This is Part 1 of the Ten Life Lessons I’ve learned thus far in my journey.  Stay tuned for the other five—and potentially more.

1. Turning 18 years Old Doesn’t Signify Adulthood

I wish I would have known the world of adults—adults of centuries past—long before I became an “adult.”  Perhaps 18, then, isn’t the right number.  Maybe I would’ve been better off learning important life lessons at 15, perhaps 13, maybe even ten.  You see, adolescence, as a critical stage of human development – those awful teen years – only came to be with the rise of psychology in the last century.  It has no real historical basis.

Consider that historically sons learned directly from their father.  The father was teacher-parent-supervisor-counselor.  The duties and responsibilities of work, family, marriage, community and church life were all transmitted directly.  This is a farcry from what happens today.  Childrearing and educating is outsourced primarily to female school teachers for as long as two decades.  Any wonder why that thirty-year old guy with an eight-year old is being taken to court by his parents to leave the nest?

Can we even really blame this guy?  Look around: childhood has been extended indefinitely, perhaps permanently.  Culture promotes youthfulness as a godlike virtue.  In this world, small wrinkles are deep scars, moms are older hipper sisters, dads are in their “man caves,” kids drone away on a litany of smart devices, students remain in school well into their thirties, and on and on.

Traditional cultures promote rites of passage; well-to-do families and communities inculcate the values, beliefs, and habits required for transitioning effectively into adulthood.  Average American adults, on the other hand, typically get a diploma and permission to enter the real world regardless of how ill-prepared they might be for its demands.

I was definitely in the latter category: lower-middle class; poverty-stricken; minority background; first-generation college student; reliant upon a broken system simply perpetuating the very social and class divides we so decry.  Understanding my responsibilities as man and having them taught to me in the context of strong encouraging men long before turning 18 would have saved me years of financial difficulty, career struggles, relationship insecurity, and much of that awful teenage angst.

2. Schooling is Mostly a Waste of Time; Work is What Matters

I think many of the struggles that I faced in my post-college life could have been averted if I would have known the nature of modern work, the how-to on how to network, interview, and sell myself and my talents.  I think my journey could have been easier if I would have worked, no matter what kind of work, during my college years especially.

When you join the workforce, you essentially join the “real world.”  You see life for what it is, people for what they are, you discover the kind of work you would dread doing, perhaps what you would love to do.  Working enables you to interact with adults with various life stories.  If attentive, you learn a thing or two and can potentially make better life decisions based upon, in part, the good choices others have made, but many times the bad ones they made.

The biggest unchecked assumption held by society at large is that mandatory schooling prepares students for the world of work.  I disagree.  Because there is such a glut of degree holders now most modern office jobs state that a college degree is “preferred” even when not a single thing you learn in school is used on the job.

Minus highly specialized careers requiring specific education, I honestly believe 75% of the jobs that exist today are jobs whose skills are learned on the job—or can be learned on the job.  Apprenticeships were once the universal standard for getting entry into careers of all types; now unpaid internships and increasingly worthless college degrees requiring decades to pay off get your “foot in the door.” Why all the needless requirements, arbitrary educational levels, and mountains of debt to land a decent gig?

The simple fact is you are going to learn more about work, life, and the real world on the job than you will ever learn in a safe controlled classroom environment.  We teach kids to death and “graduate” them only for many of them to discover that their education is impractical and unimportant.  I have a bachelor of arts and have never used anything I learned in college in any professional setting, random odd job, personal endeavor, financial decision, etc.

3. Not Everyone Understands Nor Cares For Your Dreams

As much as I promote getting into the real world as early as possible, I am also cautious about who you interact with and share deep and personal things with.  The younger you are the bolder you are.  Sensing a certain vibrancy, vitality, an immortality if you will, it is like you can do and conquer anything.

The older you get, however, the more limited you become in physical ability, mental acuity, emotional responsiveness, etc.  The young person dares to dream something big—greatness in every way.  The school system stifles that in all likelihood by keeping kids limited to a regimented worthless schedule.  If resilient enough, though, the dreams may last into adulthood.

In the real world, however, are many adults who have stopped dreaming long ago.  These are the minefields you have to watch out for.  You don’t want to share too much with them.  Perhaps they have a nice comfortable existence in the suburbs.  Many do.  But they’ve stopped fighting long ago.  A secure comfortable good took the place of potential greatness.

