By Ken Keller
Graduates, faculty members, parents, invited guests:
I am honored and humbled to speak to you. Your graduation is certainly worthy of a celebration and some words of thought-provoking advice, encouragement and inspiration.
You have much to be thankful for. You have studied, grown mentally, physically and emotionally, and are now eligible to join those folks out in the “real world of work.”
My goal today is to share five lessons with you.
The first lesson is you will end up working a majority of your life, either for yourself or someone else.
The good news is that you have developed a good work ethic. Employers like to have people on the payroll who see things through to the end.
The bad news is that you will hear about people who inherited money or got a lucky break somehow and in both cases, have plenty of money, toys and time to play than you could imagine.
Life is not fair, get over it.
The second lesson is you will not always know what the score is or where you stand at work. Chances are you’ll end up working at a place that won’t tell you what the score really is, how your performance measures up or what you need to do to improve.
You need to establish your own internal instruments to gauge how your company is doing, what your relationship is with your boss is, how your industry is doing and how the economy is doing.
When you do this, you’ll be more tuned in to reality and can make key life decisions proactively.
Third, the more you make, the more taxes you pay. That is just how it is, no one likes it but you get used to it.
The fourth lesson is that what you studied or majored in is not necessarily going to be your career. Don’t get pigeon holed into thinking that your coursework is all you are. You’re a lot more than that.
Find out what you enjoy doing before you attempt to make a career out of anything.
If you find a job and attempt to make it fit you, you will be miserable. You’ll always be in search of happiness. Your constant unhappiness will make everyone around you unhappy, including those you work with and those you live with.
Take time to write down what you enjoy doing and then try to find a job engaging those interests. When your passion clicks it will energize you.
The final lesson is that time flies. It was just yesterday I was sitting right where you are, waiting for the speaker to finish. I wanted my diploma and to go … somewhere. You know, get on with my life. Get a job; make money; travel.
I did get on with my life and it has been great. But, it has gone by too quickly. You really do need to stop and smell the roses.
Get up early and watch the sunrise and the sunset, walk in the rain, tell people if you love them, call your friends, send birthday cards, sit and watch the birds, watch water flow by, enjoy the silence of a cool night.
These are small things yet they remind us there are great pleasures all around us, everyday, if we only take the time to experience them. Don’t spend all your time at work, take time to enjoy the world you live in, and enjoy it. It was created for you.
No one ever said on their deathbed, “I wish I had stayed later at work.”
Thank you and best of luck in your life.
PS: These same lessons apply to business owners.
Ken Keller is a syndicated business columnist focused on the leadership needs of small and midsize closely held companies. Contact him at [email protected]. Keller’s column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of this media outlet.