So, I have been thinking about this one for a while. My youngest and last child living at home is graduating from Milton High and going off to school in the fall. It is going to be quite a change for his mom and me when he takes off this August.

I have been trying to decide what I want to say to these graduating seniors. My default is to avoid all the clichés – which is impossible – and everywhere I turn, I find nuggets of wisdom from really smart people – William Faulkner, the Dali Lama and Ray Bradbury, to name just a few.

The real problem I have is that these kids graduating right now are living in a world that is so far beyond my grasp and frame of reference that adults attempting to give them specific advice is a stretch.

Their world has changed so much, and I know so little about it. But maybe, just maybe, I can help them avoid some traps, bypass by a few snakes baring apples and help them not do a few things the hard way.

So graduates, here goes…

• You will always be selling, whether you realize it or not. You are either selling yourself to some girl or guy you want to meet, or to a friend from whom you want to buy Bonnaroo tickets. You’re selling that teacher whose class you must pass to graduate. You’re selling your parents almost every minute of every day for something. The rest of your life you will be selling. Know this. Your life improves when you are good at selling.

• The absolute worst and least successful way to sell is remotely via anything digital – email, texting, Instagram, Whatsapp, Twitter and whatever comes next. The best and most successful way is always going to be face to face. Setting yourself apart from the other thousands of kids who want the same thing you do will help you get what you want, but digital interaction makes you like everyone else. It doesn’t set you apart.

• No one owes you squat – not a passing grade, not a job, not a second chance, not a high wage, not admission into grad school, not a warning instead of a ticket, not an education, nothing. Your parents may behave like they think they owe you an education or a nice Jeep, but they don’t. That support is yours to lose, so don’t take it for granted and treat them with respect.

• In every aspect, the “presentation” is often as important if not more important than the substantive part. If you hold an auction at the Ritz, people expect to pay more than if the auction is on the cul-du-sac. If you dress like you own a big company, people will assume that maybe you do. If you seem to know what you are doing, they will usually think you do.

• You have a very simple choice that will have a huge impact on everything the rest of your life. In any situation, you can be part of the solution or be part of the problem. You choose one. “Let me figure out how I can make this work” is what your boss wants to hear instead of “we can’t do that.”

• Honor and integrity are more precious than gold – in business and in personal life. A former CEO once said his senior vice president would mark his golf ball and then put the ball back on the turf in front of the marker (closer to the hole) every time they played. Golf is a game of honor. The CEO said his senior vice president never knew why he was fired shortly thereafter. You are either honest or you are not, and little lies are as bad as big ones. In life, put your ball behind the mark – not in front. It makes all the difference.

• Jobs. Follow up a job interview with an email of thanks that day and send a written (snail mail) thank you off as well. Then, follow up before the end of the week to get a status update and continue to do so until the hiring decision has been made. If you don’t do this, the person with the same qualifications but who follows up four or five times will get your job instead of you – guaranteed.

• Help others. Selfishness and self-centeredness are the cause of most unhappiness in this world. If you want to be happy, help other people around you. You will be blown away how much that improves your own life in many different ways. Try it.

• Your phone is a thief. It is stealing your time and robbing priceless pieces of your life from you. Don’t lose your precious time to that stinking piece of hardware. It is the enemy.

• Everything goes in cycles. Never ever assume that the good times will last forever. Be prepared to weather the bad times, but know that they too will pass. Try hard to save up at least a year’s reserve of expense money.

• School. I often hear from very bright kids about how broken the school system is or how easy it is to circumvent the guidelines. What you get out of something – like school – is determined by what you put into it. If you want knowledge, you can have it, but like everything else in life you have to work for it. Everything has a cost. Nothing is free.

If you have time, search for these YouTubes: “Steve Jobs Stanford,” “David Foster Wallace Water,” “Charles Swindoll Attitude,” “Mike Rowe Life Advice” and finally “Gary Turk Look Up.” It’s all about choices. Good luck. God speed.

MH 05-14-14

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