Graduation Advice For My Younger Self

What graduation advice would you give your younger self?

With the school year coming to a close, I’m reminded of how it felt to walk across my university stage 16 years ago (hint:  I felt nervous about the future!).  Here are my top seven pieces of advice for high school and university graduates this year:

1. Don’t blindly follow your passion (unless you’re good at it!). I’ve always thought that the “follow your passion” advice was a bit thin. While a good place to start, you still have to be really, really GOOD at what you’re passionate about. I love to sing, but even with years of hard work I know myself well enough that I’m not going to be the next Bruno Mars. I know my strengths, and singing isn’t in my top three. We have to face reality from time to time.

2. Work harder on yourself than you do on your job. I learned this from the late Jim Rohn – he was a wonderful mentor and I never forgot this piece of solid advice. Be intentional about developing yourself (ex. read books, find a mentor, attend a seminar, etc). By doing so you’ll not only give yourself a competitive advantage, you’ll be a better human.

3. Be patient. Nothing happens overnight. Don’t fall for the media’s constant stream of overnight success stories. The Zuckerberg’s of the world are few and far between. Do your best each day and trust that those days will add up.

4. Dream BIG. You only have one shot at this thing called life, why play small?

5. Work hard (and rest). Pay attention to all areas of your life. There will be times when some aspects of your life require more time and attention than others. That’s ok. Be aware of the pitfalls, though, and have a plan to manage them. Working hard comes with a price, so you have to be ok with the tradeoffs.

6. Stay focused. I wrote an article a few weeks ago about how controlling your attention is the most valuable skill of the next decade. Anyone graduating right now is stepping into the most distracting time in human history. Don’t be led astray – stay focused on what’s important to you.

7.  Travel.  Becoming a well rounded human being is impossible without exploring the world.  Be curious.

Now get out there and make it happen!


What’s the one piece of advice you would give your younger self??  Let me know in the comments section below!

  1. Take more chances – and dare to challenge your fears, would be my recommendation to my younger self. I was such a shy gal and nervous that I would say/do something silly – that at times I feel I may have missed important opportunities. Luckily life is full of opportunities and I’ve learned to explore more and challenge myself more, thus enjoying life all the more. Thanks for the insight Ian.

    1. Charlene, great points and ones that I could’ve taken to heart too. I played it safe a lot back then, but learned to push myself more as I got older (and wiser?!). As you said, lots of opportunities to continue challenging ourselves every day. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Those are great pieces of advice, but would you have listened? I recently had occasion to revisit an almost forgotten but favourite video – the hypothetical commencement speech written by Mary Schmich in the late 1990’s and put to music by Baz Luhrmann (“Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)”, easy to find on YouTube). I even made my kids watch it! I love her advice, and used to think it would have been great if someone had given that speech at my graduation. But even if someone had, I know that I wouldn’t have really heard it then – at least not the way I hear it now!

    1. Thanks for commenting and sharing, Jen. You raise a good question – I’m not so sure I would’ve been open to absorbing this advice! We definitely learn different things at different times in our lives. I would’ve at least appreciated someone cutting to the chase back then. Live and learn!

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