Up Your Game This Summer!

Illustrations by Brown Bird Design

These seriously fun dares will help you have a blast and jump-start your future.

Dare 1: Try on your dream job

Recent college grad Zoe Cordes Selbin has a cool gig at a concert promotion company. How’d she break into the music biz? She volunteered at a radio station in middle school! Here’s her advice for snagging a job-shadowing opportunity this summer: 

Start small. It’s unlikely that Urban Outfitters HQ is going to throw its doors open so you can learn more about the fashion industry. But a local designer may very well welcome a little help from an enthusiastic teen.

Keep an open mind. If you dream of writing adventure novels but can’t get J. K. Rowling to answer your e-mails, consider shadowing someone in a related field, such as the buyer at a bookstore or a reporter at your local newspaper.

Reach out. E-mail the person in charge now: Introduce yourself and explain why you’re interested in learning more about the job. Be specific about your summer availability, then ask what opportunities may be open to you!

Life-Changing Potential: A close-up look at a career might prove it’s not for you, which is valuable intel. But if you enjoy your experience, it can lead to more opportunities!

Dare 2: Set out on a city scavenger hunt

You may complain about your boring hometown, but we promise there’s adventure waiting to happen! Try tracking down:

  • A restaurant that serves cuisine you’ve never tried before, like sushi 
  • A building constructed before 1939—use the free app Historypin (historypin.org) for help 
  • A park with great bird watching—try the Oh, Ranger app (ohranger.com) 
  • A music store that lets you play the instruments
  • An art or history museum
  • A farmer’s market (talk to a farmer!)
  • A thrift or vintage clothing store

Life-Changing Potential: Studies show that embracing new experiences boosts your confidence and decreases boredom and loneliness!

Dare 3: Flower-bomb your neighborhood

Toss these seed grenades into vacant patches of dirt in your neighborhood. It’s an eco-friendly form of street art!

You’ll need:

  • Seeds of three species of wildflowers that are native to your area (look them up!)
  • 1 lb of organic compost (from a hardware store)
  • Air-dry clay

1. Combine a small amount of clay, compost, and just enough water to form a firm mixture.

2. Pinch off a small amount of the mixture, stick a few seeds in it, roll it into a ball, then roll that ball in more compost. (Repeat about 12 times.)

3. Leave the seed grenades to dry on a windowsill.

4. Toss them into untended public spots. Keep visiting to watch your handiwork grow! 

Life-Changing Potential: You’ll learn the basics of gardening, and it will get you outdoors. Research shows that being in nature lowers your stress!

Dare 4: Sacrifice (some of) your free time

Helping others gives you the gift of perspective. “Volunteering gets your mind off yourself and your problems,” says Stephen Post, co-author of Why Good Things Happen to Good People. Check out volunteermatch.org or try one of these fun options:

 Senior Citizen Centers: Call and offer to spend one afternoon a week teaching seniors about technology.

 State or  City Parks: Pick up trash, clear buckthorn, or even help out with little kids’ T-ball practices. 

 Homeless  shelters: Be part of the cooking crew! (Don’t worry if you haven’t yet mastered Dare No. 5. They’ll train you.) 

Life-Changing Potential: Dozens of studies confirm that volunteering leads to a longer, healthier life. It’s also a great way to make friends with other people who are also committed to important causes!  

Dare 5: Pretend you’re on Top Chef

Learning how to cook isn’t as hard as it looks, plus it’s a pretty cool creative outlet! Start with this easy recipe (serves 4): 

Homemade Hummus


  •     1 (15 oz) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  •     2 garlic cloves, peeled
  •     1 lemon, juiced
  •     1 tbsp olive oil
  •     2 tbsp water
  •     salt

1. Combine ingredients in a food processor or blender. Pulse until smooth.

2. Add other flavors you love! Try hot sauce, avocado, or spices, like cumin and paprika.

Life-Changing Potential: Cooking saves money, which matters big-time in college. Home-cooked meals are healthier than fast food too!

Dare 6: Make a run for it

Everyone needs a summer fitness goal*. Commit to being able to run 30 minutes without stopping by the end of August. (Yes, you can do it!) 

Start slowly. Walk and run in small chunks: 1 minute running, 4 minutes walking.

Build gradually.  Increase your running time by 10 percent every week. (Bonus: The math will keep your brain sharp!) 

Cross-train.  Run three times a week and do other activities on off-days. Yoga, a bike ride, or swimming uses different muscles, which will help prevent injuries. 

Life-Changing Potential: Exercising when you’re young can lower your risk for depression and heart disease. Plus setting and achieving a goal helps you develop mental toughness!

*Always check with your doctor before you begin any exercise plan.

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