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Month: September 2013

How to Succeed After College: More Advice from Your Future Self

Last week I shared advice from two friends, Jackie and Ashley: knowing what you know now, what would you tell your 19-year-old self?

Ashley thought about it some more and offered a few more nuggets:

  1. Our pastor frequently says, “The person you will be in 10 years is directly affected by the people you hang out with and the books you read.” I think there’s a lot of wisdom there. Read more books and surround yourself, not only with smart people, but good people; people who will speak life to you and who will challenge you to do the same.
  2. Disillusionment is coming. It happens to everyone. As you get older you realize that some people that you really loved and respected didn’t really deserve your love and respect. It’s sad and heartbreaking. Embrace it–there’s no way around it. Love them anyway, but be careful who you let speak into your life.
  3. A few months after I got married, Eric Teoro (one of my business professors) told me that I didn’t know what it meant to love my husband, and I wouldn’t really know what that meant until we had some water under our bridge. He was right. He also once said, referring to some scripture from Corinthians, that love means growing up (in some other words;)). He was also right about that. I’d probably advise myself to keep my opinions about love and marriage to myself for the first several years of marriage.
  4. A smile and polite, gentle answer can get you out of most everyday difficult situation.
  5. A van is really not as bad as you think it is. In fact, it’s kind of fantastic.
  6. READ Life of the Beloved by Henri Nouwen, stat. Most twenty-somethings desperately need to hear those words.
  7. “The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for his cause, but the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for his cause” (The Catcher In the Rye). I would tell my twenty-year-old self to choose to live humbly–it speaks volumes more than a noble death.
  8. Buy some real clothes. Jeans and vintage t-shirts are only going to work for so long. If you are wearing jeans and tees all the time, while complaining that no one takes you seriously, you should probably change your wardrobe. Take yourself seriously enough to invest in some decent clothing. And dress up for the job you want, not the job you have.

Advice from Your Future Self

If you’ve been out of school for a while, you’re (hopefully) a little wiser now than you were a few years ago. Knowing what you know now and looking back, what advice would you give your 19-year-old self?

That was the question I asked two professionals to answer for my students at Lincoln Christian University yesterday.

LCU hosted an internship fair earlier this week, so folks from a number of organizations were on campus recruiting students for these opportunities. Two of my friends, Jackie and Ashley, were here representing their organizations and asked me if they could have a few minutes to speak to students in my accounting and marketing classes about internships. Sure, I said, if you’d be willing to share with the students a few thoughts about your life after college and what you wish you’d learned or paid attention to (but didn’t).

Here’s a summary of Jackie and Ashley’s advice to their college-aged selves. Not surprisingly, their lists overlapped–a lot.

What I’d tell my 19-year-old self that would have helped me in my life and career

  • It’s important to learn how to interact with adults instead of just your peers
  • Learn how to network and communicate better
  • Meet as many people as you can–you never know where a connection may lead
  • Learn how to be persuasive and to handle conflict with tact and grace
  • Learn how to work with people who are different from you
  • Be humble–be willing to ask for advice and learn from your older bosses and colleagues
  • When someone gives you advice, write it down!
  • Plan ahead: save for retirement while you’re young and get health insurance (because you never know when you may need it)
  • Keep reading and learning
  • Take chances, embrace your mistakes, learn from your failures. Don’t play it safe: be willing to take risks!

Thanks, Jackie and Ashley. Keep doing what you’re doing–it’s important.

You may want to compare their lists with Ben’s.

So what advice would you give your teenage self? Drop it in the comments below.

Please–Do Your Thing

Last night I finished reading Bob Goff’s Love Does. It’s a collection of true, funny, remarkable, inspiring stories and reflections from Bob’s life. When you read this book, you want to be friends with Bob because he does some wonderful things.

In one of the last chapters, Bob shares this insight:

I don’t think anyone aims to be typical, really. Most people even vow to themselves some time in high school or college not to be typical. But still, they just kind of loop back to it somehow. Like the circular rails of a train at an amusement park, the scripts we know offer a brand of security, of predictability, of safety for us. But the problem is, they only take us where we’ve already been. They loop us back to places where everyone can easily go, not necessarily where we were made to go. Living a different kind of life takes some guts and grit and a new way of seeing things.

Bob’s not a talker; he’s a doer. And he wants you to be a doer, too.

But here’s the thing:

If you spend your life reading about other people’s lives, you’ll never live your own. Bob’s stories are amazing, yes, but they’re his stories.

Go make your own stories. That’s what I’m doing.

In my photography business, in my teaching at Lincoln Christian University, in my home with my wife and our six kids, in our church, in our community, I’m writing my own stories.

I hope you’ll do the same. Please–do your thing.

Permission is Overrated

A lot of people talk about the things they’re going to do… some day.

Fewer people actually do things.

The great thing about doing things is that, for most of them, you don’t need anyone’s permission.

Of course, there are some exceptions. If you want to take out someone’s appendix, for example, you need to be a surgeon, and there’s a path for that. Same for practicing law or being a grade school teacher or adopting children. You’ve got to get permission, jump through some hoops to do those.

But you can do most other things without asking anyone.

Write a book. Write a song. Make art. Start a business. Help someone who needs it.

Quit talking about it and just do it.

