The following was inspired by my daughter, Abbey and her graduating class-mates who have just completed their Higher School Certificate. It is not intended to be a “must do” list, but a few thoughts and lessons I have learned over the years, that I wish I had been told when I left school. They most likely would’ve saved me a lot of time and lessons learned the hard way.
It is not intended to be an exhaustive list, no doubt your parents and teachers will tell you about the lessons they have learned over the years, but don’t be afraid to ask for advice or help.
As you complete your HSC and leave school, a place that has been a big part of your life for the last thirteen years, your story turns another page and takes on an entirely new theme. The next chapter is one that will be written by you. Not your parents. Not your teachers. This next chapter in this story is yours.
“Today You are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive that is Youer than You”. _Dr Suess
Be YOU, don’t be fake, don’t change to fit another persons expectations, YOU will find “YOUR” people and they will find you.
Be Proud of Something
“With realisation of ones own potential and self-confidence in one’s ability, one can build a better world” _Dalai Lama
Be proud of something, a hobby, an event, a special skill or an achievement, something that you can call your own. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else, your special skill is your special skill, it doesn’t belong to anyone else, IT IS YOURS.
When times get tough, and they will, this special skill will be something that you can fall back on which will give you something to feel proud about, something to make you feel good.
Oh, the first thing you can feel proud of is making it all the way through your HSC.
Believe in Yourself
“Believe in Yourself and You will be Unstoppable” _Emily Guay
Self-confidence is a super-power that will open opportunities for you. You don’t need fake confidence, everyone has a little flicker to start the fire, start by going back to the beginning and start with your special skill. Allow your confidence to grow from there.
Believe in yourself, don’t doubt yourself or allow fear to control you. Fear can be Kryptonite, it can paralyse you if you let it, but it can also be a wonderful motivator. Some of your greatest achievements and your proudest moments will occur just after that moment when you thought you couldn’t do it.
Question your own thoughts, especially your negative thoughts. Your disempowering thoughts will be ever present, but they don’t have to define you. It is up to you, if you change your thoughts, you will change your life.
Learn to be resilient, you are going to be knocked around from time to time. At that time when you feel defeated, don’t give up, don’t over analyse how you should feel, of course it is okay to feel sad, but don’t let that moment define you, pick yourself up and try again.
Don’t confuse confidence with arrogance, they are very different. Confidence will draw people in, whereas arrogance will push good people away or attract people you may not enjoy being around.
Confidence starts from within your own circle. It starts with you, then your family, your trusted friends and finally your broader work mates and colleagues. Surround yourself with people who you trust and who genuinely care for you. These people will not only support you with your decisions but also be able to get you back on track if you lose your way.
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” _Lao Tzu
From here on, change will be everywhere. You will change jobs, you will change Uni and TAFE subjects, you will change friends, you will change your favourite restaurant, barista, gym, everything will change right in front of your eyes.
Embrace change as an important part of your life, it is one of the key stimulants to your personal growth. Embrace each moment as an opportunity to learn, open your mind and challenge yourself to the new possibilities that your life will present.
Another benefit of this super-power is that it makes you less sensitive to the thought of “failure”. In my experience, I have “failed” exams, made mistakes, made bad career choices, but I have never described any of this as a failure. The reason is that I look upon each of these moments as an opportunity to learn, to get better and get it right the next time.
Coping with Change
“The true measure of self-worth is not how a person feels about their positive experiences, it is how they feel about their negative experiences” _Mark Manson: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck
Change can be over-whelming, such as starting a new job or University or TAFE. What works for me is, that I try not to over-think everything. I try not to have all the answers and I take each day as it comes. You will find that over time, you will feel more comfortable with your new surroundings and day by day, everything will become a little easier.
But remember, always make time for your hobbies, your sport or your special skills. Spending time away from Uni/TAFE or your new job will be crucial. Also, keep your family in the loop, let them know how you are feeling. Your parents are the best experts you have, they have been through what you are about to experience and will most likely be able to help you get through the most-challenging times.
It’s Okay to Not be Okay
“What you tell yourself everyday will either lift you up or tear you down” _Anon
There will be dark days, at times it will feel as though these days will never end, but rest assured, they will, you will be okay.
Surround yourself with people who genuinely care about you, immerse yourself in your special skill or hobby. Put yourself in a happy place, think about a time when you were happy, remember how it made you feel and do more of it.
