For What It’s Worth, My Advice to the Graduates

Posted: May 20, 2016 in Opinion
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Listen, I don’t claim to have all the answers. In fact, I know for certain that I’ve screwed up more Life-is-what-happens-to-Chris-Zeligthan most of you. Well, they say you learn from your mistakes, so perhaps that gives me a little advantage. Either way, take what follows for what it’s worth.

I jotted down about 20 pieces of advice but narrowed down my list to just 10 that I deem most important. Let’s get right to it:

  1. Don’t let high school be the highlight of your life. Be proud of everything you accomplished, but don’t be one of those people that, when they’re 45-years old, realize the highlight of their life was something they did in high school. Hey, be proud of that state wrestling appearance, football playoff berth or basketball appearance in The Convo, but you’re just starting baby! Keep moving up and keep doing great things.
  2. Find something you like to do and do it. Don’t settle for anything less. Don’t start a job you hate just for the paycheck and get weighed down by bills until you can’t afford to quit and do something you actually enjoy doing. And watch this video. I couldn’t agree with it more.
  3. Money isn’t everything and ultimately won’t make you happy. People disagree with me all the time regarding this, but I couldn’t believe it anymore than I do. Sure, money helps, you have to pay the bills and all that. But ultimately it’s family and loved ones that make you happy. Trust me on this one.
  4. For God’s sake, if you use credit cards pay them off monthly. I know, more money advice. But damn it, don’t get sucked in by the credit card companies. It’s way too easy to pull that card out and run up debt on the thing. If you must use credit cards, I implore you to pay them off every month. Believe me, if there’s anything on this list I wish somebody had told me, this is it.
  5. Don’t be afraid to fail. Remember, it’s not the things you do in life you’ll regret – it’s the things you don’t do. Fear of failure has stopped way too many people from going for what they really want in life. Don’t be one of those people.
  6. You are who your friends are. Look around you. Who do you hang out with? Because that’s you. Take an honest look, and if you don’t like what you see some changes are in order.
  7. You’re either on your way up or your way down. There’s no in-between. Constantly ask yourself which direction you’re going.
  8. Give. Remember that, ultimately, giving is more satisfying than receiving. It’s an old adage but it is absolutely true. If you really want to have a fulfilling life, GIVE.
  9. Always have a goal. Always be working towards something. Enjoy every day but always have something you’re working towards. When you lose focus and wander aimlessly, bad things happen. Keep moving forward.
  10. Get out of here. At least for awhile. Whether it be to go to college or something else, leave your hometown and experience living somewhere else. Sure, it’s OK to come back, but living elsewhere for at least awhile will give you a better perspective on life. Do it. Leave for awhile. You’ll appreciate and understand the world much better, and that’s a great thing.

So grads, that’s all I got. Simple, I know. But guess what? Life is pretty simple. Enjoy every day. And 2017 grads, you’re too young to remember this but your parents probably do. There was once a wonderful man who was the principal at Paint Valley. He loved our school and every single student in it. Every year at graduation he would quote John Lennon, and that quote holds as true today as it did back then:

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” 

Don’t ever forget it.

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