Okey dokey, friends….we are on the last day of our version of the Sophia project! Yaaa! One last overview of what we’re up to (just in case you’ve been hiding under a rock all week! ):
Think of someone you admire — a talented artist or scientist, entrepreneur or adventurer.
Do you know what their great regret in life is? What advice would they share about parenting, or aging, or finding fulfillment? What book has had the greatest impact on their life?
Chances are you don’t know. Which is why we’ve created Sophia, a project to collect life lessons from fascinating people.
Here’s how it works. We’re conducting hundreds of long-form interviews with accomplished individuals, asking them to share stories and advice about topics that are central to a well-lived life — happiness, relationships, aging, work, parenting, habits and routines, to name a few.
We’ll publish these personal conversations on HuffPost, and we’ll also use the lessons our guests share to build a special platform (think of it as ‘Yelp for wisdom’) that organizes their collective insights by topic.
In the coming weeks we’ll feature life lessons from Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winners, successful executives, engineers, authors and athletes, dynamic thinkers and doers of all stripes. If you want their practical wisdom delivered straight to you, follow Sophia on Facebook or subscribe to our email newsletter.
The heart of this project is the set of questions we pose to each guest. Some of the questions elicit weighty responses, i.e., Have you had any recent realizations about living a rewarding life?
Other questions are more practical, i.e., What’s the greatest travel journey you’ve taken that you’d recommend to others? What’s the most meaningful gift you’ve received?
Each individual’s answers are personal and unique, but they are all also broadly useful. So follow or subscribe for lessons, ideas and insights you can apply to your own life. Get in touch with us at sophia [at] huffingtonpost.com; we read every note. Also, we’re always on the lookout for new guests. If you have suggestions, including someone wise and insightful in your own life, let us know.
Today’s topic is one that is very near and dear to my heart….
Education and intellectual development, career, money:
- Tell us about a book (or books) that had a profound impact on your life or intellectual development. Crikey….this is tough. I love books like nobody’s business, and I always seem to have one favorite or another. Some that I have loved over the years are: Catcher in the Rye, The Great Gatsby (I love this book SO much), The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence completes me), the Marisa de los Santos book Love Walked In is one of the most gorgeous things you’ll ever sink your teeth in to (fun fact: I emailed her after I read her book to gush over how much I loved it – and she answered! What a rock star!!!)…I love most of what I read, and I find that finishing a book leaves me changed somehow, as if the words themselves have left the page and imprinted on my mind and my heart. I love that. The books that I like tend to be those that are well written, that feature characters that are people I would actually like to be friends with, and teach me something about the world and life that perhaps I didn’t know before. I used to read pretty much whatever is around, but that has stopped – I don’t have a lot of time to read anymore, so if I’m going to spend the time, it’s going to be for something worthwhile. I read a lot of non-fiction now – bios/autobiographies are currently leading the hit parade.
- What advice would you give people so they get the most out of college? Go to your classes. Be present. Make friends with those around you – and get to know your professors. Go to your classes. Become involved. Enjoy the experience – it’s a gift to get the chance to go….soak up every second of it. I did none of these things, and subsequently had a miserable friggin’ time in university. I hated it with every ounce of my being, and I still marvel that I made it through at all – it was ROUGH. I hope that when it’s time for the Wee One to pursue higher education, she jumps in with both feet and makes the best of it!
- How would you have handled your own education differently? I would have gone to class. I would have finished going as far as I wanted to go with my education before I became a parent, as trying to be a student and a mama at the same time (while holding down a very demanding full-time job) is no easy task. I would have pursued things that I was interested in, instead of doing only what I had to do to get finished. I would have chased a few dreams, followed a few passions, and perhaps unlocked some magical hidden potential. I’d have tried everything so that I would never have to utter the words…’what if’.
- What advice would you give to young adults who are choosing a career path? It’s pretty simple: do what you love and love what you do…and you’ll never work a day in your life! Find a way to balance following your dreams with making realistic choices that are going to allow you to support yourself in life. Don’t ever make a career decision based on somebody else – you do you, and what’s best for you, ALWAYS.
- Who is the best teacher you had? What did they do that made such an impact? I loved my Grade 3 teacher – she always made me feel good about myself and the odd little chicken that I was, and she understood my unusual learning style and accommodated it wonderfully. I loved my high school English teacher – nutty though she was, I learned SO MUCH from her. I had a lot of good teachers in my youth, and I look back on the education that I received in my little school with such fondness – that place did a magnificent job of preparing me for the world with nothing but books, pens, paper – and great teachers. Amazing what you can do with good people.
- In the course of your life, have you changed your mind about anything substantial? Loads of times! Thank goodness that I did – who wants to be stuck with the decisions that they make when they are young, impressionable, and – in my case – probably drunk? When you know better, you do better – I’m constantly changing my mind, constantly evolving, and I hope that this never stops.
