What’s old is new again: Back-to-school inspiration for grown-ups

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Remember how exciting the back-to-school season was when you were a kid? The idea of seeing old friends, wearing new clothes and learning exciting new things along with the almost crisp autumn air made it one of the most exciting times of the year.

If you find yourself craving a bit of the back-to-school magic you once had, here’s some inspiration to help you do just that.

Live in the moment (but prepare for the future): Back-to-school was all about the excitement of a very specific moment in time. Mike Newman, CEO of Returnity Innovations, reminds us that you can’t future proof your career.

“My high school started offering Japanese language study because ‘everybody’ knew that was going to be a valuable career skill. And of course, they were right – and totally wrong.” Newman said “There is no future-proof magic bullet; it requires the same focus and skills that have always been relevant in the workforce. Individuals that create networks, continue studying and adding skills, and are curious and hard-working will tend to get ahead and stay ahead, regardless of their field. You can’t predict what detours your career may need to make, but you will be best prepared to make them.”

Always be a student

A few years back I worked with someone* with the extremely admirable skill of always being curious about everything. In that way, he was never blasé, but always learning- and learning from others.

“When I think about the most important, successful habits or mindsets, one sticks out as the most important in my mind – Keep the mindset of a student, always,” Newman said. “Continue to research and seek out new ways to approach challenges in your industry and take care not to fall into complacency. Just because it is the norm does not mean it is the best approach.” And while you’re at it, keep learning from your mistakes.

Make time for arts and crafts

Because coloring is always the best part of your day, check out some great new. These are some fun books that encourage you to be a bit more creative: Paper Monograms, Draw Like an Artist: 100 Flowers and Plants, The Art of Paint Pouring and one I’ve been having a lot of fun with Digital Hand Lettering and Modern Calligraphy. I always find that taking a creativity break allows me to go back to whatever else I’d been working on with a clear head.

Get some gear

There was never anything quite as exciting as choosing a new backpack for school. As a grownup, you can still treat yourself to something fabulous to get you back in work mode after summer.

  • A next level standing desk: If you’ve heard all the warnings about sitting for too many hours but still can’t get used to those geeky looking standing desks, this one’s for you. Seville Classics AIRLIFT Tempered Glass Electric Standing Desk isn’t just gorgeous (it’s really, really stunning), it also has a touchscreen controller with three memory settings so you can save one for yourself as well as others. Make sure to hook up the electrical part (it’s very easy) since the built-in charging dock is very speedy. Also, please be smarter than I was when putting it together and make sure you have a friend nearby. The desktop is extremely heavy. Did I mention how gorgeous it is? Meanwhile, if you’re not quite ready for a standing desk, you should really get a footrest. Kensington SoleMate Comfort Footrest with SmartFit System adjusts to different angles and has this incredibly squishy foam inside to protect your feet from too much stress when sitting for long periods of time.
  • A sleeker laptop: If you find yourself coveting your niece’s kiddy computer, you really should think of upgrading your own. For the past few months, I haven’t gone anywhere without my Surface Laptop 2. It’s beautiful. It’s also really fast. For me though, the extremely long battery power (the claim is up to 14.5 hours. I got it to 11 ½ before noticing I should look for an outlet) meant I could work onsite with a client without worrying that I’d be chasing down a power outlet all day.
  • A grown-up backpack: You might also want to splurge on a new backpack. KeySmart’s Urban 21 Commuter Backpack is sleek, waterproof, and comfortable to carry, so you don’t feel like you’re lugging around stones on your back. It also has RFID-blocking microfiber compartments to keep your data safe. I like the fact that despite it being big enough for your laptop, it doesn’t have a huge footprint, so you won’t be slamming into people all day long.
  • Something silly (that might make you better at your job): If “Livin’ La Vida Loca” is the last foreign expression that you learned; you might be missing out on opportunities to interact with clients from different countries. Pocketalk is a handheld gadget that allows you to not only translate words or phrases into 74 different languages, it also then says it out loud.

Learn something fun

While the end of the year always felt torturous to me, the start of the school year was always filled with fun new things to learn. Back to the learning part.

Here are five basic wine tips from Richard Vayda the Institute of Culinary Education‘s Director of Wine & Beverage Studies to make you sound a lot smarter at your next corporate event:

  1. Know what you like but more importantly how to describe it: Vayda said to find a wine at a restaurant or wine store you need to know how to tell them what you’re looking for. “Red, Rosé Red and sparkling are a beginning – most wines are dry, but fruity, crisp, rich, soft, earthy, etc. More descriptors will get you what you want!”
  2. Taste out of your comfort zone: Drink what you like- but don’t get into a rut. “Why limit yourself? Don’t be afraid to try an unexpected flavor profile. You might surprise yourself!”
  3. Don’t drink passively: Vayda says to make each moment an active experience. As yourself “What are the details that are notable? Maybe characteristic to the type of wine or features of this particular bottle.”
  4. It’s all about context: Here’s an interesting one. It isn’t just about what you like to drink, but what else is going on at the same time. “It may not be a good match at the moment. There is no perfect wine for a time or meal, yet there are certainly better and lesser choices. Your favorite wines may be big rich reds, but with seafood or outdoors on a hot day, it is probably not the best choice. Think about the occasion, food, weather, time of day, companions … these are the factors that more determine the ‘right’ wine.”
  5. Don’t take it too seriously: “Yes, there can be transcendent wine and food pairing moments – and I believe I have experienced many,” said Vayda. “However, perhaps the most memorable and even extraordinary instances are the unexpected delicious encounters that truly make the exploration of wine the joy and fun that it should be.”

* waves to Eugene