My daughter’s heading off to university next weekend. She’s enrolled in a tough engineering program at a good school. Having been down that path myself, I have an inkling of what’s in store for her. Plenty of fun and excitement for sure but lots of hard work. What wise fatherly advice shall I give to my little girl as she leaves the nest to face this new challenge?
How about “be conscientious”?
I know it’s not very heartwarming but it might be the best advice to give her.
According to Wikipedia, conscientiousness is defined as being thorough, careful, or vigilant; it implies a desire to do a task well. Conscientious people are efficient and organized and show self-discipline, act dutifully, and aim for achievement; they display planned behavior; and they are generally organized and dependable.
I ran across an article by Eric Barker who writes the blog Barking Up The Wrong Tree. He’s a great writer but no more qualified than anyone else to provide life advice. However, in his blog, he’s collected a bunch of research from people who are. And because he’s done such a conscientious job, I’m pretty much going to crib from his blog post:
“What’s amazing is just how predictive it [conscientiousness] is of so many things we all desire:
And let’s not forget good grades and staying out of jail.”
If you’re interested, I encourage you to check out Baker’s article and follow the links to the underlying research.
Obviously I resonate with what he’s saying. Remember, I’m the one that advocates for making your bed in the morning come hell or high water. Why? It’s an exercise in conscientiousness. (I’m in good company on this point by the way. Me and Naval Adm. William McRaven, ninth commander of U.S. Special Operations Command!)
Being conscientious is about what you do when nobody is around. The standard you hold yourself to. The level of performance and achievement you strive for. Seth Godin recently talked about why “drafting” works and how having a benchmark to compare ourselves to can help us perform better. I think this is true however it’s probably the conscientious that tend to be out in front. They’re the ones that the rest of us are drafting. Or else they are the tortoises that persevere to ultimately win the race against the speedy hares.
This advice applies to all of us, of course. Whether we’re starting a business, building a career or entering university it pays to be conscientious. I’m sure my daughter will do well in university and beyond. Despite my own shortcomings, she’s turned out to be a fine young woman. Fortunately, her mother has been a pretty conscientious parent!