In his book Love Does, Bob Goff says “secretly incredible” people know the difference:

Being secretly incredible goes against the trend that says to do anything incredible you have to buy furniture and a laptop, start an organization, have a mission statement, and labor endlessly over a statement of faith. Secretly incredible people just do things.

Don’t wait for someone else’s permission. Do your thing.

10 Rules for Writing First Drafts

10 Rules for Writing First Drafts

Good writing results from good work.

Whether you’re writing your first college papers in a written comp class, blog posts on your personal site, or sales and marketing copy for your business, these rules will help you write better drafts.

Not a writer?

Take your creative endeavor (photography, art, presenting…) and season to taste.

Three Subversive Lies You’ll Tell Yourself When You Try to Do Something That Matters

1. It’s good enough. You’ll tell yourself it’s “good enough” when you’re tired, frustrated, or lazy. The problem is that everyone is “good enough.” Good is average, mediocre, barely hitting the ball out of the infield. Jim Collins opened his bestselling book Good to Great with this sentence: “Good is the enemy of great.” You can’t do something that matters if you settle.

2. It has to be perfect. This is the flipside of #1. The perfectionist wants to keep tweaking until everything is precisely right. Perfectionism, however, is a stalling tactic, an unwillingness to commit. Could you make it better in another week? Maybe. But then you’ll want to spend another week to make it better still, and another week after that. Better is the enemy of best.

3. I can’t do it. What makes you think you’re so smart? Who gave you permission to do this? At some point, behind every entrepreneur’s big idea, every aspiring author’s novel, every dreamer’s vision is the nagging doubt that they don’t have the stuff to pull it off. This is the resistance, the lizard brain, the flinch. Don’t listen. Take a risk. Take cold showers for a week. Face the flinch and act.


Learning About Photography at LCU

A lesson on the exposure triangle for students at Lincoln Christian University - Michael Gowin

At Lincoln Christian University this semester, I’m working with three students who want to learn more about photography. At least three factors have lead to this:

  • We don’t have a full-time photography instructor (or even a part-time one, for that matter)
  • I run a photography business in my hours outside of LCU
  • I’m a business professor

So we put together an independent study course called “Business of Photography” and teach the students some of the fundamentals of photography (their first assignment was to read their camera’s instruction manual–something a lot of people never do) as well as good business practices if they hope to do it for love and money some day.

They’ve started photographing people and are working through the math of exposure (math in photography? wha…?) with the exposure triangle. That’s what’s on my office whiteboard in the photo above.

I’m looking forward to watching them grow in their knowledge and skills. I’ll share more here as the semester continues.

Maybe You Should Unplug for a Bit, Too #quitter

Just yesterday I wrote about my exercise in unplugging for a few hours each day.

After the kids were in bed (day 1 was a success), I hopped online to see what I missed. Serendipitously, I came across an article on LinkedIn, “Think About the Benefits of Unplugging,” which highlighted this video:

Maybe we could all stand to put down the phone and be more present.

Go ahead and unplug for a while. The Internet will be there when you get back.

I’m a College Student; What Should I do with LinkedIn?

One of my students at LCU recently emailed me with this question:

I hear that LinkedIn’s website is a good way to do networking.  Do you have any suggestions on how I can effectively do networking for my future career now?

First, this is a great question. While other students are watching Netflix and playing video games, she’s already working to make an impression on future employers. In my marketing classes, we say that marketing is getting people to know, like, and trust you. Everything you do–whether you’re a business or a college student wanting to get hired or start a business some day–is marketing. Start building your LinkedIn profile now and you’re marketing yourself like a boss.

For the uninitiated, LinkedIn is a social networking site for business professionals. Think Facebook but without the playground. It’s a place for people display credentials (like a resume), share content, and connect.

If you’re new to LinkedIn, you’ll need to set up a profile. What should you include? This article, “What Every College Student Should Post on LinkedIn,” will help you get started. Pay attention to the first point: get a good headshot photograph (not an Instagram selfie). Research shows that profiles with photos are seven times more likely to get viewed than profiles without a photo. Again, it’s all about getting other LinkedIn members (think: prospective employers or clients) to know, like, and trust you.

What else can you do? More important than a good online profile is strong character.

Do good work in the classroom, show up on time, pay attention, participate in discussions, ask questions, be a leader. Take risks and be willing to fail. Care about the people around you. Be the kind of person your professors want to recommend. Many of us want to do that but you need to show us you’re worth it.

That will get you started. Once you’ve got a profile set up, let’s connect.

(Shameless plug: I know where you can get a good headshot.)

Put Down the iPhone. Can You Hear Me Now? #quitter

Last week I said I was quitting something every Monday. By quitting some less important things, I make room in my life for more important things.

This week I’m going to unplug for a few hours every day to spend time with my family. In particular, I’ll go offline from dinner until the kids go to bed. That’s no small thing, because it takes ten hours to put six children to bed.

With an iPhone in my pocket, the temptation to check one of my four email accounts, feedly, Facebook, The Wall Street Journal, LinkedIn, and whatever else seems to ply at my attention is just too great. And, really, do I need to know what you’re having for dinner (thanks, Instagram!) while I’m having mine?

So I’m going to try to be more present to my family in the evenings.

I’ll see you after the kids are in bed.

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