Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Five things I want to tell my son on this, the day of his high school graduation

Tonight my son Jared graduates, the third of our children to do so. Three down, two to go.

I will tell you I'm not pleased with the way this post turned out. I earnestly believe everything I'm trying to tell my son below, but none of it came out quite right.

Maybe that's because, while many life lessons are universal, the way we each learn and experience them is unique. So that even as I describe my own thoughts around a particular nugget of wisdom, I'm acutely aware that Jared's perspective on it is likely to be a bit different.

So I guess this list isn't perfect. No list of supposedly transcendent life lessons ever is. I hope the boy, and anyone else who happens to read this, accepts it in the flawed-yet-sincere spirit in which it is offered.

Jared, we bought you the laptop for graduation, and now here's the gift that comes without a receipt:

(1) You've got to try even when you don't feel like trying: Whatever you do, whether it's a job or a marriage or anything else important in your life, you have to be present and you have to be actively engaged. That means showing up and really trying. Every day. Sometimes that's going to be easy. Sometimes it won't be. You often hear it said of pitchers in baseball that they "just don't have it today," yet many times they stay in the game and "battle." They may not feel great, they may not feel motivated. But they have a job to do, and so they do it. Even when they don't feel like doing it. That's the essence of being a responsible adult: You show up and you work hard every time without exception.

(2) Feeling sorry for yourself is tempting, but it will get you nowhere: Sometimes you're going to feel like everything and everyone is against you. You just will. And you can safely allow yourself to feel that way for maybe 15 minutes. Then you need to move on. Seriously, you need to get over it and move on. Not everything is going to go your way. Not everyone is going to like or appreciate you. Oh well. There's not much you can do about that, so keep doing what you know is right. Keep showing up (see item #1 above), keep plugging away. It sounds simplistic, but it's the only way things are going to turn around. In essence, quit your crying and suck it up.

(3) Sports cliche #147  "Worry only about the things you can control"  is real: You hear athletes talk about this all the time. They say they can't concern themselves with the things they can't influence. Instead, all of their focus is on the items over which they have specific control  their attitude, their preparation, their game plan. It's the same for those of us who don't get paid to play a sport. In your career, in your personal life, in everything you do, there is a long list of things over which you exert control. Concentrate on those things. Don't worry about other people's attitudes. Don't worry about external circumstances you can't change. Don't concern yourself so much with the unchangeable things that simply are. Direct your time and attention instead to what could be.

(4) Have a plan: Even if it only covers the next few years of your life, have a plan for what you want to achieve and how you're going to get there. Develop a vision for your life and what you want out of it. Otherwise your existence will be a series of randomly connected activities with no real end goal in mind. You'll get somewhere, to be sure, but probably not where you want to be. Just set aside some time every once in a while to think about the future, both short term and long. You'll be glad you did.

(5) Be grateful: You have so much in your life. You have a family who loves you more than you can understand (though you will understand if and when you have kids of your own). You have a roof over your head, a car to drive, food to eat. Lots and lots and lots of people in this world lack one or more of those things. You were born with a silver spoon in your mouth whether or not you recognize it. If you spend your time lamenting the things you don't have, you will be one unhappy individual. I'm telling you, you don't want to be that guy.

 Happy graduation day, buddy. Enjoy every minute of it, because you've earned it.


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks, Jared! Glad you were able to stop by and give it a read.

  2. Great job, Scott. I'd like to share this with my kids someday.