My Message for 2014 College Graduates–“Live to Learn then Learn to Live”

Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever. Mahatma Ghandi 

Although I was not asked to give a commencement speech this year, here is what I would have tried to convey to the 2014 college graduates: Your accomplishes during college have been many and lessons for life abound if you were paying attention, so congrats to you and your family on this very special day.

A lot of professors give talks titled The Last Lecture.” Professors are asked to consider their demise and to ruminate on what matters most to them. And while they speak, audiences can’t help but mull the same question:

What wisdom would you impart to the world if we knew it was our last chance? If you died or vanished tomorrow, what would we want as our legacy?

When Randy Pausch, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon, was asked to give such a lecture, he didn’t have to imagine it as his last, since he had recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer. But the lecture he gave–“Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams”–wasn’t about dying. It was about the importance of overcoming obstacles, of enabling the dreams of others, of seizing every moment (because “time is all you have…and you may find one day that you have less than you think”). It was a summation of everything Randy had come to believe. It was about living.

Reflection:  As with every ending there are mixed feelings of sadness and happiness and some anxiety about what the future brings. During my 70+ years of living I have learned many things and missed other things,  but one thing for sure I will always hold dear is my love for learning. 

Learning to me is beneficial in every aspect. It is beneficial for overall progress in society; it can raise the levels of civic action and participation; on an individual level it can boost our curiosity, critical thinking and challenge our stereotypes and narrow thinking. Well let me just say it straight out– it can help in every way, literally. The good news is that learning after formal schooling is usually free and self-directed, this type of learning can help us keep current and keep growing.  Actually learning is my favorite thinking to do in life because it is what makes us human.

Your new beginning will be more successful if you keep in mind this maxim by Ben Franklin “time lost is never found again”; so don’t waste your time being pessimistic, critical of yourself or others and “sleep walking through life” grab life by the horns and always be a “life-long Learner” 

My formal educational experiences provided me with seven critical things:

1. The gift of life long learning–  “learning how to learn”

2. Need to be curious in life–always acknowledge you don’t know somethings and can learn by listening and asking questions.

3. Learning to be more “open “minded and not “fixed” in my ways or the view of the world

5. The motivational spark to overcome obstacles and keep improving by “getting better” Never give-up…Never give-up

6. Respect and dignity for others—tolerance is the glue of relationships

7. Being self-aware and responsible for my own choices and behavior

Self-Coaching Challenge: So the challenge facing you as you start your new beginning is to reflect on your learning in school and figuring out your next chapter. For some this is just letting life come at them and hoping they will be ready to apply things from their education; for others it will be struggling to define and figure out the next steps; but no matter how you attack your next phase in life be clear on one thing, so as to avoid some pain and difficulties, be a life-long learner by taking advantage of training and professional development courses offered by your employer and start today document your accomplishments and create  a career portfolio because you are responsible for your career and reaching your potential. Promise me and yourself today that you will sit down in the next 24-48 hours and define what success in life will look like for you. For me it has not been defined by money or material stuff ( I always had enough to get by)– it is doing that which fulfills me–by making a difference in creating a better world to live in for all.

Finally, “remember that when it comes to learning there are no mistakes, only lessons. Respect others, trust your choices, and everything is possible; and if you face difficult times stop take a deep breath and as Marcus Aurellus once said: “Look within; within is the fountain of all good.”  

 

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