Everything you need to know to be successful, you have by second grade…


This weekend I had the pleasure of meeting a former student for coffee. April was a student of mine almost 15 years ago.  I enjoyed having her in class.  She was the kind of student who wanted to learn, interacted with her peers, asked why, and then wanted to know more.  You want to teach students like April.  She didn’t need a program, assignment, or some incentive to get engaged.  She was already in.


So it’s no surprise that in the years since graduating, April has built an impressive resume. She’s a certified HR professional now, has been a Director of HR, and volunteers her time to important causes.  She’s exploring what’s next.  Where should her career take her.  She has a good answer for, “What do you want to DO?”  She’s now asking, “WHO do I want to be?”


Over coffee, she reminded me of something about success. Being successful is not always the product of a special skill or unique talent.  Success, she explained, is the product of “ownership.”  Owning your decisions, owning a process, owning the job you do, owning goals, owning the actions it takes to accomplish those goals.


Ownership is the product of the choices you make. When you own your choices, you are responsible for them.  You don’t go to your manager and say, “I just don’t like her.”  Your manager doesn’t own your relationship with your co-worker, you do.  So you deal with it.  Informed choices result in ownership.  Ownership can be your key to success.  To be successful you need to make informed choices.


As we talked about the people we’ve worked with that don’t take ownership, she threw up her hands in exasperation and said she wishes people would just read! That’s where the opening line came from.  By second grade, you should be able to read and comprehend on your own.  Simple stuff, not technical manuals for PeopleSoft reporting.  But you are on your way.  Reading is critical because people who seek out the information they need to do their job tend to be the ones who take ownership.  Those who wait to be informed or for instructions on what to do next, tend to not take ownership.  Seeking information is the choice.  The result of being informed is ownership.  People who are successful seek out information on their own.


So what can you do?

  1. Use the resources that have been provided. You get syllabi and instructions for every class. Read them. More than once. Read them separately, then read them together. Don’t evaluate. Don’t text. Don’t Snap. Tell your bruh to shut up. Read them where you can concentrate. Just read the papers. Highlight if it helps. Jot notes if it helps.
  2. Ask questions. Please just tell me what to do is not a question. It’s a plea. Do we need to turn in the cards we collect at a meeting or can we turn in a copy of the cards, is a question. Can I do a job shadow with my father if he is doing a job that I’m interested in learning more about, is a question. After you’ve read, ask questions for clarity.
  3. Do something. Waiting is a passive activity. Action will give you clarity. If you do something that isn’t right, don’t do that anymore. However, I’ll say that the chances of you making an incorrect informed choice is much, much less than just making an incorrect random wild guess because a classmate said it in the Facebook group.


I’m glad I had coffee with April. I wish more of my students could!