Convincing many middle-aged adults of your dreams is like speaking a foreign language to them: they simply don’t get the drive, vision, and passion.  Stressed from family, work, and personal life, many older adults simply don’t have time to ponder something new and potentially rewarding.  I’ve learned to share my dreams on good soil—to the hearts and minds who are motivated to seeing them come to fruition.

  1. Not Everyone is a Mentor, But Almost Everyone is an “Expert”

While older people have their share of experiences that are worthy of hearing and learning from, what they went through and how they resolved it may simply not be applicable in today’s world.  There are many racial, cultural, generational, and educational differences that exist between two adults in a mentor-mentee relationship that one needs to be made aware of.

I’ve learned that a good mentor always leads you in the right direction.  A not-so-good mentor is one-sided.  They view things only in terms of what worked for them.  They’re not too good at getting the best out of you.  They know not how to unlock your inner talent and genius.  In other words, they only see you for what you are, not for who you can become.

Personally, though, I haven’t mastered the art of mentorship, neither as a mentor or mentee.  I’ve simply learned a thing or two from my interactions with other adults who have more experience in the real world.  I’ve had tough conversations, bittersweet moments, completely worthless times, and variations therein.  The people I’ve most learned from have been those who’ve heard the good in my life and told me how I could improve and vice versa.

One thing I am currently working on is learning from those who are clear experts in their field.  I’ve found myself getting into deep topics with people who have little to no knowledge of the topic at hand.

To take real estate as an example.  I’ve shared ideas of real estate investing with certain individuals just out of pure conversation and to test the waters.  Almost every time the same thing happened: those with no experience were definitive in why its costly and likely a bad idea.  Those with limited successful experience provided greater insight and detail.  I’m yet to meet a super successful investor but I’m sure they will be filled with even more critical investment ideas, opportunities, and experiences.

In short, seek counsel from the top—those whose lives reflect the success they talk about, nothing less.

4. Relationship Building = Success

Somewhat related to the previous two, relationship building is such a powerful and effective avenue for success in any area of life.  Jim Cockrum, a super successful online guru who offers amazingly practical advice for how to build multiple streams of income online, states that the rules of life, business, and leadership are all the same.  They hinge on how effectively you establish and develop relationships overtime.  Credibility and integrity propels relationships forward.  Relationships, as Jim likes to say, are not static.  They either get better or worse.  The same goes for pretty much everything else: businesses, marriages, health, etc.

No one that has achieved anything great did it without some other person.  From a supportive spouse, best friend, tough-love coach, whoever it is, somebody or a collection of people, play a role in developing our sense of self.  Our confidence, talent, ambition, self-esteem, personal worth, whether we admit or not, are sometimes dependent on the relationships we have (or don’t have).

Much of the reason for why I write is because of its intensely personal, isolated nature.  I simply thrive in independent contexts.  I love working alone.  However, I’ve learned that growth in life – whether athletic, business, financial, etc. – comes from the active involvement of other people.  Others provide opportunities to share, collaborate, challenge, instruct, and mentor.  I’ve seen this happen over and over again in my life.

5. Relationship Building = Success

Somewhat related to the previous two, relationship building is such a powerful and effective avenue for success in any area of life.  Jim Cockrum, a super successful online guru who offers amazingly practical advice for how to build multiple streams of income online, states that the rules of life, business, and leadership are all the same.  They hinge on how effectively you establish and develop relationships overtime.  Credibility and integrity propels relationships forward.  Relationships, as Jim likes to say, are not static.  They either get better or worse.  The same goes for pretty much everything else: businesses, marriages, health, etc.

No one that has achieved anything great did it without some other person.  From a supportive spouse, best friend, tough-love coach, whoever it is, somebody or a collection of people, play a role in developing our sense of self.  Our confidence, talent, ambition, self-esteem, personal worth, whether we admit or not, are sometimes dependent on the relationships we have (or don’t have).

Much of the reason for why I write is because of its intensely personal, isolated nature.  I simply thrive in independent contexts.  I love working alone.  However, I’ve learned that growth in life – whether athletic, business, financial, etc. – comes from the active involvement of other people.  Others provide opportunities to share, collaborate, challenge, instruct, and mentor.  I’ve seen this happen over and over again in my life.

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