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‘Don’t Park A Lexus In Front of An Apartment You Rent’ And Other Life Lessons from Jim Vance

By Arnesa A. Howell

Listen to acclaimed NBC4 news anchor Jim Vance for a few minutes, and you’ll quickly discover the unexpected. He didn’t initially want to go to college. He was raised in a family of plumbers. And to this day, he loves the smell of a construction site.

Ultimately, Vance did go to college, attending Cheyney University in Pennsylvania before becoming a teacher, and later, a journalist. But he never forgot his family roots, entrenched in plumbing and the construction trades.

“I love it in part because of how much pride my grandfather and uncles took in their work,” said Vance. “From the time I can remember, most of what I knew had to do with copper fittings and terra cotta pipe.”

Speaking at the 9th Annual Meet the Future Luncheon, Vance reflected on his past while sharing valuable lessons with the Academy of Construction & Design’s Class of 2015. He urged young people to expect good things for themselves, to let their imaginations soar and to be smart: “Don’t park a Lexus in front of an apartment you rent. Drive your Lexus there and park it in front while you go in and collect the rent from the property you own.” Here, more golden advice he offered graduates and alumni for success in life after high school:

Get Over It. Vance credits this helpful nugget to his grandfather, who at 87 years old and 5 feet 6 inches tall once strapped a bathtub to his body and carried it upstairs.

So when interns at the television station where he works complain about their tasks, he remembers – and tells – this story. The lesson: Don’t gripe and complain about the workload, just do it.

Good Enough Isn’t Good Enough. In life, you will be measured by the quality of your work, so do good work. Don’t get angry when others demand better of you. Instead, work to impress. “Honor yourself by the work that you do,” said Vance.

R.E.S.P.E.C.T. Respect your women and men because they are probably your best allies – and always respect your elders. “When we are asking more of you, all we’re trying to do is make you better. All we’re trying to do is show you how much we love you,” he said.

Put Your Child First. Vance urged young men and women to “take care of your children” because they didn’t ask to be here and “your children are a gift.”

Be Careful of the Friends You Keep. “Everybody that calls you brother is not your friend,” stressed Vance. You are a reflection of the company you keep, he continued, so choose people in your life who are uplifting and joyful of your accomplishments.

Be Engaged In This World. While working to put food on the table is important, so is expanding the scope of your consciousness to include interests such as politics. “If you’re not engaged, you have no right to complain,” he said.

Read, Young People. Vance urged the grads to read and know their history so others can’t limit their vision of what is true.

Be a Savvy Saver. Get in the habit of saving for the future. So if you have a dollar in your pocket, said Vance, put a dime aside.

Don’t Play the Blame Game. Take responsibility for what’s wrong in your life and take steps to fix it. “It ain’t the man’s problem that you’re not on the top of the world right now,” he said.

Cop to Your Mistakes. “Don’t be afraid to make a mistake,” he told the crowd, “but don’t make the same one twice.”

Man Up! Vance urged young people to take responsibility for themselves as they move forward in life.

Prioritize, Prioritize. Live within your means instead of striving to be what someone else is because you’re impressed by that person’s show. Vance emphasized this point by telling the story of “Sweet Thang,” an around-the-way hustler who drove a 1956 Ford Crown Victoria with white interior and a pair of hanging dice. “He was bad,” Vance recalled, “and I wanted to be just like Sweet Thang.” That was 1957. The next year, he was dead. The lesson here: “Don’t let your insides be impressed by somebody else’s outsides.”

Don’t Follow the Crowd. Always trust and believe in yourself, Vance said. To walk alone is to carve a path to where no one else has been, and to do what works for you. In a nod to TV and radio host Donnie Simpson’s signature sign-off, Vance closed with: “Shoot for the moon, because even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”