Worldly Lessons for Graduates

(Please note, this column originally published several years ago when my son graduated high school. Being as I didn’t write this — the contents are contributed by friends and family and are generally timeless. I hope sharing with yet another class of graduates will prove helpful. Congratulations to the class of 2020.)

With the end of this school year, my son will graduate from high school and move onto another stage in life in which I’ll most likely play a contributing role at best. No longer will we share the day’s events over the dinner table or hang out on the front step talking. My relationship will be transitioning from parent to consultant in many aspects. In the end, the decisions – and results – will be his and his alone.

While I’m accepting of this development, I realize my work will never be complete. There will always g be an urge for a “just one more thing I want to share” moment.

This moment in time brings me to this week’s column. The random lessons below – written in no particular order – are a culmination not only my life but also from those I value in my life: friends and family. On a Wednesday, I posted this idea for a column on Facebook and within hours received contributions from nearly two dozen individuals around the world. And therein lies the credit for the vast and varied wisdom. 

So as yet another high school class approaches graduation, here are a few final thoughts from those who’ve been there.

The “one more thing….” list:

Always put the newest tires on the front of your car. 

Always do your best – especially when you think no one will notice. People do.

Telling the truth is always easier to remember.

When using a wrench: lefty loosey, righty tighty.

Take action when you first think of it – time has a way of getting away from you.

Remember to regularly tell the important people in your life you love them. 

Regardless of what you hear, God does exist and will be there when you need him most. Really.

Change your oil every 3,500 miles and rotate your tires every other time.

The tip of a shoelace is named an anglet.

Being right isn’t always the most important thing in life.

Moderation is usually the best choice.

You’re not likely to be the smartest person in the room – so don’t act like it.

Count to ten before getting angry. It really works.

What goes around, comes around.

Never spend more than you make.

Don’t eat yellow snow.

If you don’t make mistakes, you don’t make anything.

You will experience failure, and the key is always to fail forward…never repeat a failure

Don’t stand up in a canoe.

If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.

Never underestimate the power of kindness to make a difference in the lives of others.

Treat everyone like you wish to be treated.

Call your momma.

Don’t take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

Learn to laugh at yourself.

Your beliefs determine your actions; think seriously about what you believe.

Always expect others can change; it is what you would want others to believe of you as well.

You are entitled to your opinion; the world is not obligated to hear it.

If you think you can or you think you can’t – you’re probably right.

You want it, earn it.

Remember you to listen more than you speak – that’s why you have two ears and only one mouth.

Everything is sales. EVERYTHING.

Learn how to prioritize.

Great love and great achievements involve risks.

God first, others second, me third. A hard one but true. 

Believe “failure is not an option,” and you will be a success at everything.

Worry is like a rocking chair: it takes up a lot of energy and doesn’t get anywhere.

No man ever lay on his deathbed wishing he’d spent more time at the office.

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Invest In Your Local Businesses

I hope you are shopping locally whenever possible.

COVID-19 is rewriting the rules for nearly every aspect of our lives. Until a vaccine is developed and widely distributed, we are all in a brand new world. Until then, elementary classrooms will not fill with dozens of students. We won’t be elbowing up to the stage at a concert, and squeezing into the tiny middle seat of an airplane will make us feel strangely threatened.

But we need to make sure we do not lose our connection to the local businesses making up the threads of our community. Doing so could leave this critical fabric in tatters.

While large corporations get the glamor and attention when courting a local community, small businesses quietly go about their activities. No glitz, no massive tax breaks. I would bet if you step out your front door, you can toss a rock into the yard of someone either owning or working for a small business. I know I can.

My wife and I are slowing getting back out as local businesses struggle to reopen. We are both careful and cautious but know we are ultimately responsible for our health. Strangely, a face mask hanging from the rearview mirror of our cars is becoming the norm.

Today, as so many local businesses – and by direct relation, neighbors – struggle to regain financial footing, look at your choice of shopping as an investment. When you have a choice, make it local. Invest with the businesses you know whose roots are firmly grounded in your community with blood, sweat, and tears.

As local restaurants began to reopen, my wife and I sought out specific favorites of ours to visit. The driving factor? We wanted to support those we did not want to disappear from our community and lives. Previously our modest dinner might not have made the difference between them being open, but now, it just might. And that would hurt our community.

The other day I needed a can of spray paint. I had three choices – online, a mega store, or one where the store owner lives locally. Doing so, in small part, ensures he will continue to operate his business, hire young local students, and make modest but essential contributions to local charities.

And for the price of a can of gloss clear coat, I cast my vote.

Locally-grown and managed businesses are so much more than the sign on the side of the road. Picture the face of the person who created this dream or where someone landed their first job. Think of the families, depending on these modest businesses for a paycheck. Most shops may be small compared to those making national headlines, but locally and collectively, they are the heartbeat of our community. They are too small to fail.

As we all learn to shape our new reality, let’s commit to spending our dollars with a purpose – one we carry with the respect we do in the voting booth.

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