It is that time of the year: High school graduations are upon us. This one is really special to me because of two reasons. My daughter is one of the lucky high school students who will soon go out into the world and spreading her wings. The other special thing is a speech friend and coach Brett Blair (he is the author of “From Autopilot to Authentic: How the Philosophies of Dr. Tom Hill Can Help You Live Your Exceptional Life”) held for high school grads in Cary NC. He has allowed me to share his speech with you. There a many speeches held, but this one sticks out to me. The current generation may be making a mess of things right now, but you should really let Brett’s thoughts sink in about how you HS grads will now have the exciting chance helping make important changes for yourself and all of us. So I am asking you as well to please chase a better self and live on purpose – we live in a country that provides so many opportunities challenging to live to your full potential. Let your light shine and never relent. The best of luck to all of you. Here is to you, Katie. We gave you roots and also wings. It is time to spread them wide and take off like an eagle.
Together is Beautiful – Continuing the Journey by Brett Blair
Hello graduating seniors. Congratulations! Congratulations to each and every one of you.
I, along with your parents, your teachers, the administration, the community, your friends and family, we all honor you.
We honor you, and you should be proud.
You have completed a significant milestone in your life, and one that will carry with you the rest of your life.
It’s your life.
It’s no longer about your parents, your friends, or anyone else.
It’s your life that we’re talking about now, and it’s totally in your control.
As you venture forth into the world, after crossing that stage on Monday, June 12th, and finally picking up your diploma, you’ll be launched into a whole new journey.
For some of you, you’ll be going straight on to college.
Others will go to work, and start making some money.
Some of you will proudly serve our country in the military, others go to a trade school, community college, or maybe volunteer – here in the U.S. or abroad.
I’m guessing that you, the class of 2017, will probably scatter all over the country and maybe even the world.
After you graduate, a lot of things will be new and different for you.
Some things will be scary.
Some things will be fun.
One thing I’m sure most of you will experience is a new degree of freedom.
Many of you will be living away from home for the first time.
You’ll be going from the world of being a kid in your house to being an adult in the big, bad world.
You’ll have freedom. Freedom!
Freedom is a cool thing.
Our country’s fathers – you know their names – George Washington and crew, they fought hard for our freedom, and our military has fought found hard over the last 200 + years to keep it.
The Constitution and the Bill of Rights, these things spell out what our great freedoms are as Americans. We should never take these freedoms and these rights for granted, and never forget how blessed we are to live here in the U.S.
But there’s another kind of freedom. A freedom that is entirely up to you, and a freedom that you can lose if you don’t live your life in the right way.
It’s the freedom that comes from taking personal responsibility for your decisions, your choices, your actions, and overall the way in which you live your life.
Freedom! You have the freedom to choose a great career. I made a big mistake here. I originally chose a career based only on the money it would pay. I’ve since learned, and it took me a long time, like over 20 years, that it’s much better to choose a career that matches your passions and purpose and interests.
Freedom! You have the freedom to be healthy. Don’t take this for granted. This is almost totally in your control. It overwhelmingly comes from the foods you eat and the exercise you get. At your age, you might not think this is too important. I promise you, it will become very important as you get older. Most of the health problems we have in the US these days come from people with bad habits. People eating the wrong foods and people not getting the exercise they need. You have your full lives ahead of you. I dare you. I dare you to make a commitment to yourself to be super healthy, and then you’ll enjoy the excitement that can come from a life, a long life, based on great health.
Freedom! You have the freedom to stay out of debt. Develop good habits around money right now, stick to them, and be free of financial bondage later. If you get a credit card, pay it off every month. If you already have some credit card debt, pay it off as soon as you can. Don’t be like most Americans, with thousands of dollars of credit card debt that literally buries them. Learn about saving. Learn about the magic compounded interest, and learn about the value of long-term investing.
Freedom! You have the freedom to have great relationships. Great relationships with your family, with your friends, with your girlfriend/boyfriend/husband/wife, with your employer and coworkers, with just about anybody. The keys to great relationships are being honest and transparent, being present when you’re with people (instead of glued to your iPhone), being a great listener, and just being one who really cares about other people. Caring about people regardless of what they look like, where they come from, how much money they have, how smart they are – just caring about people because they are another human being.
