Class of 2020: We’re Not Sure What Advice to Give You. So We’ll Ask You This Instead

Class of 2020-Our Asks Red Cape Revolution

Well, here you are, class of 2020.

Not exactly the magic moment you imagined, eh?

‘Cause when you thought you’d have this:

 

You only get this:

Those of us who love you wish we were simply spouting cliches and trite doses of inspirational wisdom right now  . . ones you could sleep through before you head to the next picnic or party.

But honestly, we’re not exactly sure what to tell you.

I mean, here you are in the summer of 2020, marking a milestone in a time filled with milestones.

A hundred days into a worldwide health pandemic killing hundreds of thousands to date . . . that giant “closed” sign hanging on the front doors of the global economy . . and while the job market went from on fire to freezing in a matter of months, longtime tensions of racial inequity soared from simmer to boiling over in a matter of days.

Seriously, we love you . . . but we’re . . . exhausted.

We don’t have the answers for you.

You know we’d normally do anything for you . . . but right now, we just can’t.

And honestly, we need your help.

So, our dear Class of 2020,  instead of telling you what you should do next, here’s what we’d like to ask of you instead.

Ask #1: Would you become a do-er, rather than a watcher?

Ever see the movie Wall-E? In it, many of the discomforts of modern life have been replaced by machines and screens:

Yes, in most of the movie, humans have basically given up on the hard work of  living on earth.

Those of us who’ve been around for a while are a little worried that this vision might be becoming true.

For many of us in the first world, it’s more comfortable to stay in our houses, watch endless TV, and hide behind digital screens.

We’re becoming watchers.

But watchers don’t change the world.

Do-ers do.

So will you do the work to find something to do--something that you care about, as much as we care about you?

Your do-ing might be within your paid employment, or as a volunteer in your community, or as a caring member of your family.

Doesn’t matter what.

Just decide to do, not just wait & watch.

Oh, and before you agree, we can promise you this isn’t easy.

That’s why we have to ask. We’ve got a lot of watchers right now.

Doing (and getting clear on what kind of doing is right for you) can get pretty uncomfortable.

But the truth is that discomfort is the only path to growth.

And when we’re not growing, we’re declining. That’s just biology 101 (but since you aced that, we’re not worried. )

Ask #2: Would you err on the side of positivity vs. pessimism?

You don’t need to be all sunshine & roses all the time, class of 2020.

But we’d like to ask you to find the moments to smile, celebrate, and create a little happiness.

The neuroscience is clear: happy people are healthier people. Negative thought patterns can poison your brain and make you less hopeful and clear about what you’re doing and what you want to do in the future.

Again, there’s a lot of noise out there trying to push you toward the pessimistic.

We’re fighting it, too.

And we slip up. Complain. Fall into victim mode.

You, though, you can learn now to win the battle of the brain—to choose the thoughts that move you forward, to double down on the positive emotions that keep you moving even through the hardest times.

Yes, don’t discount your emotions–they put you in motion.

Positive emotions move you forward. Negative emotions pull you back.

Guess which direction we want you to go?

Ask #3: Would you tell us how you can help?

As you go find that thing you want to do, would you do us a favor?

Don’t force us to read between the lines.

We can be kinda dense that way.

Tell us—and show us–what you can do.

Don’t look to anyone else to decide for you, no matter how many assessments or quizzes you take online.

Get clear first on who you are and what you want, and build your life from there.

Stretch for your ideal job, but take the imperfect-but-available one now to get moving, get experience, get into the world.

(Oh, and to get money. Money you earn yourself is twice as valuable as money given to you by others. I know this doesn’t make sense based on that Econ 101 class you took, but believe me, when you look back, you’ll understand what I mean.)

To tell us how you can help, you have to learn what you truly love and are good at, right now.

How? Get crazy curious.

Talk to everyone you can (even your parents’ friends—ewww), and learn what’s happening in their worlds of work, as well as what’s happening in your community and your world.

(I’ve already written the networking emails for you here.)

Stop trying so hard to be interesting.

Be more interest-ed.

Pay attention to where the problems are, what the trends are, where the needs are.

Figure out how the talents you bring can answer those needs.

Basically, through this crazy curious heads-up work, you’re filling in the pieces of this simple equation:

What I Love to Do + What I’m Good At

÷  Problems I Can Solve

= My Opportunities

And you thought calculus would never come in handy, right?

Keep solving for each of these elements, and you’ll have the clarity others crave.

Class of 2020, we need you, now more than ever.

You’re not an extra, drifting in the background of the world’s movie set—especially the one that looks like a disaster right now.

We’re ready for your close-up as a real-life, working adult.

We need you now, and we expect that you’ll contribute. We’re not letting you off the hook.

Yes, the world is full of tough problems and issues right now.

And I suppose graduation speakers said the same thing when I graduated in the pre-Zoom, pre-iPhone days (i.e. dark ages).

That doesn’t make it less true.

What you need to know is that there are problems waiting for you to solve, and people needing your talents and contributions.

It’d be a shame–or worse–to let them down.

It’s your job to do all you can to track them down, offer your gifts to them, and get moving.

Welcome to the new world. We’re glad you’re finally here.


Hey—want more help?

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