Wednesday, June 20, 2012

What I know for sure (kind of...)

Another school year has ended and once again no one asked me to give a commencement speech...might it have something to do with my being an achievement-free zone? No offense taken - if anyone asks next year, I have some ideas scribbled down... just a few pearls I wish someone had told me when I graduated high school and university.

Me as an exchange student graduating from New Canaan High CT, 1979 

Graduation Day with friends (me at right) 1979

*Rotten peas and bagging spuds:
Find a summer job that's mind-blowingly boring or  bloody hard yakka.  Some of my Uni friends worked 12-hour days at the Wattie's factory plucking out the bad peas on the conveyor belt.  They are now running New Zealand. For three summers I worked in the back of my parent's fruit shop bagging potatoes. I now run a household (no... it doesn't have the same ring does it?)

You learn humility. The other day I overheard a 20-year-old turning down a job at Neiman Marcus because it was in the kids' shoes department, "There's no way I could help them" she said. Whaaa?

* Learn some stuff, then bugger off:
Take two years off to travel after high school or university. I don't mean one of those ten-day trips to three countries paid for by your parents. Or one of those incredibly expensive programmes where you are supposed to teach school or build a village in a third world country but you end helping kids set up their Facebook page. Grab a Lonely Planet guide to Buggeroffland, strap on a backpack and head off. Most countries need strawberry pickers and waiters so you can make some money on the way.

At age 27 I spent five months traveling by myself through Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Israel and Turkey...not much scares me now. Except PTA meetings.

* Sort out the good sorts:
They laugh at their own problems and will help you laugh at yours. Don't confuse positive people with competitive people who rabbit on for hours about how great their lives-kids-eyebrows-abs are.

*You can't climb ivy:
Your friend went to a better school, that doesn't mean they'll have a better career. Sure, a top school will get them an enviable first job, but it won't help them do well or propel them to their next job. You get to decide your own success.

*Ask for what you want:
Tricky if you're bought up in a culture (NZ) where modesty is everything and any sign of "pushiness" is frowned upon. I was chatting the other day to a ex-colleague, too embarrassed to come to the point and finally she said: "You don't want to get back into journalism, do you?" Yees, I replied. She commissioned me to write something soon after.

Research in Six Degrees of Social Influence shows that people like you more if they help you. Rejection stings but "wistful despair of ....letting the opportunity fade" will haunt us forever.

*Finally, when you get a real job:
Show up to work. Every day. Stay there. All day. That's a good start.

Me being admitted to the Bar, NZ, 1986, pink lippy and all

What would you add to this list?


56 comments:

  1. I really liked your last point;
    "Show up to work. Every day. Stay there. All day. That's a good start."

    You could also add it to:
    "Show up to school. Every day. Stay there. All day. That's a good start."

    I know what you mean by the Kiwi modesty, and the tall poppy synndrome. Sometimes it's really difficult to get the kids to accept praise for a good piece of work.

    I think they'd prefer a lolly.

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  2. I completely agree with your advice, especially the 'sort out the good sorts' bit. I just gave the same advice to a co-worker yesterday who was having a tough time.

    Trust your intuition and observe others. Be wary of crafty rats and manipulative slackers. If your gut is telling you something is off, it is.

    Take a stab at learning something.

    Defend yourself, because no one else will.

    Have a good sense of humour.

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  3. Let's see:
    • world traveller
    • barrister and solicitor
    • journalist
    • domestic engineer
    • mom.

    So, what haven't you tried? Ah, Prime Minister of NZ. Well, maybe next year.

    BTW: Like your advice. That's my kind of attitude. Oh, yeah; regular overtime, unpaid. That's part of life these days. How companies do more with less.

    And when something is at the end of the year, why is it "Commencement"? (Bears are easily confused.)

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  4. Good stuff. I can still use some of that. Here are three I wish I knew back then:

    Don't be afraid to speak up about your good ideas.

    Unless they are truly evil, try to learn some truth from those with whom you disagree.

    Always pay attention to your little voice.

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  5. Brilliant list. I'd add to that:
    - live your life, not your partner's
    - you have the best time if you get up and go rather than over-analyse and plan to death
    - be honest with yourself

    I love your remark about being an achievement free zone. I feel like that too. I sometimes wonder why this the case and then I remember I'm an ambition free zone and love a stress-free life (as much as poss). :)

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  6. Yes I love your list. I think I'd add to that list: being happy is a choice that you make.

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  7. Sure, don't get tied down to one particular person. There is a world of people out there. Take the time to shop around!!
    I loved your list, very good! Love Di ♥

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  8. All great advice, I'd say. That was very brave of you wondering the globe on your own for 5 months! I think independence of thought is important. Never go along with the herd if you think it's heading in the wrong direction. When in doubt, remember that the right thing to do is often the hardest.

