It’s graduation season! Students across the country are thrilled to finally be done with classes, done with books and done with teachers’ dirty looks. But what they will soon find out is that the real life lessons start now. Because suddenly your life becomes one big multiple-choice test. And if you thought you were done with all that writing, here comes the big surprise:
Now you have to write the story of your own life!
Looking back, I can see that I have learned far more since graduating from Hanover High School in Hanover, New Hampshire and The University of Wisconsin than I did in school. In fact, I read more now than I did in school. I ask more questions. I study people and events. I analyze cause and effect. And I know far more now than I did when I thought I knew it all. (Which may also be lyrics to a country song.)
If you are a new graduate, congratulations! Welcome to the club! Here are a few things that will help you in your exciting next chapter of life. They have been a huge help for me. Which is why I shared them in my book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say?
12 Important Life Lessons For New Graduates.
1. Kickstart your day with a smile. The first thing you should do every day, while still lying in bed, is put a big smile on your face. Science has proven that not only do we smile when we feel good, we actually feel good when we smile. Smiling is the easiest positive thing you’ll do all day. Yet it has the power to propel and protect you until you crawl back into bed at night. (So, if you haven’t smiled yet today, do it now, brown cow.)
2. Fill your attitude with helium. Life is unpredictable. One moment you feel like you are on top of the world. the next moment you feel like the world is on top of you. But a helium attitude rises anyway. Don’t let setbacks, curveballs, and negative people drag you down. Do what helium does, and just keep rising. Your attitude is everything in life. Make sure you fill it with the right fuel. (And if you ever need a good laugh, suck in some real helium and say ‘Luke, I am your Father.’)
3. Your Success Is Directly Related to Your Contribution. Success is easy to understand. If you want more, contribute more. If you want to earn more money, add more value. If you want more social capital, add more value. If you want more political capital, add more value. It is the value you bring to the world that determines what the world offers you in return, Jedi.
4. The best way to live a great life is to start at the end. By viewing your life from the end you can clearly see what you could have done and what you should have done. Do this now, while you can do something about it. And you will be able to turn your life into an epic story as big as your imagination. (And go to funerals. They will teach you more about life than death. Plus, there are always free ham sandwiches.)
5. It’s the first step that matters most. Far too many people dream about the things they want to do but never take a single step towards making it happen. Your dreams start with that first step. Take it. Make it happen. (And watch Hamilton. That dude did not throw away his shot.)
6. Let envy be your guide. Don’t get fooled into thinking envy is a deadly sin and try to squash it. Envy offers insight. Note the things you envy and truly want and add them to your life list. Then create a plan to make them yours. And get to work. (Sloth, however, is a deadly sin. Don’t mess with sloths, Sid.)
7. Nothing will happen unless you make it so. JFK said, ‘Things do not happen. They are made to happen.’ Remember that action is everything. It is the difference between dreaming and doing. If you want something to happen you have to force it and will it to happen through your vision, action, and energy. This wisdom applies to friendship, entrepreneurship, and every other ship in between.
8. Always bet on yourself. Don’t buy lottery tickets. Don’t bet on sports or horses. Instead, bet on yourself. Bet on your ideas. But on your intuition. Bet on your determination. And on your willingness to affect the outcome. Stack the odds in your favor. It is the easiest way to mitigate risk and set yourself up for an epic payout. (And add Take A Chance On Me by ABBA to your life soundtrack. It’s a real toe-tapper.)
9. Find your Sliver Mentors. Everyone will offer you advice. But only take advice from people who are already doing what you want to do be doing. And rather than have one mentor for everything it is useful to have many mentors for slivers of your life. Learn the tips and tricks of the people who behave the way you want to behave. Don’t listen to every voice in the wind. Instead, carefully curate the advice you accept from those who offer great examples. (And keep a good tweezer around for regular slivers.)
10. Ask For What You Want. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. A closed door will often open when you show just how much you want to go inside. Remember, someone holds the key to unlock every locked door. (Don’t simply take what you want. Unless you look great in an orange jumpsuit.)
11. Constantly Upgrade Your Thinking: You may have graduated, but you are not done growing. Never stop improving yourself. You are like an iPhone. You should constantly be creating better versions of yourself. Each one is smarter, stronger and more capable than the one before. (And now that you will start paying for your own phone you’ll want to put a screen shield and protective case on that thang. Because phones are freak’n expensive.)
12. Don’t Build A Network. Build Friendships. Throughout your career, people will tell you that you should network. This essentially means you should meet people who can help further your career. This is bad advice. Don’t network. Instead, befriend as many people as you can. Prioritize developing genuine relationships. When you make great friends you will have a great network. Because when you make people the most important thing in your life, everything else magically falls into place. (And keep eating Lucky Charms. They’re magically delicious.)
Commit to a lifetime of learning and growing. Get a little better every day. Read. Think. Make friends. Find people who can teach you. And always bet on yourself. The best is yet to come. But it’s up to you to make it happen.
*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.
+If a $16 graduation gift fits into your budget, consider grabbing a copy of What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? for yourself or the graduate in your life. You’ll get 70 more important life lessons.