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.



Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Lesson 14: It’s never too late.

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.


Self-forgiveness means accepting the fact that you will never have a better past.
—Dan Sullivan

You’re lucky to have your whole life ahead of you. You’re able to choose how you will live it. Many people wake up in middle age to the realization that the life they have lived is not the life they wanted. This often results in regret, disappointment, and a mid-life crisis.
I enjoy watching Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan on the National Geographic Channel. It follows real-life dog expert Cesar Millan as he works with people and their pets. Millan finds that problem behavior is more often caused by the human owner than by the dog.
Many of his clients have rescued their pets from abusive or neglectful situations. The owners mistakenly believe that their dogs’ behavior problems are caused by bad memories, when in fact the owner’s worry is to blame.
Millan points out that dogs don’t care about—or even remember—the past. “Dogs live in the now,” Millan says. “They don’t care about their past lives. If you give them exercise, discipline, and affection, they will be happy and well-adjusted.”
Maybe we could learn a thing or two from dogs. Whatever bad stuff has happened in the past, leave it there—in the past. You’re an adult now. Childhood was just the warm-up act; now is the time for you to take control of your own well-being. As Cesar Millan would say: live in the now. If a dog can do it, surely so can you!
Of course, you can’t just live in the now. To paraphrase Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, you should live in the past, the present, and the future. But don’t let the past rule you.
Who you are today is a composite result of everything that you have experienced in the past. Recognize that fact, but resist the temptation to go back. Don’t regret or wonder, “What if?” Your life is here and now. By the same token, you must look ahead, to the future. Decide where you want to go, and start moving in that direction. If you don’t, you could find yourself in a life that goes nowhere.
So here’s the trick: cherish all the good stuff from the past, let go of all the bad stuff, and envision the future that you want for yourself. Then use the present to begin creating that future.


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Lesson 13: Your expectations will usually come true.


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.

You have to expect things of yourself before you can do them.
—Michael Jordan

It’s called the Pygmalion Effect—also known as the self-fulfilling prophecy—and it’s real. If we expect a positive outcome, we’ll probably get it. If we expect a negative outcome, it’s likely to happen.
A lot of research has been done on school children in this area. Robert Rosenthal and Lenoir Jacobson performed studies at elementary schools where teachers were given the names of a select group of high-achieving students. The teachers were told that because these kids were so intelligent, they would probably excel over their lower-performing classmates.
Sure enough, those smart kids performed like smart kids. They got good grades, and they generally showed significant improvement on end-of-the-year tests. There was only one catch: the “smart” kids weren’t really any smarter than the others. In fact, they had been chosen completely at random.
The real difference had been the expectations of the teachers—and as a result, their treatment of the students. Later studies have confirmed this effect in adults as well.
Your expectations become your own self-fulfilling prophecy. This applies to events both big and small. The reason is simple: if you really believe that you will do a great job, your subconscious mind will guide your behavior to be consistent with that belief, and you will indeed be an outstanding employee, student, or whatever.
If, on the other hand, you view yourself as not being good at something, you’ll have no motivation to improve. What would be the point? You know you can’t do it, so why waste your time trying to get better?
Do you see where this is going? Just knowing about the self-fulfilling prophecy can be a tremendous help to you in your life. Remember: you have complete control over your own thinking. It naturally follows that you have control over your own expectations.
So what’s it going to be? You can expect misfortune—and almost certainly bring it on—or you can expect great things from yourself. Just remember that you have no one but yourself to blame for your own expectations.



Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Lesson 12: Be flexible—to a point.


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 really happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery when on a detour.
—Unknown

When I was in graduate school, a professor gave me a criticism which I took to be a backhanded compliment. “The problem with you, young man,” he said, “is that you’re always trying to change the rules to suit you.”
Obviously, we can’t always change the rules to our liking. The fact that we don’t agree with something doesn’t mean we can ignore it. You may think the speed limit is unreasonably low on a certain road, but if you speed on that road, you’ll still get a ticket. Many, many circumstances are totally beyond your ability to direct. Your success or failure under those circumstances will depend largely on your response to them—in other words, you have to adapt.
Here are a few examples. Let’s say you want a particular job, but it goes to the boss’s nephew instead. Maybe you’re in love with someone and want to marry him or her, but for whatever reason it doesn’t work out. Perhaps the company you work for goes out of business, and you lose your job. A loved one dies. You’re injured in an auto accident or suffer a serious disease. The list of possible scenarios is endless.
These are the proverbial cards that you have been dealt. You can’t trade them in for another hand; you must play the cards you have right now. Now is when you must adapt. Recognize the reality and respond accordingly.
George Washington is one of my favorite historical figures. Perhaps his greatest trait was his ability to see a situation as it really was, not as he wished it to be. His actions were guided largely by the situation itself: he planned his moves to make the best possible use of the circumstances, and wherever possible, he tried to turn those circumstances to his advantage.
You can do the same thing. It’s a two-step process. First, view every situation through realistic eyes. Don’t kid yourself. Second, shape your response to make the most of the circumstances.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should give up your personal autonomy or allow yourself to be tossed and turned like a boat without a rudder. No sailor can control the wind, but a good sailor uses the existing wind to sail to the destination of his own choosing.



Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Lesson 11: Be bold.

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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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Freedom lies in being bold.
—Robert Frost

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When my sister Nancy was about thirteen, our mother took her on a trip to Washington, DC to see the monuments and visit the museums. One museum housed a temporary exhibit of rocks that had been collected by astronauts during a NASA moon mission. Nancy and Mom saved this exhibit for the last day of their trip.
When they arrived at the exhibit hall, they were met with a sign that read “Moon Rock Exhibit Temporarily Closed.” My sister was deeply disappointed; this was to have been the highlight of the trip. But my mother was not to be denied. She made it clear that she had come to see the moon rocks, and she was going in, regardless of the sign.
“Mom!” Nancy protested. “Can’t you read? You’ll get in trouble; you might get arrested!” It made no difference. Mom strolled past the sign and into the deserted hall. A few minutes later, Nancy was horrified to see her mother being escorted out by a burly security guard who politely but firmly reminded the little lady that the exhibit was closed.
“See?” Nancy said. “I told you you’d get in trouble!”
“Well,” Mom replied with a quiet smile. “I saw the moon rocks.”
Get the point? My mom was bold, and she was successful in her quest. My sister held back, and she didn’t get to see the moon rocks.
Have you ever heard someone say, “I should have done so-and-so?” Boldness will keep you from ever having to say that.
You can express boldness in every aspect of your life, whether it be big or small. If you want to do something—as long as it’s legal and worthwhile—do it. If you want a different job or a graduate degree, make up your mind to go for it. If you’re in a karaoke club and want to sing, then sing! If you care about someone, don’t be afraid to express how you feel.
Live the life that you want to live. Don’t be held back by some notion that you aren’t good enough, or that you might fail or be embarrassed. Don’t let fear keep you from doing what you want to do.
Be bold, my friend, and you will never have to live with regret.



Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Lesson 10: Forgive, for your own sake.

 
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.



To carry a grudge is like being stung to death by one bee.
—William Walton


Without a doubt, there will be many times in your life when others will do you wrong in some way or other. Some of these wrongs will be accidental, others deliberate. Some will be monsters—life-changers that will hurt deeply and cause major heartaches.
The people who commit these wrongs will be as varied as the acts themselves. Coworkers, friends, relatives—there’s no telling where hurtful events can originate. The most painful source is close family members—a parent, spouse, or sibling. Worst of all, you yourself may be the source of an unspeakable action that hurts those you love.
Forgive. As hard as it is, forgive. Forgive everyone. Forgive them for every wrong.
Most important, forgive yourself. Until you forgive, you can’t truly move forward. And you must move forward.
Your life lies in the future, not the past. Don’t let the past hold you back. There’s nothing you can do about the past—it’s gone, and you can never bring it back. The only time period you have any control over is the time that’s ahead.
Going back and rehashing past wrongs is a frustrating, useless exercise that does nobody any good. It’s like picking at a scab. The way to heal a wound is to leave it alone and let time and nature do their work.
What is forgiveness? It is a genuine, deep-down, permanent release from any harsh feelings, resentment, or anger. You’ve heard people say, “I can forgive, but I can’t forget.” Well, that’s not really forgiveness at all. Forgive and forget. It’s not easy, but you must do it—for your own sake as well as others’.
It’s true: carrying a grudge really is like being stung to death by a single bee. What’s more, these are self-inflicted wounds; the person carrying the grudge keeps stinging himself.
Forgiveness carries the tremendous power to heal and to liberate at the same time. Stop stinging yourself. Forgive, and get on with your life. And when you are wronged in the future, forgive again, and again, and again. Leave the past behind, and keep moving ahead.