This week I’m sharing a commencement address I delivered a few years ago, in honor of graduation week. The lessons are just as relevant today. Please feel free to share it with the graduates in your life.
For the last twenty years I’ve worked as a coach helping people to create great lives. I’ve guided artists, entrepreneurs, corporate employees, moms and dads through the process of identifying what really matters and I’ve held them accountable as they take steps to honor their values and most treasured priorities.
I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to live well. And, I’ve learned a lot about what gets in the way.
Today I’d like to share 7 lessons to remember as you set out on this new, exciting phase of your life.
1. Spend more time on the who rather than the what.
What you do will always be less important than who you become. Knowledge is great but it will never take you as far as your courage, your integrity, your reputation for someone who keeps his or her word, or your commitment to be of service. As you go through life, you will face challenges and obstacles. When you do, make it a habit to ask yourself three questions:
How can I grow from this experience?
What qualities of character am I being called to develop?
How can I use this event to make me a better person?
2. Follow your heart.
Pay far more attention to what you think than what everyone else thinks. The most common regret I hear from my clients has to do with the fact that they listened to everyone else but themselves.
At the end of your life, the most important person you’ll have to answer to is you.
3. Develop a strong maverick muscle.
Be willing to bend the rules. Learn how to disappoint others gracefully. Get comfortable with people not liking you. Strive to be an original thinker.
I have a little sign in my office that says: “No Guts, No Glory” and I use it to remind myself that it pays to be rebellious now and then. Trust me, your willingness to rock the boat will set you apart from 95% of the people out there.
4. Build your courage muscles.
Starting tomorrow, practice doing one thing a day that frightens you. Learn to water ski, ask someone out on a date, offer help to a stranger, publish a blog. Small acts of courage strengthen your ability to take even bigger leaps later on like deciding to write your own book or run for political office.
If you really want to build your courage muscles, take a public speaking course. Twenty years ago I allowed someone to drag me to a Toastmaster’s Meeting – an international speech club – and it changed the course of my life.
Courage builds confidence and confident people rarely settle for less.
5. Don’t go to the hardware store for milk.
When you’re excited about doing something new, make sure you turn to people who will encourage you to take chances. There will always be people telling you why an idea is risky, or why you can’t do something. That advice is usually based on the mistakes they’ve made or the chances they didn’t take because they were afraid.
Someone’s past does not equal your future.
When faced with a naysayer, smile, say thank you, and turn around. Stick with positive people who believe in you.
And by the way, you’re mom is right. You do become who you hang around with. Choose friends wisely.
6. Live by this mantra: Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Don’t give up, especially when things get hard, and don’t ever let anyone or anything put limits on you.
7. Stay connected.
Texting will never replace the value of a live connection with someone. Every now and then pick up the phone and call a friend or visit a loved one rather than send an email or text. When we come to the end of our lives, it’s who we loved and who loved us that matters most. Make in-person time a priority.
Finally, at the time you were born you were given an amazing gift – a gift that most of us forget as we grow older.
You are an artist.
The canvas is your life.
Make something beautiful.
From this moment on, if you take ownership of this gift and use it wisely, your life will become an extraordinary work of art. Congratulations!
This Week’s Video
Here’s a beautiful 2016 Berkeley commencement speech by Sheryl Sandberg about what really matters. You can watch it here.