Advice For Your Graduating Senior

college graduatesJune is graduation party time, especially here in Minnesota. It seems like every weekend there’s another grad party to go to.

Here’s a MN factoid you may not know: big open house style high school graduation parties are a mostly MN phenomenon. When I talk to friends and family around the country I find that we are the only ones to pitch a giant party tent, back up the truck to the loading dock at Costco, and host an unknown number of guests that may or may not show up at some point during the day.

Recently, my wife, Lynn, and I went to a high school graduation party for the daughter of one of Lynn’s high school friends. While going to a party full of strangers for a student you’ve never met is always fun, I was able to find some time to reflect on the best advice I can give a young person graduating from high school. Not that any of your kids actually need or want one more person poking their nose into their business, but I thought I would throw in my two cents worth anyway.

Following are my 5 best tips for your recent high school grad:

  • Get busy. You may be tempted to slack a little by thinking this is your last summer before college or that you need this time to be with your friends, but you should find a way to make the most of this time. If possible, get a job. If that doesn’t happen, do volunteer work or learn a new skill. Become an expert at some type of software. PowerPoint, Keynote and WordPress come to mind.
  • Avoid debt. Financially speaking, debt is your biggest enemy at this stage in life – and will be for a long time. Schools will tell you to borrow as much as you need for college. Credit card companies, car dealerships, travel agencies and your favorite department store will offer you money to buy their stuff. All these offers will make sense at the time, but don’t take the bait. You don’t need any of that stuff as much as you need the money. With the possible exception of borrowing a little bit for college, take this advice: if you don’t have the cash to pay for it, don’t buy it.
  • Work your ass off. I know. That’s some pretty rough language for a family friendly blog like this, but it’s true (and I am sure you have heard worse). Hard work is the single biggest determinant of your future success. Vince Lombardi once said, “The dictionary is the only place were success comes before work. Work is the key to success, and hard work can help you accomplish anything”. It’s hard to argue with a coach who has won two Super Bowls, five National Football League Championships and never had a losing season as a head coach in the NFL – even if he is a Green Bay Packer.
  • Be positive and think big. How and what you think is everything. Henry Ford once quipped, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you are right”.  Read books by Normal Vincent Peale, W. Clement Stone, Napolean Hill, Joel Osteen, Zig Ziglar, Anthony Robbins, and others.

You can’t be successful – or happy – in life without the right mindset. Drink in as much of the positive thinking Kool-Aid as you can get. If you don’t have the time to read the books, get the audio versions or watch them on Youtube. You are what you think, and you will become what you think about most.

  • Be determined to succeed. Babe Ruth once said “It’s hard to beat a guy who never quits”. You wont become successful because you wish to be so. You will become successful because you decide to be so. You will suffer rejection, setbacks, hardships and disappointments. That’s life. It’s not where you start that matters, it’s where you finish. Consider these examples:
  1. J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, was a single mother on public assistance when she published her first book. She went on to become the world’s first billionaire author.
  2. Stephen Spielberg, the filmmaker who created many famous movies like E.T, Jurassic Park, and Saving Private Ryan, was rejected by the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts not once, but twice.  By the way, he’s also a billionaire – about 3 times over.
  3. Since we are on a roll with billionaires, don’t forget about Oprah. She was fired from her job as a TV anchor at a Baltimore TV station and went on to become, well, “Oprah!” According to Forbes magazine, she may be worth even more than Spielberg, but who’s counting.

Being successful in life is about more than just professional and financial success. It also involves living life on your terms, being a person of high integrity, serving others and being happy – among other things. You will define your own success. Make it happen!