Memories from graduation: Look before you leap


When I graduated from high school the speaker exposited on the concept of balance by using two conflicting statements which have guided me throughout my life and I share them with you.

Look Before You Leap. Hesitate and You Are Lost.

I am reminded of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid each time I think of this advice. At the precipice  towering over a rushing river, the following dialogue ensues:

Butch Cassidy: Alright. I’ll jump first.
Sundance Kid: No.
Butch Cassidy: Then you jump first.
Sundance Kid: No, I said.
Butch Cassidy: What’s the matter with you?
Sundance Kid: I can’t swim.
Butch Cassidy: Are you crazy? The fall will probably kill you.

In most cases, what you can readily observe might not even be the actually relevant concern.

So prepare, prepare, prepare. Find out everything you possibly can. Research and then research some more.  There is no reason not to ask questions, and follow-up questions (which lead to a true conversation) so long as they are respectful of another person and their time, privacy and possible knowledge base. During a UPENN interview, a teen once asked me “How late is the pool open at Gimbel gym?” I got him the answer, but I was not at all impressed that he did not look for such an obscure fact elsewhere. By asking that question, somewhat mindlessly, he did not show that he respected the interview process or, indeed, me.  Show respect by asking questions the person can actually answer and which cannot be found by looking at a website. It amazes me when I end up knowing more about a target college or company than my client, who is actually  preparing for the interview.

But once you have done all your research, make a decision, take a leap, it may not be that bad, after all Butch and Sundance survived that fall and lived to die another day. A quote from one of our founding fathers, Thomas Paine, later popularized by Lee Iacocca in the Chrysler ads was “Lead, follow, or get out of the way.”  You cannot correct the wrong decision  until you have made a decision. Remember , making no decision is itself a decision. If you want something, be clear and specific and always enthusiastic. If it is an interview, SAY that you are interested in this job/this college/this grad school and reiterate why you and your skills and interests would benefit them. Also, make sure that you help them help you.  If you want someone to introduce you to others, suggest some names or areas/companies of particular interest so they have something concrete to think about as they try to assist you.

I think that my high school graduation  speaker  provided us with some great guidance for interviews as well as all aspects of life. There is often value in seemingly conflicting phrases or words. The world is a complex place with a lot of gray areas. As Ronald Regan said, quoting  it as a translation of a Russian proverb (“doveryai, no proveryai”), Trust, but Verify. Trust in yourself to take the right action, but prepare so you are fully aware of the implications.

Article by Peggy Wallace, founder, Making Conversation

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