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Monday, June 20, 2016

Commencement Treasure

‘Tis the season for grads and dads. Most graduations have taken place by now. And those hopefully inspiring commencement speakers have done their job leaving grads with some sense of direction and meaning as they launch into real life. As most of us know, our minds often drift during those minutes of challenge from the invited speaker.

The New York Times shared a few of the insights from several well known commencement speakers to the Class of 2016. Will there be any real takeaways to be recalled decades later? Who knows. (

But here are some of the wisdom bites shared:

“When life tells you no, find a way to keep things in perspective. That doesn’t make the painful moments any less painful.” ~ RUSSELL WILSON, Quarterback, Seattle Seahawks, University of Wisconsin-Madison

“And I want to be clear that your intuition is different from your conscience. They work in tandem, but here’s the distinction: Your conscience shouts, ‘Here’s what you should do,’ while your intuition whispers, ‘Here’s what you could do.’ Listen to that voice that tells you what you could do. Nothing will define your character more than that.” ~ STEVEN SPIELBERG, Filmmaker,  Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts

“As you prepare to leave here today, I urge you to draw strength from your inheritance. Never doubt that the smallest step can create the most sweeping change. Go forth into the world and explore the sciences that expand our world, the economies that keep it running, and the laws that set us free. But never lose sight of our comrades in humanity on whose behalf we are called to work or the faith that will sustain us through it all. This is my call to you: to find your change and live it.” ~ LORETTA LYNCH, US Attorney General,  Spelman College, Atlanta

I’ve spoken at a commencement before. It was several years ago. But I decided to consider what my list of “ten life guides for grads” might look like. So, here they are.

Life Guides for Grads
  • Your diploma is not a ticket to success. Seems like it should be. You worked for it. You’ve achieved something. You’ve paid a good part of your life to this point as a price. And the reward? More work. More learning. More commitment and dedication to excellence. And hopefully, more opportunity to prove yourself.
  • Expect to change career paths several times. There are exceptions, no doubt. But the vast majority of high school and college graduates start in one place and the board game of life moves them to another. Seek out your “sweet spot” and find the kind of work that makes you come alive.
  • Determine where you most want to live and, if possible, work there. The axioms live on: “There’s no place like home.” “Home is where the heart is.” Each of us discovers a location that to us seems most like home. The sooner you can determine where that is, try to satisfy your soul and live there.
  • Prepare yourself for life in the ordinary. Dreaming big is fun. You might be rewarded accordingly. More often than not, mid-life delivers a reality check. Know that great contentment can be found in the ordinary. And it’s where most people live.
  • Purpose to find a few, authentic lifetime friends. Walking alone in life leaves great gaps in our soul. Aside from the wisdom and companionship these friends provide, you have allies for strength in your weakest times.
  • If you decide to marry, get much advance counsel. We marry believing our simple love will last forever. We quickly learn love requires much from us and many refuse to give it. Learning from both the failures and the success stories, and good premarital counseling, increases your potential for a lasting relationship.
  • Seek out a mentor, with whom you will communicate often. The best person to help you down the road of life is someone who has been there, and learned the right steps to take.
  • Live below your means as best as you can. Learn to invest early for later in life. As the Dave Ramsey saying goes, “We buy things we don’t need, with money we don’t have, to impress people we don’t like.” (my add…or who don’t care)
  • Know life will bring crises. Establish a foundation of strength to help you handle these. I would be remiss if I did not coach your thinking to a spiritual foundation. When you are told in crisis to “dig deep,” exactly where does that take you? It requires that you search your spirit for hope driven inertia to move you forward. If your spirit is weak, where can you go? Thus, be strong in spirit by recognizing and turning to the Creator who made you and sustains you.
  • Family (parents, your children, grandchildren) will be forever a part of your legacy. Time spent with them brings no regrets — if you have a heart of love. Simply putting in time can be a labor of futility. 

Engaging these most important relationships with authentic interest and caring will yield deep satisfaction for you and fruit of goodness for many years to come.

Life is lived best when we are learners. Get wisdom; develop good judgment. As King Solomon passed along to his son…

“Don’t forget my words or turn away from them. Don’t turn your back on wisdom, for she will protect you. Love her, and she will guard you. Getting wisdom is the wisest thing you can do! And whatever else you do, develop good judgment. If you prize wisdom, she will make you great. Embrace her, and she will honor you. She will place a lovely wreath on your head; she will present you with a beautiful crown.” (Proverbs 4:5-9, NLT)

Wisdom. Understanding. Discernment. There are no degrees for these.

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