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I Wish I Had Known…. Part 1 of 3

High school doesn’t matter.  

The “popular” kids will never have any impact on your life or career.  

Internships, not classes are the key to college success.   

The big house and car are not the American dream, flexibility is.

Success doesn’t involve money!

There are many things that I wish I had known when going to high school, college, and starting my career.  Things that would have cut down on major life mistakes and put me in a position to be in a career and life I loved a lot earlier.  I was fortunate enough to figure some of these out early enough to change my thought process and not fall victim to the life long society expectation traps.  This 3 part post is a collection of all of those things that I would tell my 18 year old self given the chance.  Since the DeLorean is down for maintenance, I will take this as an opportunity to share my keys to finding a career you love and life you love living!

I Wish I Had Known....

High School Graduate

Congrats on making it through high school!  The truth about high school is that it just helps lay a foundation for what is to come, but doesn’t have any real impact on your life past scholarships and getting accepted to college.  Perfect example: I graduated top 50% percentile by 1/2 a student!  I finished with a B- average and literally ranked 150 of 301 students in my graduating class.  With grades like that and being as close to average as possible, you would expect a mediocre life.  Fortunately for me and possibly you, that statistic had no impact on me.  I have never been asked about high school during an interview or at any point in my career.  In fact, most numbers and success factors you think you know right now are completely bogus!

I did a few things right during high school and several wrong that set me back.  I overcame average and went on to start a business in college, graduate with Magna Cum Laude, and was awarded the Outstanding Marketing Student at graduation.  I am happy to tell you that your future is not dependent on your past or how others perceive you, and that YOU are the only person that has control over the life you live.

What happens in high school doesn’t really matter:

It may seem like the end of the world when you are not accepted as one of the in-crowd kids.  This is something most of us struggled with because we don’t like to be considered an outsider.  High school students are the most critical people that you will ever meet.  If you can make it through those 4 years, you are well on your way to powering through the business world!  I should know, I had a 94′ Ford Ranger with a PINK stripe!  Ouch!  As you move into college and after, you realize that “fitting in” to a specific crowd is overrated.  Now that you are out of high school, you can surround yourself with many more like minded people who will only push you towards who you want to be instead of making you feel bad for it.

  • What did I do right in high school?
    • I found several close friends that I could be myself around and didn’t try to be on the outskirts of the insiders club.  Finding like minded people will be a common thread throughout your successful career.
    • Given that I didn’t enjoy high school, going to ACT (vocational school) to take marketing classes was a HUGE win.  That got me out of regular classes and helped learn a real skill (sorry chemistry,… you have no place in my marketing world!)  Attending a vocational school/classes will help you determine what career to pursue since you can get a glimpse of what it has to offer.  Vocational schools are amazing!  They teach you a skill while most (not all) high schools just teach you how to learn.  Take advantage of them.
    • Joined DECA!  This fantastic organization pushed me out of my comfort zone.  Doing something you are good at will help build confidence.  You need to find things you are good at and learn from people who are still better than you!

learn from people better

  • Started dating Ashlee.  A lot of people told me to not be so serious and “enjoy” myself while I was young…. whatever that means!  Good thing for me, I didn’t listen.  If it works and makes you happy, then why quit just because people say that you are young!?  If you are happy and your partner truly makes you BETTER, then stick with it so you can focus on building a great relationship and grow together.  And for the record she was pretty in high school, but she is more gorgeous now!  I’m a lucky guy!  🙂  On the other hand, if it is a toxic relationship then get out ASAP.

Mark McClung and Ashlee

  • What did I do wrong in high school?
    • I should have focused on college more.  I never thought about college until my mom forced me to apply for scholarships which was a mistake.  That limited my choices to only a few schools in state.  Luckily, Marshall University was one of them which was great.  But,…. choices would have been nice!  Take the time to really think through your options and work towards getting scholarships.  In my next post, I will talk about the long term quick sand related to student loans.  Do yourself a favor and spend more time getting scholarships than texting!  (thanks mom!)  You will literally be 10 years ahead if you do.
    • Even though I had my own friends, I still cared too much about what the other popular crowds thought.  That was simply wasted energy!  Don’t ever try to be different to fit in.  Worst case is they would believe your facade and then you have to keep up the act indefinitely only to determine you didn’t like them or who you are becoming.  Instead, focus on finding people like you and that are positive.  Avoid negativity at all costs.
    • I quit soccer.  I am an idiot!  I was told to find a way to pay for car insurance and I chose the lazy way out.  I took a part time job and quit soccer because I thought I didn’t have time. Never quit something you love because you think its time to grow up.  I wasn’t going to get a scholarship from it, but that doesn’t mean I had to give it up.  Hold on to things that you love!

Regardless if you just graduated or if high school is only a distant memory, it is time to dismiss the negative and focus on what matters now!  If you are one of those that dwells on what could have been, then take this as an opportunity to stop.  You can only move forward by taking the positives from a situation to build on them, and only reference the negative so you can avoid making the same mistakes.

Take Action Today

Think back to your high school years and write down 3 things that you really enjoyed and 3 that you still cringe at the thought of.  Then look at your life now and compare.

If you are repeating the same mistakes or feel like you are in a similar negative situation, you need to change immediately.  Avoid making the same mistakes at all costs.  As for the things you enjoyed, are you incorporating those ideals in your life and career now?  If not, WHY?  You can’t recreate the same situations, but if your friend network was what really made you enjoy your teenage years then try spending more time with friends now.  Were you mentored by the best teacher?  Then find a mentor in your career or life coach.

Leave a comment and let me know what piece of advice you would give your high school self.

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