I know they say you’re not supposed to go back to the well too often, but despite writing a scant year ago, it’s time to take another whack at the apple. Call me overly sentimental if you must, but I can’t help but be swept away by the possibilities that always seem float along on these late-spring breezes.
You see, every time I come across one of those ubiquitous “Home of a [Fill-in-the-High-School Here] Graduate” signs, it reminds me of the young men and women who will soon be blessed with their first real opportunity to embrace their future lives.
There certainly is something magical about the age of majority, isn’t there?
Now, typically (believe it or not) I tend toward the positives in these graduation speech columns, but my tenure as a travel soccer coach and a recent Patch news story made me realize that I may need to be a bit more, shall we say, blunt.
So it’s in that vein that I’d like to offer the following advice to the Class of 2012.
1. Life isn’t fair, and it never will be. I wish I could explain how, under the auspices of what most folks believe to be a loving deity, some children are born into abject poverty while others enjoy the kind of breaks that make the rest of us curse our abysmal fate.
But here’s the truth. Some of the children who, through no fault of their own, begin life with every disadvantage in the book, overcome those challenges to accomplish amazing things. And sometimes the folks who have a 99-meter head start in this 100-meter dash, never manage cross the finish line.
I would encourage every high school graduate to read about John Paul DeJoria, the co-founder of the Paul Mitchell line of hair care products. It’s an incredible story.
2. The world doesn’t owe you a thing. You may think it does, but we’ll see just how far that gets ya. The most effective way of leaving this planet in tears is to approach life with an entitlement mentality. And I’ve never seen an entitlement epidemic like the one we’re facing down right now.
If you still think I’m wrong, please see item No. 1.
Though we may take it for granted, we’re not owed as much as our next breath. And if you’re too busy believing “good fortune” will simply roll over and appear at your feet, then disappointment will follow you for the rest of your days.
3. Be grateful for what you have! It’s the anti-entitlement mentality mentality.
Everything bestowed upon us in this life—even the harshest of challenges—is a gift. There’s a reason the Chinese symbol for “crisis” and “opportunity” are identical. Our obstacles aren’t punitive, they’re intended to provide the opportunity for the kind of growth that makes us better people, and thus, the world a better place.
I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to address you each and every week. It doesn’t get any better than this. And when you come from a place of gratitude you’ll discover that, if you’re paying attention, the Universe will, indeed, unravel itself at your feet. This, of course, leads right into to Point No. 4:
4. The Universe will always meet you half way. That age-old adage is dead on! God really does help those who help themselves. If you take care of the small things, like accepting responsibility for your actions, living by a reasonable moral code, and paying attention to your opportunities, then God will be happy to take care of the rest.
It’s like applying for a job. If you sit at home waiting for the employer to come to you, it’s probably not going to work out very well.
5. Take responsibility for your choices. You are and always will be the sum of your decisions, and if you consistently lay the repercussions for those choices at other people’s feet, you will be miserable.
We all make mistakes, and we all experience failure. That’s the peril of being human. But our only shot at a well-lived life is to embrace those consequences, forgive ourselves for our frailties, learn from those failures, and vow to do better next time.
The only person you can change is you. Conversely, trying to change anyone else is a fool’s errand of the highest degree. Though some of us insist upon trying, the world will not stop and bend to your will.
If you want to change your life, change your mind.
6. Live in the present, because that’s all you have. Remember the part about not being guaranteed your next breath? It’s still true! We love to expend all our mental energy fretting about an unformed future and/or cursing those we believe to have done us wrong.
Pounding your fist on the table and crying “if only” keeps you trapped in the past, while living in fear of every negative possibility keeps you trapped in the future.
Of course you’ll have doubts! That’s a part of the human condition, too. The key is to do your best to ensure those doubts don’t define you.
All we ever really have is this second, on this day, of this year, on this planet. So what are you going to do with it?
7. Give back! Some of you who wonder why nothing ever goes your way have never given another soul a break. Let’s take another look at Mr. DeJoria. His motto is “Success unshared is failure,” and his philanthropic efforts are legendary. I could fill this entire column with a list of his causes.
When the Beatles sang, “And in the end, the love you take, is equal to the love you make,” they were right. And The New Radicals weren’t far off when they said, “You only get what you give.”
So now, on this momentous occasion of your high school graduation, you are about to embark upon the most remarkable journey this life can offer. I would encourage you to make the most of it.