Life After High School: Interview with Scott McKinstry

Today we conclude chapter 2 of my blog-to-book project, Life After High School: Secrets To A Successful Life By Those Who Have Had Twenty Years To Think About It (or) What They Didn’t Teach Us Gen Xers In High School, with the third interview. If you missed the last post, click here, otherwise, you can start at the beginning here.

As I am writing this, I just returned from a visit with my best buddy Scott McKinstry. We discussed copywriting, screenwriting, and family life. We have been friends for nearly twenty-three years, and I love him like a brother—which is saying a lot because I don’t have any brothers, so technically it reaches infinity.

Scott McKinstry

Edmonds, WA

My Life In High School

Scott McKinstry in high school
The absolute worst picture that was ever taken of Scott McKinstry

Who were you in High School and how did you feel about it?

Little bit class clown (“I’ll sing the answers, Mrs. Boston”), a lot theater guy, a bit scholar, a bit the student government kid. Never the jock, not so much the “artist” not quite a geek but borderline spaz.

I liked standing out. But I also longed to be in the center of high school society — I guess that means I wanted to feel like belonging to the “core” group, perhaps being popular.

In short, I never felt I quite fit in. I both like that and didn’t like that.

What did you think your life would become when you graduated?

I thought I would conquer the world.

My Life After High School

Scott and Michelle McKinstry

What happened in your life to you, for you, and by you in the last twenty years (how have you used your time and who have you become)?

In college, I enjoyed blending into the crowd. In high school, I was a “Star” of sorts, and that meant I was under a microscope. I thrived on the attention but I also grew to feel too much pressure. I wanted to get away from that.

But, the flip side was that I lost a lot of motivation to succeed.

Also, at the time I started college, I became fairly religious. But then I grew disillusioned with the beliefs I grew up with and didn’t have a ready replacement.

So, I drifted for several years and grew quite depressed at times.

(Felt like I had fallen from my productive heights in high school.)

But slowly, I looked back to my passions and interests. Began making little inroads.

(During this time, I used to imagine myself as “waking up” after having been asleep … of throwing off shackles that I had inadvertently forged myself … shackles of “limiting beliefs.”)

Moved from a service job into a teaching gig and then into a professional writing career. I feel I’m closer to doing what it is I’m “meant to do” but not in the money yet.

Fell in love, and most importantly, was fallen in love with — then got married and eventually had 2 kids. The clichés are true — no feelings are as powerful, as poignant, as the feelings you have for your kids.

I’m still searching for the best way to have the Good Life. I know it involves the usual suspects:

–Strong family and friendships

–A sense of purpose, and (probably) a life’s “work” that reflects this

–Sufficient wealth (which means not fearing a phone call from a collection agency … being able to take a vacation now and then …. and buy good food.)


Overall (say 60-80% of the time), I’m optimistic about the future and feel grateful for what I have.

My Life Lessons

What were the major life lessons and wisdom that you gained during your journey over the last 20 years?

I guess I already answered this at the end of the last question. Got ahead of myself.

Letter To My High School Self

If you could write your 18-year-old self (or however old you were when you graduated) a letter, and send it back in time, what would you say? What lessons, wisdom, encouragement, or warnings would you give yourself?

It’s going to be okay. Take your time. You are special and you have great value. Two important things to remember:

1. Make certain key activities daily habits. These have a way of building up over time.

These include:

… eating healthy (non-processed, non-high-sugar) foods (Sorry, you’ll have to forget the Snicker’s diet, Scott)

… getting daily movement or exercise … taking the time to think and reflect (but not worry)

… be sincere and forthright (don’t try to be the person that will please others. don’t be deliberately offensive, but learn to say what you feel is true in a nice way)

… don’t accept other people’s burdens upon yourself. you are not Jesus, you are not a martyr, it is not your job to save the world. Be good to yourself and those around you (especially your family). This means to establish your priorities for yourself first. Be your own man.

… focus on the positive, the glowing things, the Love.

2. (related to the last few daily habits): Your thoughts matter, and they do in large measure create your reality. Learn to pay attention to your thoughts and admit only those that support your happiness and success.

You can learn more about what Scott does as a copywriter, or perhaps hire him for your business (!) at his website


I hope you enjoyed chapter two… Next time, we continue with the introduction to Chapter 3: Bringing Your Spouse Is A Dumb Idea.


Are you from Generation X? I want to hear what you think! Please comment below and participate in the conversation about What They Didn’t Teach Us Gen Xers In High School. What do you wish someone told you when you were eighteen?

About the author

Featured in CNN Money Edition, Jesse Stoddard’s primary aim is to make his mark in the world by exploring new ideas, enhancing collaboration and cooperation with teams, and working in his unique ability, which is transferring infectious enthusiasm, taking action, and loving people in order to gather and connect with others to pursue a bigger, brighter future.

Jesse’s mission is to make good bolder with his writing and art, to serve God, and in such a way that he illuminates truth, shines a humorous light on our human imperfections, and reminds us all to be humble while pointing us to what’s right.