1. Play nice with others.
Just like when we were assigned to do those group projects that taught us more about how we hate everyone else than how to coordinate ideas, our lives are going to be filled with tasks and events that can’t be handled alone. Whether you’re putting together a presentation for work, or organizing a surprise party for someone, there come times when we’re going to have to suck it up and accept that we’re not the literal center of the universe for five minutes. We have to take others’ opinions into consideration, compensate for their shortcomings, and let them compensate for yours (which starts, unfortunately, by admitting you have them to begin with). And though it may not be the most fun thing to do, swallowing our pride and accepting that we can’t do it all by ourselves, it certainly makes life easier to share the burden of work and preparation with others from time to time. (Plus, you don’t want to be the guy who does nothing the entire time and then calls the night before it’s due to find out what to say — we hated that guy in fourth grade, and we hate him today.)
2. Be ready to show your work.
As with the math homework we were cruelly unable to copy directly from the answers in the back of the textbook (that were designed to “check” your own solutions — lol), we are often required to demonstrate not just that we finished something, but how we finished it. As anyone who has even briefly worked in an office can confirm, half of the job is constantly keeping yourself busy and not finishing things with too much ease and speed, lest you forever be the dumping ground for work that no one else wants to do. And God forbid you should have to explain to another exactly how you came to your conclusions — saying, “Umm, I’m not a dumbass and then I just do it” is not going to cut it.
3. Respect your authority figures.
When you’re a kid, talking back to your teacher could get you into detention, or an uncomfortable parent-teacher conference that might end with no dessert for, like, a month. When you’re an adult, talking back to your boss could make you homeless in a matter of weeks. The unfortunate truth is that life is filled with listening to people and “Yes, sir” and “No, ma’am” – ing them, even when we know they’re really a windbaggy ass hat and we actually know better. We have to be respectful, deferent, and show that we are capable of taking and incorporating advice and corrections. As long as someone is your superior, you are going to have master the delicate art of getting over yourself, one we started learning the moment we started eating our crayons only to have a teacher tell us that, no, that was not a suitable replacement for our sandwich. Lol, what did she know?
4. Keep a clean workspace.
It’s hard to deny that keeping things in a state of at least mild organization helps you to think more clearly, work more efficiently, and generally feel less like a reclusive bridge troll. Just the simple making of a bed can transform your room from decaying junkie squat to chic hideaway. Emptying your car of all the fast food wrappers and empty water bottles takes it from Ford Fiesta to Bentley in a matter of minutes. And keeping only the things you need on your desk (throwing out papers you don’t need at least, say, once a year) will allow you to see what it is you need to attend to immediately, and what is actually just a several-month-old Applebee’s receipt. Much like the desks and notebooks we were told would be so much more useful if not filled with gum wrappers and notes you passed to your best friend, our whole life is far easier to live if not filled with the everyday clutter of being a messy person.
5. Always come prepared.
Remember that feeling when you came to class only to realize, oh sh-t, you completely forgot to do the homework last night that is definitely going to be collected in the next five minutes? Few things were worse than that feeling, and unfortunately, being the asshole who came unprepared to the meeting or the event never becomes a less awful experience. If there is one thing that will probably save you from a life filled with moments of being caught with your pants down — so to speak — it’s knowing what you’re getting into beforehand, and being as ready as you can for it. While there will always be some things we can’t plan for, we aren’t doing ourselves any favors by procrastinating our general progress (career and otherwise) into oblivion. Even on a social level, who wants to be the guy that doesn’t take out cash for the cash-only bar and then makes everyone wait while he circles the block looking for a functional ATM? We don’t have time for your unpreparedness, we have drinking to do.