Book Review: You Don’t Have To Learn the Hard Way by J. R. Parrish
Congratulations to the class of 2010! For most of you, the beginning of June will bring the freedom you’ve been waiting for since fall 2006: your high school or college days are behind you and it’s time to join the fabulous “real world” – almost. Graduating seniors have no doubt been told by now that it’s not quite all smooth sailing from here and yes, unfortunately, that is the case. However, there are lots of people who have been through it all before and who are more than willing to offer their insights and advice for the upcoming challenges.
One of these people is J. R. Parrish, author of “You Don’t Have to Learn the Hard Way: Making it in the Real World.” In his book, which he calls a “guide for graduates,” Parrish tackles many of the issues that arise after graduation. By combining stories from personal experience with general advice that could be applied to any life, Parrish offers a valuable resource for any graduate hoping to survive in the real world without, as he says, learning the hard way.
One of the first topics Parrish discusses in his book is how to achieve success or, as he puts it, how to “make your dreams come true.” Parrish relates a story about one of his first jobs and the struggle he went through to attain it. Because he did not graduate from college, Parrish was at first turned down for a job he wanted at Xerox. After that position was denied him, he went to Xerox’s main competitor, where he was given a job and enjoyed not a small amount of success. After some time at that job, Xerox got back in touch with him and offered him the job he had wanted originally, which he gladly took.
There are several lessons to be learned from Parrish’s experience with Xerox. The first is that it is highly unlikely that you will get the first job you inquire about; the second is that it is crucial not to give up. It is all too easy to experience a failure, such as Parrish’s with Xerox, and to decide that it would be pointless to keep trying. However, Parrish is right when he insists that you not give up so easily! Whether you choose to seek another route to your desired job, the way Parrish did, or to try a completely different job opportunity, the most important thing to remember is not to give up. As a graduate, you’ve put in a lot of hard work to this point and you deserve to land in a job that’s right for you.
Another main point in “You Don’t Have to Learn the Hard Way” is Parrish’s belief that marriage (or a serious dating relationship) is something best avoided at this stage of your life. Parrish shares his own experience in getting married early on: though his parents and other respected figures advised against it, he was sure at the age of nineteen that he was ready, and ignored their advice. His marriage lasted for seven years, during which time he and his wife grew increasingly distant from each other due to Parrish’s personal goals and ambition. At the end of those seven years, Parrish decided that his individual journey needed and deserved more time and attention than did his marriage.
Parrish’s includes a list of suggestions with his personal advice, to include “have at least a year-long engagement” and “take plenty of time before having children.” Though Parrish would certainly have benefited from his own advice, based on the outcome of his own experience with marriage, his counsel should perhaps be taken with a grain of salt. Some people are truly ready to get married at a young age and take great joy in facing this difficult stage of life with a spouse as a partner. It is important to keep in mind that what works for Parrish may not work for you, and what he counts as personal failures may be the brightest spots in your own life.
One piece of extremely valuable advice in this book is to “solicit, listen to, and weigh your parents’ advice carefully because they have your best interests at heart and can help you avoid costly mistakes.” For Parrish, that mistake was marriage; for you, it might be the wrong graduate program, the wrong career path, etc. Though it might feel great to finally be an adult and not have to listen to your parents anymore, it is important to realize that they have been a huge part of your life for the last however many years, and therefore are likely to be able to offer insights that you might not see for yourself.
J. R. Parrish’s “You Don’t Have to Learn the Hard Way” is ultimately a practical, concise guide for recent graduates who seek some advice on how to best reach the next stage of life. Find it in your local bookstore, and consider it as a gift for yourself or for a graduating loved one!