Scott Postma

A blog about the Great Books, the Craft of Writing, and Human Flourishing.

A Rude Awakening

[WARNING: This post is not for the sensitive or the easily offended. As the title suggests, it is Rude! So be warned; if you read on, don’t come whining to me if you get your feelings hurt!]

It’s that time of year again, when kids are graduating high school, and other kids are graduating college. Everyone is excited to move ahead into the great big world and do something great big with his or her life.

Unfortunately, I’m afraid some of you are in for a rude awakening. I know I was when I graduated. That was a long time ago. And along the way I’ve picked up a few life-lessons from the school of hard knocks, some rude advice handed out by life itself. I thought I would share it with you.

You could say this post is primarily for two people: those of you looking for the best way forward hoping to avoid the rut so many end up in; and those of you in a rut wishing you could find your way forward!

I’m sure you know the cliché. A rut is just a grave with both ends knocked out.

It feels like death. When you are in a rut, you can see the need to move forward, but you don’t know how. When you’re in a rut life stinks so badly you wonder if you’re already decomposing. You want to move forward, but it feels like you’re suffering from premature rigor mortis.

No one likes the rut. But it’s not easy to avoid and it’s even harder to get out of.

So if you are a graduate hoping to avoid the rut, or someone trapped in one, here’s a rude awakening to help you on your way.

(Did I mention I’m kind of rude in this post? Well, consider yourself warned. )

Here it is!

1 – No One Owes You Success!

Unlike some teachers, life doesn’t grade on a curve. You want to be successful. So do I. So does everyone I know. I’ve never met anyone who aspired to be a bum. But you’ll have to earn it. So don’t go acting like you’re some special case that the world owes success to. And, don’t go spitting in the success of others just because you fall on hard times. That’s cheap!

Further, maybe you know some people who seem to be successful, but it doesn’t seem to be in the cards for you. Maybe you think someone dealt you a raw deck. You got hoodwinked. Or, you feel like you must be the butt of some cosmic joke.

Well, you can stop blaming everyone else. Success is not in the cards, not in the alignment of the stars, and not in some metaphysical “luck.” That’s all nonsense; it’s whiny, entitlement drivel. So grow up! Success is up to you!

2 – Don’t Be a Jerk!

In every job I’ve ever had, in every business in which I’ve ever delved, and in every type of community I’ve engaged, there is at least one jerk in the bunch. And if you don’t think there is one on your team, then it’s probably you. The thing about jerks is they never realize how bad their attitude affects their performance, their likability, or the team’s esprit de corps.

Jerks blame everyone else for their problems, complain about every decision that’s made, get to work late, go home early, milk the clock, get offended easily, produce deficient work, and fight with everyone around them. They are miserable people. If you feel stuck, or you don’t want to end up stuck, the first place to stop and look is in the mirror.

If you have a bad attitude, or an entitlement mentality, or just a generally sour disposition, you can plan on staying “stuck” until someone sticks you in the ground. And if you ever decide to want to get “unstuck,” grow up and stop being a jerk!

3 – Figure Out Where You’re Going First!

Remember the exchange between Alice and the cat in Alice in Wonderland?

Alice: Which way should I go?
Cat: That depends on where you are going.
Alice: I don’t know.
Cat: Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.

Without a destination, you’ll continue to meander through life without ever knowing what the next step should be. Don’t be some of the guys from my home town who still hang out in the supermarket parking lot on Friday nights twenty-five years after they graduated high school. Get a job. Go to school. Serve God. Live on purpose.

Here’s an idea. You ever hear of an elevator pitch? That’s where you define the mission or objective of a project or enterprise in a concise statement you could pitch to a prospective investor in the time it takes you to ride the elevator to the next floor. Write an elevator pitch for your life. At least you’ll know what “unstuck” looks like.

4 – Write it Down!

While this is obvious to some people, it may not be to you. So indulge me for a second. Write down your tasks, your appointments, and your goals on a calendar—or a piece of paper at least. Or use an app on your computer or smart phone.

