Best Career Advice for High Schoolers EVER?
December 6, 2014 9:44 AM   Subscribe

I'm teaching a career explorations class for high schoolers at my therapeutic high school, age ranges 14 to 21. All my students have diagnosed emotional or behavioral disabilities and my course is 12 weeks long. My big question: As an adult, what career advice do you wish you had been given? Advice that would have opened your eyes and given you a great feeling about the world of work? What did the adults in your life not say about work, but you wish they had?

So far we visited different career venues with tours (Boston Globe, WGBH, Diablo Glass Studio, Goodwill, bank, FBI, police, TDGarden, fire, hair salon, movie set, recording studio, TEDx Boston, financial services, BSO, personal Nordstrom shopper, House of Blues, caterers, restaurant) so the kids got to see people do their jobs and even shadow different people.

They've watched and reflected upon various TED Talks about happiness and careers and making choices, so they've got a good philosophical base about taking the long view in careers. Follow your passion, etc.

i've also covered middle skills jobs, job searches, making resumes, mock interviews, interviewing others, how to get along at work, how to negotiate raises and promotions, how to work with people with disabilities, how to get the right education for certain types of work, how to save for retirement, IT work, coding, how to build work wardrobes, staying healthy when job searching, cultivating a work/life balance, how to network and how to financially survive when you're unemployed.

While I'm a strong believer that the best life lessons are the ones you learn by trial and error, I also see class as a great opportunity to open their eyes to all the choices they have.

As an adult with life experience, what do you wish you had been told about careers?
posted by kinetic to Education (50 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
It is not what I wish I had been told, but what I wish I had listened to. I wish I had listened to the age old advice to do something you love rather than work for the money. What is the old saying? Get a job doing something you love and you will never work a day in your life.
posted by 724A at 9:49 AM on December 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

As someone who does regular freelance work, I wish I had been taught a bit about taxes.
posted by chainsofreedom at 9:53 AM on December 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

I wish I had been told that it's not that harmful to take a gap year or three. I really did not have a good picture of what I wanted to do with my life when I graduated high school, and going straight into university was not a good decision for me. A couple of years of fulltime unskilled labour is a good way to get a feeling for what your desires and tolerances are for a real career as an adult.

Caveat: This of course presumes that you are in a part of the world where it is possible for people to get fulltime work with just a high school diploma.
posted by 256 at 9:53 AM on December 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

I might add something about identifying their strengths/likes and weaknesses/dislikes as applies to job choices. Also maybe something about personality types as part of "getting along at work"; how people are different and that doesn't mean anyone is wrong.
posted by momus_window at 9:55 AM on December 6, 2014

I wish someone had told me that I didn't actually have to know at 16 what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, that it was okay to take my time figuring it out, and it was even okay to change my mind completely. And, as a parallel to that, how important it is to explore possibilities and give things a chance. Honestly, I still sometimes need someone to remind me it's okay to change your mind.

(I'm iffy on the "do what you love" advice. That's what I did initially, and the time that elapsed between it being what I loved and becoming just a job that I sometimes dreaded going to was... very short.)
posted by obfuscation at 9:55 AM on December 6, 2014 [11 favorites]

Also, if you are deadset on going into university straight away without a good idea of what you want out of your career: it is far easier to get a job in a non-technical field with a science or engineering degree than it is to get a job in a technical field with an arts degree.
posted by 256 at 9:58 AM on December 6, 2014 [6 favorites]

It's more important to be helpful, reliable, and kind than to make a big show that you know everything.
posted by mochapickle at 10:01 AM on December 6, 2014 [5 favorites]

I wish I had listened to the age old advice to do something you love rather than work for the money.

I wish I had been told that it's perfectly fine to have a job that supports you so you can do what you love. That is, I wish it had been made clear to me that I did not have to find the One True Career of my life. Some people are going to have things they love that are really, really impractical money-makers; some people are never going to figure out what they love so much they would do it 40 hours a week.

Finding decent work that doesn't annoy you to death or take all your psychological energy, and that pays you enough to support you so you can do other things is worthy!
posted by rtha at 10:03 AM on December 6, 2014 [29 favorites]

I wish I learned earlier to never burn bridges. Some industries are very niche and you see the same names and faces throughout the years and the last thing you want them to remember about you is that you wrote an angry "I quit" letter 19 years ago
posted by Suffocating Kitty at 10:04 AM on December 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

I wish someone had warned me just how difficult working in the corporate world can be and that it's absolutely not for everyone.