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  9. Some great advice. That was funny what you said about the PTA meetings.

    Sometimes, we miss out on places we could have gone or the people we could have met because we didn't take a chance.

    And think of volunteering as kind of like a muscle you are exercising where you can learn new things, meet new people and find a cause that you might end up finding a paying job in.

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  10. We graduated high school the same year.

    Your advice was fabulous especially: learn to work hard, take that crappy job (and NM kid's shoes isnt carppy), show up for work, choosing friends, travel for life experiences.

    I live in a community where kids generally get their first jobs based on connections and how true that you can secure a good job that way but the rest is up to you! I've talked to my 21 year old soon to be University senior about this and also travel. She and two friends began planning their Europe backpacking trip for the day after they graduate next May. They were originally thinking a few weeks and I said are you nuts. This might be the only time in your life that you can do this. Take two months. Her concern was an employer and I said negociate with them a July 1 start. I never got permission to do this so I will not have her miss this opportunity.

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    1. Gina, oops, just looked at the back of the photo which says: 1980. Dropped out of maths at age 15 and it shows.

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  11. Never miss a chance to help someone else out that cannot repay you. Always befriend the lady or gentleman that takes out your trash, operates the elevator or holds the door open for you.

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  12. Excellent advice, and I think it applies to any stage of life.

    Asking for help is always the hardest for me. Trying to get over it though. There's a great line from a recent Reese Witherspoon movie "Figure out what it is you want, then learn how to ask for it." I think that's definitely a key to happiness.

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  13. All good advice. I'm interested in the "better school, better job" I have one child in a school deemed to be good (fee paying) and 2 in the state system - all 3 doing very well. At this young age there seems to be a lot of networking amongst the kids as well as the parents - it's not something I buy into at all. I'm interested in how it all pans out in the end. Good parenting and a good attitude, I hope, will see them making the right choices for a happy future.

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  14. Great advice. Definitely the travelling, never saying no to work, and staying all day. Always say yes to something you're asked to do at work, even if it seems too hard. And if an amazing work opportunity comes your way, take it - I feel like a few of them have passed me by ;-)

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  15. All great advice. I think a sense of humor is certainly key! And you are totally right about asking for what you want. It would be a shame to go through life thinking "what if?" or "I should have asked for....".

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  16. your pictures are priceless, thanks for sharing. your advice is also. i love your gems here and think everyone should follow!

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  17. Goodness I wish you lived in closer! I'd love to chat about this very topic over some wine.

    SO true and important... * Sort out the good sorts:
    They laugh at their own problems and will help you laugh at yours.

    I would add that it is never to late to be honest with yourself about what you want professionally. Work hard, and success can be achieved. Key... is to work hard. Loved your thoughts on that (and laughed about the children's shoe sales!).

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  18. Great advice here and definitely worth following!
    ~Anne

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  19. Wow! This is great Jody! You are so right and it's unfortunate that despite our best efforts.. some individuals just have to figure out life the hard way. I liked "..sort out the good sorts.. Yep!

    You were so pretty (and still are!)and what an accomplished woman you are!

    leslie

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    1. Leslie, you're so sweet, looking at my chubby cheeks in HS I will forever dub these "the donut years"

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  20. Great advice, have you read a book called 'Things I wish my mother had told me'? by Lucia Vanderpost? She has a lovely manner, very kind and practical but very also intellectual and professional, she is in her sixties now (a bit of a national treasure in the UK media world) and the book covers a range of topics including marriage and the menopause, it is well worth a read!

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    1. I will for sure order that - was she one of the writers for the FT perchance?

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  21. Super advice . I would say do not be afraid to take risks and make mistakes you learn so much from your errors.

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  22. This is an amazing post, Jody! You are so right about everything!
    Have a perfect weekend!

    xoxoxo

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  23. I did the Middle East on my own too, phew in all honesty I would freak if I had a daughter who wanted to do the same, it was rough and frightening at times.

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    Replies
    1. Wonder if we ever crossed paths? I was the one with only two pairs of trousers and a perpetually lost look..

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  24. Jody, you are so ridiculously accomplished and funny that it hurts. I was never so bold as to take on the mid-east by myself but did disappear before grad school (the first time) and my parents had to come looking for me in Italy, ha!

    Happy weekend to you!
    xo Mary Jo

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  25. As someone who will graduate from an MBA Program in March 2013, I absolutely love you for this post. I feel semi-lost about what I want to do next, but this kind of put things into perspective for me. Love it! :)

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  26. your advice..SMACK ON!
    Dying with laughter about PTA because I actually traveled by black hawk helicopter through Irag to entertain troops in another life as a performer..DURING the beginning of the war...and NOW I get anxiety going into The Little Gym....how does THAT happen???

