True story: My mother, God rest her soul, spent the summer of 1996 in a near state of agony. On my first day of 6th grade, she tied balloons to her vehicle and followed the bus a few miles to drive the point home: she was glad that school started. Please allow this to be a cautionary tale — don’t do what my mom did, your children will hold it against you until both of you are long gone from Planet Earth.
Considering that I am older than dirt, and didn’t have the benefit of social media to this degree in my formative years, seeing everyone’s pictures of their children going off to school and how much they are going to miss their children makes me nostalgic. When I have children of my own, I’m going to feel the same way. I’m always going to want to start my children off with the most advantages possible and I can’t think of a better advantage to give them than a healthy belief in themselves and their place in the world.
For this week’s blog, I wanted to share the advice that I’m going to give my children every year on their first day of school. It is the same advice that I’d give any young person (or adult for that matter).
- Begin this year knowing that it can be whatever you want it to be – I believe a lot in your thoughts attracting people and happenings to you, good or bad. If you begin the year thinking that it’s going to suck, the Vegas odds say that it’s going to suck. If you get up on the first day of the year, full of sincere expectation that it’s going to be your year, then the Universe will respond in kind. It has to be a routine belief that good things are coming your way.
- Surround yourself by people who uplift and encourage you – if your core group of friends does nothing but routinely tell you that you and your ideas are stupid, it’s time to cut anchor on that friend-ship (get it?) and surround yourself with people who make you feel completely different. You’ll be surprised at how different things become when you have a network of friends who encourage your effort, offer sincere perspective on your projects, and keep you smiling. Life is too short to willingly subject yourself to people who insist on everyone around them being miserable.
- Don’t ever be embarrassed by the things that make you happy – If something makes you smile, or makes you happy, then you need to run to that thing with arms open wide. There is a science about achieving more; part of those theories include surrounding yourself with successful people, but also that people who are trying to bring other people down have a fundamental lack of happiness and belonging. You don’t need that in your life. Does coloring your hair blue make you happy? Then dye it. Does playing the theme song to Harry Potter on the theremin make you happy? Tune up that theremin. Block. Out. The. Haters. If someone is trying to make you believe that something you love is stupid, or for babies, or that everyone thinks that is stupid, take a moment to consider how much energy that person is putting in to changing your mind. The problem lies with them.
- It is perfectly okay, and necessary, that you are different – when you get into the big, scary world of adulthood, you are going to find that diversity in personality makes for a much more enjoyable world. Also, you are going to find that you are not as different as you think you are. The combination of tastes, attitudes, and personality traits in the human condition are finite – the odds are that if you don’t have a group of people that are as into your Pacific Rim fan art as you are when you are young, you will find them as an adult. The great innovators of the world were those who were different. Albert Einstein, the one man who may have understood how the Universe works as a whole better than any of us, may have ended up on the Autism Spectrum these days. Steve Jobs, J.K. Rowling, Elon Musk, Oprah Winfrey, and Bill Gates were all people who knew that they were different than others but had great work to do. They embraced that responsibility and so should you.
- Look for reasons to say “thank you” – When I was in my early teenage years, I had a revelation about my mother. The woman made a practice out of being grateful for the little things. The men who worked on the house left behind a few strips of drywall molding? Thank you! If someone let her out of a right hand turn from a street that didn’t have a light, a cashier at the grocery store used the store copy of the coupon, or held the door for her, Mom was always genuinely grateful. Taking the time to actively look for things to say thank you for will multiply the opportunities you have to say thank you. When you look at your world from the perspective of abundance, instead of scarcity, the Universe responds by putting more things in your path to say thank you for. The act of searching out the perspective of gratitude also changes your thought processes too — it puts you in a better mood, you are more uplifting to be around (please refer to advice article 2), and the world as a whole becomes a much more pleasant place to be.
- Know that the environment you are in right now is only temporary and you have the power to change it – I’m not trying to decieve you. There are people in the world who will actually try to bring you down despite your efforts to lift the people around you up. I don’t know if its because they have bad home lives, if they are taking the low road on the journey to acceptance, or if there is a serious imbalance in their brain chemicals. Don’t take it personally, it’s not your fault (provided that you are taking the high road). These people won’t always be class mates — sometimes, they will be your boss, a customer, a client, or a colleague. You can’t change them, you’d be wasting your time and energy in trying; you can change your environment. If you are in school and someone is giving you a tough go at life, then you need to let someone know. If you can remove yourself from situations with this person, do so. Do not let that person affect you to the point where you avoid the things that make you happy just to avoid them. Let the person in charge of the situation know what’s going on — do so with an expectation of “I don’t want to get anyone in trouble, but this is not the best for me and I’d like an amicable resolution.” If that still doesn’t work, then maybe its time to look at changing your environment as a whole. You’ll have the freedom to get a new job, a new apartment, a new city to live in — it’s important to know that you can do these things for the sake of being the best you that can bring out the best in others.
- Finally, the greatest gift that you can give to yourself is developing persistence – a young man once used a phrase around me, when he was talking about video games, that really struck a chord with me. He said he “rage quit” the game he was playing. I picked this up because I really enjoy a good turn of phrase. He was frustrated and threw down his controller because his efforts seem futile. That’s going to happen to us all, a lot. The best tool that you can fashion for yourself is that of persistence, to know that it is uncomfortable now, but being unwilling to relent. Your homework seems ridiculous, but you do it because it was given to you to do. You want to go out with some friends instead of studying for your final, but you do it because it was given to you to do. What you’ll find is that you just do these things on autopilot after a while. You don’t have to actively push yourself to rake the leaves or mow the lawn, you just do it because it’s a habit that you’ve made for yourself. Without realizing it, you’ve become the employee that gets high praise at review time — even better, you become the person who thought differently and now has the ammunition to actually go out and change the world.
If I could leave the students, parents, and adults reading this with one more slice of wisdom – pay attention to what your body is telling you. I’d spent a lot of years in frustration because I was suffering with an attention deficit malady; in my day, such a diagnosis would get you put in a special class and your prospects in life were diminished.
Those days are over – ADD and ADHD is a real thing and there are professionals who can help. There are management techniques, therapies, and medications that will help. This isn’t just for the children, adults suffer from this too. No one wants to feel like the lovable loser that is just breathing the teacher’s oxygen — if your child is telling you that they are trying and they just can’t get it, or that they want to pay attention but can’t, believe them. Make a doctor’s appointment.
I have high hopes for all of you this year and I will see you on your next trip across the Millerverse!