Column: We rarely get what we deserve

Learn online, find role models to pattern yourself after, try even your wildest business ideas, get on planes to anywhere and challenge...

By Mike Shields

Apropos the 30th anniversary of my graduation from a local high school, I envisioned writing ‘wish I knew then what I know now,’ to benefit current post-secondary students.

To that, end I solicited, via Facebook, lessons learned from fellow Pitt Meadows secondary classmates.

Replies ranged from wait a day before pressing send on tough or nasty emails to heeding warnings about how ruinous addictive substances can be.

Undeniably good suggestions, but still less than the unified meaning of life to which I aspired.

Yet, maybe that is precisely the take away. To wit, this month’s graduates have a much broader range of possibilities than any previous generation. To me, at the time, going away to university, playing varsity athletics, starting a student painting franchise, backpacking around the world or being a 25 year old federal political candidate felt like outlier activities. But all these things are mocked by the educational, commercial and political potential available to nearly anyone these days.

My advice?  Learn online, find role models to pattern yourself after, try even your wildest business ideas, get on planes to anywhere and challenge powers that be all the time.  Fair warning, though, such paths are rarely if ever easy.

The difference in sports training now versus then highlights just how true it is that anything worthwhile in life is usually hard earned.  Whereas my sporting life changed with the seasons and lifting weights made you too bulky to be athletic, today’s global competition infers 10,000 hours of field specific practice is a necessary pre-requisite to being competitive.

Similarly illustrating this circumstance is the lesson that instead of the happily ever after portrayed by children’s books, adult relationships have ups and downs requiring as much hard work and dedication as any career.

To again reference personal experience, my 18-year-old ‘Alex P. Keaton’ self would literally despise the 48-year-old me, which life’s twists and turns have produced.

So expecting unwavering love til death do you part from a high school sweetheart seems more like a diamond advertisement than any reality.

Which leads to another grasp at hindsight-derived comprehension. Despite the manipulations of advertisers, we rarely get what we deserve. It doesn’t matter how great a guy you are when she has preconceptions favoring someone more well-born.  Nor is nailing the interview anything more than a waste of gas when the company is actually just going through the process necessary to hire an already in the role, in-house candidate.

But better than more examples I’ve literally suffered through is that I suggest a business maxim which I can only dream about having taken to heart earlier:  Don’t for a moment think ‘they’ don’t see you coming.

Because whether the used car salesman in a banker’s suit or the supervisor who enjoys pressing your buttons, there will inevitably be situations in your life that are simply impossible for you to win.

Correspondingly, the main distinction for professional poker players is not their ability to win monster-sized hands. It’s that they’ve learned – usually from experience – how and when to avoid catastrophic losses.

For me, years of higher education in finance crashed to worthlessness when my first job turned out to be an internship with the wrong company.

Some things most definitely do not somehow work out in the end.

So if, as with myself, you’re inspired to change the world, bear in mind that the reward is more the raging against the dying of the light than, as for some people whom I truly admire, it is the never forgetting to prioritize happiness.

Either way (per the novel Catch-22), know that between you and every ideal there will always Scheisskopfs, Peckems and Cathcarts – and that sort of changes the ideal.


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