Over the last few weeks I’ve been reflecting back on conversations I’ve had with over 25,000 young people in the last 5 years. After observing the trials and tribulations, their worries and concerns it has led me to put together these 9 things that I wish I knew when I was at school. As year final 12 exams are approaching for students across Australia and as new cohorts begin on the year 12 journey, hopefully some of these things will help young people to keep perspective on the journey they are going through!
You Are More Than A Mark
It can be so easy fall into thinking that whilst at school our marks define who we are. We are led to believe that for the rest of our life the success that we achieve at school will define us. Year 12 especially can be anxiety producing due to the immense pressure we and others place on ourselves. I remember the night before my first year 12 HSC exam huddled in the fetal position, trying to breathe and calm down my thinking because I felt immense pressure about what was to follow the next day. When I arrived at university I thought people would wear their ATAR on them like a badge of honour but in reality, nobody cared what marks you got in high school. They just cared about what kind of person you were! For the last 7 years, not one person in a business context has asked me or even cared what my ATAR or school marks where!
No matter what mark you end up with at the end of school there are SO MANY options to do the course you would like OR get the dream job you are after. You just have to be willing to work for it. I’m not advocating to slack off during school, actually the opposite but whatever the mark you end up with, remember it doesn’t define you.
It’s Ok To Fail
A lesson that is constantly repeated from the world of startups is that ‘it’s ok to fail’ and whilst we are told this, living it out and practicing it can be whole other endeavour! I studied Arts at University and I remember distinctly receiving back an essay where I was given a 50/100 and I definitely should have failed. I remember feeling frustrated that no matter how little effort I put in I couldn’t fail. The lesson I wish I had been taught in that moment is that failure is an opportunity for growth and NOT you can try as little as you like but still scrape by. Learning early on that failure is inevitable at some stage in our life and developing the coping mechanisms to deal with it will set you up for success in the long run.
You Show Me Your Friends, I’ll Show You Your Future
We are told from Seligman and the founders of positive psychology that the number one indicator of the well-being of a young person is the quality of their relationships and friendships. The time we spend moving through high school will bring about a range of friendship changes, conflicts, tensions, highs and lows but at the end of the day reflect on the quality of friend that you are to others, remember what your mum always said; treat others how you would like to be treated!
In year 12 I shifted the group of people I spent time with and deliberately spent time with people who challenged me to work harder, study smarter and to reflect on the person I was becoming. This was one of the best decisions i made, not only for my wellbeing but also for my success in high school.
Find a Healthy Balance – Procrastination Kills!
BALANCE! This was my key word for my final year of school and I wish I had focused on it earlier. Whilst being diligent in your studies is important. At the end of the day, your success at school is not going to be determined by the hours you work but by how you used your time effectively and how you balance all of the bits and pieces in your life. People around you will talk about how noble they are giving up certain facets of their lives to ‘focus on study’. This is a fallacy, if you want to be successful find a healthy balance between those things that excite you and those things you have to do. I remember in year 12 my dad having to drag me away from studying so we could play badminton in the back yard with a dodgy net he found in our garage just to get me to have some kind of a balance.
The worst habit I learnt at school was how to procrastinate. If you can beat that temptation to procrastinate and set yourself good study habits this will pay dividends while at uni or in the workforce. I am still paying for it now! Imagine if all the time you spent watching videos on YouTube was spent doing your assignment!
What You Put In Is What You Will Get out
This is the simplest equation for success while at school. I really struggled with Maths at school, constantly being placed year after year in the bottom class in my grade. This reinforced the fact that I was no good at maths and the cycle continued, I didn’t try hard, I didn’t listen in class and barely ever did my homework. One day my teacher challenged me to come to a before school maths tutoring session that occurred once a week. It was a game changer! Quickly I realised that I wasn’t terrible at maths it just took more effort than my other subjects for me to get the hang of and if I put in the effort it required then I would also get the outcome I desired. It wasn’t about my ability to perform the task more so my mindset towards the task.
Your Friends Won’t Remember What You Achieved But Who You Were
Your friends won’t remember what you achieved whilst at school but the kind of person you were, the choices you made and how you treated other people.
I’m 8 years out of school this year and for the life of me, I can’t remember who won what award, who was in what sporting team or who was the smartest in my grade! I can however distinctly remember those people who cared about the success of others as much as their own, who were willing to lend me a hand when I was struggling and who always had a smile on their face even when things were stressful.
Nobody Else Has It Worked Out Either
I used to dread the ‘What do you want to do when you leave school question?’ Mainly because I thought people would discover that I didn’t have it all worked out and I would be exposed as a fraud. I looked around me and just assumed that my friends and peers knew exactly what life after school looked like. I changed my plans of what life looked like post school almost hundreds of times, from taking a gap year, to going to uni, to getting a job it was all up in the air! The job I am in now wasn’t a long executed plan but merely a series of fortunate events and opportunities presented at the right times.
The MAGIC Formula – Eat Well, Sleep Well, Exercise Well
I discovered the magic formula not long after I left school! I’m still struggling to put it into action but I am slowly getting better! There are three key things that will look after your wellbeing well especially during the final year. They are how well you are eating, how well you are sleeping and how often you are exercising. Science shows us time and time again that a focus on these three things will not only improve your productivity but reduce your stress levels and help with your memory retention! This doesn’t mean you have to run a marathon every day or only eat superfoods. It means you need to monitor and be aware of how well you do these things. Even finding someone to keep you accountable to these things, it will pay off in the long run!
People Post Online What They Want You To See
The digital world is a construction, there I said it! What you see online of other people isn’t who they really are but a construction of who they would like to be! Comparisons are the thief of joy and the more time we spend comparing ourselves to the constructed lives of others the more time we spend worrying about something that simply isn’t true. This doesn’t mean I’m advocating for us to just post about the negatives in our lives, or to avoid social media! I just don’t want you to forget that other people’s lives often aren’t as perfect as they make them out to be!