Advice To Graduates

I saw a funny post on Facebook for recent high school graduates. It read: “Congratulations for successfully completing the easiest portion of your entire life!”

That made me laugh. As a high school student, your parents feed, clothe and house you. You have little to no responsibilities. Life will never again be so simple. You will never again be so free. In our haste to grow up and become adults, we often lose sight of what we have right now.

If I were imparting wisdom to graduates today, that would be my #1 message: Enjoy where you are right now. Live in the moment. Don’t look too far ahead. And don’t ever look behind.

When I was in high school, I focused on earning the grades I needed to get into a good college. When I got into college, I worried about choosing the right major. When I graduated from college, I fretted over finding the right job. And once I found the right job, my biggest concern became how to properly raise my kids.

My point is, there will always be something to worry about. Which brings us to point #2: Worrying is a colossal waste of time.

What I know now that I didn’t know then is that few decisions in life are truly permanent. Majors can change. Career paths can change. Even relationships can change. You are not married to your decisions in life – even the decision to be married. (That’s not necessarily good, but it’s true. And, if you think about it, it takes off a little of the pressure.)

That being said, relationships are the most important things in life. That’s point #3. They’re really all you’ve got. A family that will stand behind you no matter what. Friends that you can call in the most embarrassing of situations. Coworkers that will pull your butt out of the fire. Every. Single. Time. They’re invaluable. They’re irreplaceable. And they’ll be with you long after your career ends.

This brings me to point #4: Your career doesn’t define you. Your career feels important because it requires so much of your time. But, at the end of the day, you can spend eight hours cleaning houses or running a country and all that really matters is that you did the best job you could. If you let your job or career define you, you won’t know who you are when it ends. You owe it to yourself to be more interesting than that. Cultivate interests, hobbies and passions outside of your career. Then, you’ll not only be far more fulfilled, but you’ll also have something to do when you retire.

With an average life expectancy of 76-81 years, you’ve got a lot of time ahead of you. My advice is: Live in the moment. Don’t worry. Make relationships your priority. And find some interests outside of work. If you can do these things, you might just find that while the easiest portion of your life may be behind you, the best is yet to come.