I also wish someone had told me that alternative lifestyles, such as doing freelance, etc., are definitely options and that you don't have to follow someone else's idea of what life is supposed to be.

Lastly, seconding that I wish I had understood taxes and how the basic financial institutions worked. I had to figure things out on my own, and it would have been nice to have been taught some basics while in high school.
posted by FireFountain at 10:09 AM on December 6, 2014 [4 favorites]

I'd go with a more balanced perspective than just do what you love. Not many people have that intersection between economic viability and personal interests and abilities that would truly allow them to do that.

Nobody is going to pay you to do something that everyone enjoys and is good at. There are a lot of scams out there centering around the myth that there's a vast amount of quick, unskilled, easy money to be made out there, and it's not true. You're not going to get rich as the middleman in some vast pyramid scheme or doing low-skill tasks. People who tell you they have those opportunities are only going to take your money.

The trick really is finding that intersection of your unique interests and abilities, and economic viability. You are always doing to have to do stuff you don't feel like doing, so motivation is all well and good, but sometimes you need just plain discipline to plow through. And that applies both long- and short-term. If you can apply that discipline to learning specialized skills and getting really good at what you do, you have a better chance of ending up in a job where you'll be challenged and maintain some interest in your work. It is a trade off, though, always, and the trick is finding the right balance for you.

Many people are fine with a tedious job that pays the bills but leaves them with the mental energy to pursue other interests, and that is OK.
posted by ernielundquist at 10:15 AM on December 6, 2014 [4 favorites]

I agree wholeheartedly with rtha. It's okay to have a career that you like but aren't passionate about. "Do what you love and the money will follow" is just not true for most people, and if you don't have a clear passion you can go crazy trying to find one. I wish I'd known that in high school, or even in my twenties.

I also would have liked to hear about how to stand up for myself at work. It took a while for me to get comfortable enough to ask for things or push back against unreasonable requests.
posted by Metroid Baby at 10:17 AM on December 6, 2014 [4 favorites]

1. Learn how to work carefully and respectfully.
2. Ask for things.

1 lets you do 2. I never fail to be amazed by how many jobs, and opportunities and unofficial positions exist. I always did what I was "supposed to" to apply for jobs, and then found so many people who were able to make unusual, flexible, and desirable positions happen just by asking and talking to people. I think this is the reason that so many people with cool jobs have "non-traditional" paths. If people trust you and believe in your goodwill and desire to do a good job, they are more likely to offer you these kinds of options, or create them for you.
posted by synapse at 10:19 AM on December 6, 2014 [5 favorites]

That sounds like a great class!

I agree with obfuscation. At that age (14-21), I found all the pressure to have a One True Vocation or a Thing I Really Love Doing really overwhelming.

I wish I had been told that it's ok to be interested in lots of different things and that the reality is you'll be working for 40 years so you'll probably have a few different careers in that time and that's ok.

I also agree with erniellundquist that for success at anything, discipline is as important as motivation. This is something I learned later in life and I wish I had learned it earlier.

I think the message I wish I had been given by adults was less "You can do anything you want if you just want it hard enough!" and more "You can build a happy, fulfilling life for yourself, but you'll need some discipline and some luck".
posted by bimbam at 10:22 AM on December 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

I wish I had been told that it's okay to not go to college and gain work experience through other means.

I also agree that the "do what you love" meme is more harmful than helpful - it's the reason why we have a slew of liberal arts majors who are scrambling for any position they can get their hands on. It's nice to be able to have a job doing something you enjoy, but it's more important to have a job that pays the bills. You don't have to like something to be good at it.
posted by Anima Mundi at 10:23 AM on December 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

I wish I'd been told that the ideal of doing what you love is a load of horseshit for at least 90% of the population.

The mindset of keeping a positive attitude and finding things to love, or at least enjoy, about whatever job you're in, is something I wish more people talked about.

I wish I'd been told that working is less about following instructions and more about showing initiative and knowing how to make judgement calls on how to resolve the things you're not trained on, which come up all the time.

I wish I'd known just how little I knew about myself when I was a teenager, and to keep my options open about my career for as long as possible, because you can wind up being a totally different person when it's time to enter your career from who you are when you're 15 or 16.

