This is a continuation of the blog entry I made yesterday on July 12 where I mentioned my discussion with hundreds of young adults at a conference in Washington, DC. In this entry I want to briefly mention some of the suggestions I made to our young adults on what they may want to consider doing to take advantage of the opportunities that only America can offer.
As I told the students it’s important to set a goal, work as hard as you can and focus your energy on achieving it. In my opinion, you are never too young to set goals. Some people may say a fourteen or fifteen year old is too immature to set goals, but I would argue for setting goals as early as possible. You are never too young to realize what inspires you as it is this inspiration that helps define your goals. I knew I wanted to be a businessman when I was very young and opened my first business, a flower shop in East Haven, when I was seventeen and still in high school. In a few years I owned and operated 4 flower shops with the help of my family, started a computer business and started Edible Arrangements.
Also, two of Edible Arrangements most successful franchisees, brothers Ibrahim and Hashim Choudhry, knew they wanted to be businessmen when they were teenagers. So they obtained a job as Edible Arrangements field trainers, learned all they could and a few years later opened their first Edible Arrangements store in Claremont, California. They now have four stores and have become among the leaders in sales nationwide. The key for them, and me when I was a teenager, was to approach work and every job task no matter how menial on the surface it may appear to be with a mindset of learning.
When working always look at how you can learn no matter what you are doing. I’ve said this many times, but one of my best and most rewarding jobs was working at McDonald’s when I was sixteen years old. I started out with what many thought was the lowest job on the totem pole, but I didn’t see it that way. I approached that job as a learning opportunity and gave it all I had. My superiors noticed my passion for what I was doing and quickly promoted me to other positions which I tackled with the same goal of learning. I came to appreciate the importance of learning when working and to taking pride in what you are doing. If you do, people will notice and the knowledge gained will be useful to you in the future.
It’s also important to be optimistic and not afraid to take risks. Don’t paralyze yourself with worry about making mistakes, especially at a young age. Some of the biggest technologies and inventions would never have happened if a culture of fear permeated the country. Young people must continue to push boundaries, risk failure and take chances. However, you must act with intelligent passion, not with reckless abandon, but with a well-thought out, focused purpose. Also, focus your energy on thinking and planning what you want to achieve. Don’t waste all your energy on the latest video game or gadget. I’m not saying you shouldn’t have fun or enjoy recreation, but set reasonable limits on play so you have the energy to focus on your goals.
Finally, I thought it was important to remind our young adults to be thankful for what we have here in America. All of us have the responsibility to build on what our predecessors have already contributed to this great country, and we must appreciate, respect and honor them. Ask yourself how you can contribute and honor a society that gave you so much -so much opportunity. The sacrifices our forbearers made have allowed us to enjoy the freedoms, the quality of life and opportunities we have today. Don’t take it for granted and assume what we have will always be here. The American opportunity is still available for those willing to grasp it. Set goals, work hard with focus an intelligent passion, learn from every opportunity and the American dream can be yours.