A day in court can emphasize the need to have purpose in your life. For many of my middle class friends the idea that one needs to have purpose in one’s life is a no-brainer. It’s one of those statements that will be met with a sarcastic remark. Something along the lines of, “no kidding,” or worse.
This is not the case for many of the young men and young women I have seen in court. Far too many live in state of stunted animation. There is no planning for a better tomorrow. What comes along, comes along. For many that something is idle time, which indeed is the devil’s workshop. Even if there are thoughts of a goal there is no hurry. Entertainment is king and so goals can wait.
Following through with plans, especially ones that were made and agreed to, is one of the keys to a successful life.
An excerpt from an actual conversation:
“Hi, this is Augie. Just checking in and confirming that we are meeting tomorrow for lunch.” The other end of the line was silent. He finally spoke up.
“Hey, sorry man, I was going to call you. I’m not going to make it. I had something come up.” We small talked for a few minutes and then hung up. So what happened? It could be that my young mentee has something important he has to take care of, but the mostly likely scenario is he forgot about plans and has something else that interests him more.
The issue isn’t that he isn’t going to meet with me. The issue is not following through, not understanding the hidden rules of successful society. He doesn’t understand that you write down your appointments and you control them. You let people know of a conflict ahead of time. Professionalism isn’t learned at college or in the work force. These skills are enhanced in those places. We learn to be professional by first being responsible.
Graduating from high school is important. However, learning to read, write and speak proper English is more important. Sometimes I have to say the obvious to highlight a deeper and darker problem that is in our midst. Not too long ago I read a report that stated that 25% of Army applicants are unable to pass the ASVAB and are therefore ineligible to enter the Army. They all have high school diplomas.
For years I have worked with at-risk youth, many of whom have struggled with reading, or writing or speaking proper English. Or all three. This is not good. Many of them also graduated high school. How you might ask? We always hear about that kd that slipped through the cracks. Is this really the case or is it that the standards are so low that this is the new norm?
Success rarely comes to those who sit and wait. It almost always happens to those who earn it. Over my life I have met many a young man, from a poverty community, who erroneously thought that success was a matter of a lucky break. That somehow, someone was going to give them a shot at something big and the money would begin to rain down.
First of all, what is success? Define it. In order to achieve a goal one must know what the target is. This will be crystal clear if one develops a simple plan on how to achieve this goal. Keep the plan simple. Life will bring complications and as you adjust to adversity your plan will change. Above everything else, you must be determined. You must want this goal more than the critics believe their criticisms.
Over the years I have met too many teens who do not understand how the world works. No one offers us a job because we need a job. An employer hires an employee because the employer needs a set of tasks accomplished. What you do or don’t want is of no consequence to your employer. Basic skills are required to be employed; reading, writing, proper communication, and work ethic.
A work relationship is a simple matter; you exchange dollars for hours. Don’t over complicate the relationship. If you are working in your dream job be the model employee. And finally, all businesses must make a profit; either you are helping achieve this goal or you aren’t.
“Mr. Augie when I make it big it’ll be as a rapper.”
“I going to be a professional football player.”
These are just two of the many overly ambitious comments I have heard over the past 26 years. All of them have come from a courageous teen who had taken the step of trusting me with their dream. For this I am grateful. Along with being grateful, as a real friend, I often make a few suggestions and ask some questions. My approach towards all the young people I have worked with has always been to treat them as I treat my own children. What I have found has been anything but comforting.
If my children had made these comments I would have asked many questions to find out how much they knew about their chosen field. Also, as a means to give them advice, and perhaps most importantly, to find out how I can help them reach their goal; this is the true definition of support. To my surprise, other than what a TV shows presents or what a video game has portrayed or what their friends have said, most of my young teens know very little about their chosen career field. They imagine or assume many things which they deem to be factual without doing any research. Life has a way of making things sound easy.
Let’s take the music industry for example. How do you break into it? Well from the outside looking in, I would say that there is going be a lot of hard work involved. But work at what? This is the real question. I’m not in the music industry, but I know a dozen or so people who are and scores of others with this dream. Here are a few of the things they have taught me. You will need a social media presence, across several platforms and you must aggressively publish. You will need to get noticed and have a special quality. This special quality must rise above everyone else’s. Or at the very least your quality must be appealing enough to get the attention of someone in the industry.
The effort required to become successful is not for cowards. It must be a consistent effort. You must consistently and continuously learn. You must meet people, bear criticism, but above all you must believe in your dream more than anyone else. And you must also be willing to go down this road alone.
Many of the young people I have worked with will never begin their journey because they never take a step towards it. Just like the man who boards a broke down bus and smiles because he thinks he is so fortunate to have found an empty bus and he can sit anywhere. What he didn’t notice was the hazard lights flashing or the missing driver. All he sees is that he is aboard a bus that says it is going his way. So he sits down and waits for something to happen.
Dreams are wonderful, but without proactive steps they are merely delusions. Unfortunately many of my young friends find themselves in this stagnant mindset mostly due to their upbringing.