I wish I'd been told that college isn't the only way to prepare oneself for success in life and is itself no guarantee.

I wish I'd been told just how important flexibility, compromise, and humility would turn out to be.

I wish I'd known just how essential it would be to handle conflict and confrontation well in professional life, and indeed the authors of the Crucial Conversations series identified that as the most important skill for life in organizations.
posted by alphanerd at 10:23 AM on December 6, 2014 [4 favorites]

It took me a long time to learn that it's okay to change your mind, that there are very few decisions you make that are actually "forever" and certainly not in the business world.

That it's okay to say "this no longer works for me" and strike out to try something else.

To be brave.

To say yes, instead of automatically saying I can't. To trust your gut instincts.

To be honest. To treat others fairly.

And, on a practical note: if there's a matching 401K, or the equivalent, put in the maximum amount and let the money accumulate. You won't miss it from your paycheck.
posted by alwayson_slightlyoff at 10:27 AM on December 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

Ugh yes, "do what you love" is not practical advice for most people. "Figure out what you're good at and what you can get satisfaction from" is much more practical.

Basic tax advice would be helpful. Most young people don't even know what a W2 is.
posted by radioamy at 10:28 AM on December 6, 2014

Response by poster: Before this derails, the class isn't only about following your bliss and only doing what you love.

But it is a Career Exploration class so there were readings and assessments and "how do you learn" and personality-typing and discussions to figure out what they're into and what they find rewarding.

In no way is the overall philosophical bent of this class, "Follow your passion, period."
posted by kinetic at 10:32 AM on December 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

I wish I had been told that being able to schmooze can be as important or more important than competency. I wish I had been told that the perception of being good at what you do is as important as being good at what you do.
posted by Rob Rockets at 10:33 AM on December 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

I wish I'd been introduced to careers that I just did not know existed (it sounds like you're doing a lot of this, kinetic) and been informed about which careers are actually easy to get a job in. Something like this fastest-growing careers page from the Bureau of Labor Statistics... I'm not sure I would've used that information, but hopefully someone in the class would've!
posted by jabes at 10:35 AM on December 6, 2014 [9 favorites]

You don't mention your students' class background, but if they are growing up like I did without much exposure to anyone with a corporate job...I wish someone had explained that no matter what the glossy pamphlets may say, the HR department's role is to protect the company, not to help make the workplace better for employees.
posted by superna at 10:37 AM on December 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

One of the joys of being a adult instead of a student is that you can find a position for yourself that uses more of strengths and interest and less (but not completely avoid) your weaknesses/dislikes.

Knowing and being able to articulate what you are good at not in a generic way "I'm good/bad with people" but in a more nuanced way can help identify things that are a good match. For example, some people really enjoy social interaction and would like the parts of a job that involve meeting new people, getting to know them and helping them with a problem. Other people are fine (even good) at interacting with strangers as long as there is clear role and no idle chit-chat - for example problem-solving customer support person. Others are uncomfortable with strangers but do fine with people they know, for example supporting a corporate team. Of course, there are others who would really rather be left alone to do their job. I think sometimes people label themselves at too broad a level and cut themselves off from things might be a good fit. It can also help them know what to ask about because often these things aren't clear from the job title.

Variety is another dimension of the job that can make a difference to who likes it/hates it that is't often talked about. Variety means different things to different people. Obviously some jobs are very predictable and repetitive. But some job the variety is in the details of the problem and other the variety comes from using completely different skills during the same day. Knowing which one keeps you happy and engaged is important and it happens at all skill levels.
posted by metahawk at 10:53 AM on December 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

I wish I had been told that when you pick a career, you should also think carefully about whether or not that career may be restricted by location - i.e. some careers are practical or centralized in some localities which may not make you happy.

I wish I had been told that commuting is bad for you mentally and physically, and it's better to not need or chase the kind of job that gives you that big house in the suburbs if you have to commute for long periods of time to have it.

I wish I had been told how important mentorship can be: a good mentor will open pathways for you and teach you not just about how to do a job but how to have a career, and that if you're lucky enough to find a good mentor, you appreciate them and show them that appreciation every chance you get.

I wish I had been told that the best work colleague is a friend in the same field who you can bounce ideas off of, that inspires you, and is better than you so that you in turn want to be better.

