Advice to Graduates . . .

It’s graduation time, and students all over the United States will be walking the final leg of one of their greatest accomplishments.  But, it’s really only the end of the beginning.  School, whether it is high school or college is really a time of incubation.  During that time, material, much like breakfast, lunch and dinner is fed to students.  They can choose to consume it, or they can skip a meal here and there, but regardless, the meals are on the table.  The amount of nutrition derived from those meals will be determined by the nutritional content of the offerings.

Not all food is worthy to be consumed.  Our national obesity challenge is evidence that there is a lot of low quality nutrition out there.  Those who recognize that and choose to seek out more nutritious food groups feel better, tend to be more healthy and may even live longer.  It’s all about the quality of the food consumed.

The same is true of academics.  Not all academics are nutritious.  Some teachers and professors wow their students with their great knowledge and insight.  They have an inner drive to see the students succeed and to become productive citizens of the world.  Others, have a personal agenda that is played out in the classroom day after day.  In their immaturity, some students may not be able to see the difference, but their next steps in life will reveal what type of academic meals they’ve consumed.

My advice to this graduating class is this:

  • Realize that your parents may be the only ones in life that think you’re really special.  You will have to earn your own way with the rest of us.  There are no trophies for showing up in the game of life.
  • Don’t assume the world owes you anything.  It doesn’t, but that’s OK.  That’s how it is for all of us.
  • No matter how you grew up, the only limits on you will be the ones you impose.  Once you cross that threshold into adulthood, it’s time to start taking responsibility for what your life will be.  A lot of us grew up in less than ideal situations.  It happens.  Some of us had horrific childhoods.  They were psychological nightmares.  Some of us had amazing childhoods.  Regardless of which childhood you had, you have a choice to walk away from the pains of the past or to let them dictate your future.  Your ability to have an amazing life really is within the choices you will make.
  • Your ability to succeed has nothing to do with your race, sex, religion, fiscal condition or nationality.  You can choose to blame those things for your struggles, or you can face your struggles head on and overcome them.
  • Wisdom is the effective use of knowledge.  You will gain it over time, but wisdom is something that only comes with time. You may not start out at the top of your profession.  That’s to protect the rest of us because you’re not ready to be at the top.  You need experience.  With your daily experience will come greater knowledge and seasoned wisdom.  Everyone pays his dues.  Pay them gladly, and over time, you will be at the top of your profession.
  • If you are willing to settle for anything, settle for 100% effort from yourself.  Some employers will see it and reward you for it.  Other employers will ignore it.  Regardless, a life of 100% effort gets rewarded in high self-esteem, a sense of a healthy pride and eventually the role that you want to play. If you have an employer that doesn’t appreciate you, learn everything you can while you’re there and then take that experience and knowledge on to the next job with a great employer.  You may have to go through two or three before you find that perfect job, but it’s out there.  Practice giving 100% even when it’s hard.
  • There will always be people along the way who will be willing to help you.  Pay attention so you don’t miss them.  They may come from some unfamiliar sources, but they’re out there.  Appreciate them, glean their wisdom and experience and then pass it on to another in their time of need.
  • Limit your exposure to people who only take from you.  There are two types of people in the world: takers and givers.  Takers seldom give, and givers seldom take.  You need to keep the ratio of takers and givers way out of balance on the givers side.  Then, you’ll have the strength to potentially help a few takers, but don’t be afraid to cut them loose either.
  • If you have a dream, hold on to it.  Let it be the motivating force behind every step you take.  Don’t let your dreams go just because it doesn’t happen overnight.  Remember wisdom comes with knowledge.  Those weeks, months or years leading up to the fulfillment of your dreams are your training time.  Appreciate them for what they bring to your life experience.
  • Have fun along the way.  Being motivated to accomplish something can be all consuming.  Don’t miss out on the fun in life.  Have fun.  Be a faithful friend.  Honor your parents.  Lift up the weary.  Find an outlet for your energies that are not work related.  Fill your mind with healthy thoughts and ideas.  Learn to relax and play.  Take a day off.  Eat nutritious food and sleep a good night’s sleep.  Take care of your body.  You’re no good to yourself, your employer/employees or your dreams if you adopt an unhealthy lifestyle.
  • Listen to your conscience.  Your conscience is the voice of your soul.  Some may call it your gut, but no matter, listen to it.  It will try to direct you into right decisions and productive paths.  Every opportunity may not be right for you.  Always allow time before making major decisions.  It may only be minutes, but allow time for your conscience to speak to you.
  • Do something that benefits others.  One of the greatest joys you will have in life is doing things that benefit others who have no way of repaying you.  Humble yourself and reach out to those who need you.

It’s time to launch out into the real world.  The academic environment really isn’t the real world.  It’s just the incubator you are hatched from.  Look back on it realistically and take the good, leave the bad and do something that inspires the world.