Charles E. Richardson

RICHARDSON: A little advice for the class of 2015

Well, it’s that time of year again. This time it’s the class of 2015 that’s looking to flip the tassel and head off into a new phase of life. By the time you read this, most colleges will have had the pomp and circumstance of their ceremonies, but graduates sat there in a daze -- either from late night partying or wondering what tomorrow might bring. Let me try to offer some clarity of thought.

This life goes by quicker than you can imagine, and it comes in phases. Some phases land like waves crashing on the beaches of Oahu at Alligator Rock. Others seem benign at first, cute even, until the awesome responsibility hits of raising another life. Before you can say “regular-sized Pampers,” they are sitting where you sat yesterday. Yes, it happens that quickly.

I know you’ve been focusing on “what do I do next” for quite a while now. You’re all smart. Colleges like Mercer, Wesleyan, Fort Valley, Middle Georgia State, Georgia College, Georgia State, Georgia Southern, Valdosta State and others wouldn’t have handed you a sheepskin with your name on it if you had not been smart enough to get through their requirements. But let me warn you: Life is different than the classroom. It can be cutthroat, and rarely is it fair. That’s why the best piece of advice I can give you is this: Don’t strive for a career full of money or even fame. Strive for passion.

If you don’t know what your passion in life is, keep looking, because believe me, it will keep looking for you. And when you find it, don’t be afraid to reach out and grasp it with both hands and hang on. Once you find your passion, or it finds you, it will take you through a few changes.

That passion can hit at any time. I’ve seen it hit after medical and law school or an MBA. And of course, your passion may not have anything to do with what you went to school to learn.

That doesn’t mean all the time and money went to waste. No, that time, effort and money was just getting you ready to accept -- and recognize -- your passion. If you hadn’t gone through what you went through, you might not have discovered your passion at all.

Aside from discovering your passion, always have a forward view. No matter what you do, there is no way to reach back and capture yesterday. Oh, but I wish there were a way to go back in the past and do things a little differently. But if there’s a way to do that, I’ve not heard of it. All we can do is learn, and I’ve learned more from dismal failures than from sparkling successes.

And be adaptable. This world is a- changing. The perspectives that we use to view the world change as we grow older, if we’re as smart as we think we are. Don’t be the one in the crowd who utters these words: “Been there, done that and it didn’t work.” I say that because those bringing up the ideas are different people, probably more talented than the ones who presented the ideas in the first place, and the timing may not have been right for the ideas to work the first time around. You’ll find that timing has a lot to do with everything. When the stars align, the same ideas that wouldn’t take off 20 years ago start to fly. Be there to help those ideas take flight. Don’t be a naysayer.

Look for talented people and copy the hell out of them. They didn’t get where they are by being stupid. No, they’re not perfect, but you can take a little from each one. The list of people I admire and watch is too long to mention, but I’ve learned different talents from each one.

As you, the class of 2015, head out into the world, remember that you stand on the shoulders of many people. When your name was called and you walked across the stage to receive your diploma, you were standing on the shoulders of several layers of people. If all their names had been announced, you’d still be at the ceremonies. Remember that. Stay humble. Be kind to all you meet and follow the Optimist Creed that says, in part, “Promise yourself: To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.” Congratulations.

Charles E. Richardson is The Telegraph’s editorial page editor. He can be reached at 478-744-4342 or via email at Tweet@crichard1020.