I also wish that I had been told that you can have the crappiest job in the world, but if you like your colleagues and management, that job will be tolerable. And you can have an awesome job, but if you can't stand your coworkers, that job will be miserable. Because no amount of awesomeness in your actual work can overcome a toxic work environment, but a great work environment can do a lot for a mediocre job.
posted by barchan at 10:55 AM on December 6, 2014 [10 favorites]

I wish someone had pointed out just how many assumptions we make about the kind of career we want, based on what our families have done, or what we think people of our class/gender/background usually do. I might have ended up doing the same thing, but I could have considered the alternatives more seriously first!
posted by emilyw at 11:56 AM on December 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

I would have really appreciated being told about all the different jobs that get done in offices besides the ones you learn about in kindergarten like nurse, doctor, teacher, librarian, store clerk, postal worker, secretary, etc. Business analyst, product manager, ux designer, communications manager, etc. would have been helpful for me to know about before deciding that I wasn't fit for anything.
posted by bleep at 12:00 PM on December 6, 2014 [5 favorites]

The adults around you may have *very* different feelings and experiences with work than you will. Don't assume that if you're doing it in some other way, you're doing it "right" or "wrong."

Sometimes related: When you accept a job with a company, the company is not doing you a favor for which you owe them your undying loyalty. You are providing services for which they provide compensation. It's possible to enjoy doing this, but it's so important never to forget it.
posted by gnomeloaf at 12:01 PM on December 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

How to "upward manage" your bosses and "influence without authority" your peers in other functions. How to have productive meetings (never leave without names and deadlines assigned to next steps!).
posted by ellerhodes at 12:06 PM on December 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

One huge thing that took me awhile to realize: You don't have to do the thing that you are best at. For awhile I thought I should go down one career path because it's what everyone told me I was good at and because I knew without a doubt that I could excel at it, but it wasn't at all what I wanted to do. I'm really glad that I decided to pursue a different path based on my interests. Of course, you want to do something you have an aptitude for, but it doesn't necessarily have to be the one thing you're most naturally gifted at.

Another thing that I think a lot of people don't realize at first is that the people you work with can have just as much (if not more) of an effect on your overall satisfaction with your job than the actual line of work. Having coworkers you get along with, a workplace that is functional, and "superiors" that are sane and treat you with respect can make all the difference in the world.
posted by litera scripta manet at 12:31 PM on December 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

I wish that I had been told explicitly that part of my job as an employee is to make the people above me aware of problems that are stopping me from doing my job effectively. Not that I shouldn't try to make it work on my own, not that I should run to the boss over every little thing, but just that management can't solve problems they don't know about. If I can't run budget projections because George in Accounting hasn't gotten back to me with a summary of our morale event expenditures for the past three quarters despite repeated requests for action, that's something I should be proactively telling the boss about, not waiting until she comes after me for not having completed the task and then offering it as an excuse. Work hard, do good work, and don't be cagey about what you don't know or can't do.
posted by KathrynT at 1:11 PM on December 6, 2014 [4 favorites]

I wish I had learned sooner that the best way to guarantee a "no" answer is to talk yourself out of asking for something.
posted by trixie119 at 2:43 PM on December 6, 2014

If you go to college, get internships every summer that are relevant to your major. Even if the pay sucks and you wouldn't want to work there after graduation, the experience is so important. It is shocking how many recent college grads I meet who were never told to do this and subsequently struggle to get jobs upon graduation.
posted by joan_holloway at 2:46 PM on December 6, 2014 [5 favorites]

If you can't think of a job related to X, that doesn't mean there are no jobs related to X, it means you haven't done enough research to find them.
posted by yarntheory at 3:31 PM on December 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

This is the advice I give people who are in grad school to become a librarian, but I think it applies to everyone - look at job postings for the kind of job you want (or jobs in the field you want to be in). Look at what skills are consistently requested or mentioned in those ads, and then find out how to get those specific skills - either through education, volunteering, or other jobs.
posted by itsamermaid at 4:06 PM on December 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Spend less time thinking about the classes you like and more time thinking about the job you'd like to have and the setting you'd like to work in. I swear, we all took some sort of just-for-funzies career assessment at a ridiculously young age, like 6th grade maybe, and that was pretty much the last time I sat down with anyone and talked about actual JOBS I might like to have. Instead, it was all about what CLASSES I wanted to take and what MAJOR I wanted to pursue. The two problems with this are (a) the work you do in a lot of jobs bears very little resemblance to the work you do in the classes you took that lead to the degree that got you the job (English major, I'm looking at you); and (b) the world of jobs is so much broader than the stuff that one is typically exposed to in the high school curriculum. It sounds like you're probably touching on that already, but it is so, so important. I always loved maps, but did anyone ever tell me I could become a cartographer? No! I just never stopped to think that hey, there was a career that might be interesting to look into.

