The fall semester of college has only just begun, but graduating seniors will need a kick in the pants — so they might as well hear some “real-world” advice sooner than later.
Consider this the first commencement address of the year. It’s a rough world out there. Our kids need to be ready.
From a father of four and from someone who has worked for several decades — here goes.
We’ve got some good news and some bad news. Bad news: No one ever has to listen to you again.
You can forget about your “safe spaces” and having any “microaggressions” snuffed out for you just because you asked. You’ll soon have bosses, clients, customers, investors — and they will get rid of you the moment you have nothing worthwhile to do or say.
This is what is meant by the “real world.”
It gets worse. Your parents don’t have to listen to you, either.
But they will if you have something worth saying. Otherwise, you’re out of the house — or should be.
From now on, you will only get as much attention as you deserve. You will no longer get attention simply because you are you.
Childhood ends right now — you have to earn attention instead of getting it for free.
It’s a good thing. It will force you to consider your words and think before you speak.
Of course, you could go on to grad school, where you will find more professors who are paid to listen to what you want to say. But go to grad school only if you’re truly interested in a career that requires an advanced degree.
Don’t sit there because you don’t know what else to do with your life.
Now the good news.
Graduates will be given a most extraordinary gift. This gift is called consciousness. You can’t see it, taste it, weigh it, or measure it — but it’s there.
Why do we have it? A lot of folks have made educated guesses about it, using reason, philosophy, or religion.
But we still don’t know for certain. We don’t even value the gift of consciousness. We drown it out with distractions, trivia, web surfing, news, sex, drugs, and alcohol.
But now that no one has to listen to you, the wisest thing you could do is begin to listen to yourself. Deep within you is a voice aching to be heard. It’s aching to be understood beyond the clamor and clutter of everyday life.
Maybe it’s the voice of God. Maybe it’s your muse. Maybe it’s your gut.
That voice is your inner response to the world in which you live. It’s your conscience. It’s your intuition. It’s your true GPS.
Instead of ignoring it, as too many people do — listen to it. That voice will never steer you wrong.
It wants nothing from you. It doesn’t want to sell you something. It doesn’t want to sleep with you. It just wants to be heard.
It’s the greatest app in human history, and you don’t even have to download it. You just have to pay attention.
That voice will tell you why you were created. What your purpose is. Whom you should serve, and how you can serve them.
As Stephen Cope wrote in his wonderful book, “The Great Work of Your Life,” it’s a dirty lie to tell young people (or old people, for that matter) — that they can do or be anything they choose.
Ultimately, said Cope, we can only be ourselves.
So it’s time to drop the masks. Stop pretending. When you strip away the accoutrements of college life — your resume, material culture, and Western civilization — you are what remains.
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Now that no one else has to pay attention to you, it’s time for you to pay attention to yourself.
The purpose of life is love and service.
Listen to that still, small voice within. Determine whom you are meant to love and serve — and go to work.
Childhood is over. Adulthood is here.
If you listen to yourself, I guarantee you everyone else out there is going to listen to you, too.
Twelve-time national bestseller Michael Levin runs Business Ghost, America’s leading provider of ghostwritten memoirs and business books.