Friday, February 15, 2013

Stop Thinking Poorly About Yourself - Part 2

In Part 1, I wrote about the thoughts that roll around in the head of the person who gets a late start in life due to various life decisions that differ from the normal "graduate from high school, go to college, graduate from college, start career, be mostly successful by 30" narrative.  Thoughts like "I'm a failure for my past decisions" and "I don't deserve accolades or praise for a job well done, because it's something I should have done a while ago".

My conclusion was that you're too hard on yourself.  First of all, people from all walks of life start moving at different ages.  Some don't push off from the dock at all.  You, on the other hand, who are starting later, going to school, getting a job, and starting a career now, rather than earlier, are already shoved off.  You're on your way.

That being said, here is another thought that might roll around in your head:

Others are looking at me like I'm a failure:

My initial reaction would be, "Your point?!"  Or... "So?!"

But that's not too helpful.  I know you're asking for a hug, a slap on the back, and a push in the same direction you're headed, but let me add some other thoughts to the necessary empathy.

When I married Kristine, I had just graduated from a two year technical college diploma program.  I stayed in that industry for six weeks.  Then I jumped right into running my own remodeling business.  I could have had all the business I wanted, but I was miserably lazy.  I was very good with people - loved to talk and listen...nah...just talk - and I decided to go into sales.

I did sales, off and on for years.  I sold appliances, vacuum cleaners, cars, school fundraising, Schwan's food (door-to-door frozen food sales), and finally ended up as a banker at Wells Fargo.  I loved what I did and made just enough money to support my family, along with assistance from the government.

Our family grew and I went back to school at night, looking for a business degree.  I had a few semesters in when I entered into a chance conversation with a burger-flipper at McDonald's.  I asked him if he had gone to college.  His answer floored me:

"Yep!  I have an MBA.  In fact, about half the workers here have business degrees."

That was it for me.  I switched my major to Computer Science and never looked back.  I graduated with that degree when I was already 29 years old and am now nearing my fourth year in the field.  It's very rewarding and supports our needs, enabling Kristine to move forward with her career.

But I had many detractors.  People told me that I was going to a school that wouldn't give me a good education.  They were right, in some respects.  I did not attend a prestigious university, but I did the best I could for our location and what we could afford.  I was also told that it was sinful for my wife to run a daycare out of our home to help put me through college.  I struggled with procrastination constantly and wanted to quit, many times.

I went to others for help with my schoolwork and, though they were very helpful, I couldn't help but feel that they were thinking I was over my head and should just go back to my dead-end jobs and quit school altogether.  

I didn't though.  I kept going, graduated with honors, and was hired right out of college - due to networking beforehand.  There were only a few people that mattered to me.  Kristine and my beautiful children.  I was doing it for them.  Everyone else who came against me or discouraged me could go pound sand for all I cared.  I did what I needed to do and now, looking back, it was tough, but the right thing.

You're on your way.  There is a light at the end of the tunnel.  It will be tough.  Some parts will be easy, but don't get complacent or take anything for granted.  The minute you do, you'll get knocked on your rear end.  Politically, you will be lumped in with lazy people - especially if you make minimum wage or accept government assistance.  Don't worry about it.  You know better.  You know where you're going.  You're better than the naysayers anyway.  They simply love themselves and have no concept of a social contract, assisting you in your not-so-perfect endeavors.

I trust you.  Get on with your life.


  1. Last December one day after my 55th birthday, I graduated with a PhD in the physical sciences. Good for you for getting your degree at 29.