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5 things I wish someone told me in high school

5 things I wish someone told me in high school

I’ve had the awesome privilege to give talks at The School for Student Leadership in Victoria, Australia – the same program I was a part of 5 years ago. My best mate and I get to spend a day hanging out with the leaders of tomorrow. Although there are far too many to get to know in such a short amount of time (45 in fact) we do get to hear most of their stories.

Where are they from? What do they want to do? What do they want to learn? What do they want to be?

Through spending time with and giving talks to some of the most awesome and capable young people, I’ve had a solid chance to reflect on myself when I was their age. I’ve gotten to combine my own knowledge with the wealth of information that these students share with me to come up with 5 things I wish someone told me in high school.

1. It’s okay not to be okay.

This is something I really wish someone would have told me. It’s something I genuinely believe more young people need to hear.

The mental health of young people is something that could be addressed a lot better. It’s often overlooked, but the rise of the internet and awesome resources like Headspace really give young people an opportunity to discuss their mental health anonymously.

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There seems to be a stigma among young people (young men especially, trust me, I fit that demographic) that struggling with and then talking about your mental health isn’t okay. That it’s uncool, or that people will judge you or even worse that you shouldn’t feel the way you feel and this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Let’s look at it this way: Imagine you’re moving to a new house, and the last thing to go on the loading truck is your couch. You try lifting it yourself but it is way too heavy. What do you do?

You ask your mate for help.

I ask you, why is mental health any different? If you’re not ashamed to ask your mate to help you lift a couch that’s too heavy, there’s no reason to be ashamed of asking them to help you with talking about your mental health.

I wish someone told me that it’s okay not to be okay.

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2. It’s cool to be uncool

Remembering my high school days often makes me cringe. The sheer extent I went to, and others too, just to fit in. Just to be part of the ‘in-crowd’.

Let me tell you right now, in a few years’ time, no one will care if your hair was cut a certain way, or if you owned a certain pair of sneakers. In years to come, you will really value the fact that you were true to yourself. Don’t go out of your way to impress others, just be you.

Be weird, be quirky, be different! But most of all, be yourself. I promise you won’t regret it.

3. The grass is greener where you water it

This is the main message I gave throughout my speech at the School for Student Leadership. I’m pretty sure it’s a quote by Neil Barringham, but I first remember seeing it on a friend’s Facebook wall. It has stuck with me ever since.

If you have a goal, or something you want to achieve no matter how improbable or even impossible it seems, you can do it. If you take your time to practice, nurture and care for your goals, there is no reason why you can’t achieve them. Put in the hard yards, push harder than everyone around you. If you fall down, get back up and keep working at your goals.

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There’s nothing better than accomplishing your goals and having something you can look at and say “I did that.”

4. It’s okay to not know what you want to do

All the way through Year 12 I was being pressured and pushed to decide if I was going to go to university or not. Which university I was going to go to, in which city, and what I was going to study.

As it turns out, I got to university and then changed my mind completely after I got there!

You don’t have to know what you want to do yet – I know adults that still don’t know what they want to do with their lives and that is awesome. 

If you already know what you want to do in high school, that’s equally as awesome, and refer to point number 3 on this list if that’s the case. It is alright to take your time. It’s alright to figure out what you want to do, and it’s alright to change your mind. It’s also okay if you have no idea what you want to do, and it’s okay if you don’t even know where to start.

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If that’s you, my advice is just start doing things. Try new things and go new places.  Follow what makes you happy, and do things that you love to do. You’ll figure it out, I promise.

 5. It’s okay to make mistakes

You are going make your fair share of mistakes throughout life. Some will be small, and others won’t be. It’s okay to make mistakes if you learn from them.

Something the School for Student Leadership taught me, and was reinforced over years of analysing my performance in sport, is reflection. What did I do well? What didn’t I do well? What can I improve on? What would I do next time this situation arises?

Reflection is one of the best things you can do to help yourself learn from experiences. Whether it’s through keeping a diary and writing stuff down, or whether you simply ask yourself these questions mentally. Maybe you find it best to talk things through with another person? I personally find talking to someone helps me clarify and understand my own thoughts, but you should try your best to find what works for you and use it to reflect upon your mistakes.

If and when you make a mistake, acknowledge it, reflect on it, learn from it and move on. Nothing will ever be accomplished from dwelling on things.

Life is really long, and you’re going to do some really awesome things, but from time to time just ask yourself: What would you tell your 15 year old self?

Featured photo credit: Anna Tesar via flickr.com

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Last Updated on April 8, 2020

Why Assuming Positive Intent Is an Amazing Productivity Driver

Why Assuming Positive Intent Is an Amazing Productivity Driver

Assuming positive intent is an important contributor to quality of life.

Most people appreciate the dividends such a mindset produces in the realm of relationships. How can relationships flourish when you don’t assume intentions that may or may not be there? And how their partner can become an easier person to be around as a result of such a shift? Less appreciated in the GTD world, however, is the productivity aspect of this “assume positive intent” perspective.

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Most of us are guilty of letting our minds get distracted, our energy sapped, or our harmony compromised by thinking about what others woulda, coulda, shoulda.  How we got wronged by someone else.  How a friend could have been more respectful.  How a family member could have been less selfish.

However, once we evolve to understanding the folly of this mindset, we feel freer and we become more productive professionally due to the minimization of unhelpful, distracting thoughts.

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The leap happens when we realize two things:

  1. The self serving benefit from giving others the benefit of the doubt.
  2. The logic inherent in the assumption that others either have many things going on in their lives paving the way for misunderstandings.

Needless to say, this mindset does not mean that we ought to not confront people that are creating havoc in our world.  There are times when we need to call someone out for inflicting harm in our personal lives or the lives of others.

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Indra Nooyi, Chairman and CEO of Pepsi, says it best in an interview with Fortune magazine:

My father was an absolutely wonderful human being. From ecent emailhim I learned to always assume positive intent. Whatever anybody says or does, assume positive intent. You will be amazed at how your whole approach to a person or problem becomes very different. When you assume negative intent, you’re angry. If you take away that anger and assume positive intent, you will be amazed. Your emotional quotient goes up because you are no longer almost random in your response. You don’t get defensive. You don’t scream. You are trying to understand and listen because at your basic core you are saying, ‘Maybe they are saying something to me that I’m not hearing.’ So ‘assume positive intent’ has been a huge piece of advice for me.

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In business, sometimes in the heat of the moment, people say things. You can either misconstrue what they’re saying and assume they are trying to put you down, or you can say, ‘Wait a minute. Let me really get behind what they are saying to understand whether they’re reacting because they’re hurt, upset, confused, or they don’t understand what it is I’ve asked them to do.’ If you react from a negative perspective – because you didn’t like the way they reacted – then it just becomes two negatives fighting each other. But when you assume positive intent, I think often what happens is the other person says, ‘Hey, wait a minute, maybe I’m wrong in reacting the way I do because this person is really making an effort.

“Assume positive intent” is definitely a top quality of life’s best practice among the people I have met so far. The reasons are obvious. It will make you feel better, your relationships will thrive and it’s an approach more greatly aligned with reality.  But less understood is how such a shift in mindset brings your professional game to a different level.

Not only does such a shift make you more likable to your colleagues, but it also unleashes your talents further through a more focused, less distracted mind.

More Tips About Building Positive Relationships

Featured photo credit: Christina @ wocintechchat.com via unsplash.com

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