Four Vital Business Lessons from a High School Graduation

October 25, 2018 | posted in: Business Issues, Lighter Side | by

Did you ever have a moment when you glowed inside and out with pride?  Last June,  at my daughter’s high-school graduation, I had every right to be proud.  It’s a huge achievement, both for the parents and the child.  If you’ve been there as your kids graduated, whether from preschool or from a doctorate program, you know you’ve put in a lot of the work yourself, waking them up in the mornings, making sure the homework gets done, cheering their accomplishments.

But I want to tell you what I realized at her graduation:  getting through high school actually has a lot in common with growing and running a business.  Don’t believe me?  Here are four ways that it’s actually very similar:

  1. It’s an (incredibly) long-term project. When was the last time you took something on knowing it would take you twelve years to get to the finish line?  Most of us only take on a few tasks like that in our lifetime.  School is one of them.  Starting a business is another.  You plant the seeds, and then see very little for a very long time.  You need faith in the process, that if you follow the steps, one grade after another, one business move after another you will reach the finish line that you’ve dreamed about.
  2. Stay focused. It’s all about the finish line.  No marathon runner fantasizes about reaching Mile 3.  Every single one of them dreams of getting all the way to the end, and the thought of getting there keeps them focused for the long haul.  When you start a business, you may not know exactly where it’s headed, but you should have an end goal, whether that’s financial independence or a certain reputation within your field.  Only by holding onto those goals will you reach your personal finish line and look back proudly.
  3. Go for grit. Grit is a popular word in business these days because according to New York Times bestselling author Angela Duckworth, author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, it is “the secret to outstanding achievement.”  Not necessarily talent, but that blend of passion and perseverance.  Any high schooler can tell you, you may not be naturally gifted in physics or algebra, but if you stay up half the night studying, you can graduate right along with the best of them.  In business, too, you’ll need to overcome setbacks, work long hours, and keep at it to keep moving you toward that goal.
  4. Wake up every morning. Even with everything I’ve said above, a goal, focus, grit and dedication, sometimes it comes down to simply being there—every single day.  Basketball great Ray Allen used to get annoyed when told he’d been “blessed” with a great jump shot.  He’d say right back, “‘Don’t undermine the work I’ve put in every day.’ Not some days. Every day.”  (As related in the book Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise, by Anders Ericsson.)  Every student knows that no matter how naturally gifted you are, if you’re not there for attendance, things aren’t going to go your way.

As I cheered on my graduating daughter, and considered what lessons might apply to the world of business, I realized one more essential thing: having people to cheer you on and support you is absolutely vital.  That’s what I try to do for individuals who come to me for legal advice, whether they’re just setting a new business or have been running it for decades.  I offer support and advice, helping them set goals and then move toward those goals.

My personal best wishes to everyone celebrating a special graduate like my daughter.  I’m sure you’ve done as much to earn that pride as much as your grad has!

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