I cannot be this age. Truly.
No milestone birthday looms this year. Instead, my youngest niece is about to graduate from college. And my friends’ children are studying to be journalists, doctors, scientists.
I will not age myself and say that time flies—but I feel like I blinked at the Indy 500.
My friend asked if I had any sage words for her daughter. I’m assuming she meant about journalism. As this talented young woman prepares to enter the rat race officially, I pondered what I could offer her.
Not surprisingly to any of you, the words that came to me were more about life than journalism. Any hack can tell you not to split your infinitives and to start with a lede that draws people into your story.
But not everyone looks back and shares actual wisdom.
I may not have it in spades but I have a few nuggets to spare in the form of a letter I’ve written:
A good journalist gets to the point. So here goes, with little ado.
You are about to enter a world in which you will assume everyone is an adult. They are not. All are full grown, but not all have grown up. You will encounter mean girls, nerds and bullies, just as you have from middle school on up. The rules of corporate America are a bit harsher than the schoolyard because no one fills the teacher role—you know, the one who intervenes to save the little guy from harm. As you begin your career, make no mistake. You are the little guy. Keep your mouth closed and your eyes open.
In complete contradiction to the advice I just gave you, speak up and make mistakes. Lots of them. Because the people who are outstanding in their field are the ones with the cojones to fail fast and often. Doing so accelerates your learning curve and puts you on an upward trajectory.
When you have a choice, always and unequivocally choose to work for someone whose passion is creating something larger than the group that makes it. Run as fast as you can from the radical opposite of this person, the one who has her eyes on the corner office. The former will give credit where it is due and keep everyone’s eye on the prize. You will be inspired and go home feeling you’ve contributed something good to the world. The latter will snipe, backstab and work you like a dog so she can reap the benefits of breaking your back. You will doubt yourself and go home feeling like you are a very small cog in a wheel that never stops churning.
Never mistake decency for a lack of strength. You will see executives and editors go head to head with each other. The decent ones don’t always win. Sometimes they do. But I guarantee you this: The executives with decency, who treat their fellow man with respect regardless of rank, do end up ahead. They generally have a life outside of work, people who love them, a broader perspective. The bullies—well, the bullies I’ve seen generally end up having a heart attack or cancer. They become so toxic, their own body can’t even stand it. The few who retire are generally a miserable shadow of their former selves within a few years. Money can’t buy you love is more than just a catchy song title from the ‘60s.
It may sometimes be difficult to be you. Not because there is anything wrong with you, lovely girl. But because being unique in any way, shape or form takes chutzpah when–despite the diversity talk—it is made clear that the thoroughbreds are generally those who conform. Be yourself anyway. Find an environment that values the traits you bring and success will come. I promise you.
And last, despite all of these rather dire warnings, remember that the world is filled with good people. I have worked with people who tell stories that change the world. I have seen teams pitch in to help a member in need without breathing a word—as that team member took care of a sick parent, lost a child, braved a divorce. I have witnessed inspirational leaders create amazing products and programs, changing not just industries, but lives.
Put your armor on to deflect the arrows but remember to take it off at night for those you love. Don’t let them beat the humanity out of you.
Because you, dear girl, and many more like you—you are our hope for a brighter future. Be smarter than any before you have been. Show us how intelligence, ingenuity, drive and the best of humanity can coexist in one beautiful soup.
Be you. Be brave.
Get out there and change the world.
59 Comments Add yours
‘All are full grown, but not all have grown up’, OM(f)G Kay you just don’t know how much this sentence resonates.
Amazing, eh? 😉
Oh, Kristine! What fabulous advice and how lucky is she to have you give it to her!
Thank you, Dale😊. Kind words from you!
That is some fantastic advice for high schoolers and (a reminder) for new college grads. I get dismayed when I see young people so educated but at the same time not, expecting that because they graduated, the world is their oyster and everything will fall into place. No, it won’t, you’ll have to work for it. And if you’re really well-functioning, you will do it for yourself and not have your parents do it for you. I’m 33, and its strange to see young men and women my age getting their parents to make the phone calls and arrange interviews for them. A bit different from living at home rent-free but having your own life, i admit. At least I’m allowed to make my own mistakes to a point and learn from them. Hopefully, these kids will, too.
I can’t believe that still goes on at 33! I don’t even do that for my teen now.
Good for you–I don’t know what some parents are thinking, like if they don’t monitor everything their kid-ult does, they’ll fail miserably. Hello, failure is a learning experience if you let it be…and I’ve learned a lot from my thousand or so failures. Still learning, actually. Some just can’t cut the apron strings, I guess. My biggest wish for when I have kids is that I’ll be able to let them have their own lives and mistakes and to let them grow up and be their own people. They need to…this new generation’s gotten incredibly dependent on their parents and can’t or won’t leave the nest (even when you take housing and jobs out of the equation). Scary.
