Metro-East Living

Advice for grads: Turn off phones, hope, keep moving forward

McKendree University School of Education graduates march in to the commencement ceremonies to receive their master's degrees in 2014.
McKendree University School of Education graduates march in to the commencement ceremonies to receive their master's degrees in 2014.

Dear Class of 2016:

Sorry. I won’t be able to attend your graduation ceremonies in person to deliver a commencement address. Sure, no one has asked me yet. That’s OK. I’m busy. Pressed for time. You’ll find out someday. Busy, busy, busy. If we’re not busy, we’ll make ourselves busy.

So, new graduates, my first words of advice for you as you enter a new phase: Learn the value of a good pause. Turn off your phone.

Sigh. Feels good, huh?

I’m not an honored graduate or outstanding alumnus. Many, many years ago, I was like most of you. Had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. Confused. Somehow, some way, I figured it out. You will, too.

Second word of advice: Hope. It’s a good thing. Believe in it. Hold on to it.

Third words of advice: Keep moving forward. You’ll run into a few roadblocks and potholes. Watch your sudden swerves.

Fourth words of advice: Maintenance. It pays off.

That’s simple advice. Nothing magical here. I’m going to offer you 13 more simple words and sayings. If you remember to say — or text — these 13 words or sayings often, at the right time, you’ll be better off in life than if you don’t. Wish I would have said all these many more times through the years, to many more people.

Fifth piece oF advice today: Don’t let hindsight blind you. A lot of second guessers are out there. Ignore them.

Here goes, Class of 2016. Just keep those phones off for a few more minutes. It will be OK, really. Look up. Eye contact. It means a lot.

Say these words — or text them — a lot, at the right time, in your life ….

1. “Please.” My parents would ignore my requests until I said this magic word. No matter how important you may become, don’t forget to say the magic word.

2. “Thank you.” There are few stronger words than when you look someone in the eyes and tell him you appreciate what he has done for you, about you or with you. Start today when you are handed a diploma. Thank your favorite teachers. Thank your least favorite teachers because as you get older, you’ll realize they may have taught you the most because they weren’t worried if you liked them or not as long as you were learning.

3. “No!” When it doesn’t feel right, there’s usually a reason. Trust your gut. You know people like me who like to say how busy, busy, busy we are all the time? We should say “no” more often.

4. “Yes!” Be positive. Raise your hand. Let people know how you feel. Try new things. But don’t overdo it. Say, “Yes, yes, yes” too much and you’ll hear “no” more often than you want.

5. “Maybe.” Not everything in life will be clearly right or wrong, black or white, yes or no. There will be some fuzzy gray in there. It’s OK to be fuzzy gray. Maybe you’ll be a doctor. Maybe you’ll drive a truck. Maybe you’ll teach or write. It’s OK not to know. “Maybe” is a wonderful word that says something but nothing, really.

6. “Good morning!” When you walk by someone and say nothing, you send a message that either you’re too cool, or he’s not cool enough. So say “good morning” even when it’s not such a good morning.

7. “I don’t remember.” Many years from now, this Class of 2016 will gather for a reunion. Someone will remember a story that you had hoped everyone had forgotten by now. But somebody always remembers. Always. It’s OK to kindly not remember it.

8. “I remember.” Never forget your roots. Your hometown. Your schools. Your classmates. You share a common bond. It’s part of who you are. Embrace it.

9. “I was wrong. You are right.” One of the best ways to earn respect is to admit when you have made a mistake. Point your finger at yourself. Everyone usually knows it anyway.

10. “I’m sorry” and/or “I forgive you.” And mean it.

11. “Love you.” The words are used much too freely nowadays. In texts, tweets. So save it for the special people in your life. Make sure they know it, though. Don’t assume. Regret is a tough thing to live with.

12. “Let me help you.” Hold out your hand. Share yourself. But be sure the other person wants your help. Don’t force yourself on anyone.

13. “Can you help me?” Admit when and what you don’t know. Don’t try to bluff. Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. Most people will help you, if you say “please” and “thank you.”