“I Don’t Know What I Want To Do!”
I asked my 18-year-old grandson Braidyn about college. He was visibly frustrated; “Grandpa, I don’t know what I want to do, or where I want to go.”
He’s college material, National Honor Society, excellent people skills, and a great work ethic. He’s an accomplished welder, with an excellent-paying job waiting for him upon graduation – should he want it.
Part of his frustration is most all of his friends picked their respective colleges, exuding confidence, and seem comfortable with their decisions.
Braidyn is probably more typical than most people realize. While parents, grandparents and guidance counselors try to help, these choices are big challenges for an 18-year-old. His friends may exude confidence, but they don’t know, what they don’t know – and that’s OK.
What is misunderstood?
Expecting an 18-year-old to know what they want to do for the rest of their life is unrealistic. Why?
- They don’t have enough life experience to know the opportunities/pitfalls in the world.
- The majority of jobs available during their lifetime don’t exist today. If only a small portion of Bill Gates Artificial Intelligence predictions come true, the entire work landscape will change rapidly through their adult life.
- What sounds like fun, might not be what you expect.
My high school guidance counselor, told me, “Dennis you are good at math, you should be an accountant.” My mother, a bookkeeper, thought it was a great idea.
So off I went, full of confidence…. I was a good accountant and soon realized I hated it. Once you learn how to balance the books, it became terribly repetitious, it was boring as hell. I called it a “scorekeeper” job.
My life changed when my boss told me, I was great and in 20 years I could have his job. I did the payroll; he didn’t make that much more than I did. Forget that, I wanted to be a player, let someone else keep score!
What is the goal?
P. J. O’Rourke makes it very clear:
“There is only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well please. And with it come the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences.”
Social experts tell us high school graduates are moving to the next phase in life called “Emerging adulthood”. The University of New Hampshire explains:
“‘Emerging Adulthood’ is a term used to describe a period of development spanning from about ages 18 to 29, experienced by most people in their twenties in Westernized cultures and perhaps in other parts of the world.”
When young people begin their journey, their first challenge is to understand what “the right to do as you damn well please” really means.
Understand the limitations. Do as you damn well please, as long as it is within the law and not harming others.
I quickly learned changing careers was complicated. I was the family breadwinner; taking a huge step back in income would have caused them harm.
Looking back, the majority of my peers changed careers somewhere between ages 28-35. After some work experience, they were better able to match their skills with careers they loved, while supporting a family.
A common complaint was feeling “trapped” in a job. Some really needed money they couldn’t earn elsewhere. It was further enhanced by working for a boss they didn’t respect. Others felt trapped by family expectations, not wanting to move, or fulfilling the dreams of their parents.
Adulthood is the end of the “emerging adulthood” journey, taking your place in the world, having enough experience to find your niche. I hope it doesn’t take 9 years like the experts outlined.
It is the job of parents to raise their offspring to become independent adults; capable of surviving on their own financially and emotionally.
“Doing as you damn well please” is a luxury, not afforded to everyone. I’ve heard mid-life adults remark, “Fifteen more years and I can get the hell out of here and retire; then I can do as I damn well please.” I find that sad; they feel helpless, accepting their lot in life, trying to make the best of it.
“Doing as you damn well please” not only encompasses financial and emotional independence, but also offers the freedom of enjoying your work and feeling you are in control of your time. Confucius said, “Choose a job you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.”
Where to start?
Famed investor Warren Buffet offers some excellent, often misunderstood, advice:
Generally speaking, investing in yourself is the best thing you can do. Anything that improves your own talents; nobody can tax it or take it away from you. …. You can have all kinds of things happen. But if you’ve got talent yourself, and you’ve maximized your talent, you’ve got a tremendous asset that can return ten-fold.”
|“If we could sell our experiences for what they cost us, we’d all be millionaires.”
“Invest in yourself” isn’t restricted to classroom education, or simply doing what it takes to improve your skills. Your real education begins when you graduate, called experience; a lifelong process. Always learning and growing will make your life wealthier and happier.
Accounting wasn’t all bad; once I became a manager. The skills I learned were no longer accounting skills; but rather people skills, dealing with others. Those skills last a lifetime, regardless of the environment. It gave me the confidence to go into business for myself.
The First Step
Braidyn’s uncle, barely a month into his freshman year of college, said, “Dad, we’ve learned we can’t party during the week and expect to get through school.” When pundits say, “use your time wisely” they mean “establish your priorities” – use good judgment. I grinned; he was learning important lessons; some end up on academic probation, or worse, before figuring it out.
Leaving home is significant. You’ve learned the difference between right and wrong. Adulthood encompasses doing the right thing, even when no one is looking. Putting yourself in that environment is another step along the path to independence.
You will learn from your mistakes. Being thrust into a new social environment requires sorting through hundreds of new people. Selecting your friends, through trial and error, is a vital learning experience. By the time you graduate, many will be solid friends for the rest of your life.
Don’t be overly concerned about picking a major. Spend the first couple of years getting your basics out of the way. Learn to speak and write well; how to interact and work with others. Those skills are invaluable, no matter what career you may choose.
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The guidance counselor isn’t always right.
