Across the country this month, students are winding up the school year and looking forward to some well-deserved time away from the classroom. Many of them are graduating, and as they prepare to exit one significant stage of life and enter a brand new one, I’m sure they are feeling excited, and at least a little bit scared.
This year’s graduates can expect to receive all sorts of clichéd advice about how to succeed in their future endeavours. Here’s mine:
You never really graduate from learning: Sure, school’s out and you don’t need to worry about tests or report cards. That’s great news! But remember that life is all about learning. Wherever you go, whatever you do, don’t ever allow yourself to stop. Read a book, watch a documentary, go to a lecture, ask for advice from people you think are smart – just keep on learning.
Get outside your comfort zone: We all live in our own little bubbles. And that’s a good thing – bubbles offer comfort, compassion and community, and those things are truly important. Still, you need to step outside of the bubble, too, and see what else is out there. You might find yourself interested in things you never thought you’d like. And don’t worry: the bubble will still be there when you’re ready to come back.
Figure out what you want, and realize it’s going to change: If you’re graduating from high school or university, you’re likely feeling pressure to decide on a path for your adult life right now. That’s appropriate, because it’s hard to get anywhere if you don’t know where you want to go. But at the same time, don’t get too set in your ways, because life has a habit of switching things up on you. Be confident that you can achieve your goals, and know that whatever direction you chose, there’s a good chance it’s going to change somewhere down the line.
Failure can be a good thing: Some of the most important lessons in life are going to come from making mistakes. And, let’s face it: you’re going to make plenty of them. The crucial lesson is to learn from your failures, figure out where and how you went wrong, then fix it. And when you do succeed, it will make it that much sweeter.
Do more listening than talking: You don’t need to tape your mouth shut, but do make an effort to hear everything and everyone around you. This is important for at least three reasons. One, you’re very likely to learn something new from listening closely to people. Two, listening will help you learn empathy, which is key to navigating through life. And three, when you eventually do speak up, people will be more willing to listen.
Take your time: It’s important to live in the moment, to not rush through things because you think there’s something better waiting just around the bend. You’ve got a lot of life still to live, and you’ll get to where you need to be eventually. In the meantime, enjoy the present, because you can never get it back.
Congrats to all the graduates. And best of luck.