Jodi and I work together…We have for the past 21 years, in one way or another.

That being said, there were 21 years BEFORE us meeting that we’re still learning about today. She’s got her stories, I’ve got mine. One of the stories I’d always told was how I wasn’t the “best” student in junior high and high school. (Things took a major turn during my first year of college; more on that later…)

I can’t tell ya why I did it; something peaked my interest, and I reached out to the two different high schools I attended “a few years ago.” I wrote an email and asked if they’d send my transcripts. So far, one of them (where I went for my first two years of high school) sent me a PDF copy of how (well?) I did back in 1986-1988. In all, I received 30 grades across a handful of courses including Spanish, History, Drafting and (a lot of) Physical Education.

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  • 14/30 were Cs
  • 11/30 were Bs
  • 3/30 were As
  • 2/30 were Ds

Well, at least, no failing grades!

When I received the email with this PDF attached, I immediately opened up and had to smile at that chubby guy in the picture. I remember him…Then, I read through the “report.” I sent the document to the printer (over at Jodi’s computer) and went on to another activity. Now, since our offices are about 30 feet apart, separated by three rooms AND a door, we often will send messages to each other every couple of hours that we’re working. This reduces the number of times I interrupt her; sometimes she’s doing really important work!

Well, late that afternoon (it was about time to call it “a day,” I got a message that read, “Would the c+ student please collect his report card?” I had to laugh out loud. I got up from my desk and a few minutes later walked in to Jodi’s office. She handed me the piece of paper, instead I asked to hold her hand. I took hold, and gently lifted her out of her chair, and walked out the front door, and toward my car. She rode shotgun, as we made our way to our local pub. By the time we’d arrived, Jorge and his crew had set up a spread for our happy hour celebration that day. A glass of sauvignon blanc for Jodi, and a flight of IPAs for me, alongside a whole vegetarian setup of goodies!

Jason and Jodi at Happy HourThe theme that conversation was: Where we are, as compared to where we were. We talked about how our effort and engagement now – although an indicator to some degree – may not be enough to dictate what we really can expect of ourselves in the future. There are three things that I think came together that have changed how things are compared to almost 3 decades ago…

If you’re interested in changing the direction of your life, of Leaning In (thanks Sheryl Sandberg for that one!), and getting the most from your experience…Pick one of these and roll on down the road.

1. Change Your Friends, Change Your Life

You can listen to a podcast about this one right here (start w/ #157). I can – without a doubt – stand by this one 100%. You see, the change I made in 1988 was a big one. I left home. Well, I changed homes, that is. My mom and step-father, though well-intentioned and capable, had set things up for us kids in a less-than-ideal fashion. The business they ran was always on the edge; the house we lived in was in constant disrepair; they studied under the rules and regulations of (at that time) the Jehovah’s Witness religion. There’s a longer list of circumstances that helped create the situation that led to me earning the kinds of grades you see in that picture above.

In 1988 – almost 30 years ago, now – I changed my associations; doing that put me on a new path toward greater success.

2. Do It For You

Looking down the columns, and seeing that some of the “mid-level” grades I earned (Bs and Cs) in subjects such as History, Spanish and English makes me smile today.

What made the difference between the “poor” grades I earned as a high school student in those very subjects? Well, at some point I decided to start doing the work for me; not for some teacher who may or may not have been able to really “fore-see” where I might succeed in the areas he or she was educating me.

3. Incentives Work…I Was Lucky!

In September, 1988 I sat down to have dinner with my dad and step-mom. It was at the end of another long day (both my parents drove more than an hour to work each way, each day, and dinner was a sit-down event for us all). My dad, in his incredible wisdom, made me an offer that only an idiot would pass up! (Now, full disclosure, I think there WERE some times during my teen-age years where my parents DID think I was an idiot…But, we’ll save those for another time.

Essentially, it was a “pay-for-grades” program. It went something like this:

  • A = $20
  • B = $5
  • C = – $15
  • D = the whole program was cancelled if there was even ONE “D” on the report card.

Well, as a high school junior, I did the quick math and came up with: 6 classes X 4 report cards per year (mid term and semester, two times each) equaled the possibility of getting $480 dollars cash! (Mind you, this was a time when gas was just about .90 cents a gallon, and movies cost about $4…)

Needless to say, I can’t wait to show you my grades from THOSE two years. (I put a note in to the school, am hoping to hear back from them soon…)

Jodi and I have had a few great conversations about this over the past couple of weeks. Most interesting to me is the discrepancy between how I “performed” as a student and how I live my life now. If there is ever a reason to think that the future can be different from the past, I have that experience to bring to mind. How about you? What’s something you did one way years ago that you do completely differently today?