Where common sense and college collide
“A superior man is modest in his speech, but exceeds in his actions.” — Confucius, philosopher, (c. 551-478 BCE)
Congratulations to all of the students, who have recently graduated from high school and college, now entering the next phase of this thing we call “life." And congratulations also to the parents, who have guided them.
What an exciting time; it is now your moment to enjoy the entertaining path ahead! This is the beginning of your legacy, and it will begin and end with maximum self-discovery should you decide to take a path less traveled.
I have observed that the foundation for success hinges on this thing called “potential” and how you tap into it. I was taught, and have come to learn, that each of us is born with a unique and powerful potential that will determine our destiny if we have the courage to accept nothing less than our calling.
Unique potential suggests not only that we all have gifts and a talent to offer the world, but it goes much further. It suggests that for potential to be fully realized it must encompass more than just ourselves.
From my experience, potential is best realized when its major motivator is passion. It can come with financial rewards, but it will not make you rich in your love of life unless you want to come to work every day, and unless you feel you are contributing something to the bigger picture.
It really doesn’t matter what you do; you can be a laborer, a teacher, a social worker or a financier; the common thread must be that to be “rich” we must enjoy what we do. Work is such a presence in our lives, anything short of that is settling.
This is where “common sense” and college might collide. When we are passion-driven, we should accept nothing less. To achieve, I am comfortable with the notion that backup plans and “safety nets” are recipes for failure. Going into this battle, one is best served with the confidence that a passion-driven life is the only life.
Certainly this does not mean we can’t change and adapt our plans as we move forward. When I started the Free Press, I fell down a lot and had to change my tack as many times as a sailboat on a windless day. My path continues to wander even to this day.
But I never wavered. I didn’t go in thinking “if this doesn’t work, I can do XYZ." I went in with a credit card with a $5,000 limit that my Dad co-signed and learned quickly what I needed to do, and that was simply to move forward. Two steps forward, one step back works. Hitting walls and bouncing in forward trajectory also gets you to the finish line.
Creating alternatives is different from dealing with “what if” as part of your basic plan. When there is a “what if” scenario, we have a fallback position and a path towards a failed vision. On the other hand, when we change or adapt our plan, we are just being “smart."
Another “common sense” misnomer is that struggle is bad; it is instead the best teacher you’ll ever have. Figuring out what you want to be is what the twenties were about for me and I hope that today’s graduates use theirs to do a “Family Circus” path to success. If you remember that cartoon from your Sunday funny papers you’ll understand that getting from here to there isn’t a straight line, it is a journey and a path that has many interesting side-tracks along the way.
I always fall back on the story about the butterfly when I think about the necessity to struggle. As parents we need to remember that if you help a butterfly out of its’ cocoon it will mean certain death. Watching someone or something struggle is difficult, especially if you are driven by love for him, her or it. But if, in the case of the butterfly, we help the butterfly out of the cocoon, we destroy it because it is the struggle to get out that strengthens the wings enough that it can fly once it does escape its incubator. When we do the work instead and pave its’ way to freedom, the wings aren’t strong enough and the butterfly cannot survive the world it enters.
For graduates, I hope they become the sponge and learn that you can’t do this alone. Hard work will get you to the finish line, but mentors who challenge you rather than “lick your stamp” and “lack of successes” will teach you and give you the skills to hone your unique potential. Grow or die; that is your choice as you navigate the next chapter, and learning about humility is the key. Humility is not just being humble, it includes being able to ask for help and this is perhaps one of the biggest challenges in my path over the years.
Two more lessons I have learned in my 57 years. One: be a “yes person," be a “doer,” be fearless and don’t take “no” for an answer. Two: understand the difference between a dream and a vision. Dreamers dream, creating a vision is an action step.
For parents, our role needs to change from a manager to a consultant if we want our children to recognize their potential that will lead them forward and allow them to develop into the leaders of tomorrow.
Graduates, go in peace, go in joy and pay it forward.
Turn the Page. Peace out, Reade
Reade Brower can be reached at: email@example.com.