It’s been 20 years since the Baz Luhrmann song, “Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen” hit the airwaves in 1999. I was finishing up my last year of physical therapy school and the song resonated with me. I had one year before graduating and heading out into the unknown world bound to be the best physical therapist I could be. The lyrics, though simple, provided amazing advice about the future and ideas to reflect upon during the ups and downs of life. That song became my mantra over the next several years. If you haven’t heard the song I’m referencing, check it out here. You will want to listen from beginning to end!
I had forgotten about that song until I was driving recently. I was out shopping for a graduation gift for my niece and began thinking about myself as a young 23 year old ready to complete my advanced Physical Therapy degree and all the uncertainty that came with that. The realization of how much I have changed as a person during those 20 years struck me and I wondered what advice would I have given my younger self concerning how to live my best life.
I want to share my own advice to those graduating from high school or college this spring. Over the past 4 years of running a business, I sure have learned a lot about myself and how to best navigate life to make the most out of it. I wanted to share some tips that I have lived by and that I feel have made me a stronger person and better business owner.
Failure is okay. Failure can lead to success.
Two quotes I like:
“Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.”
“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”
Believe it or not, I was terrible at taking standardized tests. In fact, I scored worse on my SAT as a twelfth grader in 1995 than my twins did as 7th graders as part of their Duke TIP program in 2017. To put it bluntly: I failed the SAT. However, I was determined to go to physical therapy school. Because college admissions is so heavily weighted on SAT and GRE scores, it’s a wonder how young, talented students can get into a great college if they’re not incredible test-takers.
I applied to multiple entry level physical therapy programs (these allow you to enter grad school as a freshman as long as you keep your grades up to par) and I was accepted to one! Luckily, the one that accepted me did interviews, which is what got me in the door. One of my strengths has always been connecting with and relating to people, plus I’m also a great problem solver and engineer- this served me well in PT school.
Upon finishing Physical Therapy school, I graduated 4th in my class! Guess what? Standardized tests don’t determine your outcome in college or in life. It’s your abilities like understanding and showing compassion towards others that determines success. I often say that I’m not the best physical therapist. There are many more out there that are smarter, more skilled, and have more experience than I do. What I’m good at is showing that I genuinely care, giving the best treatment I can, and going the extra mile to ensure my clients get back to doing the things they love.
A friend once told me that she was afraid of setting big goals for herself because she was afraid of failing to meet those goals. If we don’t set goals, we will never know what is on the other side of success- even if many failures fall in the path to get there. So, if at first you don’t succeed, try…try again…it feels really good and maybe you will be inspired to start your own business too!
Believe that every person is doing the best they can.
Don’t judge or compare them, just understand that their best may not be good enough for you and move on.
Sometimes we can be so critical of those who don’t seem to try as hard. Let’s face it, we all want to be liked and to feel that everyone is on our team l. The problem? No two people are the same! We weren’t cut from the same cloth. We’ve all had different experiences. In school, in work, in life- it’s what makes us as humans so incredible! But, it’s also these differences that can bring us down when we don’t feel as if we’re connecting.
I often remind myself to change my perspective. One of my strengths is understanding the context in which people are in at the moment. We never know the stress that someone else is going through. It could be a break up, a loss of a family member, a new pain in their body, a financial strain. For me, I’ve learned to believe that everyone is doing the best they can, it’s just that in different circumstances their best may not be good enough for me. By understanding their situation and setting boundaries, you can prevent disappointment and resentment toward that person and focus on what’s best for you.
I feel strongly in the quotes below by researcher/storyteller, Brene Brown.
“I assumed that people weren’t doing their best so I judged them and constantly fought being disappointed, which was easier than setting boundaries. Boundaries are hard when you want to be liked and when you are a pleaser hellbent on being easy, fun, and flexible.”
– Rising Strong, Brené Brown
“All I know is that my life is better when I assume that people are doing their best. It keeps me out of judgment and lets me focus on what is, and not what should or could be.”
Mindset is everything.
Don’t allow yourself to be the victim. Learn to change your perspective to get what you want.
Earlier this year I read the book The Charisma Myth by Olivia Fox Cabane. One of the ideas that really hit home with me was the difference between self-compassion and self-pity. She relates that successful entrepreneurs tend to have more compassion towards others and therefore develop better relationships.
