It’s a Sunday morning in May 2023 and I’m thinking about all the young adults graduating from college around this time. I graduated from college 38 years ago. Thinking about that day and this one right now, I would like to summon a few ideas I wish someone had told me then that would have helped me navigate professional life – a mountain of obstacles to be sure – and live a fulfilling and meaningful life after college.
The ideas I share below come from countless experiences in the working world and outside of work in my personal life. I hope you find these ideas helpful.
We are taught it’s wrong to swing back when someone hurts us with belittling remarks, or in some other way puts us down, or goes out of their way to make us feel bad and inferior to them.
I don’t agree with the philosophy that we should just turn away and not say anything or just let people go on abusing us because they are our bosses or have some other authority over us.
I believe you should swing back, not physically but with rational arguments and even passion and emotion. Don’t let anyone take advantage of you, play psychological manipulation tactics, or make you feel incompetent or unworthy.
Stop that onslaught quickly and with steadfast determination. It’s scary and you may think you’ll lose your job and income and then what? How will you find another job? How will you pay the bills? How will you restore your self-confidence?
You will. Trust me. I’ve lived this experience. I didn’t swing back as forcefully as I wish I had in some situations, but I did stand up and say I wasn’t happy with how I was being treated. When the boss wouldn’t relent, I simply stopped working for person and never spoke with him again.
I swung back in this way and it’s made waking up in the morning much more bearable. A life that was once completely miserable has become enjoyable and prosperous.
Don’t Succumb to Cancel Culture
You’re entering a working world where it’s very tricky to figure out what you can and cannot say, and to whom, and in what situations. Everybody in the workforce knows what I’m talking about. You have to be careful how you talk with members of the opposite sex, people of different races, older and younger people.
There’s a huge amount of sensitivity around what we say when we open our mouths. And when someone says something that someone else finds offensive – whether they should be offended or not – the speaker feels the wrath of anger. People on Twitter call them a racist or sexist.
I’m talking about something you’re all well aware of. It’s called cancel culture. It goes like this: If someone says something you don’t agree with, call them a racist or sexist and they get so intimidated and afraid of the damage done to their reputations that they just go silence.
People all around the world – especially in America – are being silenced. Their opinions are being cancelled out. Don’t allow someone to try to cancel you out just because they disagree with you. That’s a cheap and insidious stunt. Hold your ground and don’t fall for this manipulative and insincere behavior.
As humans we’re not built to be silenced and canceled. We’re here to speak out and be free to share what we think and express emotions and feelings. In the working world if there’s one complaint above all others I’ve experienced that I urge you to change is that people are not allowed to be emotional at work. Logic and rational thinking are, while important, too often overvalued and over relied upon. How people feel is relegated and frowned upon. Creative ideas are often ignored and not valued. I have found two words you never should use if you want to persuade someone in business are “gut feel.” People don’t like to hear it’s your “gut feel.”
But sometimes your gut feel is correct and the best path forward. Do your homework, use logic, but also don’t underestimate the value of what your gut tells you to do. Overreliance on facts and figures and raw logical sequencing and reasoning makes working feel unsatisfying. It’s like everybody’s in straightjackets just doing what they’re told, staying in their lanes of carefulness not really letting out what’s really on their minds.
Fight against this in your careers. It won’t be easy, but if you succeed you will have a more energizing and pleasing career than many from my generation have had who have succumbed to the pressures to just shut up.
Re-Skill Constantly – But Not Just for the Money
Everyone here is aware of what ChatGPT is. It’s got many of you worried that machines will be able to think faster and produce more than workers can, and that leaves open the cosmic question: Will you have a job? How will you add value that the machines can’t?
This will be one of the major issues of your generation. You will have to re-skill, for sure, and there’s no plus side in avoiding this.
You have to embrace developing more skills constantly. Whatever you’ve learned as undergraduates most certainly won’t be enough. When I graduated from college I had no idea how much more education I would have to get just to survive and earn paychecks. No one told me this would happen; I found out the hard way by now being skilled enough.
This situation is unrelenting right up until moment. My job as a content writer could be replaced by ChatGPT.
But I urge you not to just re-skill because you have to make money to survive. That won’t a huge motivator for you as a human being. Re-skill to stimulate your minds, to find out more about the world, to connect more ideas together in your brains. In so doing you will bring more value to the world and become a more interesting person for others to engage with, and those relationships, ultimately, will be more important than whether you make millions of dollars in your careers.
Your learning will be endless, expansive and constant. It will get tiring. Just when you have your MBA or some other certification, having sweated late into the nights to obtain them taxing your brains, you’ll find out you need to learn a new software application or job management tool or what skills you need that ChatGPT can’t deliver.
I guarantee this repetitive re-skilling will happen over and over again. At times I have dreaded learning all this new stuff and it never seems to come easily to me. But I haven’t had a choice. You won’t either if you want to pay for your groceries. Rather than dread this non-stop avalanche of learning new and complicated concepts and technologies, think of it is as an intriguing life experience, something you’re called to do that will help you share your talents with others and develop richer relationships with more people.
Mental Illness is Normal
With current trends as they are, you are going to continue to hear about your friends, co-workers, children and people from every other walk of life having mental illnesses.
I can tell you as a person who has been struggling with this condition since high school that, at long last, I realize mental illness is normal. It’s not something I or anyone else should be ashamed of. Whatever causes it ultimately doesn’t matter. What matters is that you get the treatments you need to manage it. And they do help.
If you get diagnosed with mental illness, you are normal. You aren’t weak. Some people have poor vision or are missing an arm. You have a mental illness. That’s all this is, no more and no less.
You shouldn’t be afraid to tell people and doing so will probably strengthen your interpersonal relationships. Ultimately, you can overcome mental illness and that’s what is most important to understand.
Make Laughing A Big Part of Your Life
With my mental condition, I have discovered in recent years the way humor and laughter help make me feel less depressed. Laughing makes me feel less sad; actually more happy and alive. It helps me forget bad things about my life and focus on just the inner physical pleasure of laughing.
Why do we laugh? Because often someone says something that reminds us that there are things about life that are just so hard or strange or incomprehensible and incongruous that the best way to untangle the knots is to not even try. Just make a joke about all the entanglements. It’s much more fun than trying to untangle them when that can’t be done.
Never Stop Telling People You Love Them
You will notice, and I know it’s hard to get your head around this now, that when you’re 60 years old as I am now that your life after college whizzes by. One day you’re in your cap and gown as you are today and the next you’re a few years away from retirement, your kids have graduated from college, and you’re actually making plans for how you want to retire and where.
I guarantee this will go by so fast in your minds and memories. This being the truth, you’re left now with profound questions such as what mark do you want to leave on the world between now and when you’re 60?
I think the answer is to love people and to tell them over and over that you do. When it occurs to you to tell someone you love them, don’t hold back. Tell them you love them. And tell them again the next time you see them. And tell others.
The world is very complicated right now in many ways. I can sympathize and empathize with all the concerns you have about what will happen in your lives. You might as well embrace uncertainty because that’s all you can be sure of. Laugh about uncertainty. There’s plenty of funny material on this to draw upon.
And love, but not just love. Share your love. Tell people you love them.
Tell them starting today, and continuing tomorrow, and for the rest of your lives.
Life is most meaningful, and worth living, when you love others and let them know that.
Sammy Sportface, a sports blogger, galvanizes, inspires, and amuses The Baby Boomer Brotherhood. And you can learn about his vision and join this group's Facebook page here:
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