If you’ve perused the card aisle recently, I’d bet my teeth that this is the jist of what you read in the graduation section. And if you are like me, this is what you thought.
Follow your dreams. After all, It worked for My Little Pony, the Little Mermaid, and Rainbow Brite.
Believe in yourself. Because there are a few worse things you could believe in—like zombies, My Little Pony, and Rainbow Brite.
Reach for the sky. There’s nothing up there. But it will be a good stretch.
Be yourself. Don’t let anyone change you. Just be yourself at a big school on the other side of the state so I don’t have to put up with your selfish attitudes.
Enjoy the journey. And if you get a job, you might have enough money to travel, too.
Look inside yourself; then follow your heart. Wow. And they say texting and driving is dangerous!
What you believe, you can achieve. Yeah, I guess CNN still doesn’t believe in finding Flight 370.
What matters in life is not your success, but your significance. And you’ll never be able to accurately measure either one. That’s depressing.
YOU did it! That’s right…YOU opened your eyes every morning when the alarm your parents bought you went off. Then YOU put on the clothes your dad paid for, ate the breakfast your mom made, and one of them dropped YOU off at school carrying the lunch your mom packed. YOU stayed alive all day while your teachers tried to beat knowledge into your head against your will, and then YOU sat and griped at the kitchen table while your mom made you do your home work. And when it was all over, your parents made you go to bed so YOU would get enough rest to do it all again the next day. For a lot of years.
And now I’m writing YOU a check.
Needless to say, I am unimpressed with graduation cards.
So I googled the best graduation speeches. I read speeches given by everyone from Steve Jobs to Steven Colbert. And each of them were basically the same thing as reading the wall of cards at the grocery store. You did it! Now follow your dreams. You haven’t failed until you stopped trying. I don’t think there have been more commonly repeated lies (with maybe the exception of that little thing about how you could keep your insurance).
To be fair, there were a few statements here and there about hard work and giving back. But almost every speaker seemed to be trying to inspire graduates to ______________? I’m not sure. Be themselves??? Keep moving forward??? Think??? Why, at graduation, do we all feel so compelled to inspire and yet resort to such ridiculous statements like this card.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m all for celebrating milestones. And I think there is hard work involved in school—especially some school—that is worth rewarding. But it truly amazes me how many words a speaker can string together and say nothing. On graduation day, that seems to be completely acceptable. Even for non-politicians.
But what most graduates need is not as much recognition of their achievement, but preparation for change. When a graduation is followed by a major life changes—different location, different friends, different activities, different schedule, and student loan payments–all at once, it is little wonder that so many grads struggle. Good thing we’ve equipped them with helpful phrases such as: Like shining stars, every one of us has the potential to light up the darkness with our own particular brilliance. [Author unknown. I didn’t write that gem.]
I feel compelled to do better than that. And since no one asked me to speak at a graduation and since I can’t find any good cards, here is my advice:
Practically: Get a job. Any job. Forget all this nonsense about doing what you love. The fact is, you won’t love any job every day. You will love a job most if you are good at it. And you will get good at it by doing. So yes, get a job you think you’ll like if you can. And if you can’t, just get a job.
Work hard. Try to make your employer successful. Don’t be above any task. Learn everything you can learn—in your mind, don’t think of it as flipping hamburgers, think of it as learning how to run a business. You can build valuable skills just about anywhere.
Be kind to your co-workers. You will enjoy your job more and you will learn how important people skills are to anything you do. If your co-workers are obnoxious, weed-smoking, partiers, then take note of the fact that they work at a hamburger joint and for Pete’s sake, don’t try to be like them. Work that much harder so you can get out of there faster. Take the good and leave the bad, but be kind in the process.
Respect your boss. He knows more than you do. True story. Sure, he may not appreciate you for everything you are and do. He may not know all the hoops you had to jump through to carry out his instructions. He may not keep you informed of everything that you really should have been told. But that’s life. And one day, when you’re the boss, you’ll forgive him everything.
Emotionally: Be grateful.
If you want to be happy, be grateful. Gratitude can lift your spirits like a hot air balloon and an ungrateful heart will sink you right into the electrical wires. Remember how little of your achievements are really that—your achievements. Thank the people who have invested in you.
Spiritually: Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. All the other things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:33)
So there’s my advice for graduates. And here is my free bonus advice: don’t get a tattoo.
And here’s my advice for non-graduates: Don’t waste your money on a card. Just write your check for $4.00 more and give it to them with a firm handshake. If they feel cheated, they can always go to the grocery store and buy themselves a card.
But I’ll bet my teeth that they won’t.