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Dear Graduate

Congratulations on your graduation! Hopefully, I had the chance to congratulate you in person at the commencement ceremony. As many commencement speakers have pointed out, the word commencement refers to a beginning. Graduation marks the end of one phase of your life; commencement marks the beginning of another. As you start this next phase, I offer some unsolicited advice on how to navigate your life.

Be kind. The world is a rough place. Make it a little less rough by being kind. The return on investment of kindness is huge. Kindness costs you virtually nothing but often has a significant impact on the target of your kindness. You’ve probably had a hard day brightened by a small act of kindness. Share the love, be kind. I’ll let you in on a little secret; your kindness not only positively impacts others, it lifts you as well. The next time you’re having a rough day, try being especially kind. Your day will be brighter.

Be generous. Most of us are incredibly blessed when compared to most of the world. Generosity, like kindness, not only benefits the recipient, it benefits the giver as well. St. Francis of Assisi said, “For it is in giving that we receive.” It’s highly likely that you will have careers that bring financial success. Share some of that success with others. More importantly, give of yourself, this brings the greatest returns. Khalil Gibran tells us, “It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.”

Be courageous. Over the last few weeks, I listened to and talked with numerous very successful people. All stressed the importance of taking risks. Success and failure are two sides of the same coin. If you want to be successful, take risks. Think through the risks, but don’t avoid something just because it’s risky. Take that new job. Move to an unfamiliar city. Stretch your abilities. Don’t just do what’s safe. That leads to a boring, unfulfilling life. Follow Admiral Grace Hopper’s motto: “A ship in port is safe; but that’s not what ships are built for. Sail out to sea and do new things.”

Be curious. There’s an old saying: “Curiosity killed the cat.” Hogwash. Curiosity is one of the things that makes cats great. Humans are similar. Curiosity is a hallmark of a good life. Cultivate curiosity. As Einstein said, “… never stop questioning; curiosity has its own reason for existing.” Curiosity is the seed of growth. Nurture that seed.

Be resilient. Life has its ups and downs. As Mark Knopfler wrote, “Sometimes you’re the windshield, sometimes you’re the bug.” Fight through the tough times. Focus on possibilities, not limitations. Put your energy into controlling what you can, not into worry. Keep your eye on long-term prospects, not short-term setbacks. Hard times are temporary. Failures are opportunities for learning and growth. Over time, your confidence will grow, opening up new possibilities along the way.

Be humble. (My wife, Tracy, will laugh when she reads this. I’m not always the most humble person, but I’m trying.) While hard work matters, keep in mind that you were born into very favorable circumstances. Celebrate and enjoy your successes, but remain humble. No matter how successful you are, you didn’t get there by yourself. One of society’s biggest problems is that we’ve lost our sense of humility. We cling to our beliefs without question, forgetting the possibility that we might be wrong. It’s fine to have strong beliefs, but remain intellectually humble; be open to other perspectives. You might learn something.

Be your own guide. As you go through life there will be no shortage of people telling you what to do. Read, listen, learn, ponder, but decide for yourself. You alone are responsible for your life. Only you can decide what sort of life you seek and what kind of person you will become. Don’t rely on others to tell you what to do. Write your own story.

Be yourself. Our dog, Maggie, is a mix of border collie, bulldog, sled dog of some sort and who knows what else. My sister-in-law, Janet, calls her a Dr. Seuss dog. Maggie is unique in the universe, and so are you. Don’t try to be someone else, be you. This doesn’t mean you can’t learn, grow and change. Being yourself means embracing your uniqueness. So what if you’re different from the herd? Beautiful art requires different colors. Great music requires different notes. A wonderful world requires different people. Don’t be afraid to be different. Be yourself. Like Maggie, you’re one-of-a-kind. FBN

 

By Craig Van Slyke, Ph.D.

 

When I’m not enjoying the antics of Maggie and our other four-legged crew, I serve as dean of Northern Arizona University’s W.A. Franke College of Business, home to faculty and staff who are dedicated to the success of our 3,500 students. For more information on The W.A. Franke College of Business, please see: franke.nau.edu/. I welcome comments and feedback on these columns. Email your comments to: craig.vanslyke@nau.edu, or follow me on Twitter @cvanslyke.

 

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