It was an unseasonably hot balmy day on that particular late afternoon a few weeks ago. I found myself outdoors, facing the setting sun in the concrete bleachers at Patrick Henry High School. I had come there to witness the 2011 graduation ceremonies along with thousands of others proud parents, friends and relatives.
There were some 500 graduating seniors on the field below, each in a surreal moment generally reserved for weddings, graduations, and award ceremonies. Where time seems to stands still and people and events surrounding you are just a blur.
Today was their day. It was a culmination of 12 years of preparation. They had completed the requirements set up by the governing bodies and now have earned the right to be called a high school graduate.
One after one, speakers came to the dais. As I listened to each speaker address the new graduates, I thought to myself what advice I would offer to our sons and daughters as they ventured off into adulthood. Many of the themes may be similar to the speakers before us, but my advice would be a bit more practical, based on my own experiences rather than the ideals of academia.
However, giving advice to anyone supposes that I know more about life than the next person. This simply isn't true.
It has been 32 years since I received my high school diploma. In those following years since, my experiences have brought me understandings and practical knowledge.
Here are 7 ideas (not advice) that I would offer share to any of these young men and women:
- Never stop learning. Many graduates will go to college to study for a degree that is needed to earn more money. Going to college shouldn't be about future earning potential, it should be about gaining knowledge and practical experiences. The goal isn't the piece of paper...the goal is learning. If you can learn to learn, then your education will never end.
- Build your network. No one can live a fulfilling life all alone. Gathering and maintaining resources is so important throughout life. A network that is built upon a cast of meaningless names is futile and a waste of time. It is extremely important to make friends and help connect those friends to others. A good network is less about what others can do for you and more about what you can do for others. Ask for help when you need it and be prepared to offer your help when you are able.
- Travel to see how the rest of the world lives. Find ways to travel beyond the borders of your city, state or country. Go to places where food and clean water is a luxury. Don't just go to visit the sites...go to meet with the people. There are many ways to go to places even if you don't have resources, including the Armed Forces, the Peace Corps, volunteer organizations, church missions, and exchange programs. Don't let the lack resources be your limiting factor.
- It is never all about the money. Yes, money can help you to obtain certain things. It also will give you certain choices. However in the end, the old adage is true, money will never buy you happiness. Bill Gates and Warren Buffet found happiness in making money...but they also find happiness in giving it all away to others. True happiness is found by doing things you love and by helping others...not by buying (or renting) more stuff.
- Don't waste your time. You don't need to be busy all of the time. Rest and relaxation are essential to living a balanced life. Today you may believe that time is endless, but in reality, time is the one thing in your life that is truly finite. Actuaries will very precisely tell us how many people will die in any given year...but just not who those people will be...one day it will be you. Be that person who can wake up each morning, look into the mirror and have no regrets about how you've lived your life thus far...regardless if you're 20 or 80 years old.
- Balance and moderation are essential to a healthy life. Even if pizza is your favorite food, you would get sick and tired of it if you ate it all the time. We need variations to keep our interest. All work and no play is not mentally or physically healthy, all play and no work will leave your life unfulfilled. The real key to understand is that the balance point will indeed shift from time to time based on the situation at hand. It's hard to balance sleep, work and a newborn baby. It's okay to be unbalanced from time to time but learn to moderate and find yourself back to the center.
- Don't be afraid to be wrong. You don't have all the answers, but then again, neither do I, your parents, your friends, and/or your teachers. We need to try new things and if we get it wrong...learn from those mistakes and try something else. Going "all-in" is great for a poker tournament, but not with your life. Make lots of small bets and limit your risks. By taking this approach, you can absorb the losses of being wrong and still have plenty of reserves to take calculated risks in the future.
Even though the above ideas are practical sage advice, I don't expect these young graduates to actually use any of it. They are teenagers after all.
However, are teenagers really any different than anyone else? We need to learn the lessons of life for ourselves...not someone else.
Every once in a while I go to my favorite local beach to watch the sun set. Watching the daily event helps me to remember that the world revolves around the sun...not me.
As my son received his diploma, I couldn't help but notice the sun setting against the horizon...
Thank you for your support of OptiFuse where we give thanks to those who educate us and our children.