I have spent exactly zero minutes near a computer today until now, so I’m not going to do my usual scholarship advice post today, because I don’t have the time to give it the thoughtful response I think you guys all deserve when you come here.
However, I have solemnly sworn to you that I would make a decent blog post here every weekday without fail, so today I’m going to share a brief little something from a presentation I did to some South Dakota college students about a month ago. If you are not absolutely lockdown certain about what to do with your life, this message is for you (and even if you ARE sure…you should read it, too. 🙂
YOUR LIFE PLANS ARE PROBABLY NOT GOING TO WORK OUT LIKE YOU THINK.
Now, that sounds a little negative. But I don’t mean it that way. I actually mean it in a very positive way. Let me explain.
I was in this roundtable discussion with some other media professionals, and the students asked all of us on the panel to describe our career trajectories. Essentially, how did we get to where we are today? The age of the panelists went from abut 27 to mid-50s.
And here’s the funny thing — no one on the panel was doing what they thought they were going to be doing when they first started out. There was a former news reporter turned videographer. A Tupperware saleslady turned radio executive. Another former news reporter turned owner of an ad agency and publishing company (that’s me). A Division 1 heptathlete turned bank exec.
These are just four examples, but I assure you that we’re representative of every room of professionals I’ve ever been in. Try it out yourself sometime if you’re in a room full of people who have been in the job market for at least 7 or 8 years. Ask everyone to raise his/her hand if they’re currently doing what they wanted to do when they were 18 years old.
Almost no one will raise his/her hand. Everyone, it seems, is on Plan C. And that’s just fine.
Why do I point that out here? Because a giant majority of you who email me or comment on my posts are at a crossroads or dilemma of some kind that will affect your future. Private school vs. public school, scholarships here vs. student loans there, one profession vs. another profession, etc. And believe me, your future WILL be affected by the choices you make, don’t get me wrong. But *how* your future will be affected is something you just don’t know, and can’t even imagine, in most cases.
And I’m not talking about having your plans derailed by life-altering things like car crashes or diseases or hurricanes or unexpected pregnancies or anything like that. We’re all aware of how those things can change your life quickly. I’m just talking about little adjustments in the course of just about EVERYONE’S life (and yes, that means you) that will perhaps lead you on path different from the one you’ve got plotted out for yourself in your mind right now.
And that’s why I bring it up today, because the more you’re aware of how your life and career WILL change, the less likely you are to place large financial bets on certain outcomes. I refer to student loans here, mostly.
If you ever wonder why a lot of not-wealthy parents worry themselves into insomnia when their kids want to take out $80,000 for an undergraduate degree, this is why. They’re already on Plan C themselves, and they know that most people end up on Plan C. My children are still very young, but I can already feel these parents’ pain. It’s one thing to aspire to be, let’s say, a painter, when you’re 18 years old. It’s quite another thing to aspire to be a painter when you’re 18 and take $65,000 in student loans to get a private undergraduate art school degree.
Then, you’re either married to that dream for good (which is a high-stress situation in itself), or you’ve got a very expensive Plan A smoldering in the fireplace that you still have to pay for, $800 per month for 10 years.
Yes, I’m aware that there are some people who know what they want at a young age and then go out and do it. Alison Stinely is one. She won our company’s art scholarship a few years back. She’s become a fine artist already and she isn’t even out of school yet. She’s the exception, though.
Forewarned is forearmed, and now you’re both. If you’re indecisive about your future, that’s OK — that makes you very, very normal.
You’ll figure it out eventually. You’re conflicted now, but the sun’s going to keep coming up and going down every day until you’re not conflicted anymore. This will happen, I guarantee it.
Uncertainty can be uncomfortable, that’s for sure — but look on the bright side. It also means you have options, and not everyone can say that. Look around you — hard, especially at the people you don’t often look closely at, or perhaps ones you often look past.
They’d love to have a second chance, a shot at doing it all over again. But they can’t — it’s your time now. So embrace it, take it slow, and be flexible. Life’s going to make you that way whether you like it or not.
Have a great night! I’m off to bowling with my wife and kids. It’s National Turn Off the TV Week, and I gotta tell ya, it’s been harder on me than my kids. I’ve got the second episode of Treme sitting on the DVR and I’m gonna have to wait ’til Saturday to watch it. That’s hard to swallow. 🙂