Stop doing those things that make you unhappy, stay away from people who drain your energy. It doesn’t mean you need to stop being friends, just let them know you need some space. If you feel up to it, try to explain to them why you need the space, they may have no idea that they make you feel the way you do. If you are unsure of what to do, talk to close friends, your family or seek professional advice.
If Social media is driving you nuts, start a social media detox. Going cold turkey may be too tough. A longer-term solution may involve slowly weening yourself away from those sites that make you angry, frustrated, or increase your anxiety or whatever it is.
Remember, the earlier you make the decision to change, the quicker things will change and you will start to feel better. Aside from your family, there are people you can talk to such a Kids Help Line and LifeLine, you don’t need to feel alone, there are people who can help.
Never Stop Learning
“I am neither clever nor especially gifted. I am only very, very curious” _ Albert Einstein
I know what you are thinking, “I have just completed my HSC, I am done with learning”. I get it, I understand the way you feel. Enjoy the post-HSC glow, but guess what, you will never stop learning, and that is a good thing.
There are many great reasons to keep learning, but one good reason to embrace the opportunity to learn is that it helps to keep anxiety in its place. A cause of anxiety is when you have a fixed mindset and believe that you should know the answers to everything. Let me tell you a secret, that will set you free; you are not expected to know everything.
The fear of not knowing can paralyse some people. Let me give you a quick tip. If, in your new job or at Uni or TAFE or wherever, you are asked a question that you don’t know the answer, use this simple response, “I am not sure of the answer to that question at the moment, but let me look into it and I’ll get back to you”. It is that easy. But then make sure you go and find the answer and report back to your manager!
Don’t fake it, don’t make up an answer and definitely don’t lie, you’ll get caught out and all your credibility will be down the toilet.
Accept that you won’t know all the answers, but embrace the opportunity to learn and create a problem solving mindset. You will never fear not-knowing ever again.
You will never stop learning!
Dare to Dream
“Don’t let someone who gave up on their dreams talk you out of going after yours” _Zig Ziglar (yep, that is really his name)
Can you remember when you were in kindergarten? When most of the day revolved around playing and imaging that you were a princess or a fire truck? Okay, probably not a fire truck, that is what I wanted to be! Don’t judge me.
As you get older your imagination takes a battering. You are told to grow up. Stop being silly. Get in line. You know the story. All of this “compliance” has a terrible impact on imagination.
Also, be aware of the person who says that “it can’t be done”! Before you take their word for it, look at what they have done in their life, confirm that they have the credibility to have that opinion. This is sad to say, but there are people who simply do not like ambitious people who try to reach for their dreams.
Regardless, it is on you, dare to dream. Think of your special skill, are you able to make a living from that? Do you want to travel? Whatever it is, set your imagination free and DREAM BIG!
“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us” _Unknown
To date, it is one of my great regrets, that I have not travelled overseas. Though, that will change very soon.
As a result of working with thousands of people over the last 25 years and talking about their travels and looking through their photo albums, I understand how amazing travel can be, not only personally but professionally. On a global scale, Newcastle is a small place. When you travel overseas, you see an entirely different way of life. Particularly when you visit other cultures and places where the people are not as fortunate as we are.
Travelling will open your mind and give you a completely different perspective of your place in the world.
Find People Who are Doing What You Want to Do
“Success leaves clues” _Tony Robbins
The self-help guru Tony Robbins says this quote all the time, in my experience it is so true.
Regardless what it is that you want to do, whether it is your future job, playing sport, being in the arts such as music, television or theater, surround yourself and learn from the people who are doing what it is that you want to do.
For many professions, excluding medical, it doesn’t have to be the end of the world if your ATAR doesn’t get you accepted to University to study your chosen course. There is; generally speaking, another way. Start by calling businesses that work in the field that you want to work and ask them if they have any internships or even volunteer work. Don’t be discouraged by being told “no”, push on. In my experience, businesses are desperately seeking eager young people who want to learn and want to work.
Start a Career Doing Something you Love
Get your head around this fact, for a large number of you, you will spend the best part of one-third of the rest of your life working! So, why not do something you enjoy.
Start a career doing something that you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.
Dedicated to Abbey, Hollitt, Nick, Johno , Anai, Yasmine, Dom, Harrison, Preston, Tommy, Caleb … and although you left part way through year 11, Gage.