing together toddler like sentences aided by a hand-held dictionary. I relied on primitive sign language to communicate and often times returned home empty-handed because even after trying Google Translate, hand gestures, and every other means of communication I could think of, I still ended up the village idiot and gave up and left confused and perplexed shopkeepers in my wake.

I am not embarrassed to admit that I left IKEA in tears after trying for over an hour to understand where to pick up the sofa I’d just purchased. Eventually I just gave up and decided the 140 euro for a bright orange sofa was an acceptable opportunity cost for my pride. I determined the better option was just calling it a day and coming back to try another day…hopefully with an Italian speaker in tow.

Endless experiences of trying to speak this language and straining to understand my landlord and neighbors left me feeling defeated and lonely. As an extrovert who thrives on human interaction and communication, I literally faced each day with dread and couldn’t imagine I would ever crack the code and be able to hold a “real” conversation with those around me. Honestly I would have settled for just being able to successfully purchase groceries without breaking social etiquette or looking the fool.

Patiently, my bilingual husband would tell me I was doing better than I thought and that one day it would “just click”. I would sigh and mentally note that I am sure it would just click for someone like him, but that despite my best efforts, I couldn’t imagine ever being able to understand these fast talking Neapolitans. It seemed an impossible dream. Fluency couldn’t possibly be my goal but I could dream of a day when I could by produce words without sounding like Yoda and communicat to my landlord without accidentally saying the toilet needs roasting. Because really what toilet ever needs roasting?

I studied diligently and completed my homework assignments. I spoke to my neighbors. I’m sure they rarely understood what I was saying but I spoke to them anyway. Gradually the interactions began to feel less forced and my heart didn’t beat like I was doing heavy cardio each time I attempted to enter a new shop or ask directions. I found myself going from having Italian acquaintances and neighbors to having Italian friends and family.

Then, before I knew it, one spring day as the waitress chatted on about her favorite types of traditional dance and how much she enjoys her Sundays off while the gentlemen at the table behind us discussed the meeting they just finished at work, it “just clicked” and I realized that the impossible had happened. I speak Italian.

This personal anecdote and glimpse into a small window of my life reminds me of other similar moments in my life:

When I first began to train for a 1/2 marathon, I could only run for one minute, followed by five minutes of recovery so that I could run for just one more. Then after following a strict training schedule, I found myself crossing finish line after finish line with new PRs.

Or when I received my first college exam score and realized that I wasn’t in high school anymore as that 67% stared boldly at me from the page. Graduation felt like an impossible dream. How could I graduate if I couldn’t even pass my first class? Then to go from that dreadful moment to achieving nothing less than an A- in my remaining years at University. What do all these fairly inconsequential personal moments have to do with leadership? With life?

Everything! Emerson really did know what he was talking about. The impossible becomes possible when we persist. When we TRY! When we fall and brush ourselves off and TRI, TRI, again.

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