Today I want to congratulate our graduating seniors, and at the same time offer a few insights I wish someone had given me when I graduated high school a million years ago.  And the first of those insights begins with the best definition of success I’ve ever come across.

Consider yourself successful if you have…

  • Peace of mind, i.e., freedom from fear, freedom for anger and freedom from guilt.
  • Good Health and a High Level of Energy
  • Loving Relationships, i.e., long term, intimate, and mature relationships with other people.
  • Financial Freedom, i.e., having enough money that you do not worry about it.
  • A Commitment to Worthy Goals and Ideals, and lastly
  • A feeling of personal fulfillment and self-actualization

But how does one go about getting there you may ask?  Well, here are a few thoughts.

  • First and foremost, just because you are leaving high school with a diploma it doesn’t mean the learning is over. Many years ago, when an FAA flight examiner handed me my commercial pilot’s certificate he said, “Don’t look at this as a license, look at it as a ticket to learn.”  The same can be said of your diploma.  Believe me, if you’re wise, the learning has just begun.
  • Pay attention to the news, but get out of the echo chamber, i.e., don’t limit yourself to only those sources and news outlets that mirror your friends, your teachers or your parent’s beliefs—there’s a very diverse world out there and to fully experience it you need to expand your horizons.
  • During high school it was easy to develop a group mentality, but there’s only one name embossed on your diploma—yours! Left off is the name of your football team, debate club or any other group or organization, which means your recognition and appreciation of your individual identity and responsibilities needs to begin immediately.
  • Read!But what you ask?  That’s easy; I’ve included a webpage listing what are perhaps the best self-discovery and self-help books ever written; books that encompass varying perspectives in fields as diverse as financial success, physical well-being, enduring relationships, spirituality and many other important areas of our lives.
  • For those not going on to college very soon you’re going to get a full-time job and when that happens, do yourself a favor and tackle that job with enthusiasm and learn all you can about that trade or craft. And here’s a little-known fact to help motivate you; if you read just one book a month about your chosen field, you will become an “expert” in that field within five years.
  • And for those who are going on to college, use your college years to find your passion, because when you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.
  • Nothing in life is worthwhile, unless you take risks—nothing! Nelson Mandela said there is no passion to be found playing small and settling for a life that’s less than the one you’re capable of living.  Don’t be afraid to fail; Thomas Edison conducted one thousand failed experiments, because the result of his one thousand and first experiment was the lightbulb.  Every failed experiment brought Edison one step closer to success.  Babe Ruth struck out more than 2,000 times during his career, but you don’t hear about the strike outs.  People remember the homeruns.
  • Life is about keeping agreements. Think about some of the everyday frustrations you experience; a friend who fails to call when they say they will, or the merchant who returns at 2:05 when the sign in the window says, “back at 1:45.”  How many problems did you encounter during high school because someone failed to keep an agreement?  And when you or your friends “got into trouble,” wasn’t it usually because an agreement was broken, like not being home by curfew?  And you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see what happens when adults fail to keep agreements in their marriage, or when nations violate treaties.  Those are agreements too; they just have greater consequences.  So, as you walk through life, you’re going to find many of the problems we face as human beings could have been avoided if people only kept their agreements.

And lastly, allow me to close with one of my favorite aphorisms.  “If given ten hours to chop down a tree, spend the first seven sharpening the axe.”  – Always remember that reparation in life is everything because when opportunity presents itself, if a person is not prepared, the opportunity will only make them look foolish.

Quote of the day: If you go out looking for friends, you’re going to find they are very scarce.  If you go out to be a friend, you’ll find them everywhere.”—Zig Zigler