FEATURE — A new crop of bright-eyed high school seniors will don their caps and gowns this week as they say goodbye to the public school system and commence valiantly into what many call the “real world.”
But first, before “Pomp and Circumstance” is played and before their diplomas are in hand, a little advice on how to succeed in life after high school.
It has been 19 years since I graduated high school and though I wouldn’t say I am highly successful I have amassed some wisdom in the almost two-decades since I entered this brave “real” world. For what it is worth, I share that wisdom with the graduating classes of 2016.
Grow thick skin and a soft heart
It sounds paradoxical, I know, but it’s true. At least it has been true for me that to find success, you need both thick skin and a soft heart.
Here’s why: Being an adult is hard. Out in the “real world” you will experience relationship, educational and professional rejection in ways that you cannot comprehend from under the protective bubble of a structured public school system or the comforts of home. These failures will eventually become valuable lessons but they are still going to hurt. Go ahead and toughen up.
That being said, it is vital to keep your heart soft and stay open to the people around you and the opportunities for growth that might otherwise be missed if you shut everything and everyone out. Develop that thick skin but make sure and leave some cracks to let the light in.
Don’t be afraid to be a friend
Confession. When I was in seventh grade I absolutely had to have Girbaud shorts and a Hypercolor T-shirt; and if I didn’t have them, I was certain, I mean I had the fear of God put into me that I would never have any friends. All the cool kids had Girbaud shorts and Hypercolor T-shirts. I was not a cool kid but I made my single, working mom buy me those status symbols nonetheless.
As I grew older I stopped worrying as much about my clothes, I had a great group of friends that I felt very confident around and we remain friends to this day. But there were still those cool kids who I deemed as untouchable, the kind of kids I wouldn’t dare breathe around let alone say ‘hi’ to. How silly.
If I could go back with the hindsight I have now I would tell myself to say “hello” to those kids, because I now count many of them as dear friends and I wonder what connections I could have made if I had just reached out of my comfort zone and decided to be a friend.
My advice to graduates is the same as I would give my younger self. Don’t be afraid to be a friend. You will never regret a kind gesture.
Don’t panic if you don’t know what you want to be yet
Some people have their paths to success all figured out. I was not one of those people. From the time I can remember to now, I have wanted to be a pilot, a doctor, a lawyer, a travel agent, a member of Cirque du Soleil, a CIA agent and a professional dancer. Instead I became a writer.
As it turns out, being a journalist is the perfect career for the terminally indecisive and it is a career that I had been heading toward all along. I just didn’t see it right away, and that’s OK.
Don’t panic if you aren’t sure where you are going after graduation or if you don’t know what you want to be when you “grow up.” You will be alright.
In the meantime:
- Go to college and take a class that sparks your interest
- Travel the world, travel the country, travel the state … just travel
- Stay open to possibility
- Be kind
- Read all the things. Read books, read magazines, read essays and poems, read news articles and open letters. Soak in all that is good about language and knowledge
But don’t just take my word for it. Below I have gathered advice from several people whom I deem as successes. Here is what they have to say:
Billye Burnett | Retired Special Education Teacher
Don’t be in a hurry to do everything. Don’t get yourself into debt.
Jimi Kestin | Pastor, Solomon’s Porch Foursquare Fellowship: To really succeed in the ‘real world’ one must find their passion, pursue it with energy and unshakable determination and seek to be a blessing to everyone you come in contact with both in the workforce and in the community, because happiness is contingent on circumstances, but Joy transcends them and a servant’s heart is still the path to joy and success.
Blessings to you from one who has lived this to the fullest.
Learn all you can from whatever situation you find yourself. Get all the formal education you can, as soon as you can. People say they will go back to school someday, or get their degree later. It usually never happens. And when it does, it’s harder. Develop relationships with people along the way. When all is said and done, this will be most of what they remember.
Face your fears, don’t be afraid to dream and accept failure as part of success. Failure is such an important lesson to learn. Set small goals that lead to big results. Today is the day to start, don’t wait as long as I did to finally stop being so afraid of what other people thought about me. Start right now. So ‘why not today?'”
So here is my advice … If you will give ‘Appreciation’ each day, look for ways to ‘Assist’ others and always choose a positive ‘Attitude’ then you will find increased success, peace and happiness throughout your life. To best know how to accomplish these things listen to your soul as it quietly speaks to you on all occasions and then exude the courage to act upon what you hear.
- Washington County School District | Graduation schedule
- Iron County School District | Graduation schedule
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