Over the last few weeks, my wife and I have received graduation announcements from several family members and friends. We love getting them. Each educational achievement is worth celebrating, and I offer congratulations to all graduates who have worked hard, studied hard and stuck with it until the end. Enjoy the festivities! You’ve earned it, and nobody can take away what you have achieved.
Now comes the hard part. The real test of what you have learned and who you can become will be administered throughout the rest of your life. Whether you succeed or fail will largely be up to you. You will issue your own grades, and — I speak from experience — the older version of you may not be impressed with any of your own excuses for being less than your very best self.
With these thoughts in mind — as it's just now hitting me that one day each of us will turn 40 years old, realize that our mortal life is half over and wonder if we might have accomplished more with our time — I would like to offer a few words of wisdom that I have collected over the years which have inspired and motivated me to do more, be more and enjoy life more.
“Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious ambiguity.” — Gilda Radner
You are embarking on the adventure of a lifetime. Don’t be paralyzed by uncertainty. Embrace it! Uncertainty never really goes away (just ask your folks). Life comes with risk, but it also comes with incalculable rewards for those who can, with a smile, lean into the wind, step into the darkness and press forward.
“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” — E.E. Cummings
Don’t get stuck in your parents' basement. I have known far too many people who treat their 20s like an extended adolescence, playing video games, hanging out with their buddies, putting off school and dating and work, while their exhausted mothers feed them, clean up after them and do their laundry. Don’t find yourself at age 30 wondering what happened to your life. Make the choice to grow up.
“Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” — Theodore Roosevelt
Find work that is important to you and to the world, and then roll up your sleeves and get at it. Productive, meaningful labor brings great joy.
“Our chief want in life is somebody who will make us do what we can.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
Search for a spouse who will inspire you to be your best self. Don’t delay the search, and be purposeful in it. You will end up marrying who you date, so date people you think you might like to marry. Also, expand your horizons. Empirical research shows that you will most likely find a spouse through the weaker connections in your social network. More often than not, you will marry the friend of a friend of your cousin’s wife. The best way to meet that person is to spend more time with new groups of people.
“Live a life as a monument to your soul.” — Ayn Rand
Finally, remember that as you embark on the great adventure of your life that what you achieve will ultimately be measured by the lives you touch. Build a life of service, of hard work, of excellence, of kindness, of love, and you will be successful indeed. God bless you as you move forward.
Dan Liljenquist is a former state senator and U.S. Senate candidate.