That’s the hardest bit–letting them learn even through painful mistakes. Was just talking to some parents about that at a party tonight. Sometimes I think it hurts us more than them.
This is like the best thing ever!
Thank you! Made my day:).
Another printable one! ; )
I think this is an excellent summary for your niece and I have shared it on my face book page
Thank you! I’m glad you liked it and truly appreciate the share.
Excellent piece, excellent advice, from the heart. Polonius to Laertes for the modern young person.
Couldn’t have said a nicer thing, Roy:). Thank you!
Very well said.
Beautiful advice. I wish I had had someone in my life when I was younger who could have given me such pearls of wisdom. She’s lucky to have you.
I wish I had too! I just hope she pays it forward as she goes:).
I have a granddaughter who graduated from college two years ago and is working in the corporate world, and a grandson who is a sophomore determined to get a law degree and work in the political world. Both are bright. Both are hardworking. Both so far have been unscathed by life. Both should read your letter. I sent them the url for your blog. Usually they listen to me; this time I might nag.
Oh, you are a dear :-). I wish them both the best of luck!
You seem to know just what to say… it isn’t sugarcoating life it’s telling the truth and giving insight to someone who is daring to tread in some challenging waters! I love you will get to see her journey and that you have given her such love in sharing this!
Well done! I hope she can absorb every single word.
Me too! Thanks for stopping by:).
Thank you for sharing this with us. I know I needed these words!
If only I had advice like that when I was at this girl’s age. No matter, an advice received at any age is still an advice, and this is a good one. Something to remind myself. thanks for sharing 🙂
Very kind of you to say:). I do think advice is easier to give than to live!
I liked your comment, “never forget decency for lack of strength”. Excellent!
You inspired me before I even got out of bed today! Is it okay to re-publish (with due credit) an excerpt?
But of course:). Would just appreciate a link back to candidkay.com and the post. I’m so glad this one struck you. Hope the rest of the day has followed suit in inspiring fashion!
Fabulous advice. Well done.
Thanks, Cynthia:). Giving it is easier than living it, as I’m sure you know!
Oh, yeah. But this one is a keeper.
I shared your wonderful words of wisdom on my Facebook page. You should be invited to give a few commencement addresses. Terrific!
Thank you, Christine! I so appreciate you sharing. I hope it inspires a few young up and comers to make us proud:).
Super post! I would add “be aware of and open to opportunity”… you never know where it will lead. For advice to a young person, this post is probably the best I’ve read anywhere. Well done!
Thank you! And you’re right. Openness to unexpected paths and opportunities is so key.
Kay, these insights will serve your niece well in friendship and motherhood, too. Wise, beautiful words.
Brava! I wish someone had given me such sage advice as I stepped into my first newsroom eons ago.
Kay you always offer such wise words of advice, I would love to see a book from you ‘Letters to those I Love’ – I have a feeling it would be a bestseller.
From your lips to God’s ears! I am working on a book, not in that format, but I’m hoping it’s inspired.
Nice! My own daughter is about to embark on a journalism degree – and I have such mixed feelings. I keep telling her that her world and her career will be different to mine – but I so hope that she loves it as much as I did and do.
Oh Lee, I hear you! It is amazing to me that they still call it journalism because the field is change so very much. I will be interested to hear from you about her journey. I wish her the best of luck!
Great advice Kristine, and if she is open to listen to your wisdom, she will learn and understand it more deeply as it unfolds for her. My greatest lessons have been from my mistakes and from taking risks. I wish her well as she starts to experience this crazy and amazing world.
Ah, Yes. I wish we could learn from each other but as you say, most of the time we actually learn only by making our own mistakes. As my mother used to say, hindsight is always 20/20.
Your Mum was wise and right. 🙂
Very well said! I had always thought that adults would act like adults. Boy was I wrong!!
Appearances can be deceiving😉
All very good advice to a young lady starting her professional career!
Wise words Kay, after experiencing every one of them, and then some!
As you said, balance the love and this world WILL be changed for the better 🙂
Great post, energiser, uplifter and all round talk from the heart…wish you were my sister 😀
Mark, maybe you could say that for all of my sisters to hear :-). Especially on the days I exasperate them!
Excellent letter and terrific advice beginning with the assumption that not all who appear to be adults actually are.
Ah, methinks you speak from experience:). The screaming meanies rear their ugly heads now and then, don’t they?
All too often..:)
Everybody needs an aunt like you.
Aw. Thank you. One of the nicest things you could have said! I wish I had more time in my days to be more present!
Oh, what a lucky girl to receive this pearl of a letter! Wonderful advice, beautifully written. I wish all graduates in all fields of study could have practical, helpful, lucid advice from a caring mentor! This is a letter she’ll treasure always. Wishing her every success! xox
Thank you! I am excited to see what being a fledgling journalist looks like now. So very different from when I began . . . it will be fun to take the journey with her:).