1. Write thank you notes. There’s an ugly lie going around that thank you notes are out of fashion, and it’s exactly that – a lie. I believe it’s because many people mistakenly believe that graduation parties and wedding receptions are their way of thanking their guests for the gifts. Sorry folks, but they aren’t. Parties and receptions are your responsibility as a host for the event. Would you attend a 4th of July celebration with no food or entertainment? Just a bunch of people sitting in chairs? Of course not!
I’ve known many people that ignored wedding and baby shower invitations because they didn’t get a thank you note for a graduation or wedding gift, and they were grossly offended – and not all of them were old people, either. Folks, you’re about to learn that the 2 most precious resources in adult life are time and money, and when you send somebody a graduation or wedding invitation, you’re asking them to invest both in you. Be a decent human being. If you had the time to write an invitation, then make the time to write a thank you note to acknowledge that you received and appreciated the gift. Not a text, not a social media post, not an email – a handwritten note. Believe me, it will make a drastic difference in the responses you receive to your next invitations.
2. Mind your manners. Simply remembering to say “please” and “thank you” is another way to stand above the crowd and to look smarter, more saavy, and more sophisticated. It’s hard enough for young people to be taken seriously by those of us approaching middle age and beyond that are jaded by reality, but being courteous always gets the right kind of attention. Make the best first impression you can and act like a civilized human being. It’s another way you’ll stand out amongst the rest kicking and screaming to be heard in this crazy world.
3. Always present your best self. I don’t mean to always dress up like you’re going to a formal event. I do mean you should never go to the gas station or Walmart in pajamas and curlers. As my grandmother used to say, you never know when you’ll run into somebody you know, or worse yet, when somebody will whip out a camera and start clicking (which is more of a threat now that we’re in the days of camera phones), so always look your best when you leave the house. Dress appropriately, keep clean and groomed, and ladies, consider wearing makeup. It doesn’t take that much time or effort, and you can do as much or as little as you like and it always helps.
4. Read and follow the instructions, 100% of the time. I know I say it all the time, and I will keep saying it until people do it (which will likely be when hell freezes over, so I’ll say it forever). You look smarter. You seem capable and awesome and wonderful when you know what’s going on because you read and followed the instructions. You make fewer mistakes. Life is easier. It’s all good.
5. Take your stapler, put it in a dumpster, and never replace it. More places are digitizing files, and there’s no word in the English language to describe the devastating effect a small staple slipped on a paper can do when it runs through a scanner. Catastrophic is too small and mild to describe the damage. Staples are meant for things going into permanent filing that will no longer be used – ever. Considering how rare that is, it means that paper clips and binder clips are better investments than staples.
6. If you go by your middle name or a nickname, always give your “real” birthname when conducting official business. And ladies, if you’ve had a name change within the past two years, give your maiden and married names. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had trouble remembering people, only for them to hem and haw about how I should know them, and then after 10 minutes say “oh, Bill is my middle name. My actual first name is Bocephus.” Or a woman says “you know, I got married/divorced and changed my name. Does that matter?” As I said, time is a precious resource to adults, and nobody’s got time for “the name game.” Know what version of your name you gave upon initial contact and use it every time.
7. Put your brain on something for 5 full minutes before you pick up the telephone. People are too fast to jerk up the phone and start dialing, or pecking out an email or text when a question flies through their brain, and it’s gotten a million times worse with smartphones. I know, especially if you just graduated, that you’ve been told there’s no such thing as a stupid question. Well I’m sorry to break it to you, but in the real world there are lots of stupid questions. They’re the ones you ask when the answer is right in front of you. Stop. Take several deep breaths. Count to 20 slowly. Visualize a relaxing scene. Relax your mind. Shut out distractions and think for at least 5 minutes. Read the instructions. If you still have your question, find a way to articulate it accurately and THEN dial or type away. This is the #1 way to avoid being the person that people say “what a dumb***!” about every time you walk away.
8. Never mail a check or payment without attaching back up documentation. I can’t believe how many people will drop a check in the mail to a company or agency and not tell them what the payment is for. Computers are good, folks, but we all work with a lot of people and nobody’s memory is good enough to recall every single person they interact with over the course of a day, a week, or a month. Mailing a payment without some sort of payment slip, back up invoice, reference or account number, or something to clearly identify who you are and what you’re paying for is playing roulette with money. At best, they’ll mail it back with a what the heck note. At worst (and more likely), they’ll misapply it and you’ll have a heck of a mess to untangle. Skip this adventure. Always send back up documentation with money.
9. Admit when your wrong and do what you can to correct things. We all make mistakes – it’s unavoidable. The true test of character is how you handle them. Do you panic and try to hide and cover it up, or do you humbly admit it, do your best to correct it, learn, and move on? It might hurt, but swallowing your pride and learning from mistakes is how you gain trust and respect. And that’s worth more than popularity.
10. Don’t be afraid to be yourself. Cliques are everywhere and I’m afraid that you didn’t leave stereotypes behind when you graduated. But the thing is, you aren’t required to fall in line with them. Now if being popular and falling in with the in crowd is your thing, that’s well and fine and you should go for it – but if not, there’s nothing wrong with saying heck with it. You’re an adult, so be free to be yourself. Don’t let other people pressure you into things you don’t believe in or want in your life, or into being something you aren’t. Weird isn’t a bad world. Truth is, people are usually more fascinated and admire those that stand alone than the ones that fall right in the mold, whether they admit it or not. So don’t be afraid to be yourself, because it’s what you do best, and all you can really be anyway. In fact, I’d encourage you to spend some time alone on a regular basis to unplug from the pressure of others/society and stay “in touch” with your authentic self.
This is no different in marriage. Marriage is a union of two individuals that complement each other and agree to share their lives together. Yes, you create a new family, but you don’t stop being you – nor should you, because that’s the person your spouse fell in love with. In all you do to support the marriage and your home and family, be sure you have some time to know and take care of yourself and your spiritual needs as well.
In closing, I’d like to congratulate you on your achievements. Graduating and getting married are exciting times, and I encourage you to enjoy this season of celebration. Good luck making the transition to the next stage of life. Godspeed, and best of luck to you in the future.
I hope you enjoyed this series. We’ll get back to my regular fun and shenanagins next entry. Stay tuned – you never know what may pop up in this rabbit hole. See, grads, brides and grooms? Life beyond school and nuptials is still fun and full of adventure!
That’s all. Have a Happy Friday and a wonderful weekend.