It is the season of Graduations and Commencements. As usual, I have not been asked to speak and offer sage advice to the graduating class. Nevertheless, I feel compelled to offer our graduates the following seven undeniable truths:
1. Nobody owes you anything. Not your family, not your friends, not society, not anybody. Anybody may from time to time give you a hand-up or a hand-out for any reason, but it's not required and you have no right to expect it. Life is not "fair". You are owed nothing and entitled to even less. If you want something, you must earn it. So, get out there and earn what you want. Earn your living. Earn your reputation. Earn the respect of others.
2. You will not start at the top. You will start at the bottom. It's called entry level. Whether you stay there is entirely up to you. Money will be very tight. Deal with it. What you get paid depends entirely on the value you provide to your customers and employer. You will never be paid more than you are worth. Deal with that too. Only after you demonstrate your ability to deliver results will you advance. Experience counts.
3. You can't have everything, at least not immediately and not all at once. That's the bad news. The good news is if you're willing to put in the time, effort, and practice, over time you can have just about anything you really want to become quite comfortable. Going after what you want is a decision you get to make every day for as long as you live.
4. You think you know where you're going and how to get there. You don't. You have a dream; dreams change. You have a vision; visions change. You have goals and plans for reaching them; life happens, goals are altered and plans change. And that's okay. The good news is you don't have to decide at age eighteen where you want to be at age 70. Trust me. Getting there is half the fun.
5. You will fail. Once, twice, three times or more. Failure is part of life. Failing is not the worst thing. Giving up is the worst thing. Giving up makes failure permanent. Never give up. In speaking of failed attempts to invent an electric light bulb, Thomas Edison stated "I have not failed. I just discovered 10,000 things that don't work." He went on to continue trying things that didn't work until he discovered one that did. Therefore, dare mightily. Fail spectacularly. Discard what does't work. Use what does. And keep going.
6. Nobody has to like you. Nobody has to agree with you. Nobody has to approve of your actions or treat you with any kind of respect. Neither do you have to like, agree with, or approve of the actions of anybody else. The world is full of assholes. You will be forced to deal with more than your share. Whether you address them with courtesy, diplomacy, and grace, with belligerence and hostility, or by ignoring them and walking away is always your choice. You can even act like an asshole yourself, but I hope you don't. How you choose to deal with others will determine the outcome you get. You may even surprise yourself and make one or two of your most serious detractors into fast and loyal friends.
7. Circumstances will not always work out in your favor. They may never. The deck may appear stacked against you. Stuff happens. Life gets messy. You will have to deal with a lot of messes whether you made them or not. How you deal with your messes, whether you ignore them, sweep them under the rug, root and wallow in them, go in for the full deep clean, or accept with grace the wisdom they offer and move on is up to you. The results you get depend on what you choose.
Remember, in the entire history of creation, you are the only one of you that will ever be made. Only you in all history have your unique blend of genetic makeup, knowledge, skills, abilities, interests, and experiences. Only you have your unique blend of drive and ambition. No matter your background, your family, your resources, your IQ or street smarts, your desires and ambitions, YOU are the primary ingredient in making your life happen.
I expect you to set the world on fire with your success.
I expect you to do great and wonderful things.
I expect you to be all that YOU can be.
Only YOU can do it.