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Advice to the Class of 2014

Posted: May 15, 2014 9:26 a.m.
Updated: May 16, 2014 5:00 a.m.

Good morning, graduating seniors of the Class of 2014.

I stand before you, uninvited but determined to provide commencement comments. Other speakers throughout this land are telling graduates that they can be president of the United States, or head of a hugely successful hedge fund, or perhaps an inventor with a save-the-world contraption ready to be patented.

Fat chance.

Truth is, you probably won’t make it to the White House, and it takes a lot of luck and financial savvy to become a Wall Street billionaire.

No, I instead offer you practical advice which you can heed or discard, depending on your mood.

• Don’t carry anger around with you. It will make you miserable. It’s a lot easier to look at the pleasant side of life than it is the unhappy side, and you’ll be a better person for it.

• If you own a dog, don’t let it poop in other people’s yards. That’s just too gross. You’d be surprised how many dog owners think their neighbors’ property offers open season for defecating.

• Being a bargain hunter is a good thing, but you usually get what you pay for.

• When you get around to having children, teach them five words: sir, ma’am, please and thank you. Yes, I know it’s old-fashioned, but it still makes good sense.

• Persevere. Remember that the race doesn’t always go to the swiftest, but to the person who persists.

• Politicians and diapers should be changed often, for the same reason. That’s an old saying, but it’s still true.

• Don’t abandon the written word. No matter how many text messages or e-mails you send, nothing can take the place of an old-fashioned, hand-written note.

• If you drink too much and begin to think you are invisible, you’re wrong. You’ll just make an ass out of yourself, and you’ll regret it the next day.

• Try not to hold grudges. If someone wrongs you, you want to strike back, right? But it’s better to forgive; if that’s not possible, at least forget. Put things behind you. I hope you do better with this one than I have.

• Don’t tell dirty jokes to people you’ve just met.

• People aren’t perfect. Don’t expect them to be.

• If you drive too fast, you’ll eventually get nailed with an expensive ticket, even if you have one of those radar devices.

• If people you know are going through a health crisis of some kind, don’t rely on the “I didn’t know what to say so I didn’t say anything” philosophy. The basic fact is this: whatever you say to people who are struggling, as long as it comes from the heart, won’t be wrong.

• The oceans might be God’s greatest creation. But don’t get too comfortable with the sea, because it will kill you. Quickly.

• Don’t compare yourself and your accomplishments to others. Inevitably, there will be friends or family members whose successes seem grander than yours. Instead, take pride in what you have done and don’t feel belittled by those who make more money or have a fancier title.

• Travel is the most broadening experience you can have. Better than reading. Better than taking graduate courses. Make time for it, even if you have to cut back on other things to afford it.

• Always try new things. Always seek new adventures.

• Enjoy the ride. You only get one.

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