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10 Life Lessons You Should Never Believe In

10 Life Lessons You Should Never Believe In

As you go through life you probably encounter many different life lessons.  Some are very good pieces of advice and you should follow them.  But, some life lessons turn out to be false and you should be aware of the folly of following these life lessons.  Here are 10 examples of life lessons you should never believe.

1.  You should always follow your passion.

Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams calls passion “bull.”  The writer Dan Pink says the he “detests” the question “What is your passion?”  Following your passion is a common piece of career advice but not especially helpful when trying to figure out what you should pursue as a business or a career.  Instead, Dan Pink suggests focusing on what you actually do.  When you’re not at work, what do you do just for fun?  What are you good at?  What are you willing to put your effort into?  As Scott Adams points out, rather that passion causing success, “success causes passion.”

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2.  You need to do well in school to insure success.

Yes, school is important but what you soon discover after you graduate and begin looking for a job is that no one cares very much about what courses you took or what grades you received.  What counts is the skills you actually have and that you can show evidence for these skills.  Getting an “A” in a management course means less than demonstrating your management skills.  Having done well in school what you will discover is that it will often take more than that to succeed.

3.  You can’t teach an “Old Dog” new tricks.

Most people have heard that as you grow older it becomes more and more difficult to learn new things.  If you want to learn a foreign language you should start when you are young.  If you want to learn how to use new technology it helps to be young.  But, research on the brain and learning indicate that this is simply untrue.  The brain has a phenomenal ability to adapt and learn even as you grown older and the more you learn the better the brain can continue to learn and adapt.

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4.  You have to believe in yourself.

In order to achieve your goals and your dreams you have probably been told that you have to believe in yourself.  The essence of much self-help advice is that there is a power in positive thinking.  Affirmations are also based on this idea that you must visualize in a positive way the goals you wish to achieve.  But, as the author Dan Pink has pointed out, research seems to show that there is actually greater value in cultivating some self-doubt.  So, instead of confidently stating “I can” begin by asking yourself “Can I?”  This will put you in a better overall mindset for success.

5.  Life “back then” was better than it is today.

Ahh, the “good old days.”  Life was better back then.  But, nostalgia often blinds us to just what the reality was in those days gone by.  However far back you go in the past you can find indicators that things were not, in fact, as good as today.  Life expectancy is a good example.  The incidence of deaths from infections, childbirth, even the flu were much higher.  People had to spend more time acquiring food, clothing, and shelter and the rate of poverty was much higher than today.  As we look back to the past we often forget these realities which makes it seem as if life were better “back then.”

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6.  Getting ________ will make you happy.

Many people base their happiness on acquiring things.  The new house or the new car will make you happier than the one you have now.  But, once the novelty of having that new thing wears off, your happiness will return to its former level.  Or worse, you will discover that there is a newer thing to acquire and now you need to base your happiness on acquiring that thing.  In that case you have gotten on the “hedonic treadmill.”  You work harder and acquire more things but are still not any happier.

7.  You need another person to “complete” you.

We all have the image of love as somehow finding someone to complete us.  But, this presupposes that you cannot be a complete person without that other and that is not true.  It can also lead us to commit some to someone who may end up being wrong for us just to avoid being “incomplete.”  But, each one of us is a unique, complete human being on our own.  Being in love and sharing your life with someone special are wonderful gifts, but you should not view yourself or your life as incomplete if you are single.

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8.  Practice makes perfect.

For most skills improvement requires practice.  By some estimates it can take up to 10,000 hours to really master a skill such as playing a musical instrument or being a competitive athlete.  What can make this work seem so frustrating is that the “perfection” which is promised never arrives.  In fact, practice does not and cannot make you perfect at anything because perfection is an impossible to reach standard.  As the saying goes, “the perfect is the enemy of the good.”  We often use our failure to achieve perfection as a reason to stop trying at all.  Practice does lead to improvement and should be valued for that reason alone.  Set aside perfection and work on being good.

9.  Once I finish _________, I’ll have more time.

Everyone has probably said this at one time or another whether it is about something at school or work.  But, what you soon learn is that the free time you see in the future is always receding because once you finish your current project you’ll end up with another and then another.  As long as you focus on finishing things you will never end up with the free time you plan on having.  The key to breaking this cycle lies with not starting things.

