We know, graduation is still several weeks away, but we got thinking about tidbits of good advice accumulated through the years that might benefit high school students getting ready to step out into the world.
With all the talk about the value of 21st century “soft skills” for college and workplace success, this handful of tactics can be of help. None of them are anything new, or guaranteed to make you rich or happy. They will, if you take them to heart and put them to use, help raise you above the average in any situation.
1. Practice humility.
Whatever project or assignment you work on, whatever job you do, be sure to point beyond yourself to others who deserve credit too. When you ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?” the answer should be to benefit someone other than yourself. Writer C.S. Lewis said, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” Remember, it’s never all about you.
2. Help people trust you.
Do what you say you’re going to do when you say you’re going to do it. Leadership guru Stephen Covey says, “Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication, the foundational principle that holds all relationships.”
3. Trying is not the same as doing.
Some people will tell you the process is more important than the outcome. But in a world of deadlines and expectations, getting something done is important. What fun is the journey if you don’t end up somewhere meaningful? Eighteenth century Scottish historian and social critic Thomas Carlyle wrote, “Nothing builds self-esteem and self-confidence like accomplishment.”
4. Look people in the eye.
This means that at this particular moment, the person in front of you and the conversation you are having together are the most important things for you. Turn away from the monitor, put down the cellphone, set aside whatever may distract you. If you are going to have a conversation with someone, you owe it to him or her and yourself to be fully present and engaged.
5. Learn to listen.
Those who become strong leaders are good listeners. It is the foundation of all successful relationships. Nothing you say today will teach you anything new. If you want to learn, you have to do it by listening to someone else. Some old time advice: You were born with two ears and one mouth; use them in that proportion.
This may take practice for some people, but your default expression can be a tonic for you and those around you. Smiling can make you feel better and relieve stress. It paves the way for relationships with other people. There is even scientific research that shows that people who smile more actually live longer. Pastor and author Charles Swindoll said, “Life is 10 percent what happens to me and 90 percent of how I react to it.” In that case, you may as well smile.