One of the rare pleasures I have is volunteering as a mentor for young, aspiring junior and high school students through programs such as Each 1 Teach 1 and Junior Achievement. As a mentor, I get the opportunity to meet and chat with kids about what it is to be a leader in the business community. I am often amazed at the level of awareness, zeal, and genuine optimism they display. Their energy is contagious.
I wish I had that kind of enthusiasm when I was their age.
Recently, I spoke with a large group of high school students about how I came to be an entrepreneur. I have spoken about my experience on many occasions and am even working on a book. Like any entrepreneurial journey, the lessons are countless, often embarrassing, and extremely difficult to prioritize.
Nevertheless, I narrowed my advice to three simple takeaways that I felt even school-aged kids could understand. After a healthy discussion, I quickly found that I was guilty of not adhering to all of them myself. The kids picked up on that fact quickly ... they seem to have that uncanny sixth sense.
Below are the tips I shared. Are you adhering them?
The first piece of advice is based on a sobering fact raised by Thomas Friedman in his book, The World Is Flat. Friedman points out that, among other things, with the rapid rise of Internet availability and usage, the ability to outsource work to better and often less expensive talent has never been greater.
Because of this, the generation of tomorrow now find themselves competing with three billion other talented and highly ambitious individuals who are hungry for success and seek to make a better life for themselves.
No doubt, this generation has their work cut out. It is therefore no longer sufficient simply to go to school and hope that a degree gets you the career and lifestyle you want. Instead, you have to be smarter, spryer, and one step ahead of the three billion people who want your job.
This means biding your limited time well, indulging in applicable literature and media, and being proactive in your own career development. Maybe more important, it means focusing on more productive and useful activities than re-runs of Jersey Shore, Myrtle Manor, or Housewives of (fill in the blank).
The second piece of advice is to never prioritize money and wealth over happiness. Seems simple, but I think it’s often overlooked by the younger generation infatuated with the celebrity fame and fortune that comes from young Internet entrepreneurs or athletes.
While I spent the better part of my career taking jobs often for the experience rather than the pay, these days, as an entrepreneur, I often find myself with my eye on profitability rather than substance. It's an easy trap to fall into. Instead, you need to learn to focus and guide your career toward happiness rather than profit. Never put work above loved ones. And never be afraid of failure or heart break.
The third piece of advice is to always prioritize you over all others. I think for many who believe that family and friends, or sometimes even a pet, should come first, this is a shocking thing to hear. The number one priority in your life should always be you.
I’m not implying that you be selfish and arrogant, only that you are much better prepared and equipped to make others happy when you are happy yourself. Think about it. Nobody likes grumpy you ... not even you.
This includes making health and wellness priorities in your life. You need go no further than an international airport terminal (or an episode of Myrtle Manor) to realize just how incredibly unhealthy our society has become compared to the rest of the world. Too many people fail to realize how much of an impact wellness has on our ability to think, process information and innovate.
Luckily, correcting the problem truly is as simple as a decent (or at least not grossly negligent) diet, moderate exercise, a good night sleep and learning to properly deal with stress. So, remember to stay smart, live loved, and mind you. If you can make these habitual in your life, then maybe you can indulge in an episode or two of Myrtle Manor. Go ahead, you deserve it.