It’s a beautiful day. Don’t let it get away––Beautiful Day–U2
I’ve had the pleasure of watching both my son and my daughter graduate from high school. So last night,at dinner, I asked them, my husband, and six year old son a profound question. With the exception of my youngest, who just finished kindergarten, the rest of us whether college educated or self-taught have certainly been at least a part time student at The School of Hard Knocks, a.k.a. The Real World. So I asked them this question, with a disclaimer that there would be a “no wrong answer” response from me. I asked:
Once you graduate, what is the key to happiness, or living a good life?
I already had a mental outline prepared with six things I wanted to elaborate on, but let’s start with my family’s advice first:
My husband, father of three, said, “Get a boat.” I asked “What’s the best part of having a boat?” He replied, “All of it. Working on it. Driving it. Casting your reel off of it. Skiing behind it. If it’s a boat; it’s all good”
My oldest son, 24, said, “Sleeping!” “Elaborate, please!” I replied. In fewer than 25 words, he somehow conveyed to me, that when you are sleeping, you aren’t stressing, working, or in any number of ways, participating in life’s more difficult moments. Ah, at such a tender age, he has found the antidote that somewhat cures the stresses of full time work.
My confident and ambitious daughter in college said, “Take responsibility for your life!” She is strong-willed, independent, and needed no follow up questions from me.
My six year old, yelled out “Cake!! Yummy, yummy cake! And lots of it!” as he licked his lips! He said this because my daughter had just baked a birthday cake for a friend, and he successfully convinced her to let him tag along and enjoy some delicious red velvet cake with her and her friend. I love this age; he lives totally in the now. That’s exactly where he found his answer.
I glanced out the door to my three cats who were basking in the setting sun’s light. Their posture alone conveyed the modus operandi they exist out of: Don’t worry; be happy! Bask in the sun’s light as often as possible!
In less than 60 seconds, my family already nailed the points I already had planned to tell you. I think it’s because these are universal truths. In case you forget the wisdom from your baccalaureate address, by all means print this, and refer to as needed!
1. Don’t Miss Your Boat! Find Something You Love and Work Towards it Every Day
Find the “boat” of your dreams and work towards it. It won’t be easy; it requires a ton of work to earn it or build it yourself. Your dreams and goals are the same way. It takes years to hone your craft, or master your skills. Whether you go to college or not, you are responsible for your learning! But once you earn or build your dreamboat, don’t be afraid to occasionally step out of it. You’re going to have to leave your comfort zone, to truly go where you want to go in life. There will be storms in life, but you can’t avoid navigating the seas, when there are big fish to catch and destinations to reach. Sail on!
2. There’s No Such Thing As “You Can’t Teach An Old Dog New Tricks”
If you can type reasonably well, are adept at using Google and/or Facebook, then you are already equipped in the art of self-education. Always keep learning; but know how to learn independently. Respect your teachers, but don’t assume you can’t learn what they know without them. You can. Supplement your education by reading everything and finding ways to partake in your passions. You can waste excess hours on social networking sites, or you use your computer as a tool to supplement your education, and the social network as a way to make connections that will increase your opportunities to connect to your passions. Make it a point to learn something new every day! Also, when you hear something as fact, don’t assume that it is, especially in the media. Research it yourself, and find out if it’s true.
3. Take Responsibility for Your Life.
Don’t blame others, ever, for your choices. Don’t blame others for their success and your perceived lack of it. Make your own luck and create your own destiny in such a way, that you’ll inspire others. Three parts to this are key:
A. Do not let others define you. When you get to the point, you are not a “people-pleaser” and don’t require others to hold you in high regard, but can look squarely in the mirror and see a person of integrity, who is trying their hardest, and continues to take the hard steps to reach your goals, you will be successful. You define your success, not others. This also means whether you’re a NASA engineer, a stay at home parent, an artist, or a CEO on Wall Street, you get to pick what success means to you!
B. Refuse victimhood. Life is not fair, but you should have mastered that around kindergarten. Bullies exist. There’s always someone who has more. Somebody gets to the top because they had a leg up. So what?! You’re taking the honorable route and anything worth having takes time. But always, refuse to be a victim. You have the capacity to learn and the capacity to rise above, because that is an internal character trait, not an outward circumstance beyond your control, such as where you come from, or what your financial, educational, or any other status is currently.
C. Make good choices. Don’t drink and drive, but think and thrive. As an adult, you are pretty much free to do what you want, legally or even illegally, but only you can determine if the consequences are worth it. Take risks in the things that will increase your success, not immature or dangerous choices that will diminish it or harm others.
With all the learning you’re going to be pouring into that noggin, it’s important to find time to play, relax, and of course rest. It’s hard in a 24/7 driven world, but find ways to get the rest your body requires. Everybody is different, but know your optimal number of hours of rest needed and find a way to get it. Spice up your rest life, and get a hammock! There’s nothing like a good view, before shutting one’s eyes!
5. Get plenty of SON light!
Depend not only on yourself. Seek help from others. Also, call upon the higher power and the higher law of Grace, given freely by Jesus Christ, to power you not only on difficult days, but on the good ones as well. Which brings me to my young son’s summary of all the above wisdom:
6. Savor sweetness!
Eat dessert first sometimes and forget about the calorie count! Taste all the good things in life, not just food, but everywhere you look. Look at life, as though you owned the world’s most expensive camera. WOW! What beauty, what amazing grandeur God has put before you; truly a panoramic banquet table awaits you each day. Allow the things that are good to frame your daily perspective. Refuse negativity as influence and refuse to be a negative person. You’ll complain less, if you learn to get over things quickly and move on.
Equally important, where there is injustice, oppression, suffering, hunger, loneliness, sadness, isolation, imprisonment, cruelty, and all the unfair things of this world, will you personally commit to finding a role to play in some of the solution? Never underestimate the power of one. You have no idea how big your influence may play a role in those you come in contact with, and when you meet someone who falls in one of the above mentioned categories, will you choose to be involved and lend a helping hand, yourself or an encouraging word, a salve of sweetness? Value and incorporate kindness, goodness, honesty, and sweetness into your character.
You could read these sentences and view them in two possible ways: A whole bunch of clichés, or a whole bunch of truths. Well, sometimes clichés are true. Anybody can say it, but do you have what it takes to live it? I think you do. You wouldn’t have read it to the end, if you didn’t think you have what it takes. Lastly, know there will days when you will blow it or feel like a failure in some regard. Learn from it, attempt to repair it if necessary, and by all means, move on! Don’t let emotions or feelings dictate your reality, let your positivity, passions, and good choices move you forward from your mistakes.
Whether military service, college, tech school, volunteer service or employment is your next step in life, go forward with boldness, encouragement, and belief in yourself, that you are already more than capable. Whatever your path, commit to living your life out loud, laughing often, learning always, lying never, and loving deeply. Do these things and you will truly live. When you live intentionally, you will find your success and happiness. Choose to be happy. Choose to exceed your definition of success. Choose life, always!
Congratulations Class of 2012!!