What To Tell The Graduating Class Of 2013
You’re graduating, which means school—the formal and academic portion of your learning experience–is over.
You’re going to be hit with a lot of questions, either about college or a “job,” mostly from well-intentioned adults trying to make conversation or throw in their two cents.
So here’s my penny advice.
Perspective is everything.
Don’t. Follow. Crowds. Crowds are simply anonymous masses of bipedal animals avoiding the careful thinking a circumstance likely requires.
Of course, it’s hard for you to appreciate this because you lack the context. Sounds like adult speak, and probably a bit corny.
Establish your own measures of success. Do this early on, and never look back.
Where your thoughts lead, your life will go. Careful, now.
It’s very likely that school hasn’t prepared you for life, but rather protected you while you aged. Whether this is a good thing or bad depends on your perspective.
If an adult tells you that their life is working out like they thought it would, they’re lying to you—or themselves.
Use the wisdom around you. Learn to find wisdom everywhere. In nature, in music, in mistakes, in the quiet.
Pick your battles.
Read. A lot. Even if you think you hate reading. One day you’ll change your mind.
Laugh—especially at yourself.
Surround yourself with inspiring people and ideas.
If you don’t like something about your life, change it. (And this part is important. Go into almost every endeavor with this perspective. If it sucks, I’ll fix it; if you don’t, you’re letting yourself down, and nothing is worse than letting yourself down.)
Be brutally honest with yourself.
Having integrity means doing the right thing when no one is looking.
Think globally, act locally, and that digital citizenship is human citizenship. If we’re going be super-philosophical about things, your life isn’t yours, it’s everyone’s.
Oh, and lastly, your work is everything, but your work doesn’t necessarily mean a career, and definitely doesn’t mean “job.”.
Rather than social media, your work is your interaction with the world, so do it intentionally, moment by moment, day by day.
To do it any other way is to miss the nuance of life—to blur it into a milky opacity of day-to-day scheduling, drudgery, and miserable norm-referencing.
You’ve been taught by Hollywood and social convention that it’s money, romance, and always-on entertainment that will make you happy, but true happiness comes from, among other sources, a sense of volition and agency. Freedom.
That is, living out what you believe, and then having the will to adjust both those behaviors based on both instinct and “data”: mistakes, instincts, triumphs, embarrassments, uncertainty, weakness, and all of the human spectacle that makes reality television and social media addictive for so many.
All the crap you’ve been internalizing for all of these years you’ve done so without experience—and you’re likely to take those cognitive biases and emotional prejudices out with you into the early stages of your adult life.
So don’t do what your teachers and parents have told you to do. They love you, but they can’t possibly understand the complexity of your life and hopes and thoughts and dreams and fears, and will try to anyway, unwittingly projecting their own insecurities and aspirations on you. And when you follow it, your life will be an underwhelming, room temperature, sticky wet noodle.
It’s your life, and thus your work.
Decide what is “good work” for you, and resist the urge to socialize it to get everyone’s approval.
While the product of your work may ultimately be public, your own moment-to-moment interaction with that work is life, and is fiercely private.
Every night when the lights go out and we’re all ultimately alone, those well-intentioned people that love you are somewhere being forced to confront their own work, and their own insecurities, hopes, frustrations, and dreams. And you with yours.
No matter how social life seems, and how interdependent and global the world becomes, it has to be first private—the elegant and beautifully human transaction between a person and their context.
And the secret to that life? That’s the simplest part.
The secret to life is to be able to consistently align your own behavior with your belief system, and not the reverse.
Now go have at it.