10.  You can be anything you want if you work hard enough.

We are often taught some variation of this idea from an early age.  But, it ignores an important part of life: limits.  These limits are not necessarily a bad thing.  Creativity arises out of limitations as artists struggle against the constraints of their medium and skill.  Hard work can take you far but it cannot guarantee your success in everything you try.  Because of my physical limitations I will never play football in the NFL.  Because of my artistic limitations I will never play in Carnegie Hall.  Recognizing one’s limits actually liberates you from the burden of being able to do everything and focus on what you can do.  Ultimately, the fact that our life is limited is what allows us to give it meaning.  If you lived forever what would it matter what you did or when?  Likewise, if you really could be anything, what you chose to do would have less meaning.

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Last Updated on March 14, 2019

7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

Recruiters might hold thousands of interviews in their careers and a lot of them are reporting the same thing—that most candidates play it safe with the questions they ask, or have no questions to ask in a job interview at all.

For job applicants, this approach is crazy! This is a job that you’re going to dedicate a lot of hours to and that might have a huge impact on your future career. Don’t throw away the chance to figure out if the position is perfect for you.

Here are 7 killer questions to ask in a job interview that will both impress your counterpart and give you some really useful insights into whether this job will be a dream … or a nightmare.

1. What are some challenges I might come up against this role?

A lesser candidate might ask, “what does a typical day look like in this role?” While this is a perfectly reasonable question to ask in an interview, focusing on potential challenges takes you much further because it indicates that you already are visualizing yourself in the role.

It’s impressive because it shows that you are not afraid of challenges, and you are prepared to strategize a game plan upfront to make sure you succeed if you get the job.

It can also open up a conversation about how you’ve solved problems in the past which can be a reassuring exercise for both you and the hiring manager.

How it helps you:

If you ask the interviewer to describe a typical day, you may get a vibrant picture of all the lovely things you’ll get to do in this job and all the lovely people you’ll get to do them with.

Asking about potential roadblocks means you hear the other side of the story—dysfunctional teams, internal politics, difficult clients, bootstrap budgets and so on. This can help you decide if you’re up for the challenge or whether, for the sake of your sanity, you should respectfully decline the job offer.

2. What are the qualities of really successful people in this role?

Employers don’t want to hire someone who goes through the motions; they want to hire someone who will excel.

Asking this question shows that you care about success, too. How could they not hire you with a dragon-slayer attitude like that?

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How it helps you:

Interviewers hire people who are great people to work with, but the definition of “great people” differs from person to person.

Does this company hire and promote people with a specific attitude, approach, worth ethic or communication style? Are the most successful people in this role strong extroverts who love to talk and socialize when you are studious and reserved? Does the company reward those who work insane hours when you’re happiest in a more relaxed environment?

If so, then this may not be the right match for you.

Whatever the answer is, you can decide whether you have what it takes for the manager to be happy with your performance in this role. And if the interviewer has no idea what success looks like for this position, this is a sign to proceed with extreme caution.

3. From the research I did on your company, I noticed the culture really supports XYZ. Can you tell me more about that element of the culture and how it impacts this job role?

Of course, you could just ask “what is the culture like here? ” but then you would miss a great opportunity to show that you’ve done your research!

Interviewers give BIG bonus point to those who read up and pay attention, and you’ve just pointed out that (a) you’re diligent in your research (b) you care about the company culture and (c) you’re committed to finding a great cultural fit.

How it helps you:

This question is so useful because it lets you pick an element of the culture that you really care about and that will have the most impact on whether you are happy with the organization.

For example, if training and development is important to you, then you need to know what’s on offer so you don’t end up in a dead-end job with no learning opportunities.

Companies often talk a good talk, and their press releases may be full of shiny CSR initiatives and all the headline-grabbing diversity programs they’re putting in place. This is your opportunity to look under the hood and see if the company lives its values on the ground.

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A company that says it is committed to doing the right thing by customers should not judge success by the number of up-sells an employee makes, for instance. Look for consistency, so you aren’t in for a culture shock after you start.

4. What is the promotion path for this role, and how would my performance on that path be measured?

To be clear, you are not asking when you will get promoted. Don’t go there—it’s presumptuous, and it indicates that you think you are better than the role you have applied for.

A career-minded candidate, on the other hand, usually has a plan that she’s working towards. This question shows you have a great drive toward growth and advancement and an intention to stick with the company beyond your current state.

How it helps you:

One word: hierarchy.

