Columnist: Hey, graduate, you with the potential. Time to get moving
Graduation hasn’t changed much since my ceremony on the covered wagon.
It’s a strange dichotomy of four years of achievement and a future full of scary responsibility and decisions. What should you do? What’s the secret?
Take command of your own life. Your future isn’t up to your parents, your teachers, your friends, your government, someone on Facebook or even one of the Kardashians. It’s up to you.
Graduates are always worried about being successful, screwing up in college or career, making bad decisions. They want to get older so they stop making mistakes, bad decisions.
I’ve got a surprise for you. Age is not insulation against mistake, bad decisions or errors in judgment.
I grew up on a ranch. An outhouse at the other end of the property meant we didn’t have to go back to the house or hide behind sagebrush No. 32. One day my buddy and I thought it would be funny to tip over the outhouse. We were going to blame the Wyoming wind.
That night I felt so bad I told my dad. He was beyond mad and doubled my chores for a week. I tried to tell him that wasn’t fair. He had told me about George Washington and how his dad gave him a break when he told the truth about chopping down the cherry tree. My father’s response: “George’s dad wasn’t in the cherry tree.”
Even adults in high positions make bad decisions. Who can forget the words of Gen. Custer: “There aren’t enough Indians in the world to stop the Seventh Cavalry.”
We haven’t started talking about politicians, let alone regular people like you and me. Lots of us like to go camping in the wilderness. We tend to forget people in sleeping bags are the soft tacos of the bear world.
As we got older we learned how to deal with inevitable mistakes. We learned it’s a waste of time to hide it, blame others or something else. We learned it’s better to admit it, apologize, make it right and learn so we don’t do it again. In other words, take command of your own life.
This requires motivation, but it has to be self-motivation. You can’t take command of your of your own life if you wait for someone or something else to motivate you. An underappreciated factor in self-motivation is preparation. You may have graduated but you can’t stop practicing/preparing. If you stop, others will pass you by.
Preparation enables you to be excellent. Preparation enables you to do something that matters and is significant because preparation enables you to do the difficult. Don’t settle for the easy. Want to be a success? Do something difficult. If it isn’t difficult, everyone can do it, and as a graduate you’re talent exceeds easy.
Taking command of your own life requires personal responsibility. Take responsibility for your own actions, not blaming anyone or anything else.
Life is simple. If you’re not happy, do something about it, don’t whine about it; if you want to be successful, obtain a marketable skill and work your butt off; if you want to quit smoking, throw them in the trash; develop your own career or a job will find you.
But you have to do it; not just talk about it. Don’t be like the man who opened up his lunch bucket and said, “Damn, bologna sandwiches. I’m sick and tired of this, eight straight days of bologna sandwiches.” His co-worker responded, “Why don’t you ask your wife to make something different?” The man’s response: “I’m not married.”
Taking command of your own life means you are a solution finder. The world is full of people who find problems. These people are irrelevant in the big picture of the world. Be the person who develops solutions for the world, the country, others, your career and yourself.
Our country has given you the opportunity to get an education. But with opportunity comes responsibility. It’s up to you to take command of your own life. If you think you need more money, then choose to get off your butt to make a buck.
Again a slow learner, one summer home from college, I was complaining about not having enough money. Dad asked what I had been doing the last three hours. Answer: watching a baseball game on TV. My father just turned and walked away.
Graduating is a momentous achievement, but it’s just a step. It gives you an opportunity. Your future is your choice.
For my fraternity brother Mike, it was nip and tuck whether he was going to graduate or go to jail first. He eventually became a member of the Secret Service. Another, Robert, was a dean’s list student but ended up in prison in Turkey for drug trafficking. Marcie had a 4.0 GPA in high school. Her father, a drunk, died in a car wreck when she was a junior; her mother of cancer her senior year. She worked her way through college and became a CPA.
Their graduation didn’t predict their future. Their future was a function of whether they chose to take command of their own life.
You’re graduating. It’s time not to have potential but to fulfill it. When someone says you have great potential, that’s nice, but you don’t want to come back for your 10-year reunion and have people say you have potential. Having potential means you haven’t done anything yet. Now is the time. Take command of your own life.
Bryan Whiting believes most of our issues are best solved by personal responsibility and an understanding of nonpartisan economics rather than by government intervention. He retired after 40 years of teaching marketing, entrepreneurship and economics. His column appears on the first Wednesday of the month.
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