Last week, many primary schools held presentation days. This is a day when more-or-less the same students every year receive awards for academic excellence while the rest almost die with boredom as they sit and clap for three hours. Personally, these awards don’t sit well with me because, just like beauty or sporting prowess a lot of this stuff is “God” given. It’s then encouraged and honed usually (but not always) by those lucky enough to have a middle class family. Having had one child who received academic awards now and then and one child who probably never will, I also know that there are many aspects to being bright that have nothing to do with academia – such as recognising and understanding different kinds of humour, being empathetic and emotionally intelligent or simply being able to speak clearly using a wide vocabulary. Therefore, it seems far more logical and fair to have awards based on important and unique traits, such as honesty, kindness, enthusiasm and friendliness, as well as awards for those who always make a solid and consistent effort regardless of the fact they may never get a high distinction for their work.
Recently, older students with more to gain and lose if they do not achieve the results they feel they need, completed their end of year exams, while others are waiting for the results of their HSC to determine what they will do in the future. Let’s assume then, that as far as they and their parents are concerned, what happens right here, right now, on that paper, whether at school or at university will be the thing that denotes their future success.
But will it be enough?
I don’t know about you, but I have many friends and lots of family members you would consider to be very successful these days. When I think about it, the majority of these people did nothing at school and most didn’t even go to university. So apart from working hard and showing up every day, what have they got in common? What have most of them got in common with someone like, say Richard Branson, who also left school at 16 without achieving very much academically?
The other day, I ran into two children I have known pretty much their whole lives while out walking, but neither of them spoke or met my eyes. It was as if I wasn’t there. Despite the fact we were congregated, they behaved as if we had never met. It’s not unusual and so I assume I’m not the only familiar person they decline to acknowledge when they are out and about. Parents, this is on us. It’s our job to be very clear about this stuff because this is what will make the difference in the end. Nobody wants rude and none of us can suffer awkward. So while you are busy trying to make sure your kids study and get good grades and hopefully, possibly academic awards and amazing ATARS, trust me when I tell you that rudeness and lack of manners will hold them back. Big time.
For one example, my older son can be lazy with some school subjects. I know he could do better sometimes and it drives me crazy. But at parent/teacher meetings the first thing we are told by all of his teachers is what a great kid he is. “Congratulations”, they say. “he is so polite, so well mannered. I just wanted to tell you that first.” And this is why he ended up with a particular job on the weekend that some of his friends coveted . He was asked because he is polite, well-mannered and friendly. It’s a good look for a service industry. He is a teenager but he can and he will, look you in the eye and ask how you are. He’ll even sit down and have an intelligent conversation with you using proper words and everything.
My husband’s IT business also just employed a young casual worker – the son of a friend – who is ecstatic to have been offered a role in the very area that he would like to work in once he finishes his uni degree. He’ll be one step ahead now compared to many of his fellow graduates at the time, because he will have this experience on his CV. And who knows, in a couple of years, perhaps this job will grow and/or there will be something else for him at the company. But one thing I can tell you is this: If he’d looked through me and ignored me every time I had seen him in the past couple of years, my husband wouldn’t even know his name.
One of my male friends *John is a perfect example of how being open to conversation and connection will get you everywhere. He is doing very well thank you very much and moves and shakes with the best of them these days – rock stars, pollies, you name it. The story that best illustrates my point here though relates back to an event that happened maybe 15 years ago or so when he, his wife and their best friends went overseas to celebrate the best friends’ wedding. When they arrived and went to check out their venue, they were told, oops, sorry, we appear to have double-booked. You cannot have your wedding here after all. WAAAAT??
Can you imagine how the bride and groom would have felt? All the other guests were due to arrive in couple of days, but they now had nowhere to hold their wedding and couldn’t even be sure if it would go ahead. Certainly, it didn’t look likely. *John, being John though, took off for a while on his own to ponder and assess the situation and ended up in a local bar having a beer. While there, he got chatting to a guy, who after an hour or so just happened to let slip that he owned an enormous yacht that he hired out for special occasions. *John asked if it was available on the wedding date and of course, it was.
What all these people have in common of course, is affability, a bit of charm or cheek perhaps and a polite and friendly smile. You don’t even have to be a talker to connect since most people are pretty happy if you just want to listen.
And that my friends, is not rocket science.