(An excerpt from my commencement address of May 2017)
Commencement is my favorite day of the year. Everyone is happy!
Each year I exercise the Presidential Prerogative to give important parting advice. Although aimed at the graduating class, everyone can listen and take heed. Past advice has included never tie a mattress to the roof of your car and quit as many jobs as you can.
My advice this year is gleaned from a body of work that is timely and inspirational. It is a body of work rarely studied by scholars. I am referring to country-western songs. The best advice is often the simplest, here goes:
My first piece of advice comes from Carrie Underwood, “Sometimes life leads you down a different road. Someday you’ll see the reason why there’s good in goodbye.” The message is DO NOT LOOK BACK and DO NOT WAIT. If you want to start a business, do it. If you want to travel, go ahead. If you want to be a musician, be one. Too often I see people wait for that next promotion or until I’m thirty or some artificial threshold. Time is not on your side.
The next pearl of wisdom from the country song world is about getting responses, hearing back from others. It’s about the rudeness of unresponsive people and organizations. The sentiment is best captured in the old Randy Travis song, “Since my phone still ain’t ringing, I assume it still ain’t you.”
You will be applying for jobs. You will be applying to graduate school. And it will be frustrating because you never hear back. I don’t know why responses don’t come. It seems to me that when you pour yourself into something, the least you deserve is a response – even if the response is NO. When you don’t hear, don’t give up. Eventually you will hear and it will be good. The phone will ring or the text will buzz with a positive message.
Great advice can sometimes be captured right in the title of a country song like, “God is great, beer is good, people are crazy” recorded by Billy Currington.
I find this one to be more true than not. Keep your priorities straight. Keep your faith and keep your friends. Drink the beer if you want but don’t drive. And recognize people can be crazy. Someone I love reminded me recently that what is in your heart is what matters. Keep your priorities straight.
The great song by Miranda is also appropriate. The song is “Hide your crazy… even when you fall apart.”
The transition out of college can be brutal. All transitions can be difficult. You will stumble. Your hearts will be broke. You will wonder what’s important. You will have failures. You just need to pick yourself up and try again and hide your crazy.
And lastly, you have heard lots of things that can induce stress and be just worrisome. Among the things that you’ve hear are:
- Fix your resume
- Don’t ever get caught on inappropriate videos
- Change your hair
- Hide your tattoos
- Don’t post on social media
- Take coding classes
- Learn spreadsheets
- Don’t put your phone on the dinner table
- Practice presentation skills
- Get that internship
- Your first job is important
- Your first job isn’t important
- You won’t find a job
- Network, network, network
- Beware the reply button
- Never be late
- Don’t eat sugar
The list goes on and on and on but here is my take away for the day:
It will be fine. You will be fine. I have confidence in each and every one of you that you have learned life lessons and skills that will enable you to be who you want to be. In those moments when you are worried, remember my parting piece of advice; IT WILL BE FINE.