School is almost done for thousands of young Australians who are about to head into this wonderful wide world of ours.
I remember leaving school – it was exciting, confusing and scary all at the same time. I’ve been asked a number of times what lessons would I pass on to school-leavers?
I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but here goes: my top five tips for teenagers (I might add that I preach these to my kids all the time :-0)
Find out what you love
The only way to find out what you really love is to learn what you don’t love. You’ll learn more about that as you try new things. It’s okay to make mistakes, but it’s not okay to keep doing something for the sake of it. I worked in a bank. I applied to join the army. I applied to be a police officer. I even thought about being a teacher. I felt sorry for my parents but the reality was I was working out what I really loved to do and, trust me, it took a while.
Time is on your side
Those leaving school now will probably live to an average age of 90. So, what’s a few years in the whole scheme of things? Taking time to find out what you really love isn’t going to ruin your life. You don’t have to work out your career path this summer. I found what I loved when I was 28. I was lucky that someone took me under their wing and showed me that there was value in the skills I had developed in different jobs in a decade of working. I was good at taking people on a journey, I was good at executing, I was good at leading by example and, most importantly, I could learn from my mistakes. That was handy because there were plenty of mistakes.
Be prepared to fail
Sure you will fail at times – that’s a certainty, but my advice is: don’t look at it as failure, look at it as practice. I’ve ‘practised’ a lot. I don’t regret my mistakes, because if you want to do better, then you must learn new things. And there’s no better way to learn than to stuff something up. These learnings have taught me how to be resilient, how to shake it off, how to park it, and how to move on!
Creativity comes from not being afraid to make mistakes. It’s about thinking outside the square and seeing if you can do things differently. You need to dare to be different, in order to be creative. There are so many stories of people who have seen a simple way to do something different, have taken a chance and made it work. All the great disruptions in history came from creativity.
Which is why we need to talk about our failures as much as we talk about our triumphs because the truth is we learn way more through failure. My advice on failure though is; “fail fast”. Realise the mistake you’ve made and take action to fix it. Which leads me to my next piece of advice;
Learn the art of reflection
Create the habit and skill of reflecting on everything that you do. Reflection is so simple and yet so important and something that we don’t do often enough. How did you go for the day, the week, the month, the quarter? What outcomes did you achieve and why? What outcomes didn’t you and if so, what stopped you? Then, of course, you have to take action. If you want a different outcome you have to change the input – put simply if you are failing your Uni exams because you don’t turn up to lectures or tutorials then guess what? …… the input change is turn up to lectures and attend tutorials!
Create the habit of learning from yourself, too.
Just do it!
Lastly, I have to tell you all – just do it!
Do all the things that are part of life. Be social. Choose great friends. Be a great friend. Travel, Try new things. Don’t be a watcher – be a doer!
This will all be part of your learning. You don’t stop learning the day that you walk out of the school gates or graduate from university. Every day of your life is an opportunity to learn. You can learn from anyone and everyone. If you’re not learning, then you’re not developing as an individual ……which in my book is your number one responsibility – to be the most amazing human being you can be!
This week, you’ll leave school but that’s only one of the many steps in life. Get involved, keep learning and keep challenging yourself – it’s great fun.