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COLUMN: Words of advice for graduates

Joe Kelly
Sentinel columnist
Posted 7/3/22

Again this year, not even one high school or college graduating senior has asked for my advice as they move out into the world.  School, of course, is a world of its own ...

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COLUMN: Words of advice for graduates

Posted

Again this year, not even one high school or college graduating senior has asked for my advice as they move out into the world. 

School, of course, is a world of its own, but it isn’t the real world. I have lived in the real world for many years. Whether the seniors want it or not, this is my advice to them:

Be careful what you say to people. There is no such thing as a secret. This has always been true. As Benjamin Franklin said, “Three may keep a secret if two of them are dead.”

Which reminds me of cell phones and computers. Be careful what you put online. Once it’s out there, it’s out there. Forever is a long time. Even stupid pictures can come back to haunt you.  

It wasn’t Benjamin Franklin, but another wise person once said, “Don’t forget who brought you to the dance.“ Loyalty is important. Have a good memory.

Speaking of wisdom, old country Irish people said, “You can’t plow a field by turning it over in your mind.” In other words, thinking is important but at some point your hands have to get dirty and the work has to actually get done. Procrastination can doom you. 

Another wise person was my grandmother. She said, “Nothing good ever happens at two o’clock in the morning.”

She also said don’t go where you shouldn’t go, don’t do what you shouldn’t do, don’t hang around with people you wouldn’t want to introduce to your family. 

“Networking” is a valuable thing. People will help you, but you need to know them in order to ask for help. Volunteering for good causes is a great way to network.

Which reminds me of this: “Life is like a train. You can’t get to where it’s going unless you get on.” If I knew who first said that, I’d give them credit. 

And I don’t know who said this, either, but sometimes it is true. “Sometimes, that light at the end of the tunnel is a train.”  

It’s good to be a trusting person. Cut the cards anyway. As President Reagan said, “Trust but verify.”

Learn how to communicate. Being able to write and speak in front of groups will pay dividends. I have given long commencement speeches that could be boiled down to just that: “Learn how to write and speak in front of groups.”

By the way, there is no such thing as a “too short speech.”

And there is no such thing as “reading too much.” Reading helps in many ways. As a librarian once told me, “The answers are all here. You just have to find the right book.”  

Banish this phrase from your work vocabulary: “That’s not my job.” Replace it with this: “I can do that.”

There is always another side to a story. Even when you think there can’t be another side, there is.

To stand out, work just a little bit harder than the people around you. It isn’t hard to stand out. And don’t call in sick unless you really are.

Whenever anybody offers you unsolicited advice for free, which is what you are getting right now, it might be valuable. Then again it might be worth exactly what you paid for it. You have to decide. There will be many future decisions to make. Some will be difficult. 

That’s the advice I wasn’t asked to give to graduating seniors. 

And I would also tell them that much of the above advice has been learned the hard way. They will learn about the hard way. 

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