Com ∙ mence ∙ ment [kuh-mens-muhnt] (noun) : the start or beginning

With high school graduation ceremonies right around the corner, I offer my sincere congratulations to the class of 2007. Although I don’t want to take anything away from your impending celebration, I feel obligated to offer a few pieces of advice. With high school behind you, you might think that it’s time to relax, but guess again. The second that diploma hits your hands you are officially on the clock and in the driver’s seat.

While you were in high school, much of the decision-making process concerning life choices was out of your control, but now it’s time to step up to the plate. Even if your plan includes living with your parents for a little while longer, the onus is completely on you. A high school diploma represents the virtual key to your own life and, whether you’re ready or not, it’s time to put the top down and take it out for a spin.

If you’re headed off to college, you may think that you’re set for the next four to six years, but just because the course is set doesn’t mean that the road is not still full of responsibility. Ask a college graduate and he or she will tell you. A degree is important, but even more critical is what you do with your time outside of classes. That piece of paper you receive from most institutions will do little to separate you from the thousands of other applicants once you hit the job market. Employers owe you nothing and a diploma alone will not impress them. When push comes to shove, if you wish to succeed, you must set yourself apart by going above and beyond that which is required.

Don’t wait until later, start racking up experience now. Most campuses offer a multitude of student employment opportunities, the benefits of which can be much more than just a little extra spending cash. If not a paying position, look at the possibilities of internships or volunteer work. Anything that gets you legitimate, working knowledge will pay off tenfold once you enter the real world.

But, while you should seek out the positives, you must also be wary of the negatives. Professional golfers have a saying: “You can’t win a tournament on the first day, but you can certainly lose it.” Similarly, when you’re out on your own, one good decision won’t earn you that degree, but one bad decision can easily lose it and so much more. If you made it through high school unscathed, congratulations, but I’m here to tell you, no matter what your circumstances, it’s officially time to cast aside the “it can’t happen to me” attitude.

Knowing nothing of where you’re headed and what your intentions are, I can tell you with certainty that over the next few years: your strength will be tested, your motivation will be challenged, and your heart will face struggles you’ve never known. Presented with these upcoming decisions, your goal should be to stay true to the person you are and the person you wish to become.

To this end, the best thing you can do is to find good friends. Associate yourself with people who have similar goals, the ability and desire to attain them, and the willingness to hold each other accountable. Life is much easier and infinitely more rewarding as a team sport.

For those of you not going on to college, it’s time to hit the ground running. But, don’t just find a job, do your best to start a career. Keep in mind that we are no longer in a day and age where you can work the same job for 30 years, grab the gold watch, and retire. Regardless of your educational background, you will be expected to continue to learn, grow, and develop your skills. You cannot advance by merely standing still. Once you have a job, the only way to stay on the payroll will be to continue to do it better, faster, or cheaper than the next person.

So, either way, continued education is a necessity. Seek out those that can teach and take every opportunity to listen and learn. Expanding your wealth of knowledge, as it turns out, is the best way to increase your knowledge of wealth.

That’s all from me; it’s up to you now. Enjoy your freedom and take pleasure in the unique experiences of your life’s travels. However, don’t for one second let me hear you complaining. Sure, some of you will have to work harder than others and some will face unequal challenges, but, as you’ve suspected all along, life is not fair. You will most definitely face obstacles in your path. But, it isn’t about how many times you get knocked down in life - it’s how many times you get back up again.

Don’t ever get caught up comparing your path to that of the next person. When overcome, an obstacle can be it’s own reward. The point is: stop your whining - there will always be someone better off and someone worse off than you. If you spend all of your time focusing on what separates you from the former, you disparage the blessings that protect you from holding the position of the latter.

There you have it. Congratulations class of 2007, you’ve completed the first stage of what will be a lifetime of learning. Take a deep breath. Enjoy the accomplishment of the day. Now, get to work.
Read More on Perspective
Volume 3, Issue 12, Posted 4:47 PM, 05.18.2007