Don’t blow the bridge….you might have to go back!

Dear high schooler, 

As you approach graduation, it is normal to want greater independence and less advice. As one of your teachers, I want to help expand your horizons by bundling independence, responsibility and accountability. I try to say “yes” to reasonable requests. I try trust first. Most of the time that works in a manageable balance of independence in a semi-controlled environment…. but not always.

Sadly, you see no downside to destroying bridges you cross because you see no possibility of ever needing anything or anyone you pass along your journey. It strokes your ego (I guess) when you can make a comment, perform an action or in some other way demonstrate a lack of respect in the face of authority and you count on misguided, uninformed, short-sighted admirers to approve. Some will, but most of your peers, especially in band, do NOT admire that. It makes them angry.

What I am about to share is not a high school thing….. it becomes a college thing …. then an employment thing ….. and an advancement thing.

Here’s the ‘thing’. No matter how good, smart or capable you are, if you want to advance to the next level (in just about anything), you need the support of those currently in authority. Everybody has a boss. You MAY be able to go solo, but you will pay a price, often financially, but almost always in a slower advancement tempo.

As you search for those first jobs or want to move to better ones, don’t underestimate the value of good references. When a teacher picks up the phone, writes a note on your behalf, or in some other way exceeds the minimum of just the name and number on the application, you may move up a couple notches on the list of that employer, scholarship provider or college admissions official. Even if you can’t ‘like’ someone, repair or maintain the relationship. Total independence is not all that you think it will be.

Scholarship providers want to hear about you and the better colleges will contact your teachers. So if your goal is to get into a good college with maybe some scholarship help, maintain the bridges you are crossing now.

As you prepare for college graduation, you want to find a job that will utilize that degree …. or to get into a graduate school, and having people willing to go to bat for you is in that ‘priceless’ category. Just this week, I was asked to fill out an online reference for someone who graduated four years ago and is now trying to earn a grad school spot.

In most business environments, there is opportunity to “move up the ladder”. How fast you do that is normally connected to the relationships (bridges) you build along the way.

A retreating army will often “blow the bridge” after they cross it to slow down the advancing enemy, but then find themselves in a mess if they need to turn around and go back. Don’t burn your bridges.

Some day, you may be on the other side and have opportunity to help (or hinder) others…. but until that day comes, highly value bridge-building and maintenance.

I had Four Influential Men go to bat for me during my high school and college years. I would like to be one of those people for you now … and then maybe I’ll make your list when, years from now, YOU reflect on who influenced you.

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