Graduations are an exciting milestone – an official culmination and recognition of the academic efforts, while a stepping stone to the future. A painter could paint this day as a wide expanse of green valleys, with lots of colorful butterflies and mountain peaks in the horizon, valleys and sky uniting in the far edges of the landscape. Observing the painting, one would feel the wind blowing, extend the arms as if touching the sky and the mountains in the horizon, and in that movement, touch lightly one of these winged souls – full of hope, excitement and fear of unknown.
Looking back to my Graduation day, this is what I would say to myself on that day:
- Yes, everything is possible. You are right to dream and to dream big. Life is full of opportunities and you are uniquely designed and equipped for your purpose. “The world is your garden”, one of my teachers used to say. Even if you only have some vague ideas of what you want to accomplish in life, don’t worry. Do the best you can where you get planted, the rest will reveal itself over time, with more adventures and experiences. As Martin Luther King Jr said “Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step”. Dreams are like a mustard seed, whatever you water and see within the realm of possible, defines the universe of your possibilities. As Henri Ford put it, “whether you believe you can do a thing or not, you are right“. In other words, believe you can and you will, believe you cannot and you won’t.
- No, it won’t happen overnight. Building skills and expertise takes time. Building a sustainable future and accomplishing dreams take time, commitment, plans and hard work. Joy Wilder, founder of The Brilliant Life and Micro Planning Systems brilliantly notes how every day we are planners, either by design or by default. Learning doesn’t stop at graduation – it is a perpetual activity by:
- Developing critical thinking. Your youth gives you permission to ask questions even if they seem silly or basic. Once you understand the why and the how, then you can transform and innovate.
- Developing a growth mindset. Anything in life can be learned. As per Carol Dweck, “In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishments“. In other words, don’t put negative labels on yourself when you don’t know something but instead put in the efforts required to learn and grow.
- Developing resilience as obstacles and challenges will be inevitable. Reaching dreams is not a linear and fixed plan, it’s staying flexible and open to ride through the curved roads of life. Ultimately you will understand that reaching your dreams will be a byproduct of the journey and process.
- No, it won’t happen in solitude. We accomplish more when surrounded by and connected with others. In his book Elevate: Push Beyond Your Limits, Robert Glazer talks about success as an exponential function of what we know, with the exponent being who we know. In other words, the “people” aspect may be more important than “the knowledge” aspect. You land a job faster when you have a professional network. You can know a lot, but if you don’t know how to communicate and relate with others, knowledge will not get you as far as the combination of knowledge, communication and people skills will. Or you have a lot of dreams and aspirations, however your environment may be limiting you either because you may hang out with the wrong crowd or because you don’t have enough mentors for what we all need in order to grow: encouragement and feedback. As motivational speaker Jim Rohn said it, “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with, including yourself.” Your purpose, in one way or another, is connected to and influenced by others.
Graduations are an end and the beginning to something bigger in life. To some extent, any chapter in life, be it a happy or a painful one, resembles a graduation. We are graduating certain skills, self-awareness or knowledge, and we are moving into a new chapter. We will understand at some point in our lives that there is one special type of graduation that will repeat itself in different ways and shapes throughout our life long journeys and learnings: the graduation from our mind to our heart; after each of such graduations, we journey further into a life of more growth, peace and purpose.
Fly fly butterflies!