career ready

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The Whole Truth

Truth: That which is in accordance with fact or reality.

Several years ago, I was in the business of building tennis courts and running tracks. One day I came up with an idea to use recycled tire rubber to create a soft, safe playground surface that kids could fall on without busting their heads wide open. Lucky for our company, McDonald’s and Disney decided to use the new product on their playgrounds around the world. In fact, we installed our SAF DEK surface on more than 3,000 McDonald’s Playlands. Our company was eventually sold, and I decided to take sometime off to do something I had wanted to do for a long time…travel. I wanted to travel across America to see what there was to see and to learn what I could learn. So I did. I packed up my belongings, jumped into my old Ford Explorer, and hit the road.

I did see and I did learn a great deal as I traveled. Along the way, I also got pretty angry about what I was seeing and what I was learning.

There are many great things about traveling across the country, but for me, the people I met as I traveled were the highlight of the trip. By the way, this was no short trip we’re talking about here. What I thought was going to be a nice relaxing three-month cross-country trip ended up being a two-year journey that took me to and through 40 different states! That means I probably traveled right through the state in which you live and maybe even stopped in your hometown. That’s 730 straight days in an old Ford Explorer, all alone. No dog, no best friend, no girlfriend, no iPod, iPad, or even iPhone! Hard to imagine, I’m sure, but that’s the way it was back then.

Remember I told you that, as I traveled, I did get pretty ticked off along the way. Why would anyone taking a two-year vacation get ticked off? Very simple. As I traveled, it became more and more apparent to me that young people like you were only getting half of what you bargained for when you agreed to come to school, sit in class, do your homework, and take your tests. Most of you are in the midst of getting a good education, which is great. However, very few of you are getting the full preparation you will need to be successful in the world of work! You are not being fully prepared for your inevitable destination after you complete your educational journey.

It’s not the fault of your teachers or your principals or even your parents. It just is the way it is, but it’s not right and it’s not fair to you and all of your classmates.

Here’s what I saw as I made my way across this great country.

Everywhere I stopped along the way I met new people. People I had never met before. People I knew nothing about. Young people, old people…people from all walks of life. Rich people, poor people…all kinds of people. Tall people, short people…you name it, I met them. I can’t remember all of the people I met along the way. I wish I could remember them all, but can you imagine how many people you can meet in 730 days??

Obviously, I can’t remember them all, yet there were some people I will never forget. That’s because when I met these particular people and heard their stories I got more and more frustrated. The people I am talking about were all young people, most of them in their early 20s, and many of them were about to graduate from college.

Isn’t that great…about to graduate from college! Just what we keep encouraging all of you to do. Graduate from high school and then continue your education. Go to college and get a degree. That’s all fine and well, but the truth of the matter is that every one of you will need more than just that college degree if you really want to succeed in the real world.

If we fail to make sure you understand this and if we don’t tell you the rest of the story, then we have done a great disservice to you and to all of your classmates. We owe you the whole truth, and many of the young people I met as I traveled cross-country weren’t quite getting that whole truth.

Somehow these soon-to-be college graduates thought they would be able to trade their college degree for a great job and a successful career. They were of the opinion that a good education was all they needed. However, as they got closer and closer to graduating, they began to realize that something was missing. As they started the process of trying to figure out what they would do after they got their degrees, many of them came to the same conclusion. Yes, they were educated, but no, they were not really prepared for their future careers.

So, day after day, week after week, I ran into bright, well- educated young people who were all trying to figure out what to do with the rest of their lives. When asked, almost 80% of them said that they had no idea what they wanted to do when they completed their educational journey, and almost all of them were scared. That’s why I ended my two-year, 40-state journey in such a state of frustration.

Let me see if I have this right. When you were a little kid, we told you how important it was to get a good education. If you had the nerve to ask why, which is definitely a fair question, you were probably told that you would need a good education in order to get a good job when you left the four walls of the classroom and entered the world of work. So far…so good. But that’s where we dropped the ball. That’s where we let you down. In fact, that’s where we forgot to tell you the whole story. Furthermore, that’s why, if you are not careful, you might end up in the same boat as all of those confused, scared young people I met on my cross-country journey.

If you ever have to testify in a court of law, before you take your place on the witnessstand, the court clerk will ask you to raise your right hand; then, he or she will ask you if you “swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?” When you agree to do that, the whole world expects you to live up to that promise you just made. In court, if you don’t tell the whole truth, the judge can actually hold you in contempt and put your rearend in jail! That’s why it’s so important to get the whole truth because if you only get part of the truth you won’t have all the information you need to make the right decisions and choices about your future.

Getting only part of the truth is probably what happened to most of you when you walked into school for the very first time. You were told that you would need a good education in order to succeed later in life. That was, and is, still true. But that wasn’t the whole truth. That was just part of the truth, and part of the truth is not what you deserve. You deserve the whole truth, and here’s why.

If you start in first grade and continue your educational journey all the way through college, you will spend approximately 20,000 hours in a classroom. That’s 20,000 hours of your valuable time. If you waste any part of that 20,000 hours, then shame on you. If we help you waste any of that 20,000 hours, then shame on us.

In my opinion, if you are going to invest that kind of time and effort in your future, you deserve to know what else you will need, beyond a good education, to succeed at your inevitable destination –the world of work. It’s just like those great young people I met on my cross-country trip several years ago. Yes, they were educated; unfortunately, somewhere along the way, we forgot to fully prepare them. The whole truth is that education and preparation are both critical to success in the world of work.

That word success will pop up several times in this book, so perhaps this is a good time to consider an appropriate definition for the word success. Just stop for a minute and think about your definition of the word success.

What does success mean to you?

Think about a few people in your life who you would describe as successful. Why do you consider them successful? Is it because of something they have? Or maybe something they did? Or maybe even something in which they believe?

That’s how I once defined success…money, fame, stuff…but not anymore. Now, after meeting thousands of so-called successful people, I have a new definition for success. Most people take too long to figure this one out, but those who figure it out early are the lucky ones.

Success, in my opinion, is about four things –good friends, a good reputation, career satisfaction, and helping others. Despite being a pretty simple definition, it is often much easier to say than it is to practice. Just give it some thought before you get too far down the road.

Whatever you do, please remember this: Success has nothing to do with money! Money cannot, does not, will not, and has not ever made anyone happy. Now, don’t misunderstand me here. There is nothing wrong with money. I like money, but money can’t make you happy. In fact, I have more miserable rich friends than I couldever count. So, before you start making plans and settinggoals, spend a little time coming up with your own good definition for success.

As you know, the workplace is where you and all of your classmates are headed. And, as you know, along the way you will spend approximately 20,000 hours in a classroom. You probably think that’s a long time and awhole bunch of hours. I would agree.

If you think 20,000 hours in a classroom is unbelievable, take a guess as to how many hours most of you will spend in the world of work. Get ready for this one because it can make you dizzy when you first hear it. Most of you will spend approximately 86,000 hours of your life at work. No kidding…true story! So I’m thinking if we know that the workplace is where all of you will end up, and we also know that you will be there for 86,000 hours, the least we can do is help prepare you for that rather extended experience.

Everyone eventually chooses a career and goes to work. Some go after college. Some go after high school. Some go even earlier than that. But sooner or later, we all go to work. This book is all about work…how, when, where, why, and with whom you will work. This book is also about what we owe you as a student who is in the process of investing 20,000 hours of your valuable time as you get ready to enter the 86,000-hour world of work.

Remember, it’s your 86,000 hours, and you’re either going to enjoy the ride or it’s going to wear you out. Fortunately, you get to choose which it will be.


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