I spent much of my career in management — hiring young people, training them, and, in some cases, wondering how they managed to get through a year of college and the Starbucks drive-thru. I have to say, working with people in their 20’s did more to guide my parenting than anything I learned from parenting books.
By the time my own kids got to high school, I didn’t care so much IF or WHERE they went to college. I knew the qualities that would get them promoted in jobs and in life would not come from an institution, but from 17+ years of homeschooling.
Twenty-six skills to teach your teens before they leave home
- When you don’t know what a word means, look it up.
- When you don’t know how to pronounce a word, look it up. No, not on your phone in the middle of a meeting.
- Proofread, spellcheck, and double check the autocorrect.
- Look people in the eye. You’ll discover that this is hard to do while looking at your phone.
- When someone asks for help, always give them something. You don’t have to give her what she asks for, but you can give her a word of encouragement, a helpful idea, or a caring glance.
- NEVER put anything on the internet that you would not want to discuss, in a job interview, on a first date or with your mother.
- Don’t press “SEND” in the heat of emotion. Your frustration with someone will go away with time, but those characters in cyberspace can exist forever.
- Admit when you’re wrong.
- Admit when you don’t know something.
- Admit when you need to cut your caffeine intake.
- Thank-you notes are always welcome and in-style. It will always be difficult to know what to do and say when someone disappoints or hurts you. But when someone makes a good difference in your life, the one right thing to do is to make absolutely sure that she knows it. Say “thank-you.” Say it like you mean it — with sincerity, details, and reasons that will convince your recipient that she is Nobel-worthy and that you did not merely recycle the note thanking Aunt Ruth for your birthday cookie bouquet. Every once in a while, write a “thank-you” note as if you’re competing for a prize. Compose it with care and purpose and literary flourish, as if your future depends on it. Make it something that the recipient will want to keep on the nightstand or tucked away, like a treasure to cheer her when she thinks her work has not mattered.
- Cut people slack. If we live life full-out, we will be wronged and disappointed many times over — not because people are mean or because we deserve it. But because life, for all of us, is on-the-job training. Most people in our lives are doing the best they can with the training they have; so sometimes what seems like negligence or cruelty is simply someone trying to navigate a moment that she was not prepared for.
- Build a good reputation. It’s SIMPLE, but not EASY. Be nice to people. Do what you say you will do.
- Handle disappointment in private, if possible, and always with grace.
- Pay yourself first. As soon as you start earning money, you will start paying people some of it: the landlord, the phone company, the tax man, and maybe the guy who keeps other people from putting stuff in your dumpster. One day, you’ll add it up and realize that you’ve earned hundreds of thousands of dollars, and all you have to show for it is credit-card debt. Meanwhile, the dumpster guy has socked away enough to retire in Tahiti. Put ten percent of what you earn in a savings account to accumulate your own wealth and security. You won’t miss it, if you get in the habit early. Pay yourself first; and no matter whom else you pay, you’re moving forward with your goals. (When times get tight, you might need to watch your own dumpster.)
- Choose your battles. The fewer the better. Life is not war.
- Multi-tasking doesn’t always save you time. Sure, doing two things at once makes a girl feel like she’s taming her calendar. But efficient as it may seem, dividing your attention between high-focus tasks causes mistakes and slows you down. Some things deserve full focus.
- Everyone deserves a response. Return phone calls and e-mails.
- Make your boss look good, as long as it doesn’t make YOU look bad.
- It’s okay to outgrow your dreams. The dream house of your childhood would not hold your wardrobe today. And the dream job of today may come to feel like a prison sentence tomorrow. What you hope and work for will change as you do, so don’t hold too tight to resolutions you may have outgrown. The true longings of your heart: to flourish, to love, to explore, to create…will always be part of you.
- Pick up the tab sometimes. Starting out is a unique time in life. Money is tight, and that won’t change for a while. But don’t be that person who always shows up for the free meal and never reciprocates. Every once in a while, pick up the tab.
- Everything’s negotiable. This may not be entirely true, but the people who believe it seem to save a lot of money.
- You won’t know until you’ve asked. If you want something, ask for it. A raise, a discount, a date, salad instead of fries — they can be yours for the asking. Things that can make your day or change your life often don’t get offered up. You have to ask.
- The best way to glow is to throw the spotlight on someone else.
- The best way to get something done is to DO IT.
- Everything counts. To get us through the swings and misses of growing up, we sometimes comfort one another with assurances that certain things don’t really matter.
The truth is it all counts — the good and the bad and the barely visible. It counts how we treat people we’ll never see again and how we treat people we see every day. It counts how much we try, how much we lie, and how much we rationalize by saying it doesn’t count. It all goes into the layered, luminous masterpieces of the people we are. It doesn’t make us good or evil or stupid, but it does count.
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