My 16 year old daughter is a great kid. She is cute and smart and funny, and generally tries to do the right thing. Last year, she had a really tough school year, taking all Honors and AP courses, including AP French and AP European History, which is known nationwide as a real back-breaker. Like I said, she is bright, but within the normal range. I’m sure parents everywhere are cringing when I admit that my own daughter is of normal intelligence, and not a genius. Well, after seeing her apply herself to her schoolwork for the past few years, I can honestly say that I couldn’t be prouder of how hard she has worked and how well she has done. Some of her classmates don’t have to work quite as hard to achieve equal or even better results, but my kid doesn’t worry about them. She comes home from school, gets a snack, watches a little TV or blows off some steam some other way and then she goes up to her room and takes care of business without any prodding from me or her mom. And she has an “A” average. If an assignment is due Tuesday, she delivers it on Tuesday. If it is supposed to be 500 words, she turns in 500 words. Once or twice a year, though, the perfect storm of schoolwork, social activities, and acts of God all occur on a particular weekend and she is unable to turn in an assignment for a particular class on time. Does she whine to the teacher? Make up a phony excuse? Or worse, BEG? No, she does not. My daughter takes her lumps like an adult. She knows that over the course of the marking period, all of the high-scoring assignments and tests that she DID complete will result in an acceptably high grade for the term. And she can be proud of herself for not compromising her principles by lying to the teacher or begging for a grade she didn’t deserve. You do the crime, you do the time. That’s how we roll in the Klein house.
Unfortunately, that’s not how many of my daughter’s classmates roll. Some of them routinely turn work in days or weeks late, fail to study for tests, and generally display an extremely casual attitude regarding their responsibilities at school. At some point, these slacker kids become aware that their class averages are becoming dangerously low. That’s when they approach the teacher and utter the MAGIC WORDS: “Mrs. So and So, can I do some extra credit work to get my average up?”
Unbelievably, this crap actually works in almost every class my kid has. Inevitably, the teacher will hand out some B.S. make-work for the kid to do to add points to his or her grade. I’m not sure if teachers actually have any choice these days, with all of the helicopter parents threatening to sue if Johnny or Suzie gets a B, but beyond annoying me and my wife to no end, this makes my daughter GO FREAKING NUTS! After all, she is the one who plays by the rules, busting her ass to make all of the deadlines and taking her lumps when she doesn’t. What is the lesson for kids like her? “Nice guys finish last?” Luckily, we tell her how proud we are, and that learning to do it the right way now will result in success in college and beyond, in life. So, as a matter of personal pride, my daughter does not do extra credit assignments. She wants to earn her grades the old fashioned way. You go, girl.
So what does this have to do with freelancing? Well, if this is what you learned all through school, (extra credit actually exists at the university level in many cases), you might not fully appreciate the idea that you really only get ONE SHOT to get it right in the professional arena. Think about it: today’s high school seniors will be out in the workplace, attempting to compete, in five years or less. And they have been indoctrinated to think that they are SPECIAL, that they don’t have to take responsibility for their mistakes, that there will always be someone to pat them on the head and give them another chance, and another after that. The sad thing is, people like this have NO IDEA why they aren’t getting that second shot, that callback, those other opportunities. They were never held accountable before. They don’t understand the concept. If someone actually told them the truth about why they weren’t being hired/given work/called anymore after blowing their opportunity, they would feel that they were being treated unfairly. After all, they always had a second chance in high school. And probably in college too.
What do you guys think? My experience in the real world has led me to treat every single job as the potential opportunity of a lifetime. And for me, many of them have been just that. If I had gone in thinking that I didn’t have to get it right because there would always be another chance to make good, I would probably be doing something else for a living. There is no extra credit in life. You have to get it right the first time.