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Dear College Graduates

September 9, 2013

They say it’s lonely at the top, but where exactly is the top? Do we ever reach it?

Here is why I ask that question: One of my many nephews is going off to college, finally. I use the word “finally” only to make a point. He’s 21. Although, I wholeheartedly believe 21 is a very good age to begin college, and 25 even better–18 is still too young an age to be granted such freedom, and expected to stay focused at the same time.

I also refer to this with “finally” because at that age when someone decides to put off college, or anything, you never know how long that pause will last. I understand that better than most because I took several pauses in the course of my college career, that after the third one I think everyone pretty much wrote me off. A friend of mine’s dad even said to me, “by doing so you’ve just decided you’re gonna work for the rest of your life. Without retirement.”

Though I later realized his sentiment was very ‘old-school thinking’ speaking–believing that sticking with one path and one company till retirement was the only way to go. I’m happy to say he was very wrong–about me at least. But that’s another story for another post. Unfortunately, neither of us knew that it was wrong thinking for a new generation at the time, so hearing those words I took them to be gospel, since I had no idea what I was going to do with my life. For a while did absolutely nothing. My nephew at least had a job, so he’s one giant step ahead of me.

One thing I’m excited about in my nephew’s journey is that he came to this decision all by himself. He chose when the time was right to start something new. I truly believe that is the way to go. It took me ten years to get my degree, because I followed my own path. And though it was a long, winding one, I turned out to be a great success. Greater than I had if I’d followed a prescribed path–and it continues to unfold even as I write this.

windingroad_shutterstock_109280882

Life is a long and sometimes winding road.

The bottom line is that when someone else chooses your journey for you, and parents will dislike me saying this, it rarely unfolds the way they envisioned it, “for you,” because it’s not their journey. They have their own. No one can choose your path, or your journey, for you. If they do, then you can’t really call it yours. And often you end up making a drastic turn later in life, one that impacts a lot of other people.

Don’t get me wrong. We all need guidance and direction, and help sometimes, but that’s different from pushing someone onto a specific path. So instead of telling my nephew what he ‘should do,’ and how he should do it, I’m simply celebrating and sharing my experiences with him, and anxiously waiting to hear about his. He did tell me he felt he should know what he was meant to be doing, but that’s something we ask ourselves our entire lives, no matter how successful. Even Marissa Mayer likely asked herself that question the day her baby was born–and Mark Zuckerberg after the Facebook IPO.

The question, “What’s next for me now?” will always exist no matter how many milestones we reach. It’s just human nature.

The answer to that question is not a single one. It changes throughout the course of our lifetime–likely many times–because we will always be in search of the next Holy Grail.  While years ago learning that would be the case would’ve made me feel extremely uneasy, I now see that as an adventure, an exciting one. That’s what I hope for my nephew, that he’ll see learning as something exhilarating, not just from books and classes, but life itself. Because a lot of what makes us truly successful is what we learn about ourselves along the way, and about those around us who cheer us on and want us to win. Their beliefs, their challenges, and their passions, and even their fears, can help to make that, sometimes winding, road seem not so daunting. Words of wisdom and support from friends, family and colleagues helps to collectively drive all of us toward success–because success is rarely, if ever, a journey you take alone. Though at times it will feel that way.

Dual Mind BrainstormingI think the world is made up of people who see either “obstacles” or “opportunities.” If you see everything as an obstacle, you’ll never find success, you find pitfalls. Because what’s the point of trying if you’ll just hit another roadblock, right? But if you see the world as infinite possibilities, which it is, then every challenge becomes an opportunity to solve a problem, to learn something new, and to grow, and more importantly to advance you on the journey to greater heights and even bigger and better adventures.

That’s what I hope for my nephew, because that’s what my dad wanted for me the day I was born, “the world!” It took me a while to realize that, but I did, and I’m glad I did. I’m also grateful he put that wish out into the world for me, and that it never disappeared.

‘There’s a whole wide world out there. Go forth, and explore it. And figure out which part of it is meant for you.’ And don’t rush. You might miss something.

Here’s to Success–Your Way!

g_ROD

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