I’m upset at Michel. He was our Senior Class President and in the run up to the election in 2004, he assured me that if I voted for him then our Ten Year Reunion would have, and I quote “hella strippers and cocaine, bro.” Well our Ten Year Reunion is coming up and there are neither strippers nor cocaine. In fact we don’t even have a plan! What the hell Michel? What was all this “one in a million” talk?
This June it will be ten years since my high school’s Class of 2005 graduated. All in all, there were about 666 graduating seniors that year. Always a good omen. It’s hard to fathom that it’s been nearly a decade since a bunch of 17 and 18 year olds we grew up with headed into the first part of real life.
Reunions don’t hold the same mystique and allure that they once did. Thanks to social media you can see who got married, who’s hella rich, who is still in Junior College and who peaked in high school. I would hope so too that all these old girls now know that I’m the one that got away. Kidding. But seriously, look at me now. So for the most part we can kiss goodbye the idea and fantasy of strolling into your reunion with a super model on your arm and a Bugatti keychain in your pocket. Thanks to Facebook, we know you’re still in art school. You’re not fooling anybody.
Jokes aside, reunions aren’t what we long far or fantasize about, as I said, social Media took care of that. I believe that most of us, no matter how successful we are, still wish that we could change something from high school. I for one wish someone had told me how overweight I was and that I should hit the gym and lay off the Popcorn Chicken. But I digress. My feelings towards the past can best be summarized by a certain rap trio from North Carolina, Little Brother.
On “Beautiful Morning” the second track off of the underrated The Minstrel Show, Phonte raps that:
And if I had to go back I wouldn’t change a thing. Wouldn’t recut, re-edit or change a frame. Because it would not be fair, to turn my back on the struggle when that EXACT same hustle got me here.
There are many things I wish I could change, but I wouldn’t. I’m happy with where I’m at, and although I still have far to go, I’m on the right path partly because of the setbacks and challenges I had in high school.
So I wouldn’t change anything, but I would happily give the 17-year-old version of me some good advice. Also applicable to new grads and those looking for fresh ideas. So basically anyone:
1. Get a Customer Service Job
Nothing teaches you patience or empathy like working a customer service job. Every day you’ll deal with people from all walks of life. Learning how to listen and relate to them is one of the most important skills you can develop. Sure, technology is making our lives much easier (or harder, depending on who you ask) but we will always need a human, emotional connection. And in my experience, nothing can fine-tune those skills better than an entry-level customer service job. I worked at bank for a few months as a teller. I met people with no money and some with too much money. But learning how to talk and communicate on a genuine level helped me develop the skills that I would later use in negotiating with CMOs and other high level people.
2. Appreciate Your Hometown
Unless you wanted to work in tech and grew up in San Francisco, it’s very likely that you’ll have to leave your hometown to pursue your goals. Just don’t dog your city on your way out. Like most teenagers, I couldn’t wait to get out of sleepy Modesto. But the very moments I wanted to rush past are the same ones I wish I had back. Never think you’re too good or too big for your city or town. Be appreciative of the opportunity and inspiration it gave you. And if one day you fail and need to re-start back at home, you won’t come back with your head down.
3. Learn a Foreign Language
Charlemagne was reputed to have said that to “…learn another language is to possess a second soul.” Being bilingual or multilingual opens your train of thought and allows you connect with a larger population. It’s sort of mind blowing if you contextualize that learning Spanish would allow you to communicate with almost 40 million people in the world. That’s phenomenal. I could have taken Spanish at Beyer and coasted. But I’m super happy that I took French. Although Spanish cows speak better French than I do, taking classes in high school and college gave me a love of language learning and in a way, facilitated my transition to learning Portuguese. One of the biggest challenges of learning a foreign language is that if you don’t practice speaking it daily, you’ll rarely grow. As such, perhaps you can consider…
4. Take a Year Off and Travel
If I were just graduating, I would take a year off and go see the world. Travel is a means to becoming a better, more well rounded individual. It shouldn’t be an end goal. But taking time to see new places and perhaps learn a new language will expand your vantage points and give you new ideas. No matter where we’re from we all long to see something new. Just make sure you get to work at some point.
5. Learn “Millionaire” Skills
Michael Ellsberg’s The Education of Millionaires had a profound and long lasting impact on my early career. I only wish I had read it back in high school. In the book, Ellsberg emphasizes the importance of being hands on and learning skills like marketing, sales and networking. Regardless of the field you choose, there will always be a component of one of the three. ‘Sales’ especially has an icky connotation, but it’s a lifelong skill that will help you find work, either on your own or as part of a team.
6. Read A Lot
I don’t know how to emphasize this or make this any clearer, but reading is incredibly important. The average CEO reads 52 books a year. Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks reads 2-3 books a week. I’m not saying that reading will make you successful, but I’ve never met a successful person who was like “nah I don’t read.” Read everything you can, but hopefully you’ll sway to the non-50 Shades filler stuff. If you need recommendations, Ryan Holiday has a great monthly list. What I usually tell people looking for business books is to start with The 4 Hour Work Week. From there, just follow the bunny hole and see where it takes you.
7. Get In Shape
I was like forty pounds overweight when I graduated high school. How I wish I had been in better shape. Not so much for self-esteem, but for discipline. Working out teaches you how to stay focused. It teaches commitment and sacrifice. As teenagers, we seek instant gratification, looking for shortcuts in all aspects. Exercise teaches you that anything worth having takes time. Unless you take steroids, but don’t. Also, it does wonders to the spirit to see changes in your physique after weeks and months of activity. If you can have discipline and routine in one area of your life, you can export it to other areas as well.
This definitely wasn’t the reunion you were looking for. Nonetheless, it’s stuff I wish I knew and am only glad I know now. Hopefully it won’t take you ten years to realize that the key to losing weight is to MOVE MORE. EAT LESS.