What If You Knew Then What You Know Now?

Posted by Jim Egan on February 02, 2016 . 1 Comment

The High School Graduates Owner’s Manual began as an idea to fill a void in what I felt was an underserved graduation gift market. 

With 10 years spent with Hallmark Cards early in my career, I knew the gift and seasonal markets very well. When looking for a card for someone in May of 2015 at the Hallmark Store in Neenah, WI, I spent some time looking over what they had available for graduates. The store was a Hallmark ‘Gold Crown’ store, or the best of the best.


In a word, the selection was very underwhelming. A lot of gewgaw and congratulatory type things, but nothing that most graduates would proudly display or even take along with them when they moved on to whatever was their next stop after either high school or college.

 So I had what I thought to be a great idea… I should write an Advice book for College Graduates, thinking that a book like that could be a graduation gift of real value. I thought back to my 1st few years after graduating from college, and the things I wish I had done differently if only I had a clue as to what the better choice might have been.

 Now what? I had spent a good part of my professional sales and marketing career writing, whether it was position pieces to try and persuade someone into understanding a new marketing concept, or posting industry articles on websites or blogs. The fact that I never undertook an actual serious writing endeavor until now was mainly because I never came up with a topic that I thought anyone would be interested in. The professional writing pieces I had put out during my career had almost always been very well received, but this was different. At first it seemed very intimidating.

 I began the process of putting an outline together for what topics might be included in the work. Surprisingly, the ideas for topics flowed easily, as there was no shortage of things I wished I could have had a do-over on.   As the list was compiled, two things became obvious;

Thing 1. If I had known some of these things when I was at the age of a new graduate , I could have made much better decisions earlier in life that would have served me well over the next 30 to 40 years, and

Thing 2. The information could not wait until one was the age of a college graduate, as there were things that a young person could totally screw up if they were not aware of this information as soon as they graduated from High School.

 As the ideas accumulated, the focus of the book shifted to the High School Graduate, and what information could best serve them. This led to some editing of the topics to be covered, although the topics which seemed more geared to a college graduate initially also applied to high school graduates in most cases. For example, there is one chapter on Investing in Yourself. Although this would have obvious applications to a college grad who will hopefully be embarking on their professional career in the very near future, it is never too early to begin saving for that day when you will no longer have to go somewhere to trade your time and talents for dollars.

 To this point, one thing that jumped out at me as the topics accumulated and the words on the pages added up, is that, if you were aware of these ideas at a young age, and actually made a conscious effort to put them in play, how much would you be able to increase your quality of life along the way?

 In my case, I never had a ‘master plan’; I went through my professional career for the most part enjoying what I did, sometimes making decent money, sometimes not, but never having the laser focus that someday I would no longer be ready, willing or able to go to a job every day, especially one I did not love. The main point of the chapter on Investing in Yourself is that for most there will not be pensions or Social Security as we know it when the class of 2016 reaches retirement age, so they will need to provide for themselves.

 A bigger takeaway point, and one that anyone who has made it to their 50’s clearly understands is that if they are not doing something that they love, it is very likely that going to work every day totally SUCKS! Here’s the thing. Your ability to put up with BS, incompetence and wasting time all diminishes as you get older. Whereas driving two hours each way on a bad sales lead when you are in your 20’s doesn’t make you crazy, when you are in your 50’s it can totally make you nuts, as you tend to think “there’s 4 hours that I’ll never get back”.

 The important concept for young people to take away is the more things they do right and smart when they are younger, the more options they will have when they get older. That is probably the biggest idea the High School Graduates Owner’s Manual hopes to pass along.

 In addition to fiscal advice and guidance, the work contains direction on Creativity (Where Do Great Ideas Come From), Physical Fitness (Don’t Be Fat…..), Avoiding Really Stupid Mistakes (Ink, Art & Self Mutilation), Politics (Politics and the Media…..), Becoming Independent (Cutting the Cord…), Advice (Telling the Good from the Bad), Your Reputation (What People Think About You), and Charity (Give Something Back). Each chapter contains real life examples of how mastering each of these topics will improve the reader’s quality of life, and maybe help to make them a better, happier person.

 Each week between now and when the work is released on April 19th, a blog post will appear which will go into some depth about a chapter topic, a related topic, or possibly a concept which was on the initial outline, but which didn’t make the final cut. There was quite a bit of thought and discussion that went into the topics covered, in addition to the look and feel of the first edition of the High School Graduates Owner’s Manual.

 Many people said that the work had to be fairly brief, because High School kids do not like to read books anymore. Others said that in order to be a legitimate work, the page count had to be considerably higher than what was the final number. Some stated, including some educators, that the work was unnecessary, because by the time you graduated from High School you already know everything covered in the book.

 The best feedback I received was from parents who had children in the target age group for the work (16 – 24), who stated that not only was the information relevant and needed, but that they asked permission to email advanced copies of the manuscript to their kids. When I asked them if they thought their kids would read it, the response I received from several was ‘I’ll make them read it!’

 So what do you think? The High School Graduates Owner’s Manual will be re-issued and updated every year, and will depend on reader feedback for topics to cover or delete. The first time out, the intent was to compile something of value that would truly benefit any young person that took the time to read it (whether compulsory or voluntarily), without drifting into topics that were too heavy or intimidating. As the parent of two grown children, I’m aware of some of the challenges and opportunities that young adults face these days, but certainly not all. Any feedback to this blog will be appreciated, and if any concepts wind up on the pages of future editions, credit will be given where credit is due.

 Thank you for taking the time to read the initial blog post for The High School Graduates Owner’s Manual. If you have thought you would like to share beyond the comments section, please send them to Blog@hsGRADom.com.

Next week. A look inside the You Suck Chapter.


Awesome read Jim! Every High School Graduate needs to read this book. I also think that every High School should create a class teaching from this book. Valuable information for everyone!
Posted by Vince Hopkins on April 25, 2016

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