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Real World ABCs:
Your Code of Conduct for Life

by Sue Morem, author of 101 Tips for Graduates: A Code of Conduct for Success and Happiness in Life
(Checkmark Books, 2005)

A is for Adult: Youíre an adult now for the rest of your life. As an adult, people expect you to look, act, and dress professionally and appropriately. It does matter what people think of you now. Maintaining your individuality is greatóand encouraged. But a certain amount of conformity and maturity in appearance and behavior is expected.

B is for Better: Be better than you need to be. You are a work in progressóbecome a student of life. Be someone for whom good isnít good enough. Look for new ways of doing things, and donít be afraid of change. Strive to improve yourself professionally and personally every single day.

C is for Control: Take control of your life; donít let life control you. Decide what you want. Donít be wishy-washy. Life is not a dress rehearsal; every decision you make will either move you toward your goals or push you away from them. Make good decisions. As comedian Tim Allen once said, ďIf you donít make decisions in life, life will make decisions for you.Ē

D is for Dream: Dare to dream. Dare to dream the impossible dream. If you dream it, you can create it; it depends on what youíre willing to do. Donít listen to people who try to destroy your dreams. Most likely, someone tried to spoil theirs and probably succeeded. If you donít think dreams are possible, ask anyone whose impossible dreams came true. Theyíll tell you dreams really do come true.

E is for Enthusiasm: Enthusiasm matters a great deal. Enthusiasm is contagious. Infect the people you work with; create a more pleasurable, meaningful work environment. If you arenít enthusiastic about what you're doing, consider doing something else. Life is too short to curb your enthusiasm.

F is for Failure: When you fail in school, you are held back; when you fail in life, you are set back. Failure is temporary and is nothing to be embarrassed about. Some of the greatest victories are a result of the worst defeats. Everyone faces personal struggles, failures, and moments of truth. Be a student of your own failure. Thereís no shame in failing; the shame is in not trying.

G is for Give: Be known as a giver, not a taker. Make a difference in someoneís life; pay a compliment, do something nice, and volunteer. When you give to simply give, with no strings attached, you always end up getting more back. Try it and see for yourself.

H is for Happy: If you can wake up every day and be happy with yourself, your relationships, and your job, you are living life at its best. I know it isnít easy; thereís always something to gripe about or problems that get in the way. Abraham Lincoln once said most people are about as happy as they make their minds up to be. Donít complain; forget about your problems. Make your mind up to be happy.

I is for Invest: Invest in your future now. Just because youíre making money doesnít mean you have to spend it all. Learn from the millions of people who wish they had invested their money rather than thrown it away. Donít spend more than you earn; spend less. Stay out of debt and invest in yourself.

J is for Joyfulness: Find joy and meaning in everything you do. Find joy making others joyful; make your day by making someone elseís day. Call the store clerk, the driver, or the receptionist by name, and ask about his or her day. Then watch the response you receive. Reach out to others and make a personal connection; then feel and see joyfulness at its best.

K is for Knowledge: You may be done with your formal education, but some of your best lessons are yet to be learned. Become a lifelong learner; be a student of life. I heard this saying years ago: The more you know, the more you know you donít know. The older I get, the more I understand it. Know that you donít yet know all you need to know. Seek knowledge and learn something new every chance you get.

L is for Listen: There is a reason we all have two ears and only one mouth. Use yours proportionately. Listening is more than hearing. You are responsible for getting what someoneís telling you, so listen carefully.

M is for Mistake: Make mistakes; make lots of new mistakes. Itís the best way for you to learn. Donít be afraidóeveryone makes mistakes. Let your mistakes get you down. Take some time to grieve over, not gloss over, what you learned from your mistake. Then get back up, and strive to never repeat the same mistake.

N is for No: Know how to say no. Say no to overindulgence, say no to risky behavior, say no to your bad habits, and say no to the toxic people you meet. Know when and how to say no and mean it.

O is for Opportunity: Opportunity sometimes knocks very quietly. If you listen, you will hear when opportunity knocks at your door. Pay attention to everything you see and hear. Take risks, seize opportunities, and create your own good fortune.

P is for Patience: Like Rome, your career won't be built in a day. Everyone starts somewhere, and everything takes time. Although it may be difficult to understand now, you really will enjoy and appreciate what you have much more if you have to work for it and toward it. Patience really is a virtue. Be patient. The best is yet to come.

Q is for Quality: Put a stamp of quality on everything you do. Seek quality relationships, buy quality clothes, eat quality food, get a quality job, be a quality person, turn in quality work, and think quality thoughts. Remember, itís not quantity you want; itís quality. Live a quality life.

R is for Reputation: Your permanent record, for the rest of your life, begins now. Think about what kind of person you want to be known as in your personal and professional life. A gossip? A backbiter? Someone who will step on others to get where he or she wants to be? Think of your reputation as your little shadow, because it will follow you wherever you go. Take care to cultivate a reputation that you can live with for the rest of your life.

S is for Success: Success isnít measured by the title you have, the money you make, or the value of your possessions. Success is what you make of your life. If you compare yourself to others, you will always fall short. Compare yourself to your goals and desires; you have everything you need to succeed.

T is for Thankful: Be thankful; appreciate the opportunity to work, and do your best, regardless of the position. No job is beneath you. Any job thatís legal is honorable and probably pays you more in a month than people in many parts of the world make in a year. Be thankful for your health, your family, and all the goodness you see every day.

U is for Understanding people: Understand that people matter; all people. Always remember the people who helped you. Always try to help others. Treat everyone with respect, regardless of status or position. As you mature, you will come to realize that itís not who you know but who you are.

V is for Values: Identify your values; know whatís important to you in life, and never compromise the things you value most. Take a stand for what you believe. If you stand for nothing, youíll fall for everything.

W is for Willing: Be willing to stay late, come in early, skip going out for lunch, or whatever it takes to get the job done well and on time. Most important, be willing to start at the bottom and work your way up; everyone has to start somewhere.

X is for ďXĒtraordinary: Some things happen for no reason at all, with no warning and no explanation. You can think youíve got the world in the palm of your hand, but when something unexpected happens, you learn you do not. Never become so smug that you think youíre infallible. You are not. Live your life and go for your dreams, but never take your health, your family, your country, your job, or anything for granted.

Y is for You: You are enough. Donít focus on those who have more than you; help out those who have less. Donít feel bad for what you donít get to do; be glad for what you get. Donít live your life regretfully; envision a bright future ahead.

Z is for Zoom: Get ready, get setÖ zoom! Enjoy the ride of your life. Thereís a wide-open road ahead of you now; follow the road to your dreams.

Sue Morem is a professional speaker, trainer and syndicated columnist. She is author of the newly released 101 Tips for Graduates and How to Gain the Professional Edge, Second Edition. You can contact her by email at or visit her web site at

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