Monday, June 01, 2015

Advice for graduates

Jilda and I joined my sister on Memorial Day to eat. When we arrived, the dining room was packed with a crew of family and friends. The sound of ice clattering in plastic cups and spoons clanking on serving platters added to the drone of the conversation.

Her grandson Zack, who graduated from high school a few days ago, was sitting alone at the
My sister Mary Lois, Zack, and my niece Danielle
edge of the buzz and looked as if he was lost in thought.

When I asked what he planned to study in college, he looked at me as if I’d somehow read his mind and knew what he was thinking. I could tell he’d been spending a great deal of time wrestling with this very question.

A few years ago he seemed intent on coaching, but standing at this intersection of his life, I could tell he was unsure of which way to go.

I started to use the famous Lewis Carroll quote, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.” But I didn’t want to get all existential and what not, so I decided to let the conversation lag.

Often when you give young people advice, their eyes glaze over and their train of thought pulls out of the station. I know mine did when I was his age.

I tried to organize my thoughts and come up with something profound that would help light the way on the journey that lies ahead of him, but I decided no advice is better than bad advice. We sat in silence for a while.

I did tell him that his parents want the best for him, but the decision would ultimately be on his shoulders. What I didn’t say was that chasing someone else’s dream is often a waste of time.

Jilda works at an addiction center, and the stories she hears each day are laden with regret for wasting so much of their lives doing work they hated.

It’s hard to leave your mark on the world in a career you hate.

I decided to recommend that Zack read a book I’m currently reading entitled, “Innovation Secrets of Steven Jobs.” It’s an interesting read because it examines Jobs’ early life and the decisions that made him one of the most successful entrepreneurs of his generation. What interests me is not his wealth but his underlying motivation.

Could his approach be learned and shared? I like to think that it can be imitated.

Whether you’re a fan of Steven Jobs or not, it’s hard to dispute that he was passionate about his work and he changed the world. I think passion was the key.

Sometimes when young people think about their careers, they limit their vision to jobs listed online or in the newspaper. They may be gifted artists but can’t picture themselves earning a living doing art. In reality, people all over the world make a comfortable living in the field.

I told Zack that now is the time to explore the things he enjoys doing even if he doesn’t think there’s a career opportunity there. I told him to find something he was passionate about.

There’s an old saying that goes something like this: “When you do the work you love, you vocation becomes your vacation.”

It’s hard to gauge if what I said helped, but he’s a smart kid with a bright future and I feel certain he’ll find his way.


  1. It is helpful to know that someone sees you in a quandary. A good listener can be of more use than a preacher.

  2. Anonymous10:53 PM

    Very few people know what they want their life to be when they're in their late teens!!

  3. I remember those times and I would cast my eyes to the ceiling but at the same time, I took in the advice. It's hard to know where you want to be. My niece has not gone further because she is till unsure and doesn't want to spend money until she knows what she wants to do. I hope she will go to university or college on day so I cross my fingers. I think you helped more than you know.

  4. Relative diagramatics escape me, but seems to me you gave Zack the kind of stabilizing company he needed. I'm no cardiologist but would estimate the avuncular chamber of your heart is in exceptionally good condition.

  5. I would agree on finding something to do that you love. Work isn't work at all when you enjoy it. It's such an exciting time of life for young people. The possibilities seem endless to them.

  6. I hope you are the one. I can remember one or two pieces of advice out of the 'hundreds' I received growing up. The best was from someone I admired. I am positive in my mind, you are admired. I am hoping, later , that the seeds you dropped take root and stay in his mind.
    Good post...

  7. That was good advice Rick... I hope he takes sometime to think about it... from what you say about him... I'm sure he will :-)

  8. My son is at the fork in the road, too. He has chosen a route but I'm not sure he has the love of the vocation to go for the long haul, so to speak. The thing about young people is they're in no position to make life long decisions, ha ha.

  9. I often think I have wasted much of my life, but at this moment, with Franklin next to me, perhaps nothing has been wasted at all. The Hurricane will graduate soon and be Dr. The Hurricane. That is not a waste. Favorite Young Man can fix any and every car and explain to customers what was wrong and what he did. They are surprised when they get a mechanic who went to college. That is not a waste. I'm sure Zack will find his way.


  10. Pretty good advice I have to say, listening and hearing really hearing is something so few know how to do


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