- What distinguishes the periods in your career when you felt most satisfied with your work from the times when you felt least satisfied? I have felt satisfied when I have been busy, engaged in helping with a greater goal than just what I am doing, surrounded by like-minded people, and given the freedom and opportunity to do my thing. I’m not much for conformity, and I loathe having to do the same things as those around me. I like to march to the beat of my own drum, do my own thing, and forge my own path. I like working in a smaller environment, and I like being able to know all of the people around me. Building relationships is very important, and that’s tough to do when you’re on a comprehensive campus of 3000+ students and 250+ faculty and staff. I’ve not been satisfied when I’ve worked with people who mistreat their staff, who are condescending and rude, and when I’ve felt like there was no place for me. I’ve felt unhappy when I’ve not had much to do, and I’ve felt like the meager contributions that I did make were insignificant.
- Do you have any career-related regrets that would be educational for others? I moved around from job to job, because I thought that a wide variety of experiences and assignments would serve me well and help me to be more marketable. This was NOT the case – instead, I looked like an idiot flake who couldn’t hold a job. Thankfully I have overcome these misconceptions about me, and I’ve used all of my experiences to land in this wonderful job that I’m in now. I frequently joke that I’m so happy here that people will need to roll my rotting carcass out when I die because I’m not going anywhere. News Flash – I’m not really joking.
- Have you had a personal mentor and what did you learn from them? I’ve had a few, actually – I’ve had the pleasure of working with some seriously wonderful women in the past few years, and I have learned SO MUCH from them. I think that I actually learned more from the string of seriously shitty bosses that I had earlier in my career – they were a big HOW NOT TO lesson for me: how not to treat people, how not to over-delegate, how not to do your work and take care of business, etc.
- Provide a snapshot of your industry/area of expertise. Explain the work that you do in lay terms. What about your work do you find most satisfying? Most challenging? I’m the Vice Principal of a Magnet High School – we are ranked in the top 100 schools in the country. We have just over 500 students, and a teaching faculty of 20. I manage the discipline, attendance, academic life, and pretty much everything else for our campus. Every single day is different, and my work is NEVER boring. I love working with students – they are always easy to manage….the adults are a whole other situation, but I’m trying to work on those skills. I have really improved when it comes to dealing with parents – thank goodness, because they are a strong presence on our campus. One of the most challenging parts of my job is the supervision of the teachers – especially those whose educational philosophy is starkly different to my own. However, I’m hanging in there and I’m learning – and so are they.
- Tell us something about your profession that would otherwise take months or years to learn. The key to success in my job is to effectively multitask, remain calm, and remember that nothing that transpires is personal. So much of what I do is smoothing things over, talking to people, diffusing tough situations – if I was hyperactive and over-reactive, things would go very badly very quickly. Thankfully I don’t get outwardly ruffled very easily, which has served me well. I do my best work when I have 316 irons in the fire, and I am happiest when I am busy. I think I’m a really good fit for my job, because I get to do SO many different things in a day – but I still see students, I still deal in hands-on academic issues, and I still get to have fun (case in point: yesterday I hid under my desk and put on a puppet show for some students to film for their Advanced Video Production class). My job is AWESOME!
- Do you have any overarching tips or unorthodox practical advice regarding money? N/A
- In your life, what has been the relationship between wealth and personal fulfillment? I’ve never had wealth, so this is a hard one to answer. Teachers aren’t paid terribly well in this country (not like my contemporaries in other countries), so I’m not in an industry that will ever see me pulling in the big bucks. However, I have always known that while money can’t buy happiness, it sure as hell does buy convenience – which makes me happy. Do I wish I had more money? Absolutely. Do I fret like a friggin’ mo’fo about my retirement and how on earth I am going to be able to support myself without anything to fall back on? It keeps me up at night. However, I can take solace in the fact that I am doing the best that I can – and that’s really all that I can do. I don’t put a price tag on people or relationships – I will always choose love and friendship first.
- Roughly speaking, what do you do with your money? Spend too much. I like pretty clothes/shoes/makeup, travel, eating out, the finer things in life – which I need to get over, because the student loans will be upon me before I know it. I always take care of my bills and responsibilities – and I try to be generous with those around me. I spend a lot of my money on my Wee One (and doing stuff with her) – she’s the best way to spend money EVER!
So….this concludes Sophia! I’ve had an amazing time sharing my thoughts and ideas with you – and man alive have I loved reading what you guys have had to say! Loooove! Thank you to the fine people at The Huffington Post for coming up with this idea in the first place (and giving me something to piggy back on)…it’s been fun! Je t’aime, mes amis!!!!