Advice to a New Graduate

YOU'RE A GRADUATE! Congratulations on achieving this important milestone. You've heard it before, but behind every tired cliche is a grounded truth: Education is the key to properly dealing with life's most important opportunities. I remember a television ad campaign from my youth. It said simply, "To get a good job, get a good education." But life is not just about the job; it's about, well . . . life. Living. And living well. Not necessarily accumulating wealth, but more properly health -- physical, spiritual, and mental health. But how do we achieve this kind of wealth? Since a picture is worth a thousand words, let me draw a metaphor for you:

Imagine yourself in the Colisseum, like in the movie Gladiator. You are standing in the middle of the arena. Thousands of people are in the stands, watching to see what will happen next. Will you make the right choice? Or will you fail? Some of the spectators wish you ill; others hope you will make the right choice; but the vast majority are indifferent to your plight. And no one is down on the field of battle with you. You are alone; only you can make these important decisions.

You look around at your options. A tall wall surrounds the circular field upon which you stand. At regular intervals, all along that curving wall encompassing your life, are doorways. When you were born, almost all the doors were open to you, though some were already shut. For example, I was born a man and the "female" doorway was closed to me at birth. But the “male” doorway was open and on the other side of it were -- and are -- many great opportunities. The same is true of all the other doors. Take a minute and think about all the doors that were opened to you when you were born. The choices were almost limitless.

And though there were some doors closed to you at birth, they are not necessarily destined to remain so. Knowing how to drive a car is one example. Through your hard work and diligence, you opened that door yourself. I know it's not lost on you how many opportunities come to us as a result of knowing how to drive.

So consider for a moment how many doors are open to us, or remain closed to us, or that we deliberately shut ourselves, depending upon our choices.

My philosophy has always been to keep as many doors open as possible, and pry others open if I can, thus adding to the options of my life. For that reason I went to law school, though I never really wanted to practice law. I just wanted to know what lawyers know (which is, quite simply, how the world works), and now I do. That door remains open to me and is a great benefit when it comes to understanding current events and politics.

I find it amazing that at people in their twenties are expected to make decisions that will continue to be valid for the rest of their lives. I find this premise sad and untenable. Not that you should put off some of these decisions (career, marriage, etc.), but before making any life-changing decision you should remember the importance of that decision and make it in an informed manner. A proper education will make your decision much easier.

Though you are a graduate today, you have really just began your real education. It does not matter the extent of your formal training, what matters is that you make learning a priority and a habit in your life. That will keep more doors -- and more opportunities -- open to you than anything else I know of.

This is my gift to you on this important occasion. Good luck!

1 comment:

sheetsb said...

As the mom of a recent highschool grad, I agree with your advice. I can only add: be brave in a world that tells you to fear everything. Now is the time. Learning to be gladiator-brave now will stay with you well into the future when even more doors have closed.