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Advice for New Graduates

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May and June mark an exciting time for students as they graduate from high school and college and embark on a new chapter in their lives. Graduation represents a new beginning ... a fresh start ... an exciting entry into a big world of possibilities.

With the ceremony of graduation comes commencement speeches, when often, a well-known public figure imparts wisdom to the new graduating class. Although every speaker is different and has different perspectives, many address topics that they often feel are especially poignant and relevant to the time of graduation. Speakers may discuss the political, economic, or social landscapes of the nation or world, or give a motivational pep-talk for new graduates to go out and make a real difference, or provide life lessons the speaker has learned in his or her lifetime.

To be honest, I can’t say I remember a lot of what was said at either of my undergraduate or graduate graduation ceremonies. But if I were to personally deliver a commencement speech or convocation address, there would be certain things that I would want to tell graduates. And if I were graduating today, I know I would have appreciated hearing these things myself:

  1. Believe in Yourself. If you believe in yourself, others will believe in you as well. Believe in all that you are, all that you can be, and all that you stand for.
  2. Never Stop Dreaming. Dreamers have the ability to change the world. They envision the impossible and make it happen. Follow your dreams and you will achieve the unachievable.
  3. Do What You Love. Life is too short to not enjoy what you do. Don’t do what you think you should do, or what everyone else wants you to do, or for that matter, what you think everyone wants you to do. Find your own passion, and do what you love.
  4. Stay True to Who You Are. Don’t forget where you came from or what you believe in. Remembering this will help you to make the best decisions in life and will help you to live a life without regret.
  5. Don’t Settle for Mediocrity. In Jim Collin’s first sentence of his book, Good to Great, he states, “Good is the enemy of great.” Good is often sufficient. Greatness, however, never settles. Greatness expects more ... always. Expect the best from yourself and from others, and always look for the opportunities to make things better. Don’t accept things as they are, for positive change comes from improving what is.
  6. Don’t Burn Bridges. There will be times in your life when you may not care what other people think, but you never know when those people may pop up in your life again. Always do the right thing and maintain your relationships, for they may prove to be invaluable when you least expect it.
  7. Live Honestly and with Integrity. At the end of the day, you only have to answer to yourself. Live in a way that makes you proud and in a way that enables you to look in the mirror every morning and like what you see.
  8. Live with Humility. We all are imperfect and it is important to acknowledge our flaws just as much as our positive traits. Be thankful for your talents, for your successes and for the good fortune that comes your way. Don’t ever expect things just because you think you deserve them. You have to earn them.
  9. Love, Respect, and Forgive Yourself. Self-love is most important when it comes to finding and experiencing love with others. Always treat yourself with kindness and forgive yourself for the times that you make mistakes.
  10. Love Others Openly. When you love, love openly and unconditionally. This will allow you to experience a deeper love that can celebrate the best of times, as well as get you through the worst of times.

Some of these may seem cheesy to some, but I believe that all of these are important to living a full, meaningful life on which you can look back and smile.

If you were to impart your own knowledge and wisdom to new graduates, what would you tell them? What lessons would you want them to learn?

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