For many of the colleges and universities we work with, it's a bittersweet time of the year. On one hand, the last finals are getting graded and final papers are being turned in. Class is coming to a close which means no more lectures, no more homework, no more grading and office hours. On the other hand, it's always a little tough to say bye to the students you've watched learn and grow under your tutelage for the past semester or longer.
Graduation pretty much encompasses all of those bittersweet emotions. Sure, there are no more papers to write or quizzes to study for, but now these young men and women are faced with something even more daunting: the real world of adulthood.
Now, I haven't been invited to speak at any graduations just yet (there's still time!) – and I may not be the most qualified candidate to do so – but I do like to think I have some valuable advice to impart on those joining the rest of us in the working world. And because I'm such a kind and generous soul, I'm waiving all the speaking fees you'd have to pay me and publishing the graduation speech I'd like to give right here on our blog. Enjoy all the wisdom!
Ladies and gentleman, friends and family, thank you for joining us today to celebrate the fantastic achievements of these young people. While there's nothing that makes a guy feel old than addressing a huge group of 20-somethings and their parents, I do like to think we probably shared some similar experiences in college. No, I'm not talking about the numerous all-nighters many of you have no doubt pulled during your time here, and no, I'm not even necessarily talking about writing papers and taking tests.
Much of what I learned in college was outside the classroom, which is probably a relief to some of you here. Though guys like me love to tell folks like you that college isn't the “real” world and you're in for some harsh realities, there are quite a few lessons I learned from my time in college that were incredibly important to me in the real world. You're going to receive a very dignified piece of paper today that validates how wise and learned you've become during your time here, but I hope you'll bear with me as I attempt to impart a little advice about what parts of that learnedness will be valuable to you beyond today.
The number one lesson I hope you take with you is…
Plan for the Worst, Hope for the Best
Many of you have probably learned this lesson when completing group projects or asking for assignment extensions. It's always nice to get what you're hoping for, like everyone turning in their portion of a project on time, but it's better to be prepared in case no one actually pulls their own weight.
In the so-called real world, it's also important to make sure you plan for the worst. Keeping an emergency fund, setting aside a good amount of money for tomorrow, and being prepared for what could happen are all keys to keeping you and your family financially sound no matter what happens.
And though you might plan for the worst, that doesn't mean getting caught up in all the disaster scenarios. In fact, I think it's just as important to…
Keep Your Eyes on Where You're Headed, Not Where You Are
Sometimes when we get too caught up in what can go wrong, we lose sight of where we're going or why we do what we do. Anyone who's struggled through a grueling biochemistry class or pulled an all-nighter studying for final exams can tell you how easy it is to get wrapped up in the day-to-day and lose sight of the fact that one test or class is pretty meaningless in the grand scheme of things. What's important is the destination.
In other words, don't focus too heavily on the cracks in the sidewalk. Instead, remember where that sidewalk is taking you. This will make it easy to do things like put away a little bit of today's funds for tomorrow. It'll also help prevent you from making emotional decisions with your money that can get you into big trouble in the long run.
You know what else can prevent you from making poor emotional decisions? Your friends and family! Which brings me to my final piece of advice…
Don't Walk Alone!
One of the coolest things about college is how it brings so many different people with different backgrounds and viewpoints all together in the same place. Rarely in life will you find so many different people from different walks of life peacefully coexisting in one place. Many of you have not only shared space with people who have different ideas than you about the way the world should work, but you've shared meals, discussions and study groups with these people. Though you may have disagreements, if you look around at all these people here today, you've all helped each other reach a fantastic destination.
I've found that finding people who support you and help you reach your goal is one of the best things we can do, not just for our own personal success but our own personal happiness. Your family, your friends, your church—those are all people who will have your back no matter what. Never forget about just how important that is.
So that's it. With those final nuggets of wisdom, you're finally ready for the real world (as if we could ever be ready for it).
I hope you're excited because it's going to be one heck of a ride!
Ryan Rink is the co-founder and president of Two West Companies, and gets really pumped up about working with the social sector. He wants to congratulate all the graduates in Park University's (his alma mater) Class of 2016 and wish them the absolute best of luck!