Never been a parent, so school years' end doesn't make me emotional. Nor nostalgic. I was excited to complete high school and leave my small town and the b.s. which went along with it. College graduation two decades later was my sense of accomplishment, relief and joy of seeing my father after a six-year break. And some sorrow, as my training focus became more for personal fitness than collegiate excellence.
However, one of my co-workers is graduating two daughters; the eldest daughter of one of my dear running friends also makes the leap into college this month. Bring on the Baz Luhrman "Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)" moment.
If someone were to throw me upon a rostrum, cap and gown-clad, what advice would I give to a class of high school - or college - graduates?
Perhaps it would all boil down to one sentence: We have an abundance of information but a lack a sense of history.
We scribble down personal best times for races, maintain training logbooks and focus on the minutiae of our sport. However, we seem to have lost the ability to balance a checking register or know when we've missed a payment. In this increasingly-cashless, increasingly-paperless, electronic payment-driven society we're at the mercy of a customer service representative (talk to a communications provider and you know those three words are mutually-exclusive) who's more likely to hang up on you than provide a paper record of your bill payments.
It's easy to lay this indictment at the feet of the millennial or the generation who raised us, but have you ever been challenged by the need to write a new list of accomplishments for a performance appraisal, rather than cut and paste and change a few numbers here and there? Or felt the need to update your resume as part of a job search...or a dip of the toe in the market? Some managers are good at documentation, but most don't know exactly what their subordinates' do. And if you don't have a supervisor who cares about your career you're pretty well doomed.
My wife was distraught over her first appraisal since a 16-year teaching career and 10 years of business ownership. When she read the job expectations my first reaction was to ask when she fell short of the standard. Neither she, nor her supervisor, could show any expectation met or left wanting. If you don't know what's expected of you you're probably going to do everything that isn't.
Technology is great. The Saturday afternoon debate, followed by a trip to the public library reference section, has been replaced by "the Google." As long as you can type with two fingers you've got the world's knowledge, information, disinformation, and propaganda at your disposal.
Pavlov was kind of right. That little bell on the phone rings and the owner salivates. Unless the job requires unfettered access to a smart phone or digital device, leave it in the car, the jacket or the purse. I guess one of my pet peeves - especially if I'm at a dining or drinking establishment - is when I see the servers or beer-pullers checking their phones every fifteen minutes. What you're doing probably isn't a lot of fun, but that's why someone is handing you money every so often.
When it comes to life and running the dictum "less is more" isn't a bad one to follow. A friend mentioned the other day he was suffering from numb pinky fingers. The medical professional diagnosed it as cubital tunnel syndrome. Not too common, but caused possibly by having the elbow bent at an acute angle for a long period of time. Like the angle it takes to hold a cellular telephone to ones' ear. But if you've seen runners carrying phones or music players in elastic and hook-and-loop armbands most of them keep their arm crooked at an angle which betrays some concern about the device's safety. Wrist-worn fitness trackers, running watches and distance-measuring devices are getting lighter and more-reliable. Thus, I'll keep the phone in a pouch for those moments when I see something really neat (which demands a picture) or really dangerous (demanding a call to the cops).
In closing, I'll borrow shamelessly from the American renaissance man, Henry David Thoreau. He wrote in 1854, "Our life is frittered away in detail...simplify, simplify."