    C

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    1. Need to hear more about this other life!!!

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  27. OH my gosh... why didn't you give my commencement speech? Granted it has been many years, but I can't even remember what the speaker said at either my high school or my university one!

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  28. i would encourage everyone to quit talking ab what they wish they could do, and just go out and GET IT

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  29. Ahem - you? An achievement-free zone? Are you kidding? The best advice I have been given is 1) pick your fights and 2) imagine yu are 99 years old and on your deathbed. Now talk to yourself at your current age and tell yourself all the things you regret not doing, not achieving out of either lack of drive or lack of confidence....works every time!!

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  30. What to say that hasn't been said?
    I personally liked ~Ask for what you want~
    I should do this more, and stop thinking people can read my mind... I'd def. have a few less disagreements with the Husband!

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  31. Really great post. Love the part that you decide your own success. I'm just finally learning this in my own life and it's helping me take the reigns to really dictate what I want my life to be and what I want to happen. It's a wonderful feeling! Also I think not comparing ourselves to others is key. Those that don't compare themselves are happiest and most content.

    Zorrie
    www.sugarandchic.com

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  32. Just showing up prepared every day accounts for lots.

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  33. Some great advice here - can I add to the point about doing boring jobs that waitressing for a bit is a good idea. You will never take one for granted after that!

    Girl who turned down the shoes job is going to find life long and difficult and unfair I think!

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  34. These are fabulous advice! In fact I think your tips are invaluable even to those of us who graduated from university 20 years ago. It doesn't matter what line of work you're in nor your age, humility goes a long way.

    Ah yes, the tall poppy syndrome. I'm often amazed at how Americans cheer each other on. Quite the opposite here in UK and NZ. Working class stock made good? The general comment would be: trying to be better than they actually are.

    As for buggering off for extended period of time. Couldn't agree with you more there. Took 4 months off gallivanting to obscure corners of the world when I was 24 and then when I was 27 and 29.

    LOL! Does thinning apples and cleaning houses count? Did plenty of that.

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    1. I forgot to mention that PTA scare the crap out of me too. I've come across a number of truly competitive people. You'll think their kids are little Einsteins and everyone else's are dumb. And their houses are nicer, cars are bigger.....blah blah blah (this is the part where I start to zone out and daydream).

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    2. I daydream when I volunteer in the class too...and think about reading trashy mags at home and eating marshmellows

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  35. good advice!! and doing the right thing is always the right thing to do...

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  36. This is a list of very smart advice. I wish I did the 5-month backpacking tour through Buggeroffland. I'd be a better person for it. I'd add don't be afraid to do what you are truly passionate about.

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  37. Thanks so much for sharing your story and pictures. Some great tips for the youngings! :) xo style, she wrote

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  38. Yep..you said it all...so well......I'd just encourage mine to believe they can do what they want to do and listen to their inner voice....and yes doing the right thing is sometimes hard but it always is the right thing to do.

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  39. Great tips and this really made me smile too. I'm a great believer in the importance of travel and I loved your 'sort out the good sorts' - so true!
    http://missbbobochic.blogspot.co.uk/

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  40. Fantastic post Jody. I am printing this out for my boys. We all need this real and true advice especially living in the horridly competitive Bay Area! You inspire!
    Xo
    Kim

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  41. Such fab advice!!! I so wish that I had taken the time to travel after college. So impressive that you traveled solo for 5 months! That's amazing and must have been such an eye opening experience. And seriously love all of the pix. Especially love the amazing dress you wore on your graduation day! I'd wear it today :) xoxo

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  42. Oh you are so right! We have always encouraged our children to pursue their dreams and always do the right thing. Great post!!

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  43. inspirational post! great advice to live by!

    XOXO

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  44. Nothing to add except : waooh, your hair !! (great Farrah Fawcett fan here !) and how did you manage to look good under that wig ?!!

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  45. since im 8 i hv been travel to places and being brought up in a different atmosphere and community.i honestly think we both are lucky coz what we hv faced previously has make us a human,and widened our mind

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  46. awesome list! i'd add once you finish buggering around, do what you love for a living and don't let someone talk you out of pursuing it for something more practical. it's okay to starve a little in your 20s.

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  47. That was an awesome list & much of what I wish someone would have told me. You look gorgeous in all your pictures, it was great to see them :)) xx

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  48. How nice of you to organize a fundraising event!! Not only that you have helped the school but I am sure the party was so much fun!!! Love the pictures!

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