As we approach the end of another school year, one of you has officially become an adult and is about to graduate from high school (seriously, OMG!). As such, I’ve been thinking about what advice a newly minted adult needs, based on my more than 25 years of experience in the role. Here are a few things that come to mind.
Around your age, people often start to think they have it all figured out. They don’t. Life actually gets more complicated in adulthood, not less so. And by the time we’re thirty or forty, most of us have rediscovered humility–and realized that our parents were at least occasionally right (seriously, OMG!).
Do yourself a favor and just stay humble. Look for chances to learn from people who know more than you do and are willing to teach (people who are coaches, not critics). Listen to what they have to say. Ask good questions. And work hard for them. They will empower you, in more ways than one.
Keep Trying New Things
People your age also tend to think that they’ve already discovered their talents and that their paths for the future are mostly set. Nonsense. When I graduated from high school, I had never even heard of email (and neither had most people). Ten years later I was in Sydney, Australia, managing a team that produced the official email newsletter of the Olympic Games. And that led me to start an email newsletter of my own–which eventually, oddly enough, led me to the niche world of professional philanthropy.
The lesson here is that, even as the world will keep on changing, so should you. And you shouldn’t be afraid to try new things, because trying new things often opens up opportunities you haven’t even imagined when you’re deciding whether to try.
Act Your Shoe Size Sometimes
Kids are typically in a hurry to grow up. Adults sometimes need to remind themselves to “grow down”–to stay in touch with the children we once were, as well as with what we might call the wisdom of childhood. The child you once were built fairy houses under the trees behind our house, tried to catch tadpoles in the creek, sang songs at the top of her lungs, and danced in front of the TV, the mirror, and even the video camera. She didn’t worry too much about what other people thought or the chores to be done tomorrow.
That’s the wisdom of childhood in a nutshell: Children live in the moment, and/or in imaginary worlds that expand their horizons rather than curtailing their quests. They don’t linger in nostalgia for the past or nervousness about the future. Adults, meanwhile, tend to let such nostalgia and nervousness cloud the poetic possibilities of the present. In some cases, we worry because we have to. But in others, we just worry.
If and when those clouds start to gather for you, remember that the past is gone and the future still yours to create. Keep playing. Keep pretending, no matter how old you get. And don’t be afraid to dance like no one is watching. What’s the point of growing up, after all, if it makes you afraid to dance?