Friday, May 31, 2013

Commencement

A week ago my middle son, Matthew, graduated from high school.  Over the course of the last few years I have had many young people live with me and my family for long or short periods, for a variety of reasons.  These individuals have become part of my family and I love them just as much as I love my own three children.

As each of them graduate, I always give them, one way or another, the same commencement message.  It’s not like I have all of the answers, but these are lessons I learned from my parents and through life and that I like to offer up to these great kids who are going out to deal with the world.  It is in a way the commencement speech nobody asked me to give.

First, if you believe you are entitled to anything, stop now. Everything you achieve in life; your position, your relationships, your wealth, will be achieved through care and hard work.

Second, learn to master two important expressions.  When someone does something good for you, no matter how big or how small, or no matter who it is, learn to say, “Thank you.” It shows you are a grateful and gracious person.  Also, learn that you will mistakes, and when you do, say, “I’m sorry,” and work to fix the problem as soon as you possibly can.  That shows you are accountable and take responsibility for your actions, both the ones that are good and your missteps.

Finally, find what the passion in your life is and then pursue it relentlessly, even if it is not your vocation. Some of the most interesting people I have met are surgeons who were also chefs, ministers who surfed, and businesspeople who sang in weekend bands.  No matter what along the way you think you have to do, keep doing what you want to do. Otherwise, you risk regret and becoming what T.S. Eliot described as a “Hollow Man.”

It is your goal to build a personal brand that you can be proud of.  Look back at these lessons and go forth, young man or woman.  Make us proud that we produced a generation of people who will make this world a better place. 

Bless you all. I know you will.