I also would second the idea that there are vocational careers that can be rewarding and reasonably well-paying as long as you actually approach it as a career that merits an investment of time and money in skills-acquisition and training through an apprenticeship or technical school.

Finally, not all jobs are M-F, 8-5. If you're a a night-owl, or would do better working longer shifts fewer days a week, there are jobs out there that can accommodate that!
posted by drlith at 4:14 PM on December 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

Practice observing yourself as objectively as a wise one might - it takes years to get good at this, because it can hurt. Not just your developing strengths and weaknesses, but what you shy from, what you're drawn to, what group dynamics you work best in, etc. You can pay someone to test this, but it's not at all the same. Know thyself.
posted by mmiddle at 4:50 PM on December 6, 2014

Does the list of TED talks include Mike Rowe's delightful talk about work? (It's the one that starts off talking about castrating sheep...)
posted by rmd1023 at 6:05 PM on December 6, 2014

Good communication skills are key to a successful career. The ability to convey an idea, and to infect others with enthusiasm for that idea, is critical to making things happen. There are some jobs and careers that are 'solo' - but today, successful execution of a worthwhile project almost always depends on your ability as a leader to get other people to do the stuff you need for them to do.
posted by doctor tough love at 7:06 PM on December 6, 2014

I wish I had better understood how important benefits would be, particularly health benefits. At 18, I banked on the idea that going to college, doing whatever, would make me reliably employable in the US, and maybe so. But it's important to figure out either some career trajectory that could come with a full-time-with-benefits job (I think this is not a given), or how you're going to cobble together part-time or freelance work and pay premiums, save for "retirement," etc.
posted by Leona at 7:41 PM on December 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

"Finding your purpose means finding where your great joy meets the world's great need." -- Parker J Palmer
posted by MetropolisOfMentalLife at 10:33 PM on December 6, 2014

I wish I had known to look at how many jobs there were in a field before going to grad school for the degree. In my case, I was sure since I was tiny that I wanted to be a librarian. I enjoyed grad school. I loved being a librarian, for the time that I was. I hated how long it took to find that one job and the unlikelihood of easily finding another. There are just not that many open jobs in my field. I wish someone had told me that loving the job isn't enough, you have to be able to find work too.

I also wish I hadn't underestimated the power of networking. Going to school in or near the place you'd like to work is best because you'll be getting to know the other people working in your field with you.
posted by Margalo Epps at 11:04 PM on December 6, 2014

Sorry, I sort of forgot the answer part of my answer because I was distracted by rereading the transcript for that Mike Rowe TED talk I mentioned.

One piece of advice that I think would've helped me in HS is the idea that there is potential out there for incredible levels of career mobility, for lack of a better term. If you end up in a given career, you can change to a different career and people do this all the time. Most people I know - particularly people who like their jobs - are doing work that is completely unrelated to what they went to college for. Sometimes it's out of necessity, because you can't get a job in your chosen field or economic conditions around that field have changed, but sometimes it's because you end up doing some job and realize you're enjoying it better or finding it more rewarding (for whatever value of "rewarding" matters at that time) than what you thought you wanted to do.
posted by rmd1023 at 3:47 AM on December 7, 2014

Well, this is advice I WAS given that turned out to be good. Or at least, a good book recommendation my dad gave me. 'Now, Discover Your Strengths' by Marcus Buckingham. It's about not worrying about being a well rounded person , but instead knowing your strengths and weaknesses. Follow your strengths to make them even stronger, and learn to mitigate and work around your weaknesses.

Sounds like a great course you're doing. Wish I could have taken something like that! Good luck!
posted by Caravantea at 8:57 AM on December 7, 2014

One piece of advice that I got that I'm so glad I took: start saving for retirement in your 20s, starting with your very first job.

