Prompted

Summer 2017

Prompt: What's the best advice — or worst advice — you've either given or received?

I was moaning about studying for my Russian final and my high school principal, Dr. Bill Youngblood, a wise and good man, told me simply, “Hate it later.” 

It was crystallizing, and since then I’ve gone back to those three words more times than I can count. Someday I’m going to needlepoint them onto a pillow.

[My] first boss post-Grinnell said she only brings to work what she can put in a box and carry out on her last day. She meant never get too comfortable where you work because you never know what may happen with you or the position.

In his youth my grandfather was a boxer. He taught me how to follow through on a punch by advising “always aim for the back of the skull.” It’s served me well and I think it could be a good metaphor for going all in. 

He also taught me to know my limits, though, through his example of declining an offer to box a kangaroo. He said the guy who did was never quite right afterward. The ’40s were a different time, indeed.

Before applying for the promotion that would take you the next step up the corporate ladder, take time to deeply consider whether you really want that job or not, including careful consideration of (1) what it will take to get that highly competitive promotion and (2) whether you are prepared to meet all of the demands it will impose.

My parents always reminded me that, “You can’t get what you don’t ask for.” I always take this to heart in everything I do. Take advantage of new opportunities (of all sorts), don’t wait around for the world to come to you.

When my mom passed away, a good friend said, “Be gentle with yourself.” Especially good while grieving since it is a strange creature that shows up in unexpected ways. I need to heed it far more often. 

In high school, everyone said college would be the best four years of my life. So when I was looking at schools, that’s what I looked for: Where would I have the best four years of my life? And it was such a difficult thing to ask of a school, any school. 

Now, as an admission counselor, I make sure to tell students looking at colleges that they should choose a college that will make them happy and able to be the best version of themselves, because that’s how it becomes the best four years of a person’s life. That’s why Grinnell was for me.

At the time I was stage managing a show for the theatre department and going to talk to Erik [Sanning ’89]. His wife Susan Sanning was in his office, and when I agreed to do something I didn’t have time to do, she commented, “Saying no makes your yeses mean more.” I still have a lot of trouble following this advice, but nonetheless I think of it every now and again when I’m taking on a new project.

As each of my five kids prepared to leave for college, this was the advice/wisdom I offered: “Dance with your friends.”

 

I got some great advice at the start of my career, which is that I’m the one responsible for my professional development (and my career), not my employer. Don’t take development or career for granted: It’s on you to make it happen.