It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently. — Warren Buffett
Unless you’ve been living on Mars, you’ve probably noticed that Miley Cyrus has made more than a few headlines lately. The former Hannah Montana star has been working overtime to shed her squeaky-clean Disney image and prove that she’s a grownup. However, her critics (i.e., anyone with a pair of eyeballs) would argue that her efforts have gone too far.
Maybe “any press is good press,” as the saying goes, but I for one see her as a cautionary tale. Whether you’re on Team Miley or Team Common Decency, here are 10 life lessons for college and beyond that you can learn from the starlet’s recent antics.
- Act your age. Miley may be trying to convince everyone that she’s an adult, but her head-scratching behavior is sometimes all but childish. College isn’t high school. I realize that sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s important to bear in mind that, while your high school teachers may be used to a certain level of immaturity, your college professors will expect you to act like an adult.
- Don’t forget where you came from. It seems like only yesterday Miley was the sugar-sweet darling of television programming for tweens. Now she’s doing things that would make Hannah Montana tremble in her bedazzled boots. Sure, everyone changes as they get older, but you should never forget your true self or try to be something you aren’t, especially when you arrive on campus and begin making new friends.
- Sometimes less is . . . less. Sometimes less is more. But sometimes it’s just less. Case in point: Miley’s provocative wardrobe. Campus style may be casual, but in a few years, you’ll be looking for a job. Start learning to dress for success. And take it from Miley: you can never underestimate the power of a good pair of pants.
- Don’t do drugs. And maybe don’t sing about them either. Miley’s personal life is her personal life, but at the very least, you can learn from her various alleged shenanigans that it’s best to avoid any kind of risky behavior that could tarnish your reputation, endanger your health, or even get you in trouble with the law.
- Stay in school. Miley’s meteoric rise to childhood stardom is the exception, not the rule.
- Learn how to grow from criticism. As a celebrity, Ms. Cyrus has probably learned to tune out the chatter, for better or worse. It’s important to follow your instincts when it comes to everything from picking the right college to finding the perfect job, and listening to everyone’s opinions along the way can be pretty distracting. But at the same time, it’s also good to listen to your critics. A teacher who points out how much better you could be doing in class, a coach who knows you could have played harder in that last game, parents who weigh in on the way you spend your free time—they all want the best for you, and you’d be wise to listen to their constructive criticism.
- Plan for the future. Miley doesn’t seem to be giving much consideration to what her 80-year-old self will think about the actions of her 21-year-old self. I believe that every person is actually two people. You are the person you are today, and you are the person you will be tomorrow. And the person you are tomorrow will have to live with the choices made by the person you are today. Your high school and college years are especially important in this regard, since your education can have a huge impact on the rest of your life—professionally, financially, and socially.
- Learn to look at yourself from the outside. If Miley could be a fly on the wall of her own life, I think she might do a few things differently. “Perspective” is a tricky art to master, but the people who have are better for it. Throughout your time in college, take a few moments here and there to reflect on whether where your life is going and where you want it to go are the same thing. If there’s a discrepancy, make the necessary changes. You’ll thank yourself later.
- Monitor your online presence. If I were Miley Cyrus, I wouldn’t want to Google myself right now. Learn from the pop princess and clean up your online presence so that neither your grandmother nor an admission officer could find anything even mildly inappropriate about you on the Internet.
- Learn when to shut your mouth. Miley, Miley, Miley. Must you endlessly stick your tongue out at the world? Even toddlers are taught that this is not polite behavior, and a version of that lesson holds true throughout life: It’s important to learn when to speak and when to hold your tongue. To paraphrase a popular saying, “It is better to remain silent and appear a fool than to speak up and remove all doubt.” Applied to college, this also means you need to do all the necessary reading and studying for your classes to avoid looking dumbfounded when a professor calls on you.
I do apologize to any Miley fans out there who may have been offended by the few jabs I’ve taken at her. In all honesty, I think she’s a hugely talented singer and entertainer. And it’s easy to poke fun at someone you’ve never met in real life, which reminds me of one final lesson (and another of my favorite sayings) that I myself could stand to learn: “Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people.”