I love May for a number of reasons. Spring is usually in full bloom (still waiting on the sunny part of that here in Philly). It’s Mother’s Day – and let’s face it, mothers make all of us better people. And it is the height of graduation season.
I love graduation – watching young men and women become full-fledged adults and enter the working world, full of optimism and enthusiasm, is nothing short of refreshing. And who doesn’t like watching all those viral, inspirational commencement addresses?
While I personally did not provide an address this year, I did want to dust off one of my favorite posts. It’s about the 10 lessons I would share with my 22-year-old self, if I could go back and advise young Al on the next phase of his journey.
But first, some realities. You will get gray hair earlier than you would like. You will probably lose some of that hair earlier than you’d like, too. You will gain weight, despite your best (or mediocre) efforts to stay fit. You may end up changing someone’s diaper. But more to the point, and something I did not even consider at 22 — time will truly fly.
In many ways, it feels like I just graduated from Temple University. I cannot believe how quickly 31 years went by. I actually think most of my true learning has happened since graduating in 1988. It has not all been easy, but it has been rewarding, and the basic trend is upward! Here are some things I learned along the way that the 22-year-old would have benefitted from.
Do not rush. Take your time. You do not always need to be first or best. Enjoy the moment, truly live in the experience and do not rush through it to get to the next thing. Spend some time looking around and listening — you may actually learn as much by observing from the sidelines as you do by competing in the game.
Hold yourself to a higher standard. Set the tone and commit to it. Always hold yourself to the highest moral and ethical standards. Never cheat; there is no easy way to the top and cheating will almost always come back to haunt you.
- Realize that nothing is forever. Cherish the moments with your loved ones; enjoy every second. They will not be here forever. Never go to bed angry or leave a conversation on a sour note. It may not always be easy, but put the issues behind you and tell them you love them. You can never “overdo” this last point.
- Work and live in another country. The world is a big place, but it is much smaller than you think. We live in a truly global economy. You cannot understand business and consumers by only living and working in the U.S. Try seeing the world from another culture’s perspective.
- Know that it's ok to cry. Sometimes things hurt and the best way to relieve the pain is to cry. There is absolutely no shame in crying (just so long as you eventually stop).
- Embrace risks. Do not be afraid of failure. It stings in the moment, but the sting truly does not last that long. If you are not failing, then you probably are not stretching or pushing yourself. If you have maturity and self-confidence, there is no better learning than through failure. Embrace it and grow from it.
- Coach a youth team or mentor a child. Time with children (your own or otherwise) is often very educational. There is no better way to stay current. Kids will keep you honest and young. They will remind you how to be silly and have fun. They will remind you not to take life so seriously, and how to laugh at yourself. They will remind you that life should be fun.
- Turn your phone off. It is amazing how much more dependent we become on technology and our beloved smartphones every year. I don’t know about you, but I know I have to make a conscious effort to turn it off – it’s just the reality of the world we live in. But make the effort. Spend some time actually engaged in conversation and dialogue. Talk to someone face to face and keep the phone out of sight. When you’re with them, be 100% WITH THEM.
- Make time for your elders. Visit your parents, grandparents and others who have helped shape your life or path. They are wiser than they may appear. You don’t have to actually learn everything the hard way. You can ask others who have been through it. And they want to tell you about it, trust me. We may all be there one day – set an example for those who will someday call you “Grandpa” or “Grandma.”
- Remember that as you age, the learning doesn't stop. As I reflect on this post, I realize the over-50 Al may have just learned a thing or two in the process. We are all students of life and that doesn’t change just because we graduated from school. It’s never too late to learn something that can alter our perspective, whether that is in life or business. We live in an increasingly fast-paced society – sometimes we need to slow down and think about the life lessons we would give our 22-year-old selves. Do we live by them today?
If you’re part of the class of 2019, congratulations on all you have achieved. The future is yours and it will be bright. And if your children or grandchildren are part of the graduating class, what will you tell them on graduation day? What would you tell your 22-year-old self?
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