Some thoughts for grads
With graduation just around the corner I thought I might share a few ideas with our graduating seniors. All of these concepts may not be fully understood. But if just one or two resonate, he or she will be just that much better off than he or she was before reading them.Have you ever wondered what life would be like if you weren’t certain that someone you were close to or cared about was honest or not? Would you be comfortable if you had to wonder if you could believe what that person said to you? How would you feel if your doctor, math teacher or boss was someone you could not trust?Trust is earned by being trustworthy. Trustworthy means living by the golden rule and doing what you say you will. It means that when you promise to be responsible for something, whether directly or indirectly you will be responsible. It means that you will conduct yourself at all times in a manner that you would if the person who placed their trust in you were watching.The key to living a happy and fulfilling life is being able to say, “People admire and respect me.” People tend to criticize others for what they don’t like about themselves. People who have never been successful at anything incorporate criticism as a defense-denial mechanism in order to lash out at those “weaker” than themselves, i.e. those who cannot cause consequences to the criticizer. People who overly criticize do so in order to build their own self-esteem. In other words, unless their “self-esteem” is artificially manufactured it won’t exist at all. During my 30s, I learned an important life lesson about dealing with feelings of hurt and pain. In retrospect, I wished that I had understood this concept much earlier in life, especially while in Vietnam. But that’s another story. Whenever we encounter feelings of pain, we must run toward those feelings and embrace and feel the pain. Running away from a feeling we don’t want only intensifies the feeling, even if only in the subconscious. If we suppress something into our subconscious, it will come back to haunt us later in life.Only by rushing to a feeling of hurt can we cause emotional pain to go away or at least be lessened. Remember, feelings are real. That’s just the way it is. Trying to fool one’s self about feelings is known as denial. Psychiatric couches across America are filled with people in denial.However, we can control our thoughts. Being honest with ourselves about any given situation will allow us to put our trials and tribulations into proper perspective when life’s events don’t spin our way.
Never stop learning. Remember, even an “expert” in a given field must know how his or her field of expertise relates to associated subjects. Your diploma is not an end unto itself. It’s the foundation for future intellectual growth. Years ago when I received my Navy flight wings, the commandant of the Naval Air Training Command said to the assembled ensigns and lieutenants, “Gentlemen, this is your ticket to learn.” The same can be said for your diploma. Believe me, the learning has just begun.There’s an old expression: “The size of one’s heart is not measured by how much you love, but rather by how much you are loved.” Ask yourself, how many people actually admire and respect you? How many real friends do you have? Do people speak well of you on a regular basis? These are the questions we must continually ask ourselves if we are to grow as human beings.The divorce rate in this country is 50 percent. One way to help insulate yourself is to follow the advice given to me a long time ago. Fidelity means that regardless of the setting or context (a party, a work situation or even ordering a meal in a restaurant), being faithful in a relationship means that you won’t engage in any activity that you wouldn’t want your partner to witness.As you go through life, remember that that the more time you spend sharpening the ax, the less time you’ll spend chopping the wood. Abraham Lincoln once said, “If given 10 hours to chop down a tree, spend the first seven sharpening the ax.” So whether you’re on a job interview or having your first baby, take the time to prepare.When you lose, don’t lose the lesson. Don’t let a little dispute injure a great friendship. Open your arms to change, but don’t discard your values. Live a good, honorable life. Then when you get older and think back, you’ll be able to enjoy it a second time. In disagreements with loved ones, deal only with the current situation, don’t bring up the past. And finally, judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it.Congratulations to you all, and best of luck in all of your future endeavors.Butch Mazzuca of Singletree writes a weekly column for the Daily. He can be reached at email@example.com