Tag Archives: profession

The Best and Worst Advice I Ever Got in College About Work

.Labor Day Weekend in Boston means two things. Most working people with the day off flee, emptying the streets, taking to the highways, and soaking up the long weekend somewhere outside city environs, preferably with ocean or mountains and without discarded couches littering the sidewalks.

Meanwhile, most students from the city’s many universities (and recent grads from schools everywhere) are moving in, bloating the streets with their moving trucks and subjecting their dads to too many flights of stairs. (A retroactive and eternal thank you to my own father who did this countless times, including when he hoisted a table through a window to fit into a tiny Cambridge apartment, after cutting my box spring in half so that we could maneuver it up the stairway and reassemble it once in my new room. One could say I learned a thing or two about patience and problem-solving from that guy).

This year, I fell into neither category. I’m a long way from college, and I just moved this winter and don’t plan to do it again anytime soon. I no longer subject Dad to being Macgyver on moving days; I spring for movers. I also labored on Labor Day, teaching yoga to a packed house of enthusiastic, sweaty, come-and-get-me-September yogis at Inner Strength Studio. I planned for a video shoot with Runner’s World magazine this weekend. I did a little writing.

Yet, the momentum around me got me thinking about labor and the best and worse advice I got about work while in college. Two key moments come to mind, both of which occurred while I was choosing my major. English.

And I’d choose the same way if I were to do it all over again. Despite getting advice like the following, from the father of a young girl I tutored regularly as a side job. I remember the scene in their impressive Virginia home well. The older son was on the verge of an exciting milestone: his bar mitzvah, and the living room in which I helped his younger sister with reading and writing was overrun by elaborate party favors. I wouldn’t see this many gift bags again until my time as a marketing executive at Boston magazine, while planning massive events like its annual Best of Boston party.

“You have to think about the things you want to have and figure out the job you can do to get those things.”

At this, he motioned around the beautiful home at the things his work had materialized. I didn’t argue. He made a valid point. It was a beautiful home, and they were a lovely family. They seemed happy. If you want a nice home, you have to work to get it. This much I knew, and it’s in my DNA to work hard anyway. But I disagreed with other aspects of his statement. The pursuit of things wasn’t going to inspire me to study subjects about which I didn’t care or in which I didn’t excel. And who’s to say that once I got these things, I’d be happy?

Thank you, sir. Have a wonderful time at the bar mitvah. Little Sally, nail that spelling test, girlfriend.   

Needless to say, this was the worst advice I ever got.

The best came from my friend, Doc, one year behind me in school but infinitely wiser in many ways. He became a bit of an urban legend in the English department at the University of Richmond. First, he was male, and they were hard to come by in our course of study. Second, his memory borders on photographic. For the first few weeks of September during the fall that we met, I thought he was a total slacker. He never took notes, while I busily detailed everything our professor said. He seemed a little aloof, sitting back in his chair and occasionally glancing out the window at the blossoming trees outside. Why was he even in this class, I thought, my body pitched forward so that I wouldn’t miss anything. Craning myself closer to the Shakespeare lecture would obviously implant the information into my brain more effectively.

When we ended up in a study group together, the other girls and I expressed skepticism before his arrival… until he showed up and schooled the sh** out of us by remembering pretty much every lecture, quotation, theme, historical context, cross-reference, and footnote we’d covered that semester. Thus, Doc became my new best friend—and the source of the best work advice I ever got in college.

“College is not job training. When you get a job, they’ll train you. College is for studying what you love, enjoy, and want to think critically about. It’s about learning and learning how to learn—so that you can learn to be an expert at what you choose to do.”

I’m paraphrasing of course. I don’t have Doc’s memory.

So, I chose English. I minored in Women’s Studies. I was a class shy of an Economics minor, and if there’d been a major in Eastern Philosophy and Religion at the time, I’d probably have that too. I loved these courses, and they led me to work in industries I enjoyed, including education, marketing, media, and, yes, yoga, until merging what I enjoyed most and was best at into my work today.

The way my brain functions is no doubt influenced by how it learned to organize and convey information learned in college. However, the world changes drastically over a lifetime, and the best career investment one can make is the desire to work hard and tirelessly on a chosen path. The quickest way to burn out and become miserable is to work at something you don’t like for things that can’t make you happy.

I don’t have a lot of things, but I have all the things I need, which means that in a weird way both pieces of advice worked for me. Or, better yet, I worked for them.

What do you think? What’s the best or worst career advice you’ve ever gotten? What did you study in college, and how has it moved you through life?  

Originally published on my website, Om Gal.

10 Inspiring Quotes for Labor Day!

Faces from the St Patricks Day ParadeToday is the day we stay home from the office, enjoy the company of our loved ones, and pay tribute to the incredible work people throughout this country do every day. Many in our communities won’t even be resting from work today – the bus drivers, the janitors, the supermarket cashiers, and many others. Today is for them, and for you, and for everyone who works so hard to keep this country going.

Here are 10 amazing quotes on the virtue of work and the real meaning of labor:

Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.

~Confucius

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Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.

~Theodore Roosevelt

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All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.

~Martin Luther King, Jr.

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All things are difficult before they are easy.

~Thomas Fuller

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Without work, all life goes rotten. But when work is soulless, life stifles and dies.

~Albert Camus

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Let the beauty of what you love be what you do.

~Rumi

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The only way to enjoy anything in this life is to earn it first.

~Ginger Rogers

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To find joy in work is to discover the fountain of youth.

~Pearl S. Buck

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No one can arrive from being talented alone, work transforms talent into genius.

~Anna Pavlova

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The greatest teacher I know is the job itself.

~James Cash Penney

Reach Further: Your Life is Only As Big As the Communities You Serve

In a recent TED Talk, Dan Pallotta boldly stated, “No one ever went bankrupt giving to charity.” I love that line. The words remind us that we can give a little cash and still have enough to fill our own needs. That’s true of our energy, too. We can give a little time and still have enough to do the things we need to do.

So often we get caught up in the complexities of our lives and forget that we co-exist in a big world filled with people who need our help.  My vlog today is a loving challenge to parents. The hope is to inspire families to work together to serve the greater community, to spend time helping folks who can offer them absolutely nothing in return. Today’s message focuses specifically on parents because I blog about mindful mothering on Bringing Up Buddhas; but really this message is for everyone. CEOs and introverts, democrats and yogis, students and circus performers. We all have something to give.

So I’m officially dubbing this season the Summer of Service. A perfect time to let our babies use their superpowers to give freely, love wildly, and live fully.

Click to read the Huff Post article.

Click to read the story of my mentee and me.

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