High School — With Money

Posted: July 13, 2013

The Friendly City Files

One’s high school years are a formative period. We carry throughout the rest of our lives much of what we learn; the educational lessons absolutely, but even more so the social lessons. In some ways, that’s great, but in other ways, what we learned in high school may continue to hold us back.

Here are a few signs our professional lives might still be impacted by our teenage years:

1. We look to the wrong people for advice. Kids ask their friends for dating advice all the time — but who is less qualified to talk intelligently about relationships than another teenager? Don’t ask friends or family for advice about starting a business or changing careers. If you’re thinking about a new career, talk to people working in that field. If you want to start a business, talk to successful entrepreneurs — or better yet, to successful entrepreneurs who failed once or twice along the way.

Keep in mind, no one you ask for advice can assess what truly matters: Your level of determination, drive and persistence.

2. We do what we think we should do, instead of what we want to do. Popularity in high school is based on conformity; the opinions of others define what is “right.”

Conventional wisdom is just an extension of high school conformity. If you want to live a life similar to those around you, do exactly what those people say and do.

If you want to live a different life, then you must do what you think is right, regardless of what others say and do.

In high school, being different usually leads to being unpopular. Later in life, being different often leads to success, either in business terms or in terms of self-satisfaction — and is there any other kind of satisfaction that really matters?

3. We join clubs because we think we should. Most of us joined clubs in high school because we thought it would look good on college applications. As adults, we join organizations because we think it will improve our business or professional prospects.

But seriously: When was the last time your membership in a professional association truly paid off?

Take a look at your memberships and associations. Do you receive a tangible benefit for the time and money you spend? Do customers or employers really care about the acronyms on your resume? Only be a member when membership pays off in quantifiable ways.

4. We focus on learning things we will never use. I took calculus in high school, took years of Spanish …  but today, I can no more find a derivative than I can carry on a conversation past, “¡Hola!”

Wasted effort? Maybe it wasn’t in high school, but in professional terms, we should always focus on learning what can directly applied to our business or career, or what helps make money or identify our weaknesses, so we can work to overcome them.

In personal terms, learn whatever interests you – professionally, always consider the return on training and learning investment.

5. We care what random people think. I remember kids I had never even spoken to glancing at, say, my shoes, and I would immediately think, “Oh no, what’s wrong? Not the right brand? Not cool?”

The only opinions that matter are those of the people closest to us. Who cares what other people think? Easier said than done, I know, but none of us should care about the opinions of people who don’t matter. Our lives are our lives — we need to live them our way.

Now, if I can just remember that the next time I run into the cool kids.

Jeff Haden lives in Harrisonburg and is a bestselling ghostwriter and Inc. Magazine columnist. He can be reached at blackbirdinc.com.

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