8th grade secrets to a success-bound life

Over the weekend, I received an email note inviting me to be a guest speaker in an 8th grade class about college-bound success. I came at the very kind recommendation of a good friend of mine who’s classroom sits back-to-back with the teacher of the class I’d be visiting.

I have to be honest — I was flattered to be invited, but wasn’t sure if I really had that much to say. College — yeah, I went to it. Success — sure. What could I possibly tell a group of 18 preteens about college-bound success?! Nonetheless, I accepted the invitation believing 55 minutes out of my day would do no harm.

Lindsey Talerico-Hedren on InstragramSo yesterday, I dressed up, setting aside my normal shirt and jeans attire for boots and a chiffon belted blouse. If I was going to make a single good impression in my three-week period of no employment between jobs, I wanted it to be a pretty, memorable one for these thirteen-year-olds.

I checked-in at the front office, received my visitor’s pass, and found my way up to Ms. S.’s class. I began to write my speech in my head, my hands turned ice cold as they do when I get nervous and the AC is blasting. A professional presentation to the CEO or a spontaneous chat with 8th graders….doesn’t make a difference because both motivate me to be a memorable presenter, which means my nerves start rattling just minutes before I begin.

I thought I blew it in the first 30 seconds when I described how I was adopted as a baby and how the family I know and love are all a bunch of towheads. I could see the students jotting down Seoul, Korea in their notes and all I could think was oh, great. The only thing they are going to remember about me is Korea. Just what I was going for. After that, it was much more smooth sailing. I talked about my first job, filling out college applications, letting your morals and values drive your decisions, internships (which I gladly mentioned is basically like working for free), changing majors, getting married, social media, networking…and details in between. The students stopped to ask me about our move to New Zealand, what a humanitarian organization is, and my favorite thing about working for World Vision.

It was a quick 55 minutes. When the bell rang, I found myself wishing we had more time (even though I’m not so sure they felt the same way by 6th period on a Monday). I walked out of school yesterday afternoon wishing I could’ve switched places with the students and I could’ve asked them questions. Ones that I wished an adult would’ve asked me as a teenager. Questions that I think, had I been asked as jr. high school student, could’ve been really valuable to me in the “growing-up-welcome-to-adulthood-slap-in-the-face” phase of life that comes after grade school.

Those questions (and their answers), with a pinch of ambition and scoop of motivation, could very well be the 8th grade secrets to a success-bound life.

Ten years out of high school, how do you want your teachers, coaches, friends, dance dates, even (frien)enemies, to remember you? Jerk? Sweetheart? Flirt? Every season of your life, you will make impressions to those around you. There are only two impressions that people tend to remember — the really good ones and the really bad ones. Those impressions become more important the older you are — they become letters of reference, comments in your year-end evaluation, gossip amongst your colleagues…. They say (okay, I’m not sure who says this, but I think they are right) you never get a first impression back. (This is where I improvise) So you better make it exactly what you wanted it to be. 

What is your dream? (And more importantly,) do you believe you can have it? And I’m not talking about being an NFL player, a veterinarian, pastor, or a musician. I’m talking about your life, your time, your loved ones. Where do you dream of visiting? Timbuktu? You can. Who do you dream of marrying? Someone respectful, compassionate and loving? More than possible. What do you dream for your family one day? A home full of life and joy? You can have that. I think sometimes, especially in high school, and the older we get, we start to believe that the things we once dreamed of are out of our reach. We start to make compromises that begin with our decisions, then with our relationships. We start to convince ourselves that dreams are for fairy tales, and fairy tales don’t exist. We watch happy ending movies believing that reality just doesn’t allow for that kind of life. But it’s simply not true. And anyone that believes in the dreams they have for their life will tell you that…because we live everyday with the perfect soul mate, a stamped passport, and/or a loving family by our side. The beauty in having dreams like this is that these things are partly in your control. They don’t rely on athletic talent, years of schooling, an accepting congregation, or a full audience. They simply rely on you believing you can have the beautiful things for your life that you dream of. 

What’s important to you for your future? When I was in jr. high and high school, there were two things that were important to me: 1) Who was my boyfriend? and 2) Would I start in Friday’s big game? Sure, for that exact time of my life, those things seemed very logical to be concerned about. But they only considered the present, they were not thoughtful of my future. Now, ten years out of jr. high, I have a different idea of what’s important for my future. It’s a sort of mixture of  love, happiness, and success. (And I think I’m learning the secret to this one: When you have love, you have happiness, and when you have both, you have success). 

Do you know your talents? About three months ago, I went through Strengths Finder as a team-building activity. I always love those kinds of “tests” because they make all your non-talents sound like strengths (hence the name). The creators/authors of SF include a multi-page description per strength you are suggested to have. Those who like to be the boss are described as those who step up and take charge when leadership is lacking. They are business Davids defeating business Goliaths. When you think about it like that, in terms of strengths, you start to realize you have some real talents. And like the SF peeps say, play to your strengths. (Bonus* If you Google “play to your strengths”, like I just did, the #1 search result description says “Conventional wisdom says we should work on improving our weaknesses. This is a terrible waste of time, talent and opportunity. Focus on your strengths.” Touche.) 

Do your know your weaknesses? Piggy-backing on the Google wisdom above, these are really important to know so you can steer clear and focus your energy where it will have the most impact — on your strengths and talents. (Bonus* I also believe that the better you know your weaknesses, the better blogger you are :>) 

Are you happy and content being you? The answer to this one will teach you loads about yourself, your happiness and your life. It’s a question worth asking yourself often, and one in which the answer is always, always worth improving. 


I know there are questions and thoughts I’ve left out…As a jr. higher, what questions do you wish someone would’ve planted in you? Do you think those questions would’ve helped you navigate teenage-hood? Even adulthood? 

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  • Fexton

    This is great, Lindsey, i don’t think you have left out some questions

  • Fex! How are you? I was so surprised and excited to see your comment. Still have my email address? Let’s catch up!

  • Bre

    Hey Lindesy! This is one of the 8th graders you visited in Ms. S’s class. I just wanted to thank you again, we all loved you and you had a great charisma. You inspired me and I hope everything is going well in New Zealand! Some other students give you their best wishes, and by the way, your outfit? It was ADORABLE!!!

  • Awww… Bre. You’re so nice. I’m really, really glad to hear your class found my visit beneficial. New Zealand is beautiful! Please tell your classmates and teacher thanks again. (And between you and I, it took me like 25 minutes to pick out the “right” outfit to wear that day :> Wanted to make a good impression). Stay in touch, too… I’d love to keep up on your dreams and hopes for the future and offer any advice I can. XO.