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Life ListsIn my 44 years of life ...

Posted Jun 11 2009 8:09pm
Life Lists

In my 44 years of life, I've learned that a life well lived boils down to mastery of the following concepts:

1.) Show up
2.) Ask for directions
3.) Follow the directions
4.) One thing at a time
5.) Balance in all things

I have struggled with all of them, but probably number 2 and number 5 the most and didn't even recognize the concepts acting in my life until I became a runner in midlife. In my real life occupation as a Career Specialist at a growing proprietary university, I infuse these concepts into my Career Development class. The less enlightened students, like to blow off this one credit class that comes at the end of their associate programs, despite warnings that their education is for nothing if they don't know how to play "the game," to acquire employment in these rough recessionary times within their chosen fields. Many feel that their diplomas or associate degrees are enough, that they can sha-shay into front office of a company and the employer, delighted with the typo riddled resume pulled out their cleavage, will hire them and they'll live happily ever after. My job is to burst their bubble a bit-- that it may take them months to secure employment where unemployment hovers at 9% and many people vie for the same job, and this assumes they are closely following the rules of the job hunting game. They must be sending out intelligently written cover letters, competitive achievement oriented resumes, and interview properly displaying professionalism such as showing up on time, dressing appropriately, answering common interview questions with intelligence and forethought, networking, follow-up, in essence--all the things that seem common to many, are not common to my student population.

I tell my boss, I do my best, but sometimes I can't undo 25 years of bad upbringing in a one credit class. So, I try to organize my class around mastery of those life concepts. My class isn't difficult, but I organize my class on a series of building assignments that culminate in the student turning in a portfolio to contain a resume, a cover letter, a thank you letter, a list of references, and any additional items the student would like to include. The portfolios have helped many of our students get jobs. I lay out detailed directions for creating the portfolios, I hold their hand along the way, issue rough draft resume assignments that I check along the way, make suggestions for revision and send them back to improve on.

Teaching this class is my crystal ball, of sorts, to my student's future when I'm trying to assist them in securing employment. I merely assist, I can't conduct the entire job hunt for them. I make them 100% responsible for their job searches. I give them everything they need to know to help themselves and the rest is up to them. I can tell immediately which students will succeed and which won't. The successful students, when unsure about an assignment come to my office and ask questions, they want to be sure on the directions then they follow my directions. I beg my students to come visit and save me from the more mundane administrative aspects of my job. I try to be approachable. Then there is the student that doesn't show up, they don't ask for directions, they try to skip the building series of assignments I issue before the final portfolio assignment. They want to short-cut all that boring stuff and cut to the chase, then at the final hour, a stranger I have never seen shows up to my office the day final portfolios are due and hands it to me. I hand it back. I say, "Who are you and where have you been?" They are then surprised that I won't accept it--they couldn't short-cut my course. They're aghast and I don't care. They end up hating my guts, but it's not my job to be their friend. It's my job to do what I can to instill these little life lessons toward career success.

I wish all my students could be runners because that's where I've learned the trickier aspects of these life concepts. I can't skip any miles in a marathon, I've got to run them all, no matter how unpleasant I find certain mile markers, 18 is always a bad one, and so is 24, when you know you're so close, but hurting so badly.
Many of my students struggle with balance, getting too wrapped up in something and letting everything else slide. Many just don't show up--that's a biggie. Most of life, is just showing up at the starting line. If you can't do that you can't even be in the race. So, whether it's a race you've signed up for, a class, or an appointment with your divorce lawyer, you need to show up.

One thing at a time. I'm taking the step in my divorce today, finally filling out the legal document that will set my divorce ball in motion after nearly a year of sitting at the top of hill teetering on which way to go.
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