What I Wish I Had Known in High School – Advice for Teens

We are very good at teaching practicality and focus once adolescents reach high school. The focus narrows to adult responsibilities and preparation, career, and education – and it has to. But in that stream of consciousness, as I look back, some of the best advice I give now, was not what I was given. Mostly one of expansiveness – of always pushing back to be bigger – these were not top of mind. Mixed in with some really important character lessons – here are a few.

  • Get the best grades you can and pick the university that is the best you can get into for the field you are interested in… particularly if it’s somewhere else. Don’t just go to your local college because it’s close. Save money up through high school, apply for every scholarship, bursary and grant, and go away to college. Get as much education as you can – you only really regret the education you didn’t get whether you use it or not.
  • Travel. Take a year off before college and travel or a year off after it and travel. But before you get married and settle down and have roots…see parts of the planet outside of where you live. Your mind will be opened, your perspective will be changed and matured, your level of gratitude, skyrocket.
  • Look for another job while you have a job. C’mon people… we can push 8 pound human beings out our vaginas…you can hang in there in a job you hate while you look for another. The gap of unemployment adds more stress than the soul sucking job you’re currently at.Learn to persevere and manage people and situations you don’t like because life is full of them.  These experiences will help teach you an important life skill – how to stay positive and rise above, when circumstances are not optimal.

    Choose your attitude every day. Once you get a new job then give your notice appropriately and respectfully… no matter what. This is called character folks – it will set you apart.

  • Apply for jobs you want even if they don’t exist. Create a job for yourself at a place you want to work and design a resume to fill it. Apply for jobs you aren’t qualified for and are not advertised. You never know what will open up that might be completely perfect because you didn’t just fall into line with the same resume format and job application process for advertised jobs that hundreds might be applying for.
  • Whatever path you choose – you can change. Make sure you start off on a path that leads to something you love. If as you grow and change those desires and interests change, change your course. You are never stuck in one career forever unless you love it and want to keep it. Th average person is now changing career paths multiple times in their lifespan. If you don’t like what you’re doing, for goodness sake, change it.
  • Make a list of things, qualities, experiences that are important to you and keep it close. It will help you gravitate closer to those goals and outcomes. It’s a living breathing bucket list – not for end of life but through your life. Check things off as you accomplish them.
  • Never forget humility. We are all replaceable – in our work, in our relationships. Put good honest effort into everything you do. Be grateful for what you receive whether it’s money or experience. Learn how to function at a high level even when things are hindering you. Choose your thoughts, words, behaviours with intention and do your very best. This eliminates regret – not pain or disappointment, but regrets and things that will make you feel stuck. Feel good about yourself but be humble – humility sets you apart…cockiness just makes you an asshole.Nice guys finish first in the long run  – think long term. Your ability to be patiently perseverent will do you wonders and give you wisdom and respect.
  • If you can’t help people at least don’t hurt them. But everyone can help someone. Look for opportunity to live outside of your own ambitions – buy someone a meal, make someone a meal. Do something for someone that can’t repay you and expect nothing – genuinely expect nothing.Give to charities you believe in, volunteer for important causes – people need you. Rescue an animal – they need you too. Live in community, don’t hide behind the walls of your condo in a self serving life. Find your tribe and then encourage each other to do better for others as an extension of it.
  • Don’t just buy stuff…experience your life. In a rich, kind, gentle, loving, fulfilling way. Do not make success mutually exclusive to generosity and kindness. Forgive often – especially when you don’t get an apology and leave grudges behind.One leads to the other and increases the other if your heart is right.
  • Never become so attached to an outcome or another person that you sacrifice too much of yourself. Few things last forever and life changes quickly and unexpectedly. Be in this moment, fully yourself, complete all by yourself. Love others freely, without conditions but with good boundaries but do not lose yourself in them. The cost/reward ratio on that will never tip in your favour. Trust that the right people – healthy people – will gravitate toward you because of what you do to make yourself a whole and complete person without deep attachments to changing tides.
  • Cherish your family. Make your children a priority while you have them. Take care of each other. When everything else falls apart that’s all you’ve got – treat them as precious – they are.
  • Never stop playing. Never stop moving. Continue to exercise your body, mind, and spirit in ways that delight you. This will help you in more ways than you realize.

    The world will try to narrow your mind – fight to keep it open. Seek things that bring you to life from the inside out no matter what others say is reasonable. Question everything. Say ‘No’ without explaining. Always think bigger. Always be kinder. Always be grateful. But mostly… be bigger than the world, those around you, or even you, think you can be. 

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