“Nine Things Every Graduate Needs to Hear”

Knowing they already know it all

High school graduation—you are pretty sure you know everything. But to remove all doubt you head off to college. College graduation—now you have added four years of profound life experience and a degree thus eliminating nearly any doubt that you know everything.

Graduates will send out dozens if not a hundred graduation announcements to friends, family and a few potential donors. Yes donors—people who just might wrap a card around some welcomed cash.

Every graduate knows that the wonderful thing about money is that it goes with everything you are wearing. This is the season of advice. Commencement speakers will wax and wane poetic as they seek to move the hearts and minds of the graduates one last time before they go forth and conquer all things.

If I were giving a commencement address this year, here are nine topics that I would like to share with a graduate. Maybe a few nuggets to add to the card of your favorite graduate before you drop in the “big bucks” and seal the envelope.


It is simple gratitude changes our attitude. Being able to express gratitude for what we have and where we are in the moment allows us to see the abundance around us and understand every circumstance and condition in life is temporary.

Robert Louis Stevenson said, “The person who has stopped being thankful has fallen asleep in life.”


Creating lasting value and impact truly is simple. Be kind—develop a heart for service. If your heart does not break at the sight of the daily struggle for the basic needs of life, you are going to miss life’s greatest rewards. The greatest human needs are closer to all of us than we think. If you don’t see them, you are not paying attention.

The philosopher Lao Tzu said, “Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness, Kindness in giving creates love.”


Forgive fast! Will people hurt you, take advantage of you, mistreat you, wrong you, or speak ill of you? Yes they will. Fix what you need to fix, forgive and move on. Failing to forgive gives life to the seed of bitterness. Bitterness will eat at you and rob you of your joy. The world was saved by grace and it will save you too!

Billy Graham said, “Man has two great spiritual needs. One is for forgiveness. The other is for goodness.”


Louis Zamperini lived an amazing life that is captured in Laura Hillenbrand’s book, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. Zamperini lived an amazing and eventful life that traversed through tremendous challenges and struggle.

Zamperini said, “All I want to tell young people is that you’re not going to be anything in life unless you learn to commit to a goal. You have to reach deep within yourself to see if you are willing to make the sacrifices.”

Every result is the reflection of a progression—a recipe. Effort is the vital ingredient of a recipe that blends everything together. While you keep your eye on the goal remember you always get to choose your next step. You won’t be rewarded for effort alone, but disciplined effort will move you closer—one step at a time.


Easy—if what you seek most and want to hold up to the world to mark your success can be lost or taken away, it is not success. Success is identifying your most important roles, values, and goals and living your personal and professional life in alignment with your roles, values and goals.

The role you identify as being most important will be the lens through which you see every other role and relationship in your life. Success is all about who you make “#1”.


A smile is so powerful it can provide the same brain stimulation as 2,000 chocolate bars or receiving $16,000. A smile is so magnetic, it makes you more attractive and likable, and people will even perceive you to be more competent.

“Smiling triggers powerful emotions that change our brain chemistry. Smiling creates what is termed a ‘halo’ effect that helps us remember other happy events more vividly, feel more optimistic, more positive and more motivated,” according to Dr. David Lewis, author of The Secret Language of Success.


Paulo Coelho dreamed of being an author.  He dreamed of making a difference and seeing his work translated into English.

In Coelho’s international best selling book,  The Alchemist, Coelho wrote, “We all need to be aware of our personal calling.  What is a personal calling?  It is God’s blessing, it is the path that God chose for you her on Earth…we don’t all have the courage to confront our own dream because; we are told it is impossible, we are afraid of abandoning what we know to pursue what is on our heart, we fear the defeats we will face, and we lack the patience to weather difficult times.”  The most significant obstacles to personal breakthrough performance and achievement are self-induced.  You are God’s own creation and filled with talent and ability you will discover by pushing yourself and not settling for “good-enough”

Accountability & Friends

Don’t run alone! Surround yourself with people who care about you reaching your potential and using your time, talent and resources to positively impact the people you love, the teams you lead and the causes that stir your heart.

You have the wrong friends when you see yourself doing something badly and nobody’s bothering to tell you anymore—that’s a bad place to be. Or when you’re screwing up and nobody says anything to you anymore, that means they’ve given up on you.”

We are most vulnerable to fail, failure and disappointment when we value private independence above accountability. Realize that goal achievement rises by 63% by simply employing accountability in the process.


Be committed to the truth. William Shakespeare wrote, “No legacy is so rich as honesty.”

In the absence of truth, we give rise to pride. Pride is a filter that is stubborn and keeps us from hearing the truth and seeing our flaws. Honesty allows us to build trust with the people we love and lead. Honesty is the recognition that truth is never invented, it is only discovered and it consistently stands up to every inquiry.

Post-it notes sell like water for one reason—even when something is vitally important we still need reminders so that we don’t forget. The one think we should never forget is to never graduate from learning.

“Those who think they know it all have no way of finding out they don’t.”

—Leo Buscaglia

Question: Let’s create a resource of good advice for a graduate. What advice would you offer first to a new graduate? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

10 thoughts on ““Nine Things Every Graduate Needs to Hear”

  1. I would offer them on the importance that integrity bears in their walk and legacy. The second piece of advice I would offer is the commitment to service. Everyone has the ability to serve – whether with their time, the resources of their business, or their financial resources. Find a cause and own it!

  2. Life is hard. You will get knocked down, run into obstacles, and bumps along the way. Stand up and never give up!! Believe in yourself and in your dreams no matter what they are, no matter whether you have lots of support or no support. Always strive to serve others.

  3. I was privleged to homeschool my three children for many years. They went into public highschool for the latter years of highschool. I always encouraged them “to learn how to learn, then you will have the skills to learn anything. The content that you are being taught in school will some day change to what you want to learn.” My oldest son finished his Criminalogy Degree and works with lawyers and claims in the auto industry. My second son is entreprenurial and is now part owner of our business, moving us closer to retirement. Our daughter is a full time mother of 4 little ones. Now we have 10 grandchildren to influence and encourage.

  4. What ever you choose in your life be passionate and you will never work a day in your life.

  5. 1 John 4:4. “Greater is he who is in you than he who is in the world.” On your journey towards success, do not lose sight of the fact that you are loved beyond measure. Stay focused, surround yourself with accountability partners and dream big.

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