What Would I Tell a 22-Year-Old Today?

Fail fast and often.

IMG_0044Everyone your age gets lots of advice. And you’re not even asking for it, are you? Well, here’s the deal: when you ask for advice, you’re pretty much tapping into the stuff you already know, deep down inside at the gut level. You know it. Yes. You know it.

Here are five things I’d like to tell you. It’s a short list—so I hope you’ll read it.

  1. Be kind.
  2. Fail fast and often (like Michael Jordan!).
  3. Read (or listen) voraciously.
  4. Smile widely.
  5. Don’t forget to have fun.

We could go on for paragraphs. Write books (there are lots). And make long speeches. But those are the five that matter today. If you want my advice, see what books, speeches, podcasts, and  TED talks exist to expand on each of these ideas. Or not. Just having these five to think about should do it.

P.S. If you’re not 22, it’s okay. You might also consider the five suggestions above.

“I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.” ~ Michael Jordan

IKEA Virgin

Have you been to an IKEA store recently?

Back in 2006, we opened season on sending our last son to college. We went to IKEA. I had heard stories, the sagas of the seasons passing during an IKEA visit, but I thought these people must have been exaggerating. They were not. IKEA makes Costco look like a backyard excursion in comparison to the global circumnavigation posed by an IKEA store visit.

 We were in the store for 5 ½ hours.

It was an experience I did not soon reprise: I haven’t been back in nine years. The store was well organized, well lit, fairly well staffed, and clean. It is also cheap and, the 5½ hours notwithstanding, it saves time, which is a particularly important commodity in a working person’s life. For instance, my husband is a lot of things, but he is not a shopper. IKEA is a store for the shoppers of us, but in reality, it’s a store for non-shoppers as well. Why? Because it gets the entire shopping thing done in one, long, grueling, gut-wrenching, foot-searing, back-aching, self-helping, mind-numbing session. In short, you’re your own decorator, designer, shopper, warehouseman, and delivery boy. DON’T FORGET: Bring room dimensions, or you’ll probably end up back there again!

Also, come to your visit with an empty, large vehicle, room on your credit card, and a couple of able bodied, but skinny people that can heft the furniture pieces, but also squeeze into the leftover crevices in your “personal moving van” to get the stuff home.

It’s 2015 today and as I said, I haven’t been back there. I do remember being impressed by the organization and the high-tech environment nine years ago. Everything had a place. Touch screens dotted the pickup area to help you find your items in their vast find-it-yourself warehouse. Thank goodness for numbers! (Who invented those anyway?) Bin numbers, SKUs and part numbers managed the inventory; employees in yellow shirts managed the flow of parts and people.

The food offering (IKEA knew that they should feed customers who would be spending the better part of 24 hours in their clutches) counter-balanced the vastness of the store’s inventory by its marked sparseness: they were out of three food items. There were, however, piles of suspicious looking signature Swedish meatballs, which they promoted with massive colorful signage, take-home offers, and daily specials. I wonder if they’re always on special just to get rid of them.

The store we visited was 28,500 square meters, or about 306,711 square feet. A typical American football field is 57,600 square feet, so we’re talking about five football fields here. We slogged through the stupid thing at least twice, going back to look at different things so our son could mix and match and create his very own college room décor. I found myself biting my lip at some of his choices, but he was spreading his wings and I was grinning maniacally as the grateful almost empty nester.

So while I used to be an IKEA virgin, I am now knowledgeable in the ways of what was then a brave new retail world wonder. As with that other rite of passage, I feel somewhat sullied, but no longer afraid of the unknown. In this case I have sore feet to prove my passage…

Meanwhile, we did right by our college-bound child. He needed stuff, and stuff they had. Lots. Everywhere.

Artificial Body Parts: My RACE TO DIE

 From the front page of the WSJ today, March 23, 2013, I was jolted into a sense of my own immortality. The title:Science Fiction Comes Alive As Researchers Grow Organs in Lab.” While most people would think this an exciting advancement, it scares the holy crap out of me.

It’s not because of the science fiction of it, Frankenstein notwithstanding, nor because I am afraid of having some test-tube heart or ear or liver. No. My fear is living too gosh darn long. My mom, God bless her, is 101, and wishes (because she is still very bright, sharp, and beats me at dominoes) with her nightly “Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep” prayer, to die. She’s tired of living.

It’s now a race. Can I make it out of this world by age ninety or so, or do I have to stay trapped in a rebuilt million-dollar body until I’m 110 or even more? What is going to kill us? If I have a one million dollar heart, what about my 50¢ brain? Can they grow more brain cells? If so, then who will pay for all of this? We know the birth rate in this country is declining to an alarming and destructive rate, so that our new workforce is dwindling, and thus fewer young people are paying less into social security. Result: we will not be able to sustain ourselves.  Where does this leave the government? Where does this leave medicine? Where does this leave me?

I would like to trust that someone will save the day. Steve Jobs is gone. Until then, I will race to my death to beat the scientists that would like me to have a new heart after I’m 90.  Or perhaps by that time, we’ll have an app for living without a brain.