You will never hear the tips I am about to give you in a graduation speech; they are too specific and mundane. But I wish someone had relayed them to me when I was 22 and they are the kinds of things I would want to know #IfIWere22. Graduation speeches tend to attempt to give broad and general grandiose tips. I have been to many. They will tell you to go forth, you can do and be anything you want. They will tell you things go up and things go down, but you will excel. They will tell you that you are awesome and that you can change the world. Here are some examples:
“Sometimes life is going to hit you in the head with a brick. Don’t lose faith.”
Steve Jobs, Stanford University 2005
“To all of you, if you remember nothing else today, remember this: You are awesome.”
Sheryl Sandberg, Barnard College 2011
“Our problems are man-made — therefore, they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants.”
John F. Kennedy, American University 1963
Great stuff. Truly inspirational. I think they should continue. But if I were 22 #IfIWere22, knowing now that regardless of your peaks and valleys in life, much of it is mundane, I wish I had learned to master the mundane earlier. Truth be told, once I understood and adopted these mundane tips, I became the happiest and most successful I have ever been. So I wish people had told me the following when I was 22:
1. Move you arms and legs every day for at least 30 minutes. My happiest and most successful friends start their day in the gym. Maybe they take one day off a week, but otherwise, that is where you will find them and that is where you will find me. Exercise in the morning gets all the right chemicals flowing. I wish I had started this habit at 22.
2. Read something you don’t have to read every day. Have a reading list. Don’t just read newspapers and magazines; pick up a book. Carry it with you on trips either electronically or physically. One year I read Mark Twain’s complete works; another year I read all of Shakespeare’s plays. Wished I would have done this earlier – it has opened my eyes to ideas and thoughts and expanded my creativity.
3. Write an essay, paragraph or sentence once a day. I started this several years ago and now am about to finish my fifth book which will be out this Fall. Writing forces you to do some research. Research is so interesting and easy these days with the plethora of information on the internet. Reading and writing are the path to life long learning.
4. Go off to a summer camp once a year. I started doing this again in my 40’s. I trek up to Toronto for a martial arts camp or attend some other martial arts camp once a year. This forces you to make new friends and meet new people that may cause you to question some things.
5. Don’t lose your back to school mentality. There are so many great things about heading off to school: we buy new clothes, get advisers, read new books, make new friends and go new places. Don’t lose that.
6. When you start that first job, take all the benefits to the max. Know your company benefits. They can represent up to 40% of your total compensation. Take advantage of everyone of them. We now live in a “pension-less” world. Your retirement will depend on what you do at 22. For every dollar I didn’t put away in 1981, I missed out on $38.19. So there is money in the mundane! Had I saved $10,000 that year, I would have $400,000. And many companies match this amount to some degree. Saving is mundane.
7. Save money every year, even if you can’t afford it. See #6 above.
8. Find time for the big life events of your friends. Don’t miss the weddings, funerals, graduations. Make all that you can. This is difficult but so good for your soul and your relationships.
9. Get yourself some mentors. Mentors are treasures who can help you immensely in your path at work and at home. Collect them and listen to them.
10. Become a better listener. All my great friends are great listeners. It is so much more important than talking. Listeners make better friends. To become a great listener? Practice, practice, practice.
Great athletes, great musicians, great entrepreneurs, great executives, lawyers, doctors and professionals all need to be inspired. But in my experience, greatness comes from the mundane and mastering the mundane is what will lead you to greatness. When we watch a great performance, we often don’t grasp or realize the thousands of hours that someone spent getting up at 5 am, exercising, studying, playing, listening and all the mundane things that go into great performances.
You will never hear this as a graduation speech; it’s too boring. But if I were 22, I would learn to master the mundane, to enjoy the everyday fundamentals. In many ways, if you learn to love the mundane, greatness, happiness and success will seem easy.
Want to read more like this? Read Getting to Next, Lessons to Take Your Career to the Next Level.