My niece graduated from college on Sunday and, like so many from the Class of 2020, had a commencement not at all commensurate with her accomplishment, at her parents’ house with only a few family members in attendance, at a proper social distance.
She was a great sport, donning her cap and gown, carrying balloons as Alexa played “Pomp and Circumstance,” and champagne popped. All that was missing was a speaker.
I was asked, perhaps in jest, but I figured it was my one chance to give a commencement address. Sure, she got short-changed. But, hey, I didn’t get an honorary doctorate, did I?
"I would like to share a little of the wisdom I received from the commencement speaker at my college graduation. I would like to, but I can’t, because I don’t remember one word of it. Might’ve given good advice. But I knew it all back then and didn’t need any advice. As UCLA basketball coach John Wooden said, ‘It’s what you learn after you already know it all that counts.’
"The only real advice I can give you is to pursue your passion. Someone once said, do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life. That’s idiotic, of course. You’ll spend about 10,000 days of your life working. And it’s still work, no matter how much you love it. But it’s a lot better to do what you love than what you hate. Even worse, though, is doing what you tolerate. At least you’ll quit a job you hate. You could get stuck for many years in something you learn to tolerate.
"Pursue your passion with a singular focus. Work toward your goals every day until you achieve them. It isn’t that people achieve success before they give up. People that don’t give up achieve success. But they don’t do it alone. Make sure you are surrounded by good people. Don’t be afraid to offer suggestions and even to disagree with co-workers or your boss. But don’t forget you learn a lot more by listening to others than to your own voice.
"If you pursue your passion, perhaps money will follow. But don’t equate success with money. Too many people do. You need your own definition of success and somewhere in the first few words should be happiness. And money doesn’t equate to happiness, either. You will spend whatever you make. It will never seem like enough, but somehow it always will be.
"Don’t let money dissuade you from pursuing your passion. My first job out of college paid $8.34 an hour. I could’ve made more doing something else. But I’ve never been happier in a job and it set me up for everything good that has happened since, personally and professionally.
"Pursue that passion even if you don’t know where it will lead you. Remember, John Lennon’s words: ‘Life’s what happens while you’re busy making other plans.’ Lennon sang that lyric, but he actually stole it from someone else.
"There’s something to be learned from that, too. As I said, I’ve learned I don’t know it all, but along the way, I did learn something really important: Even if you don’t know it all, you can probably find the answer on Google.
"So, in closing, since I recognize that I have nothing particularly inspirational to say, I’ll cherry-pick from some of the best commencement advice I could find online.
"Denzel Washington said: Every failed experiment is one step closer to success. You’ve got to take risks. You will fail at some point in your life. Accept it. You will lose. You will embarrass yourself. You will suck at something. There is no doubt about it. Never be discouraged. Never look back.
"Writer-producer Shonda Rhimes said: “You don’t have a job? Get one. Any job. Don’t sit at home waiting for the magical opportunity. Who are you? Prince William? No. Get a job. Go to work. Do something until you can do something else.
"Harry Potter author JK Rowling said: We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already. We have the power to imagine better.”
"Actor Helen Mirren said: It’s really important to remember that, like a hangover, neither triumphs nor disasters last forever. They both pass and a new day arrives. Just try to make that new day count.”
"Businesswoman Arianna Huffington said: We have, if we’re lucky, about 30,000 days to play the game of life. And trust me, that’s not morbid. In fact, it’s wisdom that will put all the inevitable failures and rejections and disappointments and heartbreaks into perspective.
"Oprah Winfrey said: Sometimes you find out what you are supposed to be doing by doing the things you are not supposed to do.”
“And, my favorite, President George W. Bush told SMU’s Class of 2015: To those of you who received honors, awards, and distinctions, I say well done. And to the C students, I say you, too, can be president of the United States.
Bob Blubaugh is the editor of the Carroll County Times. His column appears Sundays. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.