One pice of advice I'll give: be reliable. Show up when you you're supposed to. Do what you promised you would. Don't blow deadlines. People count on you.
posted by mon-ma-tron at 9:07 AM on December 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

A few things I've learned that I would pass on:

1. The adage "It's who you know..." is true. So take opportunities to meet people and take opportunities to make connections and to keep in touch with people you meet throughout your education and career. Those are the people that can help you - and that you can and should help - later.

2. Related: Your reputation is really important so follow through on what you say you'll do and consider how others perceive your actions as you take them. You won't make everyone happy or impress everyone but it counts. I think this whole concept of your "personal brand" is kind of bullshit BUT the key elements of your personal reputation and how and why people know you is really important; almost more so than your actual skill level (though having and engaging in some specific skills are necessary).

3. As you make decisions - in life and in your career - try to make those that open up more options than those that cut off future avenues. For example, I failed to take a lot of math in high school and that's going to make it hard if I want to change careers to, like, a million possibilities. I'd have to go back to basic calculus and start again - it's cut off a LOT of options for me (or make them effectively so difficult to pursue I just wouldn't). I regret that tremendously.

4. Avoid debt. Debt is the number one way you'll cut off options for yourself. You'll be a slave to a paycheck and that means a lot less opportunity to take risks and to make moves that might not (literally) pay off. It's easy to think when you're young that you'll have time to pay these debts you acquire off, but the fact it that just puts more time on your sentence.
posted by marylynn at 9:38 AM on December 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

tl;dr (there was too much to read, and I really wanted to pitch in and say two things) -

It would be awesome it you could somehow fit in a TINY experience of running a business (like run an Etsy store for three months), and touch on the financial side of it. Schools seem to me to overdo preparing people for jobs, and totally neglect preparing people for being independent.

Scrap the ability tests (really!) and try to boil career searches down to finding out what people REALLY do at their jobs (for example, most lawyers argue all day. and/or write and read. ) and if that matches what you like to do, GO for it (the happiest lawyers I know are not the most talented, but the ones who love what they do). The other way is fine too - if there's something you love doing, find a way to make money doing it, even if it doesn't exist yet (example: professional mermaid).
posted by mirileh at 9:56 AM on December 7, 2014

1. Learn a trade. This can be in addition to your academic aspirations. Learn anything from plumbing to web programming, but learn it well enough to make money without going to university.

2. Unless you can find a way to get school paid for, go to an inexpensive local school for at least the first two years. Maybe pick up an associate degree at a community college. Turn it into a certificate that you can parlay into work, too.

3. Get part-time work all along the way, starting as soon as you are old enough, and volunteer starting immediately. If you're 14, that's late enough to start volunteering. It gets you useful experience, it gets you connections, it gets you referrals, and it looks good on resumes and school applications.
posted by pracowity at 10:04 AM on December 7, 2014

Response by poster: Does the list of TED talks include Mike Rowe's delightful talk about work? (It's the one that starts off talking about castrating sheep...)

It was a favorite. Next term, the class morphs into financial management with the same students so I'll be getting into taxes and savings and banking and budgeting and college costs and all that.
posted by kinetic at 6:13 AM on December 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

I would warn them not to be afraid to say "I don't know."

Some people remain silent, or lie, or dodge a question because they don't want to be thought ignorant. But as long as you follow it up with "…so let's find out!" then you are instead showing yourself to be curious and ambitious and confident and honest.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:03 AM on December 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

The sentiment of "Embrace the suck" is also useful as a reminder that sometimes you need to allow yourself to be immersed in something before you can begin to float above it all.

When you face something unpalatable, just wade into it and see if you can't find some peace in mastering whatever is so bad. Refuse to wail "This couldn't be any worse!" and instead shout, "Is this the best you've got?!"

I went camping with one of my sons a couple of months ago, and conditions weren't great. He was grousing about it, and I introduced Embrace The Suck to him. If you really do something, especially when it's bad, you can sometime find tolerable parts, or even joy. And for a kid who loves to tell stories to other people, I reminded him that the best stories often have a core of misery for your listeners to react to.

Another example: one summer I worked at a food festival outdoor. Our drunken manager Lizard Jim started up the gas ovens and ran them up to like 800 degrees. The weather reached 104 that day, which we could only laugh at as we stood in front of the open oven doors all morning, waiting for them to cool off enough to cook in. We made t-shirts after the fact to cement our bonds. :7)
posted by wenestvedt at 7:12 AM on December 9, 2014

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