Wear Sunscreen (and keep a journal) Posted on 14 Sep 13:12

For students across the world, it's the start of a new term like no other. For those undergraduates who will finish their studies next summer, the challenges in the current environment are greater than ever before. 

I have seen these challenges first hand as members of my Paper Tiger team have finished their studies and faced their uncertain futures, and I have watched recent graduates like my eldest daughter see their plans and projects disappear down a covid shaped hole. It's been a salutary lesson in the power of perspective, easy from the advantage of age, hard to comprehend from the naivety of youth. 

The sentiment of 'Wear Sunscreen' has weighed heavily over the summer. In the first instance, it was sunny enough this year to wear it in Scotland, as we enjoyed mild temperatures and daily sunshine for the first half of the lockdown. But as the impacts on us all became clearer, it has become an almost flawless message to our youth and to our younger selves. It's a message I wish I had been aware of back in my own carefree youth, but it is one I can still draw upon for myself and for my own children.

In fact, I sent the lyrics and the video to my eldest child a couple of weeks ago. It was released when she was tiny, and she had never heard it. Talking to her about the song inspired me to add a few more pieces of under/post graduate advice:

Lesson 1. Follow Your Passions. Consistently. Other things will turn your head, other people and other activities will take up your time, but make sure you make time to keep the things that make you happy at the core of your being. Pursue them with purpose and passion. For me, it's always been Rock, Paper, Scissors*. Rock; both geological and musical. Paper; books, prints, artworks, printing, materials and processes. Scissors; as a symbol of a stationery obsession! 

Lesson 2. Explore and Engage. If something does turn your head (see Lesson 1), find out why you find it interesting, work out what makes it work, give it your full attention to see if it a deep passion or a passing novelty. See if it will add to your life and your experience, and identify how it will help you in your life and your career. When I was younger, the things that were considered to be hobbies and pastimes were extra-curricular. 21st century graduates will have their interests at the core of their careers.  

Lesson 3. Learn Deeply. Become a specialist in your passions. The world - despite some opinions - needs experts. Your learning will become the fastest and best tool you possess. Your passions should be your obsessions and in turn they can become your professions. The risk for a career retailer like me is to become a 'Jack Of All Trades, Master Of None'. But retail has been my specialist subject for...more years than I care to mention!  

Lesson 4. Make it Wilder. Tame doesn't cut it.  

Lesson 5. Keep A Record. Keep stuff. I didn't. I regret it. I have always had a tendency to cut the clutter, recycle, and give away. Every day, I think of something I have had, owned and possessed, that I no longer have in my possession. Every. Single. Day. Keep a diary. Keep a journal. Make notes. I started keeping hold of my diaries and notebooks decades ago. From time to time I return to them for research, advice, reassurance, signposts from the past that point to proof of progress. 

Here's the sales plug. Notebooks. Journals. Diaries. Writing Implements. All of it much better than anything you will find in a standard High Street shop.

* and Liverpool Football Club