All organizations have levels of work and authority—executives, upper managers, line managers, the workforce, and so on. Understanding the hierarchical structure gives you power, because you can decide if you can work within it and are capable of climbing through its ranks, or whether it will be endlessly frustrating to you.

In a traditional pyramid hierarchy, for example, the people at the bottom tend to have very little autonomy to make decisions. This gets better as you rise up through the pyramid, but even middle managers have little power to create policy; they are more concerned with enforcing the rules the top leaders make.

If having a high degree of autonomy and accountability is important to you, you may do better in a flat hierarchy where work teams can design their own way of achieving the corporate goals.

5. What’s the most important thing the successful candidate could accomplish in their first 3 months/6 months/year?

Of all the questions to ask in a job interview, this one is impressive because it shows that you identify with and want to be a successful performer, and not just an average one.

Here, you’re drilling down into what the company needs, and needs quite urgently, proving that you’re all about adding value to the organization and not just about what’s in it for you.

How it helps you:

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Most job descriptions come with 8, 10 or 12 different job responsibilities and a lot of them with be boilerplate or responsibilities that someone in HR thinks are associated with this role. This question gives you a better sense of which responsibilities are the most important—and they may not be what initially attracted you to the role.

If you like the idea of training juniors, for example, but success is judged purely on your sales figures, then is this really the job you thought you were applying for?

This question will also give you an idea of what kind of learning curve you’re expected to have and whether you’ll get any ramp-up time before getting down to business. If you’re the type of person who likes to jump right in and get things done, for instance, you may not be thrilled to hear that you’re going to spend the first three months shadowing a peer.

6. What do you like about working here?

This simple question is all about building rapport with the interviewer. People like to talk about themselves, and the interviewer will be flattered that you’re interested in her opinions.

Hopefully, you’ll find some great connection points that the two of you share. What similar things drive you head into the office each day? How will you fit into the culture?

How it helps you:

You can learn a lot from this question. Someone who genuinely enjoys his job will be able to list several things they like, and their answers will sound passionate and sincere. If not….well, you might consider that a red flag.

Since you potentially can learn a lot about the company culture from this question, it’s a good idea to figure out upfront what’s important to you. Maybe you’re looking for a hands-off boss who values independent thought and creativity? Maybe you work better in environments that move at a rapid, exciting pace?

Whatever’s important to you, listen carefully and see if you can find any common ground.

7. Based on this interview, do you have any questions or concerns about my qualifications for the role?

What a great closing question to ask in a job interview! It shows that you’re not afraid of feedback—in fact, you are inviting it. Not being able to take criticism is a red flag for employers, who need to know that you’ll act on any “coaching moments” with a good heart.

As a bonus, asking this question shows that you are really interested in the position and wish to clear up anything that may be holding the company back from hiring you.

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How it helps you:

What a devious beast this question is! On the surface, it looks straightforward, but it’s actually giving you four key pieces of information.

First, is the manager capable of giving you feedback when put on the spot like this? Some managers are scared of giving feedback, or don’t think it’s important enough to bother outside of a formal performance appraisal. Do you want to work for a boss like that? How will you improve if no one is telling you what you did wrong?

Second, can the manager give feedback in a constructive way without being too pillowy or too confrontational? It’s unfair to expect the interviewer to have figured out your preferred way of receiving feedback in the space of an interview, but if she come back with a machine-gun fire of shortcomings or one of those corporate feedback “sandwiches” (the doozy slipped between two slices of compliment), then you need to ask yourself, can you work with someone who gives feedback like that?

Third, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about before you leave the interview. This gives you the chance to make a final, tailored sales pitch so you can convince the interviewer that she should not be worried about those things.

Fourth, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about period. If turnover is keeping him up at night, then your frequent job hopping might get a lot of additional scrutiny. If he’s facing some issues with conflict or communication, then he might raise concerns regarding your performance in this area.

Listen carefully: the concerns that are being raised about you might actually be a proxy for problems in the wider organization.

Making Your Interview Work for You

Interviews are a two-way street. While it is important to differentiate yourself from every other candidate, understand that convincing the interviewer you’re the right person for the role goes hand-in-hand with figuring out if the job is the right fit for you.

Would you feel happy in a work environment where the people, priorities, culture and management style were completely at odds with the way you work? Didn’t think so!

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Featured photo credit: Amy Hirschi via unsplash.com

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