Sometimes advice is a tough pill to swallow, even when it’s your own. It’s easy to assess what someone else should do in any given situation, but when faced with your own adversity you are suddenly paralyzed with the indecision of your own reality.
When my youngest sister went off to college my mom asked each of my siblings and me to record some advice for my sister to put into a scrapbook as a going away gift. This seemed a fairly innocuous ask, but as hours turned into days, and days turned into weeks I found myself collecting learnings as I walked to work, as I cooked dinner, as I planned my wedding. The list kept building, and more importantly, evolving.
As I read it now, three years later, sure there are things I would add, change, and prioritize, but more importantly I realize this list might actually be advice for myself based on where I was in my own life…a time capsule of reminders I needed and still continue to to need.
Advice to My Sister, Upon Going Off to College
(but really advice to myself)
- No matter how great or terrible life is at any given moment, life goes on. If you’re scared, know it won’t last. If you are overjoyed, that won’t last either. Try to take a moment to pause and capture the highs, and power through the lows. Tomorrow will come, and all emotions will evolve.
- You can get by on charm for about 15 minutes, after that you better know something (I didn’t write/come up with this). You were a big fish in a small pond, now you’re a regular fish in a lake. It is going to take significantly more to stand out, and being cute doesn’t cut it. Also, college is only a lake, once you graduate you’ll move to the ocean.
- You are the ambassador of your own brand. Everyday, whether you like it or not, the world is forming its opinion of you. Each action, inaction, interaction and publication you have influences who you are and your future opportunities. Decide what you want your brand to be and act accordingly.
- Always have questions and never be afraid to ask questions. Ever. Questions show you are paying attention. Questions are remembered. Questions only help you. The Hermoines run the world.
- Say “Yes” as often as you can. Last minute roadtrip? Yes! Can I sit next to you at lunch? Yes! Date on a school night? Yes? Will you be my lab partner? Yes! Help someone with homework? Yes! Want to join my club? Yes! There is an art to saying, “No,” but you have to learn to say, “Yes” first.
- I always say, “I’d rather regret the things I have done, than the things I haven’t done.” This is so important. Regret is one of the worst human emotions.
- Know what you want. G.I.Joe says, “Knowing is half the battle,” and it really is. Don’t know what you want? That’s okay for now, but it won’t be forever. Sometimes the best way to know what you want is to think backwards. What story do you want to tell 10 years from now? Do you want to talk about how you backpacked across Europe? Or how you interned at the White House? Or how you saved a sub-species of frog in South Africa? Those stories are happening right now. Start writing that story.
- Choose your life. If you don’t like it, only you can change it, and you have that power every minute of every day. People always think that success is one sweeping choice, but really it’s billions of micro-choices. Both happiness and success are active activities. Don’t wait for them to come to you.
- Wear shower shoes. Athletes foot is no joke. This actually goes for all kinds of protection…sunscreen, cell phone cases, umbrellas, condoms.
- Pack towels.
- Go home only when you need to. And you will need to. But try, as hard as you can, to stick it out through tough times. You never know who you might meet, or who might help you along the way. This goes for the Aunts & Uncles as well.
- Dress up for your finals. Everyone else will be in yoga pants and hats. When you dress for success, you feel more successful. Perception is reality.
- Exercise. Your body is meant to be moved. I didn’t exercise enough in college and it’s now a chore. The habits you start in university will plague you throughout your life and exercise is a major one. It’s a stress relief, a natural producer of endorphins, and no one has ever said, “Man, I wish these stairs were harder to climb.”
- Call your mother. Tell mom you’re okay from time to time. She worries.
- Harass your professors, they like it.
- Be young. You’re going to make mistakes. It’s ok. Half of the college experience is unburying yourself from sticky situations. You are really smart, have all the right tools, and a very large support network.
- Remove the word “like” from your vocabulary.
- Learn how to footnote. Plagiarism can happen to anyone.