‘Tis the season. High school graduations and college commencements.
Pearls of wisdom are coming forth all over the world. After studying a lot of these commencement speeches, I’ve boiled down a few of my favorites and attempted to weave them into a rich tapestry.
I was fortunate to give a college commencement address a few years ago, and I remember how much I poured into that speech. In the end, I could only hope the graduates took away a nugget or two, although I’ll never know.
If you don’t remember such words of wisdom being spoken to you, here’s another chance to listen.
Trust and Allow
The most important thing to know is to know when you don’t know. That’s how we stay out of trouble. Don’t be afraid to seek help and guidance. This is the best way to build trust.
You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. Trust that the dots will somehow connect to your future.
You have to trust in something — your gut, faith, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.
Life is not a checklist of acquisitions and achievements. Your qualifications and your resume are not your life, although many people may think so. Life is difficult and complicated — and beyond anyone’s total control. Knowing this will enable you to survive its hardships.
Do The Math
We have, if we’re lucky, about 4,000 weeks to play the game of life. There’s actually a book by the name, Four Thousand Weeks, by author Oliver Burkeman, referred to me by Dr. Jim Nemitz, president of the WV School of Osteopathic Medicine.
If it makes you feel any better, you could use the reference point of 28,000 days instead of 4,000 weeks. This reminds me of my colleague, Jim Strawn, who counts his days on earth — and is always grateful for each one! Trust me, this is not a morbid concept. It’s a wisdom barometer that will put all the failures, rejections and heartbreaks into perspective.
Do those things that draw you toward the big questions. Make joy and fun important components of your life.
And, along the way, surround yourself with those who have your back — and provide a soft place for you to fall.
Get a Job/Use Your Talents
You don’t have a job? Get one. Any job. Don’t sit at home waiting for the magical opportunity. Who are you — Prince William? No. Get a job. Go to work. Do something … until you can do something else.
Success and Failure
Success is to live your life with integrity and not give in to peer pressure to be something you’re not. Follow your passion and stay true to yourself. Never follow someone else’s path.
Nothing in life is worthwhile unless you take risks. Every failed experiment is one step closer to success. You will fail at some point in your life. Accept it. You will lose. You will embarrass yourself. You will suck at something.
Never be discouraged. Don’t look back. Give everything you’ve got. And when you fall throughout life, fall forward.
Failure means a stripping away of the essential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was — and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me.
“Had I really succeeded at anything else,” says author J.K. Rowling, “I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believe I truly belonged. I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And hitting rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.” (And to think she gave us Harry Potter when she was at her lowest point!)
Everything changes. Good things change. Bad things change. It will be your ability to adapt and grow to the changing needs of your business and your environment that will determine how you fare in the world. It will be your job to figure out what needs to change.
Efficiency is doing things right. Effectiveness is doing the right thing. These two terms are often used interchangeably, although at their core, they’re quite different.
Be micro ambitious. Work with pride on whatever is in front of you … you never know where you’ll end up. Be careful about long-term dreams. If you focus too far in front of you, you won’t see that shiny thing out of the corner of your eye.
It’s Just the Beginning
Today’s graduation is just the commencement of your education. You have been provided a tremendous base. Build on it with a lifetime learning goal.
We all have an obligation to make our community a better place, and I believe we all want to make a difference. Your life will be enriched with the good you do by helping others. Your community needs your time, talent and treasure. Pay it forward, and be sure to give back.
How much are you likely to touch other lives? Your intelligence, your capacity for hard work, and the education you’ve earned give you unique status. With that comes responsibility. Honor and respect what you’ve been given.
Remember to say thank you. Many people got you where you are today. And many others will help you throughout life.
The pen is mightier than the computer when it comes to writing personal thank you notes. The time to start developing this practice is today. A handwritten note is a treasure to receive — and could even become a keepsake!
Believe in something larger than yourself. And cherish your human connections.
This certainly hits home for me, as I was fortunate to develop lifelong friendships in college. Those shared bonds of growing up together — and going out into the world together — endure. Our group still meets twice a year, and we stay in touch every morning with email brain teasers.
Closing Sound Bites
Under promise and overdeliver.
Don’t take things personally, and don’t make assumptions.
Always remember: Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve!
And the measure of life is not how long it is … but how good it is.
Credits: Steve Jobs, Napoleon Hill, Ellen DeGeneres, Shonda Rhimes, Tim Minchin, Arianna Huffington, Vic Grigoraci, Denzel Washington, Amy Poehler, Barbara Bush, Zig Ziglar, J.K. Rowling, Seneca, Erskine Bowles, Patty Johnston (my best friend since kindergarten) and Yours Truly.