She also describes the differences between self-compassion and self-pity. Self-compassionate people think that bad circumstances are unfortunate whereas people who express self-pity view bad circumstances as unfair. When we turn unfortunate situations into positive ones, we will succeed. If we view events as unfair, then we tend to compare ourselves to others leading to a lack of both confidence and self-worth.
The idea is to stop blaming others or feeling sorry for ourselves when things don’t go as planned. I preach this often with my teenage boys. In our world of social media and FOMO (fear of missing out), kids constantly compare themselves to others. They start to pity themselves for not taking the European family trip, living in the house with the amazing pool and game room, or getting the expensive clothing and sports gear that all their friends have. No good can come of this.
Instead, I try to emphasize the reverse scenario. Our family takes summer road trips, we live in a house that is comfortable and gives them all they need, and their clothes give them confidence without the brands or labels. I teach them that all teachers are different, they must learn what each teacher wants and make the outcome benefit them. When they change their mindset and look for ways to improve their own behavior or thoughts, they are no longer the victim and can succeed in hitting their desired goal.
When you are ready to “wear sunscreen” and explore the new world out there, reflect back on the words of the song:
Ladies and Gentlemen of the class of ’99
If I could offer you only one tip for the future,
Sunscreen would be it
The long term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists
whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience…
I will dispense this advice now…
Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth
you will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they have faded
But trust me, in 20 years you’ll look back at photos of yourself
and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before
you and how fabulous you really looked…
You are not as fat as you imagine
Don’t worry about the future; or worry, but know that worrying is as
effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubblegum
The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that
never crossed your worried mind
the kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday
Do one thing everyday that scares you
Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts
don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours
Don’t waste your time on jealousy; sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind…
the race is long, and in the end, it’s only with yourself
Remember the compliments you receive, forget the insults
if you succeed in doing this, tell me how
Keep your old love letters, throw away your old bank statements
Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life…
the most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives
some of the most interesting 40 year-olds I know still don’t
Get plenty of calcium
Be kind to your knees, you’ll miss them when they’re gone
Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t
maybe you’ll have children, maybe you won’t
maybe you’ll divorce at 40, maybe you’ll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding
what ever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much or berate yourself either
your choices are half chance, so are everybody else’s
Enjoy your body
use it every way you can…
don’t be afraid of it, or what other people think of it
it’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own
Dance…even if you have nowhere to do it but in your own living room
Read the directions, even if you don’t follow them
Do NOT read beauty magazines, they will only make you feel ugly
Get to know your parents, you never know when they’ll be gone for good
Be nice to your siblings
they are the best link to your past
and the people most likely to stick with you in the future
Understand that friends come and go, but for the precious few you should hold on
Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle
because the older you get
the more you need the people you knew when you were young
Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard
live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft
Accept certain inalienable truths
prices will rise
politicians will philander
you too will get old, and when you do you’ll fantasize that when you were young
prices were reasonable
politicians were noble
and children respected their elders
Respect your elders
Don’t expect anyone else to support you
Maybe you have a trust fund
maybe you have a wealthy spouse
but you never know when either one might run out
Don’t mess too much with your hair
or by the time you’re 40, it will look 85
Be careful whose advice you buy, but
be patient with those who supply it
Advice is a form of nostalgia
dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off
painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth
But trust me on the sunscreen
The lyrics will make you smile and realize the advice for today’s future really is no different than that of our parents or grandparents.
Lauren Sok, Founder of Functionize Health & Physical Therapy, brings 18 years of physical therapy practice and expertise in treating orthopedic and sports medicine related injuries. She incorporates a functional medicine approach in treating the whole person to find the root cause of a problem, rather than treating one body part at a time. Lauren holds a Master of Physical Therapy and Bachelor of Science in Health Science from the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia. She is a Certified Stott Pilates Instructor, a Clinical Instructor at the Doctorate of Physical Therapy Program, Emory University, and is trained in Redcord Neurac and Trigger Point Dry Needling. Lauren’s email is email@example.com. More information can be found at www.functionizehealth.com.