Freedom! You have the freedom of living in a great country, and on a beautiful planet. I know that my generation has not done you any favors here, and we’ve left this world in trouble in many ways. Pollution, climate change, poverty, hunger, racism and social unrest, low rates of political participation, intolerance, the list of challenges goes on and on. But, I am confident and optimistic. I’m optimistic because you young men and women are incredible. You are smart and passionate and caring and live your lives on purpose, and with a purpose. I have no doubt that our future, the future of our planet and the future of all people will be better, much better, because of the impact that you’re going to make.
Freedom! You have the freedom to choose how you think. You can choose to wake up each day and live in fear and regret. You can do that. Or, you can wake up each day with confidence and optimism and energy. You can wake up, each day, eager to go forth and make your mark as you live your life on purpose, and make a difference. It’s up to, totally up to you.
10 years ago, when I was 46 years old, I quit a job, a career, that I had held for over 20 years. For somebody else, it might have been a great career. It just wasn’t the right one for me.
I then started my own business. I also hired a coach, a life coach, and this guy taught me a whole new way to live my life. He taught me to dream about my future, and to write it down in great detail. He taught me to get crystal clear on my priorities, and to live my life in a way that balanced my priorities. He taught me to commit to growth, and to grow until the day I die. I’m living my life that way now, and you know what? It’s awesome. If I could go back to the day I graduated from high school, and start living my life that way, living my life on purpose, I can’t image how much different, how much better my life would have been.
You, the class of 2017. You can live your lives on purpose.
You can live your lives in the direction of your passions and purposes and your dreams.
You can live your lives with abundant health – with energy and strength to lean into each and every day.
You can live your lives with amazing relationships all around you – an amazing spouse, amazing kids, amazing relationships with your parents, friends, neighbors.
You can have a great career or own your own great business, and smartly manage your money in a way that you never get into financial bondage that comes from having too much debt.
Living your life this way – living your life on purpose, it’s not the way most people live. That’s OK. A lot of people aren’t living their lives with the goals and determination and vision that you have. A lot of people are confused, and a lot of people are after instant gratification. You know, the best things in life – they take time, they take focus, they take determination, and they take discipline to get.
Personal discipline is the key.
Personal discipline leads to personal freedom.
Don’t be influenced by other people. Chart your own course, and stick to it. Be independent.
As Dr. Wayne Dyer says, be independent of the good and bad opinions of other people.
Have your own moral compass, your own north star, and live your life in that direction.
Live your life when you are all alone just like you would if other people were watching.
And something else I’ve learned along the way in my life – it is so much better when we all work together, and when we all get along. I think your generation has this figured out so much better than we did when I was growing up. Regardless of skin color, regardless of economic status, regardless of religion or political party or nationality or worldview – we all have the common denominator of being people. We are all people, created equal in the eyes of God, with unlimited potential. And when we lock arms and work together as people, working toward a better future, our potential is even more unlimited.
You guys are amazing. I’ve seen your passion and humility and courage and curiosity and love for each other. I’ve seen your intelligence and adaptability and determination. I’ve seen your faith and persistence and creativity.
I’ve seen you, I see you now, and I see you in the future.
I see you in the future, boldly making your mark on the world, and as a result, making this world a better place.
I know a lot of people who are really worried about the future, and think that the future will be worse, not better, than things are right now.
I totally disagree.
I believe in a better world.
I know we’ll move to the use of renewable energy.
I think we’ll solve the challenges around climate change.
I think we’ll eliminate many of today’s diseases and other health problems.
I think we’ll find new solutions to hunger and poverty and racism and inequality.
I might be naïve, but I don’t think so.
I think all these positive, optimistic things about the future for one reason. And, that one reason is YOU! Each and every one of YOU!
Personal discipline is cool. It leads to personal freedom. Personal freedom to live your lives in great big, happy, making a difference ways.
Thanks so much for giving me so many reasons to be optimistic, thanks for being an amazing group of young people who phenomenally represent Cary High School, and thanks for being you.
God Bless You, and may you venture forth and live the lives of your dreams.