High school graduation is truly a special occasion. My parents, your grandparents never graduated from high school and nearly one hundred years ago, as part of the great migration, your great-grandparents came to America via Ellis Island having little education and here you are graduating from High School. I have written down some thoughts for you to consider as you prepare for the next stage in your life:
Learn how to make your own decisions. Believe in your own resources, and you'll grow from these experiences. The fact of the matter is most of the answers to the hard decisions you’ll need to make in life reside within and you. You are certainly smart enough to figure out what you need to do but if at all possible, before you make a big decision have the patience to give yourself a little time. I have found that instead of asking “What would my Dad or Mom do?” Ask yourself, “What would my best friend do or What would my sister or brother do?” By asking what your friend or sibling might do helps remove you from the situation just enough so that the answer may become clearer. Of course, if you do seek out an opinion from someone else remember your decision is your decision, and you own it.
Don’t worry about what others think. It is wise to be dispassionate about critical comments that others make about you. It doesn’t matter where you are in life; there will be people who say mean things and for a quick moment consider the source, and ignore it. Let the haters hate and learn to forget them as soon as you can. What I am trying to say is learn to respond instead of reacting. It may seem like a small distinction between responding and reacting, but it isn’t, trust me. Lastly, we all have moments of self-doubt or negative thoughts, but you must learn to dismiss those negative thoughts and stay open to other ideas that will help you move in a positive direction. Nothing good comes from negative self-talk!
Think before you waste your money. You might feel you want to buy an expensive car or maybe a cool new watch. But I'm telling you, you don't. What you really want is something you can’t buy -- respect and admiration, and buying something that is new and expensive will not deliver it. Being who you are and doing what you feel is right when no-one is watching is what matters most. I learned that from my first boss, while working at the Guilford Ben Franklin department store. Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t buy something nice sometimes, of course, you should, but buy something of quality--treat yourself--and don’t think anyone is going to respect you more. They will respect you more by how you act.
Success. Personal success is often earned by hard work, but it sure doesn’t hurt to have a little luck. Timing is everything and being at the right place at the right time as well as being ready to say yes to an idea or to take a chance on something that someone else won’t is equally important. Some people are born into families that believe that education is a true equalizer like us, and some people are born into families that have challenges that don’t allow them the opportunities you have experienced. So, I hope you take some chances, and I sure hope lady luck is on your side more often than not but as much as it stinks to say it, hard work is sometimes the only thing you can control. That is why so many people say do what you love and it doesn’t feel like work and if you do what you like to do success will come your way because you’ll work harder.
Perspective. It is so very important to remember to consider other people’s point of view. When you understand why someone else has a different opinion you will have a skill that many of our leaders today lack.
Try different things--everything in moderation. People's lives are a reflection of the experiences they've had, what they have done, where they have gone, the people they've met, the food they have eaten. You know what I mean? Try and step out of your comfort zone and experience different things, go places you haven’t seen, learn new things, but remember everything in moderation. Too much of anything is not healthy. All those times that your mother wouldn’t let you have the entire bag of chips or sleeve of cookies, and you fussed, it wasn’t really about her not wanting you to have a few chips or cookies. Rather she was trying to show you that everything in moderation is fine and too much of any one thing isn’t.
Love. From my experience make sure you are friends first because if you like being around the person and you have similar interests, the love will follow. However, if the other person doesn’t love you back--it isn’t worth the time and energy to try and make them love you. You will certainly know if you love them, and they love you. Lastly, words have the ability to ruin any relationship so think before you use them.
Change your mind. Don’t ever think you have to follow a wrong decision to its terrible, inevitable disappointing end. I remember having a conversation with my father about something I was considering to quit, and my dad couldn’t believe I didn’t want to continue. His response was once you commit to something you have to finish it no matter what - you made your made now lay in it. No way is that true in fact it is bad advice! The ability to change your mind and change your direction is a sign of strength, insight and intelligence. However, don't be the person that starts 1000 things and finishes none.
You can’t control what life throws at you but you can control how you respond so I hope you remain positive.
As with any advice you are free to ignore it.
It seems fitting that my first blog post is about one of my parents sort of. Let me start by stating -- I love throwing things out. I absolutely love doing it. In fact, I am at the other end of the hoarding spectrum. I typically ask -- Why keep it? What use it?
I personally think there is nothing more invigorating than throwing away or shall I say recycling something you no longer need or want. I am one of those individuals that can't stand clutter and fortunately for me my wife doesn't either. SO--if you like to keep small mementos then pass up this first blog as it won't be for you.
My wife and I decided to tackle un-cluttering one room every once in a while. Basically clean it or rid it of the long winter clutter. The first room we tackled was the office. The office use to be the kids playroom and while cleaning it we came across crafting items such as those little plastic beads that our kids would spend hours making intricate designs with. You know the ones that you have to iron so they melt to form the dolphin, or peace sign...two family favorites.
We also found yarn and string of all different colors and lengths, rocks, yes beach rocks, some small and some large. In one cabinet there were 9 signed major league baseballs signed by professional players but we couldn't figure out whose signatures they were and whether they were worth anything so we put them in the Goodwill pile.
We found my wife's high school sketch pad filled with pictures I'm sure she was proud of at the time but she decided we had better recycle them. Better to hide them from our children -- those nudes were awful. We also found old half used chapsticks of unknown vintage, little bits of cut up pieces of paper with stickers, words and numbers written all over them. We found checker pieces as well neatly organized in zip-lock bags with playing cards in each bag as well. There were more ballpoint pens than I'll use in the rest of my lifetime along with half-used broken crayons and a varying assortment of pencils.
I realized many years ago that I was not good at keeping things. I have never been one to keep cards, or letters...ok well maybe a special one occasionally but I tend to think it means more if I keep the item in my thoughts than in my sock draw.
I know some guys that keep old running sneakers to mow the lawn or work outside in but I can't understand it, why keep multiple pairs of old worn out sneakers! Seriously, won't one extra pair do?
Sometimes things happen that do cause me to ponder whether the item should be kept. This, I realized, when I found my mother's signature stamp. As I looked at the curved manner in which she wrote her name I then thought -- wow--mother has been dead for fifteen years and I still have her signature stamp. Even more why did she have a signature stamp in the first place, it wasn't as if she had a huge need to sign checks!
So I asked myself what’s the solution? Is the stamp acting as some window into my relationship with my mother or perhaps the stamp was just stuffed in a draw after she died and it is time to recycle it. Before I could ponder this thought I found a hello kitty pink notebook that had my mother's signature stamped on every page. I then realized it was just a toy and nothing more.