Why didn’t somebody tell me THIS on graduation day?
I have no idea who spoke during my college graduation ceremony or what she (I think it was a woman) said. Chances are, she talked about passion, service to others, following your dream, learning from failure, changing the world, fears, opportunity, blah, blah, blah. Commencement speeches often follow these worthy themes.
Here is what I wish somebody had told me and today’s college graduates need to hear:
1) Get a dream consultant.
You’re told from childhood to graduation day to follow your dreams. While the commencement speakers who dole out this advice are often wildly successful, chances are, you won’t be. And that’s OK. How many of us are actually living out our dreams? Dreams sound great before the first student loan payment is due. Someone should sit you down to assess whether your dream is a worthwhile and reasonable pursuit, and let you know you’re not a failure if you don’t achieve whatever dream you had. There’s nothing wrong with aiming high, but your idea of what it means to be happy and successful change with experience in the real world.
2) Be afraid. Be very afraid.
You’re told to be fearless in your pursuits. But, it’s OK to be scared. Fear gives perspective, though you shouldn’t let it stand in your way. Be the person who recognizes and feels the fear, then does that scary thing anyway. That’s courage. A fearless person is actually pretty scary. Someone who doesn’t understand what’s at stake and pursues it with a reckless disregard for the consequences. You don’t want to follow him/her.
3) Resist calls to have a precise answer to this question: “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”
There are countless articles online dedicated to helping you answer this question during a job interview. Do what you have to do to get through the interview, but be careful in trying to map out your life so precisely. You can get discouraged when things throw you off course and become blind to other golden opportunities that come that don’t seem to fit into your concrete plan.
4) Find something more interesting than sex.
This goes beyond just having a hobby. You should have an intellectual pursuit, something that you crave because of how it stimulates your mind. Poetry? Economics? Astronomy? Even auto mechanics or a particular culture. Whatever. (Admittedly, this one took me a while.)
5) If your gut tells you to do something, get a second opinion.
Following your gut/instinct is a common refrain in commencement speeches that should be taken with a grain of salt. That feeling in your gut might simply be attributed to your common sense and experience telling you that a situation is good or bad for you. Don’t wait to be overcome by some feeling and don’t misinterpret it if it comes. A feelings is often emotion minus the intellect. I assure you, I’ve had a gut feeling about every Powerball ticket I ever bought.
6) Make sure your circle of friends is doing better than you are.
Being around people who are in the same struggle as you are gets you nowhere. Don’t be jealous, feel inadequate, or be intimidated because of people’s happiness, success, or things. You should get around them as much as you can. It will rub off on you, plus you’ll be around people in a position to help.
7) Call somebody.
In the past 24 hours, I’ve chatted with roughly 30 friends, family members, and work colleagues. But I’ve only made ONE phone call. Text, email, Twitter, Facebook, etc. have replaced human interaction. Pick up a phone and let somebody hear your voice.
8) Changing the world should move to the bottom of the to-do list.
There’s nothing wrong with aiming high, but most of us won’t change the world. Though, a good commencement speaker will make you think you can. A speaker can be just as impactful by convincing you to change your small community.
9) Celebrate something every day.
When I was in my early 20s, I landed a job interview, but was mindful not to get too excited. But my mother told me to get excited. “Celebrate the fact that you even got this far,” she told me. “It’s farther than a lot of people made it. They didn’t even get a call for the interview!” Big or small, successes are worth acknowledging and celebrating. And don’t ever compare yours to someone else’s.
10) Let people go.
Sometimes the only way your life is going to change is if you get certain people out of it. Don’t be afraid to cut them loose.
I’m learning this the hard way. For years, I’ve prided myself on just how little sleep I need in order to function. Friends and colleagues have been amazed. My doctor isn’t impressed. This week, I was prescribed medication for a skin condition brought on by stress on the body and lack of sleep. I fear that might only be the beginning of my issues. You have to take care of yourself.
12) Life is really going to suck at times
Illness, death, divorce, financial trouble, family conflict, failure. Life can be one big, ugly mess. Of course you will survive these life experiences, but the key is to put them into perspective as a necessary part of your growth. Each experience builds your character and prepares you for the next challenge. Or as my pastor is fond of saying, “when life keeps putting you through the fire, eventually you’re going to come out fireproof!”
13) College is over. Now your education begins.
Never pass up a chance to learn something new. Don’t turn down an opportunity just because it’s not what you usually do. Don’t ignore someone just because you disagree with them. Every experience and every person present opportunities to learn. Take them.