By Ted Janusz
Standing at the bus stop after class, I notice an older gentleman who looks eerily familiar.
“Excuse me, sir. Do I know you?” I ask.
“Why, yes, you do. I am you – 30 years from now,” he replies.
“You’ve got to be kidding!”
“No, I’m not,” he says. “I’m here to offer you some advice.”
“Huh? That’s the last thing I need right now. Parents, teachers, everybody (even my uncle), they’re all telling me what to do!”
“I understand how you feel,” he empathizes, “but who knows you better than . . . you?”
“Sure, I’d love to talk, but I, uh, have a big quantitative business analysis exam to study for. You see, it’s my last test before I finish graduate school. Some other time, maybe.”
“The score you get on that exam might affect you for a week or a month,” he says. “What I’ve come to discuss will affect you for a lifetime.”
“Okay,” I say hesitantly.
“I know that you’re broke, so why don’t we step inside this diner and I’ll buy you a soda,” he says.
After we order, he asks if I want to know about my future.
“Okay,” I say, “You can answer these questions. For starters, will I be a success?”
His response is indirect. “Let me tell you first about a couple of current ‘losers.’ One was recently cut from his junior high school basketball team – again. He’ll go on to become the greatest basketball player of all time. Another just dropped out of Harvard. He’ll start a computer software venture with a friend and, before he’s 32, he’ll become a billionaire. Determine what you really want out of life and don’t let anything stop you from achieving that goal.”
“I’ve been going to school for so long now,” I say. “Is my education finally done?”
The gentleman laughs. “Actually, it’s just begun. If you have had a successful education to this point, it has only developed your critical thinking skills. You have plenty of technical knowledge, for sure. But what you now need to develop are your people skills. To be a success in life, you need to learn how to influence others so that they will see it’s in their best interest to do things your way. And develop your public speaking skills so that you can more easily accomplish that.”
“What should I do with my life?”
“Determine those two or three things that you do very well and fit your skills and personality. If you can be paid for providing those services, work will seem less like work,” he says. “When you are my age, you will find that, according to a current Gallup poll, unfortunately only 13% of Americans will actually be engaged in their work.”
“Okay, I have my first job interview next week. Any advice?”
“As early as you can in the interview, find out what business problem the company is trying to solve by hiring additional people. While other candidates may just be trying to get a ‘job,’ show the interviewer how you can provide solutions. There will be unprecedented turbulent times during your career, so ultimately you will be in business for yourself. Throughout your life, you’ll be selling the services of ‘You, Inc.’ to various buyers.”
“Will life finally get easier once I graduate?”
“For so long, you’ve been living in the future, saying, ‘I can’t wait until I finish school.’ But life will always be filled with challenges, like learning how to balance the needs of your job, your family, and your life,” he says. “There’s no better time to be happy than right now. Many adults say that their 20s was their most enjoyable decade.”
“Speaking of family, see that girl in that book over there? I’m dating her. Say, Mr. Know-It-All, will we get married?”
“Yes . . .” he says.
“. . . but not to each other.”
“Oh . . . so, how about some stock tips?”