Perspectives: Unsolicited advice for the Class of 2015

OPINION – The Class of 2015 is getting a lot of heartfelt, if not high-minded, advice from the various commencement speakers at their graduation ceremonies.

The messages you’re hearing may include truly heartwarming and inspiring content like David Foster Wallace’s “What is Water” speech to the Kenyon College Class of 2005.

Or you may receive the more blunt, albeit necessary, tough love offered by Bill Bonner in his “Congratulations, Chumps” address concerning the economic challenges you’ll face.

Like it or not, advice is pouring over you like a waterfall right now. Some of it is simply platitudes but there are also some gems of real wisdom to be gleaned. You have the ultimate power to choose what to keep and what to ignore.

With that in mind, here is some unsolicited advice for your consideration. It comes with a money-back guarantee in that it’s worth exactly what you paid for it.

Graduation is a real accomplishment but it is not your life’s destination. Celebrate the hard work that got you here and then prepare to begin the real work of life. This will require having personal goals, purpose and vision.

It’s not enough to simply want to become rich or famous or powerful. Why do you want those things? Paul Rosenberg makes a strong case why we should ask such questions:

Millions of 21st-century people want to get rich, but what do they do with their big pile of money? Is it just to look at? To salve their insecurities? To prove their superiority?

Money is a fine tool, a good thing to have, but anyone who thinks it’s going to make them into some kind of superior person has a big surprise coming. The one thing they may get from it is status, but only in the eyes of shallow people.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with wealth or influence. It’s how we choose to use them that defines our character. The happiest people, regardless of net worth, are those who choose to love and serve others.

When you encounter setbacks, failure or discouragement, meaningful service to others will lift and restore your spirits in a way that mere pleasure-seeking and material things cannot. It will also prevent you from choosing to adopt a victim mentality.

Victim mentality has become a crutch wielded by groups or individuals who are determined to use coercive government power to fulfill their desires at the expense of others.

Some have taken their demands for special treatment so far that they accuse others of attacking them through”microaggressions” simply for holding different opinions or beliefs. Often, the person accused of engaging in microaggression has absolutely no idea that someone is choosing to be offended all the time.

One of life’s hardest truths is that no one owes you anything. You have no claim whatsoever by which others must like you, love you or treat you with dignity. Demanding to be treated with dignity, admiration or respect is a loser’s game.

However, these qualities are commanded by those who live their lives with self respect.

Robert Ringer recently wrote a brilliant commentary on this subject:

How does one acquire self-respect? Through personal virtuosity. In other words, dignity is derived from within. And from self-respect flows the respect of others — as a natural consequence.

Put another way, whereas civility has to do with how you treat others, dignity has to do with how you treat yourself. Sorry, activist sociopaths, but you don’t have a right to be treated with dignity. You do, however, have a right to possess dignity.

Demanding dignity from others is the ultimate self-delusion. If being treated with dignity is genuinely important to you, the most efficient way to bring that about is to act in dignified ways. And, happily, that’s something over which you have complete control.

Remember that you have grown up in an popular culture that tends to portray youth as a time for irresponsibility. The rebelliousness that most of us associate with youth is based in a type of conformity that has become boringly predictable.

Every generation has had its version of sex, drugs and rock and roll.

If the Class of 2015 wants to be trailblazers, then it’s time to reject the same old petty rebellions and do something truly groundbreaking.

Instead of desiring to rule others, seek to improve yourself and others – by example.

Rather than avoiding responsibility, focus instead on innovation and creating things that make life better.

You are not bound to repeat the same mistakes that those who’ve gone before you have made. You can use your influence more wisely.

Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and opinion writer in Southern Utah. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

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Email: bryanh@stgnews.com

Twitter: @youcancallmebry

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.

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2 Comments

  • BIG GUY May 18, 2015 at 11:32 am

    Excellent opinion piece, Bryan. I did not read the linked articles but I appreciated the quotes from them that you included. Martin Luther King and Gandhi did not demand dignity as you described it, they earned it. Some may find fault with your advice, but I endorse it.

  • sagemoon May 18, 2015 at 4:04 pm

    “One of life’s hardest truths is that no one owes you anything. You have no claim whatsoever by which others must like you, love you or treat you with dignity. Demanding to be treated with dignity, admiration or respect is a loser’s game.”
    That’s some darn good advice. As far as commencement speeches go, I have been through three. I don’t remember a single word from any of them. Graduates, enjoy the day and the promise the speeches bring to you because tomorrow those words no longer matter.

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