Whiting column: A little more to add to the pile of graduation advice
The process and procession of graduation has passed.
Whether high school or some sort of post-secondary graduation, you’ve received advice from a multitude and variety of sources. This column will add to the pile. Hopefully it will be not only a different take, but concepts you haven’t previously heard or considered.
Every graduating class feels they are unique and going to change the world; as well they should. Those of us who went to college in the ’60s felt that way. We were going to solve every problem in five years. We weren’t short on confidence or assigning blame. Our motto was “Don’t trust anyone over 30.” Now we are all over 70 and don’t trust anyone, assuming we can remember them.
To some degree, we were successful in implementing change, but soon determined it’s easy to identify problems, hard to develop effective solutions and harder to implement them. The most instrumental thing we learned was before we could change the world, we first had to change ourselves. The most effective way to effect significant change was to break it down to a series of small changes and model them. No one listened, let alone changed, if we said one thing and did another.
We learned that money talks. It says goodbye. Consequently, it was up to us to control our spending and our debt and plan for the future. A paycheck meant we could buy stuff. When we were young, it was hard to save, because we didn’t have anything. But if we ever wanted to stop living hand to mouth, let alone buy a house, take a vacation somewhere besides Silt, help pay for our child’s education or retire, we needed to accumulate money.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking your Social Security check will facilitate any sort of retirement; let alone a lavish one. It doesn’t today, let alone in the future. When you retire, your Social Security check will let you take your significant other out to dinner; maybe.
We learned there is “No Free Lunch.” Everything has a cost; someone pays. If the government pays, we pay through our taxes. If a business pays, we pay through a higher price. Corollary #1 is we don’t value what we get for free. Urban Federal housing projects is just one example. Corollary #2 is we don’t value what isn’t ours. We don’t treat a rented house or car like we would our own.
We learned to neither fear nor give credence to the extremist. They are typically ineffective people who seek personal attention because they’ve never successfully implemented anything. Consequently, they don’t have a history of accomplishment to provide this attention. It’s why most politicians flip flop on their political positions. It didn’t matter whether we looked at a Democrat or a Republican, a Clinton, an Obama, or a Bush. We experienced many examples of their supporting both sides of an issue at some time. The most effective people don’t need or seek attention. It finds them.
We learned not to wait. Waiting facilitates more waiting and nothing changes. Work to make it happen now; whatever it is. Even if it didn’t work perfectly, we learned what we needed to do to make it work better or to head in another direction. Either was preferable to doing nothing. Your prison is fear locked inside. Face your fear, step out and act.
On the other hand, we learned to give ourselves parameters. Even the extremists identify the parameters within which good sense abides. Today’s politicians haven’t figured this out and tend to live in the extremes, but they are modeling why nothing happens when we won’t move off the extreme.
We learned parameters aren’t new and they encouraged us to think about possible consequences before the fact. The Lord gave us parameters in the 10 commandments; most of us had parents that provided them. My father wasn’t one to give me big lectures about what I should and shouldn’t do. Our family values were well instilled by what my mother and father did and didn’t do. But one day, Dad provided an effective parameter.
It was the summer after eighth grade, so high school was on the horizon. It was a time when new temptations were becoming available, and I had already succeeded in “getting in trouble” a couple of times. We were driving back after an afternoon of moving irrigation pipe talking about what high school was like in his day. In mid-sentence he stopped the pickup, looked me straight in the eye, like only a father can do, and said, “You’re getting older, and I can’t tell you what to do all the time. You have to make your own decisions and decide who you are. But don’t ever make your mother cry.” It was an effective parameter.
New graduates have a personal responsibility to learn from those who graduated earlier. Those who graduated earlier have a personal responsibility to learn from and not repeat our previous mistakes.
Bryan Whiting feels most of our issues are best solved by personal responsibility and an understanding of non-partisan economics rather than by government intervention. Comments and column suggestions to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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