Are you familiar with the pickle jar time-management illustration? No? Then Google it!

Yes? Then use it. You’ll be amazed at how revolutionary that simple exercise is.

5 – Draw a Map!

This is a simple extension of #3 and #4. After you define what success looks like for you, it’s helpful to draw a road map toward your destination. I do this when I go to the mall. I look at the red dot that says, “You Are Here,” and then I find the store I need to go to, and then scope out the way.

You can do this with life too. Look out one year and set a reasonable goal as to where you want to be as you steer toward your goal. Then do it for five years; and do it for ten. Sure you’ll make adjustments each year or maybe every six-months or even quarterly.

Stop worrying about it. It’s just important that you have a map to keep you from running off the path into ditch. Go ahead. Get busy and map it out.

6 – Destroy Your TV Set! (update: cancel Netflix!)

Get a gun or a sledge hammer and destroy that one-eyed piece of resistance. Okay, maybe that’s a bit melodramatic. But I don’t need to tell you how many people fail in life because they have their face stuck in the TV Netflix or the like, or their face stuck in the fridge, or their hands stuck to a video-game controller.

If you want to succeed, you have to show up. You have to put your butt in the chair, or your feet on the ground, or your knuckles to the door. Whatever activate, ship, or work looks like in your context, do that. And do it consistently!

If you want to write, sit down and write out 500 words, then do it again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next, and every day after that, and in about four months you’ll have the first draft of your novel. Or grab your business cards and start knocking doors, literally if necessary. Then do it again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next, and after about 200 “No’s,” you’ll get the “Yes” you need for that big sale. Then you’ll have to do it all over again the next month.

Get read that book on blog design. Or enroll in that course you’ve been meaning to take. Or ask that special someone out for lunch—or dinner.  Just stop procrastinating, stop choosing distractions, stop looking for shortcuts, and get to work!

7 – Get Rid of Your Loser Friends!

This isn’t rocket science. Have you ever heard the saying, “Tens Marry Tens”? Scripture speaks to this principle in various ways. “Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.”” -1 Corinthians 15:33, and “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” -Proverbs 13:20.

In both cases, it is clear people are influenced by the people they associate with. The point here is if you hang around people who have no direction in life, you’ll go with them. If you hang around “stuck” people, you’ll rot in the grave together. Whatever success looks like to you, hang around people who are successful at the same.

You’re afraid of hurting their feelings? Do I need to remind you of #2?

Here’s a piece of advice successful people use. They gather people around them who are good at what they do, who believe in them, who are for them, and they serve them. And they make themselves accountable to them by sharing their elevator pitch and their road map. They talk to them about their strengths and weaknesses. They include them in the victories and the defeats. Then they let those people ask them the hard questions and let them speak into their lives. They’re not hyper-sensitive. They don’t get their feelings hurt, easily.

They are thick-skinned and act like champions—like they mean business, like what they’re doing matters. They are not slouches. If you aren’t willing to make yourself accountable for your goals, you aren’t serious about being successful—whatever that looks like—and you need to go back and read #1 again.

8 – You’re Going to Die

Every day I read about someone else who died. And the older I get the more of those I grew up with lay down for the long dirt nap. If I’m not pushing daisies before you, I’ll read your obituary soon enough. Regardless, in 100 years from now, no one will care about you anyway.

See, one day your heart will stop beating and the coroner will pronounce you dead. Someone you never met will take your clothes off, poke your body with giant needle, and pump you full of formaldehyde—or something like that. Then they’ll dress you up nice, put you in a box, sing some songs, say a few words, stick you in the ground, throw some dirt on your face, and then go home and eat potato salad.

Sure, your soul will live on for eternity—in the torments of Hell or the bliss of Heaven—but the time on earth you had to do something that matters will be over—forever! Don’t ever stop thinking about that.

9 – Don’t Think You’re Too Smart for God or Your Family

Just because you have an education, don’t think you’re too smart to believe in God. Matter didn’t create itself. The End!

And don’t ever get so big for your britches you don’t think you need your family.

