It’s coming up on graduation time for the class of 2017 and if were to give a commencement address I would start with a little advice. I would gaze out on the sea of caps and gowns surrounded by proud family and friends and I would offer one tiny little message — something I would hope they all had heard before. I’m sure some of them had or they wouldn’t be sitting here about to receive their diplomas.
This bit of advice wouldn’t just be for the graduates, but for their siblings and every other young person in the building. The advice can be said in a number of ways, for example: “You don’t get old by being stupid.” Or, “God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason.” Or, “Better to say nothing and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and provide evidence.”
The one I like comes from a Farmer's Insurance Company commercial. Its tagline, after showing you a depiction of an actual outrageous claim, such as the one where a couple sitting in a car is gazing out at the ocean, gets hit by a strong wave, and as it washes over the car, water comes in through the open sunroof — and with it — an octopus. The tagline is: “We know a thing or two because we’ve seen a thing or two.”
That’s my advice to young people. Keep that gaping hole in the middle of your face shut while keeping your ears and eyes wide open. Listen to those who “know a thing or two.” How do you know that they know?
That’s a great question. Everybody knows a thing or two about something. Everyone has seen a thing or two. So how do you know if you want to know?
You have to consider the source. If someone is giving advice about how to live and they don’t have a pot to sit on, you might want to take that into account. There might be a very valid reason for their situation but you to be discerning.
Example, don’t take relationship advice from anyone who isn’t in a successful relationship. Why should you? If he or she can’t keep a man or a woman, what tips can they give you? Maybe they can tell you how to ruin a relationship.
Here you sit, ready to enter the next phase of life and some of you are having flashbacks to words of advice given as you entered the 9th grade. Some of you listened. Some of you didn’t. My bet is that those of you who took that advice to heart are going to the college of your choice where scholarship money is waiting. You’ve got a decent grade-point average and your SAT scores look good. Those of you who didn’t listen or didn’t get serious until later, have been fighting to catch up, or you’re just lucky to be here.
For the first group, keep listening to those who know a thing or two. They didn’t steer you wrong because here you sit. Keep those grades up and you’ll leave college debt free. For the second group, it’s going to be a little tougher, but it’s still very doable, now that you’ve got the wax out of your ears.
Don’t start off your college freshman year the way you started your high school freshman year because if you do, you’ll find yourself back at home, and in debt, unable to continue your education because you’ve used up all your funds.
Always remember: It is never too late to listen to those who know a thing or two. None of us are ever going to “Be Like Mike,” Michael Jordan, that is, but we can be the best we can be in whatever area of interest we have.
So find that person or persons who know a thing or two about what you’re interested in and sit down and have a talk. I’ve never known anyone who knows a thing or two, to be stingy with their time when it comes to helping a young person try to figure it out.