What would you say during a commencement address?

At dinner, a couple nights ago, we were gathered around the television reviewing soundbites from Jimmy Fallon’s latest commencement address. Pondering his words of wisdom, I wondered what I might have said to those graduates if I had been given that opportunity.

First, a speech to that kind of audience needs to be short – only 15-20 minutes in length. Young people can be impatient because they’re thinking about celebrating afterwards. Maybe, I could say things like, “You cannot control everything that happens to you. You can only control the way you respond to what happens.” My dad told us, “There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work and being able to learn from failure.” He would continue, “Don’t listen to people who say your dreams are impossible.” I believe people who communicate that dreams are impossible have probably quit on their own dreams anyway. So why listen to them? My friend, Jim Rohn, who is in Heaven now, once said, “If you REALLY WANT to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find AN EXCUSE.”

During your lifetime, you will meet two kinds of people. I have. One kind will build you up, and the other will tear you down. However, in the end, you’ll thank them both. There’s a lesson in that statement.

I have told my daughter that great things never come from a comfort zone. She’ll have to go out on the limb once in a while to get some fruit. Simply put, fruit does not grow at the base of the tree but farther out on the limb. Erin needed to know that sometimes she will have to work harder to get what she wants.

I wasn’t born with all of this valuable information. I had to learn it, but my parents were there to help educate me. Having had 12 children, my mom prepared us for each day with small tidbits about life. She had a mission. I can recall that she asked us to “start each day with a grateful heart”. Thank you, Mom. I still do that!

Remember that there are 1,440 minutes in every day. How we choose to live those 1,440 minutes is up to us. One thing that I have learned during my 70 years on this earth is that there are two words that will define a person—patience when you have nothing and attitude when you have everything.

If you’ve heard me speak, then you know that I sometimes describe the difference between a rut and a grave. Maybe, I could make this statement during a commencement address. “The difference between a rut and a grave is the depth some of us need to go to get out of the rut before we are in our grave.”  We don’t have the opportunity to choose the family into which we’re born. However, everyone chooses the life they live. If you don’t like the life you’re living now, then change it. Know why?? No one else is going to do it for you.

I have heard this statement many times. “Talent is given; greatness is earned.” I’m not exactly sure who said that, but I know it’s true! Talent freely given doesn’t GUARANTEE anyone’s success. Success has to be earned. What person can you name that you feel in their lifetime earned true “greatness”? Seriously, you would pick a person that had a positive outlook, was kind to others and probably shared his or her wealth with the less fortunate. Am I right? While in Florida last year, I challenged a sales team to adjust what they’re doing to reach higher achievement. “I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.” That would be a great statement for someone’s future.

In life, you really get what you put into it. As I told my daughter, “Life is like a boomerang. Send it out, and it will always come back to you.” Mistakes are inevitable. All of us make them. No matter what, don’t give up. That’s why there’s an eraser at one end of your pencil.

I’ve concluded my quest for the perfect commencement soundbite. If I were giving a commencement address today, I would end my speech with something like this, “I believe life is not measured by the amount of breaths you take, but by the moments that take your breath away.” Better yet, if you were delivering the commencement address instead of me, what would you say?

Thanks for reading my article. See you next time!

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D.J. Says, 2820 Andover Way, Woodstock, GA 30189

D. J. Harrington is an author, journalist, seminar leader, international trainer, and marketing consultant. He works primarily with customer service personnel, and his clients include such world-class companies as General Motors, DuPont, Caterpillar, and Damon Corporation. He may be reached at 800-352-5252. E-mail: dj@djsays.com. 52 weeks a year, we are as close as your telephone.