Many tell incoming freshmen, “Taking 12 hours is all you need to be considered a full-time student, it is much less stressful.” Ca-ching! Follow that advice and expect to be in school for six years, with your education costing thousands more. Learning to work under stress is a major step toward becoming successful. That is when you will really learn time management!
|“Don’t ask kids what they want to be when they grow up. Ask them what problems they want to solve. This changes the conversation…to what do I need to learn in order to do that.”
— Jaime Casap
Counselors may be told; we need more students in a particular major. Guiding students in that direction is in their best interest, not always the student. Never be afraid to ask “why” they make a recommendation, and then discuss it with your parents and trusted mentor.
When the time comes to pick a major, fight the urge to look at it as a job and the money it may offer. Ask yourself, “What skills will I learn?” “Will I learn to think logically?” “Will this lead me to become independent?” Is this something I want to do for a long time?
Most importantly, be true to yourself. Your integrity is the most valuable asset you have.
I’ve never understood why anyone goes into politics. To get hired by the voters, you must tell people what they want to hear; many times, hiding your true feelings. Every politician I’ve ever met compromised themselves in order to get elected. There is a reason used car salespeople are considered to have more integrity than politicians.
Any major you consider should be looked upon in that light…. “What does it take for me to succeed in this career?” Is this what I really want to do? YOUR INTEGRITY IS NOT FOR SALE!
Use your respected family elders as mentors; that is their job. When you get to the final stages of the process; you will look at each other in a different light. It is absolutely wonderful to realize your children are adults and can do well on their own in the adult world.
Do-overs are part of the learning process. You break it, you fix it, and that is OK. You will have many jobs throughout your career. You are not looking for a job; but rather a career you love. A good education, particularly in dealing with people and thinking logically will never be replaced by a robot!
It’s time for you to sail away from your safe harbor of home. Dream, discover, learn and before you know it, you will return as the captain of your own ship.
A little help means a lot!
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On The Lighter Side
I decided to take a break this week from the economy and all the crap going on, and discuss some of the real issues that we all, rich or poor, face on a daily basis.
Since I wrote this, Braidyn picked Indiana State University, about three hours away from home. He is going to be a Sycamore and plans to major in construction engineering.
Jo and I are heading to Indiana for his high school graduation, and plan to stay for a month or so.
We return to Arizona in late June for cancer tests and treatment. One small spot in my lung is starting to “sparkle” and they are keeping on top of it. Depending on the test results, they may replace my Keytruda with something stronger. The oncologist was emphatic, saying we are still a long way from chemo…so go enjoy the graduation…and we will deal with the issues in your normal 12 week testing cycle. I may have to go from an infusion every 6 weeks to every 2 weeks; inconvenient but certainly doable.
When I look at friends like Chuck Butler, who’s been dealing with chemo for well over a decade, I consider myself very lucky.
One more thought… Thanks to all who wrote in last week encouraging me to continue to speak out, and not being harsh. I love to hear from our readers. Your moral support means a lot.
Quote of the Week…
“Life will always throw you curves, just keep fouling them off. The right pitch will come, but when it does, be prepared to run the bases.”
— Rick Maksian
Friend Phil C. provides this week’s humor:
MARRIAGE TIPS (Written by kids)
- HOW DO YOU DECIDE WHO TO MARRY?
Find somebody who likes the same stuff. Like, if you like sports, she should like it that you like sports, and she should keep the chips and dip coming.
— Alan, age 10
No person really decides before they grow up who they’re going to marry. God decides it all way before, and you get to find out later who you’re stuck with.
— Kristen, age 10
- WHAT IS THE RIGHT AGE TO GET MARRIED?
Twenty-three is the best age because you know the person FOREVER by then.
— Camille, age 10
- HOW CAN A STRANGER TELL IF TWO PEOPLE ARE MARRIED?
You might have to guess, based on whether they seem to be yelling at the same kids.
— Derrick, age 8
- WHAT DO YOU THINK YOUR MUM AND DAD HAVE IN COMMON?
Both don’t want any more kids.
— Lori, age 8
- WHAT DO MOST PEOPLE DO ON A DATE?
Dates are for having fun, and people should use them to get to know each other. Even boys have something to say if you listen long enough.
— Lynnette, age 8
On the first date, they just tell each other lies and that usually gets them interested enough to go for a second date.
— Martin, age 10
- WHEN IS IT OKAY TO KISS SOMEONE?
The law says you have to be eighteen, so I wouldn’t want to mess with that.
— Curt, age 7
The rule goes like this: If you kiss someone, then you should marry them and have kids with them. It’s the right thing to do.
— Howard, age 8
- HOW WOULD YOU MAKE A MARRIAGE WORK?
Tell your wife that she looks pretty, even if she looks like a dump truck.
— Ricky, age 10
And my favorite:
- IS IT BETTER TO BE SINGLE OR MARRIED?
It’s better for girls to be single but not for boys. Boys need someone to clean up after them.
— Anita, age 9 (bless you, child)
Until next time…
“Economic independence is the foundation of the only sort of freedom worth a damn.” – H. L. Mencken
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Excellent Dennis. I’ve been retired nearly 20 years now and I see myself, my kids and grand kids in many of those situations you described. Wish I had been given this advice when I was 18. I’ll pass it on to my 21 year old grandson, hopefully he will pay attention!
Enjoy your trip to Ohio and spending time with family.