All across the country, high school students just had the “biggest day of their lives:” graduation day. Not to date myself too much, but 14 years ago I was walking across that same stage many of you have or will soon walk across. I have never given a commencement address before, but if I were to give one, this is what I would say.
Congratulations on your graduation from high school. It is a great achievement in your life, but don’t make it the last one. You should have graduated from high school. You will often hear that your high school years are the best years of your life. I loved my four years of high school, but they’re not going to be the best four of my life. If you think that way, you’re thinking too small and cheating yourself. Your best days are ahead of you. It’s not downhill after high school; it only gets better. You must be willing to work hard, develop lasting relationships, and be willing to serve others. Enjoy the final days and summer with your high school friends, but remember you are about to embark on a new journey and one that will lead you the best days of your life.
One of my favorite movie quotes is comes from Crash, “You think you know who you are but you have no idea.” I love this because it applies to my life. I thought I knew everything and had everything planned out at 18 years of age. I remember telling a friend of the family that I’ll always have a buzzed head (I used a zero guard) and that I’ll always live in St. Charles, Missouri. She said, “Just wait until you meet your future wife.” Well the hair thing lasted until I met my future wife in my sophomore year of college, and I haven’t lived in St. Charles since we moved in together after college. I’ve changed a lot, and for the better. And so will you. Be open to change and be willing to deviate from what you know. Just because something is what you’ve always known doesn’t necessary make it the best or right. In 14 years from now, you’ll be surprised at how much you’ve changed.
Another thing you’ll find to be true is the saying, “It’s not about what you know, it’s about who know.” Résumés are a dime a dozen to employers. In order to land the job you want you must be connected. Start by getting involved in as many clubs and activities with people who have similar interests to you and your future career field. Introduce yourself and make lasting friendships. These connections will help you more than you’ll ever know when it comes time to land a job.
The number one thing you need to do after high school, whether it’s in college or in the workforce, is show up! Get up and get out bed. Get to class. The number one reason people fail is that they don’t show up. If you’re going to party, make a deal with yourself. Tell yourself, “I’m not going out unless I make to class and have my work done. “ Find someone who will hold you accountable to this. You need to be seen and not heard. Show up and put in the work necessary. If you don’t like the class, keep the end goal in mind and get through it. We’ll all do it the adult world. Learn to deal with it. Always remember that fortune favors the bold. So show up, get after it, and get better!
As you get older you come to understand that life is hard but worth it. Enjoy the ride while it lasts because we never know when it’s going to end. In a couple of years you’re going to look back on all the drama from high school and laugh. Learn to not take yourself so seriously; no one else does. That’s a cold hard truth. While you are busy making a living, don’t forget to make a life. Take time to make memories with friends, spouses, and your children. Life is not a dress rehearsal.
Always remember, “You can have anything you want in this life, if you will just help enough people get what they want in life.”
What are some other “nuggets” of advice you’d share with this year’s graduates? Graduates, what’s the best advice you have received so far?
As always, thanks for reading, have a great week, and be and RGP today!