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5 Life Lessons You Never Knew You Should Unlearn

5 Life Lessons You Never Knew You Should Unlearn

You get a lot of advice while growing up, and while you should take some of it to heart, most of these so-called “life lessons” can be thrown out the window. In this article, I’ll look at the ones that are particularly heinous in terms of leading you down the wrong path. Without further ado…

1. “You should care about what others think!”

No, you really shouldn’t. All of the success I’ve had in life has come as a result of not caring what some random person thinks of what I say or do. I would have never been able to tell off the housing office cited above if I cared what they thought about me. They probably hold me in disdain now, but so what? I proved them wrong.

Having no filter will cause you to acquire a handful of enemies, perhaps, but you’ll be a much happier person overall. At least this way, you won’t be second guessing yourself everyday asking questions like “aw, what if I had sent that message” or “I really wish I spoke out about that topic discussed in class today” or “too bad I never applied to that job because I was afraid of what the interviewer would think of me.”

2. “Don’t let others down.”

This is a noble life lesson, and one I follow far too religiously, so I’m going to try and save you some trouble. Trying to please everyone is not worth it. Mainly because, most of the time, they won’t reciprocate, EVER! I can’t tell you how many times this has happened to me. I would befriend someone and get way too crazy about serving their every whim, only to get absolutely nothing in return.

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It’s ok to let people down. It happens. It’s better to tell somebody you can’t do something for them than to do it and feel unappreciated. There are exceptions of course; if it’s your best friend or family member, it behooves you (in most cases) to help them out since they’ll truly appreciate it. Other people though? Chances are they’ll forget what you did for them, and you’ll hate them for that. The solution? Don’t get involved in the first place. You can thank me later for reducing your stress level.

3. “Always prepare for the worst.”

And hope for the best, right? Wrong. Always preparing for the worst will lead to bouts of anxiety and, in severe cases, paralyze you from getting anything meaningful done. There’s something to be said of having your life in order, but there’s no reason to prepare for the worst possible outcome of every situation you’re in if you’re living a typical American lifestyle.

While bad things might happen, assuming that they will only makes you fear the future and prevents you from taking risks of any kind, even when a rational mind would see that there are many benefits to be reaped from such leaps of faith. I’ve fallen victim to this mindset a lot, and all it does is lead to acne breakouts, forehead wrinkles, and heart palpitations. With almost every job I’ve had, I’ve dreaded it up until the day it started, after which I’ve loved it. Imagine if you could get rid of that unnecessary “everything is going to go wrong” fear, and live in a state of constant peace of mind. Sound nice, huh?

4. “Try to be happy, even when you’re sad.”

Sorry folks, but this isn’t A Brave New World. There’s no soma-esque panacea out there to shield you from reality. We can’t stay happy all of the time, indeed, doing so only leads to disappointment when you lapse into normal phases of depression or sadness. You need to let your body do what it wants to do; go with the flow, in other words. If you’re sad and you can’t shake it, accept it for what it is. Allowing yourself to be in that state makes it much easier to recover from than when you’re beating yourself up for not being happy enough. When I’ve been sad in the past, often I would think about why I was sad, rather than accepting it, which only made it worse since it felt like I was part of the problem. Once you realize that this is something natural that afflicts all humans, you’ll get over it quicker and be better prepared for when it happens again.

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5. “Always be kind to others.”

Alright, so I’m not saying you should go out, flip over every table you see, and pop little kid’s balloons. What I am saying is that the word “always” is misused in this oft-repeated life lesson. Absolutes are usually inaccurate, so this comes as no surprise.

Being nice will only get you so far. Based on my life experience, I can tell you two things with certainty. One, nice guys finish last (the majority of the time); it’s a miracle I have a girlfriend with how placid I am. Also, being sweet and gentle doesn’t solve a multitude of tricky situations.

Take, for instance, dealing with something as infuriating as a university’s housing office (or your land lord, for a decent analogue). I recently had to deal with my Alma Mater’s housing office because they charged me with a ridiculous fee. The whole reason this turned into an issue in the first place was because I was too nice. After I graduated, I let housing know with a kind e-mail that there was a mistake on their end, and that because of it, I’d likely be unnecessarily charged. I also told them that they should take preemptive action to ensure that this didn’t happen (in that message I also cited the requisite evidence).

I assumed they took my measured words to heart, until months later I checked my account and saw I was charged with a fee.

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So, I got in touch with the housing office again, and told them it was ridiculous how they could do this to someone they never had any issues with previously.

Of course, they responded using passive aggressive phrases like “well, sir, you should have read the find print” or “we expect students to check their e-mail in order to avoid fees like these.” I, in turn, blasted them again, letting them know I had checked my e-mail religiously (I’m very OCD), and provided them with multiple forms of evidence that debunked their whole “fine print” theory.

Needless to say, I made a real effort to put them in their place. They refuse to retract the fee they erroneously charged me, but my anger did attract their attention, and, at the very least, by dismantling their argument. I’ve saved future college students a lot of trouble, since hopefully now they’ll change how their laughable system works.

What’s the moral of this story? Anger won’t always get you where you need to be, but neither will kindness. It’s a healthy mix of the two that keeps the world spinning.

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There you have it. Some life lessons should be taken to heart, but others will only lead you astray. It’s up to you to separate the good from the bad!

Featured photo credit: Breaking Bad Sweeps 2014 Emmys/ BagoGames via flickr.com

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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!

More Resources About Job Interviews

Featured photo credit: Amy Hirschi via unsplash.com

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