The Best Life Advice Your Friends Can Give You

Here are three life lessons this author has learned from others, namely her peers.
Believe in yourself. Never give up. Follow your dreams. Treat others the way you would like to be treated.

All good advice, really. But this “coffee mug advice” that has been served up for generations has taken up too much real estate in my head, losing meaning each time it’s repeated.

So when I hear a fresh perspective on an old adage, it sticks with me, proving time and time again that some of the best advice can come from your peers. Instead of preaching about the light at the end of the tunnel, my peers are helping me lay down the tracks as the train of life travels on.

It wasn’t until my Introduction to Communication Studies class in college that I considered how I could learn from the people around me.

On day one, my professor announced that she wasn’t the only teacher in the room, and then read from the book Teaching to Transgress by scholar and social critic bell hooks: “As a classroom community, our capacity to generate excitement is deeply affected by our interest in one another, in hearing one another’s voices, in recognizing one another’s presence.”

Mind blown. I was surrounded by teachers in that classroom. I still am! Peers have plenty of life lessons to offer. Wisdom isn’t reserved for those over 40.

Three pieces of peer advice have aided my decision-making for anything from work practices to dating to finding an apartment to purchasing a car or even clothes!

Find out what you like; figure out what you don’t.

I first heard this gem when choosing a major. Thanks to liberal arts course requirements, I knew I didn’t like science, I didn’t have the patience to be a teacher, foreign language didn’t excite me, and history was overwhelming.

My friends pointed out that I liked to write, to talk to people, and to understand their way of thinking. That helped me choose to study Communication, a major that would let me do all three.

It can be really tough to know the “right” path, but if you can eliminate the wrong options, you may end up where you’re supposed to be.

Adjust plans when complications arise.

The point to life isn’t to eliminate the problems; it’s to create a life in which you know you can handle the problems that come along.

That is the gist of a quote that a good friend of mine sent me when we commiserated in our shared unhappiness with our first post-college jobs. We anticipated there would be bumps in the road as we started out, but not as many as we ran into. But we challenged each other to focus on making adjustments and to even apply for other jobs.

There’s always going to be something in life that goes wrong: A 12-hour rainstorm that threatens to ruin your sister’s wedding day. Inevitable rush hour traffic that forces you to miss an appointment. A last minute change to a project at work that causes you to work late. A boss whose ethics don’t match up with yours.

Adjusting plans was just what I did when I realized my first boss’s ethics didn’t match up with mine. In the short-term, I learned to say “no” to some of her requests, and ultimately I applied for and got a new job, and I am much happier.

Make time for friends and family.

Work will be waiting at the office for you the next day. You’re going to get that paper written eventually. You’ll find time to do the mundane household chores that need to get done. But celebrating birthdays, spontaneously grabbing dinner with a friend, or surprising your nephew for a weekend visit can never be replaced.

Take advantage of the opportunity to surround yourself with people. Be willing to adjust your own schedule if it means spending valuable time with others.

I can’t begin to count the times my peers convinced me to walk away from the computer or to put down the books to be more present.

That advice rang in my ears while working my first job. My boss had expected me to work over the weekend (again), but I declined and attended a family reunion instead. Time better spent! Family memories made! Oh, and I got to relax and laugh with people I love. That was better preparation for Monday than could have been provided by a Saturday spent in the office.

In this life, we go to classes, participate in training sessions at work, read online self-help articles and blogs, catch up on news of the day — but let’s not forget to appreciate that our peers at work, on the train, in yoga classes are also teachers. Listening to and learning from them may be just what we need!

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