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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 March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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