As graduation ceremonies are in full swing and the excitement of new beginnings is in the air, I want to do my part to offer sound and wise advice for those starting out in the world and getting ready to burst into unfamiliar territory where adventure abounds.
It seems I may not be the only one who is eager to do so – look at the advice others have given in this week’s “On the Spot” question (found in our hard copy edition). I thought I’d join in and give my two cents a whirl.
My first instinct is to shout from the mountain top with enthusiasm, “Follow your dreams” or “Reach for the stars,” or even “Live your passion, blissfully – forever and ever!”
Although I do tend to believe in the concept of living the vision one has for themselves, following a dream or passion is not always easy, not always blissful. Passion isn’t permanent and dreams shift and change. As a result, offering such hopeful (and perhaps frivolous) advice would prove to be beneficial for no one – especially the young.
When I graduated from high school in 1984, I was determined to follow my dreams and passions. The only problem was, I didn’t know what they were. Although I was writing at the time and would offhandedly say I was going to write the “great American novel”, I did not necessarily see a future in it in terms of a career. Believing that one needed to live passionately in order to be fulfilled and successful, my obsession in self-discovery led me on a very bumpy and winding road. I tried many things and experiences in hopes that it would inspire passion and a dream for me to follow. Somehow, I did “find myself”, but in order to do so I had to let go of expectations I had of what a dream or passion was for me.
What I finally discovered was that no matter what I chose to do, it was those moments when I hoped I made some sort of positive impact -either through volunteering or just being a sounding board for a friend, that I realized where my happiness – and passion – flourished. Interestingly, once I made that discovery – writing as career took off.
Ben Horowitz, a businessperson and a bestselling author stated it best in his commencement address to the graduating class of 2015 at Columbia University. Instead of following your passion “…follow your contribution. Find the thing you’re great at and put that into the world. Contribute to others and help the world be better—that is the thing to follow.”
So, if I may, dear graduates – the one piece of advice I would like to share with you is: What ever path you choose to take, sprinkle in moments of giving back in the way that fits your personality. Making an impact and contributing to something or someone bigger than yourself is where you will find some – if not a lot – of passion and happiness. Now go and make your dent in the world.