Monday, August 27, 2007

You are an Investment

The transition from childhood to adulthood is not an easy one. That transition culminates in the "child" becoming a young adult, leaving home and going out into the world - to college or work usually. It also culminates in a relationship shift between the young adult and the parent - which is not easy for either party. It is difficult for young adults to understand how to handle their parents at this stage of their lives. They fear that if they involve them too much that the parent might try to intervene more than the young adult would like. They fear that if they involve them too little that the parents will become upset and angry. It's hard to figure out how to deal with this new relationship complexity.

Being a parent and having been a young adult, I can relate to the feelings of both parties. I've thought long and hard about what I could say to someone to help them understand how they can make this transition less painful for their parents and themselves. Below is my advice to young adults fresh from leaving home...

Think of your parents, not as the your parents but as your investors. Whatever support - financial, emotional, physical - they are going to offer to you in the future is an investment in YOUR future. Imagine that your new life is a business. You have talent and great ideas but you don't really have much money and you've never run a business before. However, you are smart enough to know that you can't make the business successful without the support of people who are already successful business people (your parents). So, you need them to invest in your business so that YOU can be successful as well. How do you do that?

First - you need a plan, a course of action for college or work.
Second - you need to be able to explain what you are going to do to make this plan work.
Third - you have to be willing to communicate with your investors on your progress, giving them insights to your successes, being honest with mistakes and what you have done to correct them and knowing when to ask for advice.
Note: The trick with asking for advice is to know ahead of time what specifically you need advice about. Make it a straightforward request - not "I just don't know what to do" but more "I am thinking about doing A but I am also considering B, what do you think?" Coming up with two choices instead of leaving it open to the person giving advice to figure out the choices for you is always the best way to get good advice. Save the "I just don't know what to do" for your friends, who are there to give you unconditional support, not great advice.

You're parents will love you unconditionally, but your investors will not invest unconditionally in you. Investment has conditions. Namely that you can prove that you are worth the investment.

As long as you want your parents to invest in you, you must be willing to commit to the three principles outlined above. If you are unwilling to do this, then plan on trying to get the job done on your own. You may not have to answer to anyone but it's going to take you twice as long, cost you twice as much and be twice as difficult.

You are an investment. The most important investment your parents have. So far they have invested 18 years in you. Now they are willing to invest even more into helping you become an adult. And adulthood is only achieved when you can fully support your business and in turn invest in someone else.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

To Thine Own Self Be True

When I was in sixth grade, my teacher had the quote: "To Thine Own Self Be True" over the blackboard in our classroom. A tall order for sixth graders, who did not have the first clue about their "own selves". It is a line from Hamlet (William Shakespeare), in which the character of Polonius prepares his son Laertes for travel abroad with a speech in which he directs the youth to commit a "few precepts to memory." That quote has stuck with me all these years. I knew that it was a statement of fact - you should be true to yourself in all things. Not an easy lesson to learn but definitely one to aspire to every day.

I love quotes. A great quote is able to sum up something that is true in a few words. The less words that you can use to say it, usually the better the quote. One of my favorite websites is You can look up quotes, subscribe to daily quotes, get a quote put on a t-shirt. It's awesome!

Here are a few of my favorite quotes - the short summation of a truth, a reminder of what we should be aspiring to everyday.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
"All human actions have one or more of these seven causes: chance, nature, compulsions, habit, reason, passion and desire.”
“Those that know, do. Those that understand, teach.”

"The unexamined life is not worth living.”
“The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.”
“Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel”
"To find yourself, think for yourself”

Albert Einstein:
“There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle.”
“We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”
"Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.”
“If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough”
"The only real valuable thing is intuition.”
“The world is not dangerous because of those who do harm but because of those who look at it without doing anything”
“Anyone who doesn't take truth seriously in small matters cannot be trusted in large ones either.”

Mark Twain:
“It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.”
“Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.”
"There are basically two types of people. People who accomplish things, and people who claim to have accomplished things. The first group is less crowded.”
“A habit cannot be tossed out the window; it must be coaxed down the stairs a step at a time.”

Edgar Allan Poe:
“All religion, my friend, is simply evolved out of fraud, fear, greed, imagination, and poetry”
“Stupidity is a talent for misconception.”

Dr. Suess:
“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.”
“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.”

George Sheehan:
“Success means having the courage, the determination, and the will to become the person you believe you were meant to be”

Bertrand Russell:
“The secret of happiness is this: let your interests be as wide as possible, and let your reactions to the things and persons that interest you be as far as possible friendly rather than hostile.”

Harriet Beecher Stowe:
“When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, till it seems as though you could not hold on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.”

Calvin Coolidge:
“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan "press on" has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race”

Find your own precepts, write them down, memorize them, find a place to post them so you can be reminded every day. To Thine Own Self Be True.

Be Contagious

The English language is complicated and fascinating.
I have always been in love with words. I love that you can change the meaning and tone in any sentence with the words you choose. Take for example the difference in these two sentences:
The noise from the other room grew louder and louder. OR
From the other room erupted a cacophony of sound.

They really mean the same thing but one gives you a literal meaning and one paints a picture of what is occurring (plus I just like to use the word cacophony whenever I can).

Words are magic. The great thing (or not so great depending on who you are talking to) about words is that the same word can have different connotations. One of my favorites is the word contagious. The usual immediate reaction to the word contagious is not so good. I mean contagious is defined as “communicable by contact", and usually refers to some kind of infectious disease. But the beauty of words is that contagious can mean to infect with something good.

So BE CONTAGIOUS - spread love, joy, happiness, a smile, a laugh, a hug, a kiss. Spread kindness and positive thoughts. Go ahead...pass it along...infect someone...BE CONTAGIOUS.