Only God loves you, unconditionally. He offered you forgiveness and redemption through faith in the Son, Jesus. And don’t think you deserve it, because you don’t. Your best attempt at being good in your own power amounts to nothing more than rags and refuse (Isaiah 64:6 cf. Philippians 3:8).

Further, your family is the first community God gave you. They are not perfect, just like you are not perfect. And, yes, I know, some of them might be really screwed up. I’m not saying you have to allow anyone to abuse you. Just don’t be too quick to neglect them, hurt them, or forsake them.

When your family lets you down, and they will let you down, love them anyway. You never know when you might need each other. A simple principle that will serve you well in life is love God and love people.

A Rude Conclusion

There you have it—some rude advice for a rude awakening. Didn’t I tell you it was rude? Now don’t go whining in the comments. I’ll think you’re some kind of ninny. But if you have some advice to add, you’d be rude not to share it… No, not out loud… Just write it in the comments!

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About Scott Postma

Scott is a writer and teacher living in North Idaho. He loves teaching the Great Books, writing and blogging, and collecting more books than he’ll ever read in a lifetime. You can subscribe to the tribe and follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus.

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3 Replies

  1. Some very stern but helpful words. Wise advice for all and not just the “up and comers.”

    I must be a “whining ninny” for a quick moment though, there has to be one in the bunch. Lol. I completely agree with the heading for #1, however, the words under the heading appear to give the impression that all are “called” to be “successful.” Unfortunately, in our culture, “successful” is almost always equated to wealth.

    Just a thought for those in the category this wise advice is aimed at, success is success if you are doing your best wherever it is you may find yourself. You can be a successful Wal-Mart greeter, grocery bagger, and/or Wallstreet money investor. Success comes in all shapes and sizes so don’t be easily discouraged.

    I would encourage to take all of the advice in this article/blog and apply it to your pursuits and you will be successful regardless of your vocational title.

    Great words of wisdom Scott.

  2. angela

    Thank you, Pastor Scott…there were some things in this article I thought I knew…but yet, it is always good to hear these types of things once in awhile, and look at how your life lines up next to them.
    Bill Cosby has been invited to speak many times at commencement addresses, and ceremonies on historical occasions, etc., and several years ago he began delivering what many have considered “Rude speeches.” He was often speaking to a specific target audience, however I found that his sentiments could be translated to many situations that we ‘find ourselves in…without any idea how we got there.’ (Sarcasm intended.)
    This quote is from Cosby’s address on the 50th Anniversary Commemoration of the Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education Supreme Court Decision:
    “I heard a prize fight manager say to his fellow who was losing badly, “David, listen to me. It’s not what’s he’s doing to you. It’s what you’re not doing.””
    Certainly that seemingly simple quote packs quite a punch when looked at carefully. (Pun intended.) It is very often not what someone else is doing to us, but much more importantly, what we are not doing.
    There are clearly many wise words to live by in this article.

  3. A good article, Scott. This kind of warning seems a popular piece as we approach high school graduations in June. The “rude awakening” commencement address has become popular– though it likely doesn’t lead to second invitations. Reality therapy.

    A couple of years ago I was asked to be speaker at our local high school graduation (I had been school counsellor there for twenty years prior to retirement), but I declined. This kind of message was the only one I felt was warranted, but I knew while it was needed (and probably would be appreciated) by students, it would not settle well with parents on such a night of celebration. In a small country area, slights like that are long remembered.

    Your item on “jerks” is perhaps too encompassing… I have had the good fortune to work with groups and organizations that lacked this aspect, though I know they are common…. and I don’t think the missing person was me. And I’m not sure if the TV point is as relevant today with the high school crowd, at least specifically the television set… I’d rather have them exercise a bit more control of their phones and their online life. Not too many businesses will condone employees checking their messages every five minutes.

    #3, 4, and 5 are excellent ideas! Needed in any speech to the grad (and certainly well before). #8 is a downer (especially at a graduation), and really of little use, as death is completely irrelevant to the young. They are immortal.