Originally published on 12-8-13
My youngest brother Carlos graduated from University on Saturday and I couldn’t have been more proud. My family and I dressed up in our Sunday best and headed to the McAllen Convention Center. As I looked around I saw the room was filled with proud friends, family members and parents. I even saw a boy wearing a shirt that said, “My brother is graduating!” Of course I felt like I had dropped the ball.
The decibel level in the place with through the roof! There were crying babies, families chatting and the toddler behind us was watching a video on her smart phone at full volume. She was too young to understand what I meant when I glared at her for a few extra seconds. I was trying to say, listen 3 year old, I’m trying to sit here in peace and your Dora the Explorer is extremely distracting! (I’m sure one day, I’ll be on the other end and I’ll be glad my child has a video in their hand to calm them down, but until then…) The University band began to play the Pomp and Circumstance graduation march and the audience settled in. The white noise was no longer and the crowd of 2000 was focused on the graduates filtering in.
I was intently looking for Carlos and when I saw him, there was no holding me back. All of a sudden, it was the band’s music and my loud voice. Directly from my diaphragm I screamed, “Go Carlos!!!!!! Wooooooooo!” I may have busted Guapo’s left ear drum. No one else was screaming for their graduate, so I considered it an extra special shout out.
As the graduates sat down, the President of the University approached the podium, gave a few remarks and introduced the key note speaker. She seemed like a very nice lady, a home grown success story, and her speech was a snooze-a-rama. Cliché this, cliché that. I realize that ten minutes is hardly enough time to dictate a homemade apple recipe much less enough time to impress upon 24 year olds how to be a career success. What can one possibly say to 24 year olds in 10 minutes that will stay with them?
Let me give it a go…
Congratulations, you are graduates! The fun is just beginning. If you do it right, every year gets better than the one before. Now, I think my personal story is cool, but you may not, so let’s skip the small talk.
Each of you is focused on cool things like what you’ll get for graduation, and deservedly so. Knowing you will not remember anything I say in the next ten minutes, my graduation gift to you is the piece paper each of you will find under your seats. It’s my 6 best. Keep this piece of paper somewhere where you’ll read it every day. Keep it next to your computer, your refrigerator, or your wallet. This is the simplest request you’ll ever be able to follow through on.
You made grades, you put in the time, and you’ve graduated. Now what?
Sit somewhere quiet and ask yourself this question. If I could do anything as a career, anything at all, what would it be? Don’t stop asking yourself until you find the answer. If you’re not on the dream career path, stop what you’re doing and take another road. Think out of the box. 9am-5pm isn’t for everyone, neither is being an artist. Settle into what brings you joy and meaning. Bigger isn’t always better. If you don’t know what you love, try a little of a lot of things. Pu Pu platter your way through a few years. You’ll figure it out.
Doing the right thing gives you the kind of protection that no bodyguard can give you.-Maya Angelou. Be straight with yourself and with people. This may not get you the biggest house on the block, but it will earn you the best sleep. There’s nothing worse than having that dark cloud over your head always wondering if someone is going to find out who you really are. Making a habit of doing the right thing allows you to focus your energy on things that matter instead of covering your tracks or watching your back. Honesty requires courage, build that muscle.
Define success for yourself. Actually write it down. I will consider myself successful if______________. Don’t let TV, society or your parents define it for you. Shows on TV are dog doo. Magazines are dog doo. People you see on media are airbrushed, both them and their stories. Hec, your friends’ portrayal of themselves on their own FB is airbrushed! They’re only showing you their highlight reel. Measuring your life against someone else’s is futile. Let your success markers will guide your decision making.
Know that what is happening now is preparing you for what’s around the corner. No moment is wasted. Your life is forming just the way it should. You will need each lesson from today to prepare you for tomorrow. Pay attention.
Be a kind person and a kind leader. People who motivate by fear are weak, easily forgotten and minimally impactful over time. If you want to have an impact, be kind and thoughtful. If your energy comes from a place of kindness, your teachings and influence will last far longer than your walk on earth. Wise sayings often fall on barren ground, but a kind word is never thrown away.-AH I’d put money on the fact that you can remember the last kind thing someone said to you.
Get in tune with your instincts. Follow them. Each of us has an inner voice that can act as a guiding light if we allow it. The strife and confusion usually come when we cloud our inner voice. Going against your gut usually manifests in physical feelings such as sweaty palms, a racing heart, back pain, a queasy stomach. Pay attention to your body, it’s always communicating to you.
That’s it, graduates. Enjoy your life, you deserve it!