"There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning."
Each year, during graduation time, I share the following commencement address that I delivered to both high school
and college seniors a few years ago. I've found that I need the reminder and I hope you benefit from it, too.
For the last fifteen years I've worked as a coach helping people to
create great lives. I've guided artists, entrepreneurs, corporate employees,
or moms and dads through the process of identifying their goals and
crafting an action plan, and then I've held them accountable for taking the
actions that will improve the quality of their lives. I've learned a lot
about what makes for a great life - a life that honors who we really are -
our values and most treasured priorities. And I've learned about what gets
Today I'd like to share 7 lessons with you in the hopes that it makes
a positive difference as you set out on the next exciting phase of your life.
1. Spend more time on the who rather than the what. What you do will always
be less important than who you become. Knowledge is great but it will
never take you as far as your courage, your integrity, your reputation for someone who keeps his or her word, or your commitment to be of service
to others in an important way. As you go through life, you will face challenges and obstacles. When you do, get in the habit of asking yourself the following three questions:
- How can I grow from this experience?
- What qualities of character am I being called to develop?
- How can I use this event to make me a better person?
2. Follow your heart. Pay far more attention to what you think than
what everyone else thinks. The most important relationship you'll ever have
is with you. When I think about the regrets I've heard from adults over
the years, the biggest ones always have to do with listening to everyone
else but themselves. Start now. Make your own rules and follow them. At the
end of your life, the most important person you'll have to answer to is
3. Develop a strong "maverick muscle." Be willing to bend the rules,
learn how to disappoint others gracefully, get comfortable with people not liking you, and always strive to be an original thinker. I have a
little sign in my office that says: "No Guts, No Glory" and I use it to remind
me to go against the grain whenever necessary. Allow yourself to be the unique spirit that you were meant to be. Trust me. Your willingness
to rock the boat will set you apart from 95% of the people you meet throughout your life.
4. Build your courage muscles. Starting tomorrow, practice doing one
small thing a day that frightens you. Learn to water ski, ask someone out on
a date, go for that promotion you keep dreaming about, or learn to dance. Small acts of courage strengthen your ability to take even bigger
leaps later on like deciding to write your own book or run for political
office. If you really want to build your courage muscles, take a public
speaking course. Twenty years ago I allowed someone to drag me to a Toastmaster's Meeting - an international speech club - and it changed the course of
my life forever. Courage builds confidence and confident people rarely settle for less.
5. Don't go to the hardware store for milk. When you're excited about doing something new, make sure you turn to those people who will
encourage you to take a chance - the ones who believe in you rather than those
who will tell you why an idea won't work. Surround yourself with positive people - the kind of people who challenge you to reach beyond your
fear rather than play it safe. There will always be people telling you why
an idea is risky, or why you can't do something. That advice is usually
based on the mistakes they've made or the chances they didn't take because
they were afraid. Always remember this: Someone's past does not equal
your future. When faced with a naysayer, smile, say thank you, and turn
around. Stick with positive people who believe in you. Remember, if you
needed milk, you wouldn't go to the hardware store.
By the way, you're mom was right. You do become who you hang around with. Choose your friends wisely :).
6. Live by this mantra: Where there's a will, there's a way. Don't give
up, especially when things get hard, and don't ever let anyone or anything put limits
7. Stay connected. Your use of technology - email or texting, for example - will never replace the value of a live connection with someone. Every now and then pick up the phone and call a
friend or visit a loved one rather than send an email or text message. Too
often I've seen technology draw a wedge between people. When we come to the
end of our lives, it's who we loved and who loved us that matters most.
Make "in-person" time a priority.
Finally, at the time you were born you were given an amazing gift - a
gift that most of us forget about as we grow older. It's the power to
design your own unique life. You are an artist. The canvas is your life.
From this moment on, take ownership of this gift and use it wisely. If you
do, your life will become an extraordinary work of art.