It’s that time of year to celebrate our youth as they graduate from high schools, colleges and universities. We congratulate them and send them off into the “real” world, confident that they have the right tools and skills they’ll need to survive and thrive on their own. But do they?
According to a recent study by the consulting firm, Accenture, a new poll showed more than half (57%) of 2011/2012 college grads said finding a job was difficult, but 39% had jobs by the time they graduated and another 42% were employed within six months of graduation. The new poll also showed that 44% currently live at home, 13% have student loan debts of $30K to $50K, and 32% of the college grads who are employed report their current annual salary is $25K or less, which is in sharp contrast to the expectations of the 2014 graduating seniors that also participated in the poll, according to Susan Adams (Forbes Magazine).
Despite all of the disappointing economic and educational statistics, high-profile colleges and universities continue to attract top name celebrities (Oprah Winfrey, Stephen Colbert, Sean “Diddy” Combs, The Dalai Lama) and politicians (President Obama, NY Mayor, Michael Bloomberg and Newark Mayor, Cory Booker) to deliver commencement speeches, which Today Show and Avvo.com legal analyst Lisa Bloom likes to refer to as disconnected greeting-card messages from successful, middle-aged adults who often tell young graduates who are insecure about their future employment options and pending debt concerns that “the world is their oyster” and “all they have to do is imagine”.
A year ago, I graduated from Pepperdine University’s School of Education and Psychology’s Organizational Leadership Doctoral Program. Like most graduates, I had to endure a procession of graduating rituals, which included both a commencement and keynote speech. Ideally, like most of my fellow graduates, I was hoping to hear words of inspiration and motivation from the speakers including some empowering anecdotes or wisdom intended to incite some type of awakening or higher purpose gleaned from the painstaking lessons learned and presented by the most anticipated commencement speakers of 2014.
Jackie Burrell (About.com) published excerpts from her favorite 2012 graduation speeches that I also liked, which are as follows:
Neil Gaiman (award winning author and screenwriter) instructed graduates at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia not to fear mistakes, as making mistakes means you are getting out of there and trying new things. Gaiman said, “Now go, and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here. Make good art.”
I couldn’t agree more. As I wrote in my blog entitled “This is YOUR Life! Don’t Phone It In,” two of the biggest regrets I hear from a lot of adults today is that they wish they had listened to their own instincts and followed the life path they desired, rather than trying to please others, choose a job, or lead a life driven by fear. It’s okay to be afraid; just allow that fear to motivate you, not stifle you!
Peter Dinklage (Emmy and Golden Globe award-winning actor) told graduating students at Bennington College in 2012 that he spent years living in an apartment without heat and working at a data-entry job he hated before finally realizing, at age 29, that he had lost his way and that fear of change had derailed his dream of becoming a working actor. “The world might say you are not allowed to yet. I waited a long time out in the world before I gave myself permission to fail. Please don’t even bother asking. Don’t bother telling the world you are ready. Show it. Do it.”
The Pursuit of Happyness author, Christopher Gardner, experienced a pivotal moment one afternoon while heading back to his car in the San Francisco General Hospital parking lot after making a medical equipment sales call. A sharp looking, well-dressed man driving a red Ferrari asked Gardner for his parking spot. After looking at the man’s car, Chris told him he could have the spot, but he had to ask the man two questions:
“What do you do? and how do you do that?”
The Ferrari owner worked as an institutional stockbroker in San Francisco. The first time Gardner walked into a Wall Street trading room, he knew this was the place where he was meant to be.
As I share in my blog, “Demystifying the Obvious,” I have often believed that one’s ability to truly attract and create wealth is by finding a job that truly sparks and inspires one’s passion. Therefore, there should be at least one of the three reasons below why you should even consider pursing a particular job after graduation, as opposed to the 34% of the 2014 college grads that are prepared to accept their first job offer, or the 27% polled that would consider working in a different field other than their college major:
1. Quality of Life – Find a job that allows you to live in a location (community or environment) where you can thrive. Identify a job that lets you live the life you want surrounded by the people who support and admire you.
2. Challenge Yourself – Pursue a job or career where the work will challenge or motivate you, while also allowing you to grow from your experiences, and
3. Financial Reward – I intentionally listed this pursuit last. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for finding a career path that rewards you for all your hard work and efforts, but I just don’t believe that money should be the sole driving force for why you choose to pursue a job or career. Money should be viewed as opportunity, your financial means for continuing to pursue your passions. I honestly believe that if you follow your true passion, the money will follow.
So what final words of wisdom do I believe should be shared and bestowed upon the graduating class of 2014 by the majority of commencement speakers?
To quote from a Fox & Friends interview when he was asked a similar question, motivational speaker Larry Winget said, “What it really takes to be successful in the real world is taking responsibility. Your life, your results, your success, happiness, health and prosperity are up to you. When it turns out well, you get the credit. And when it doesn’t work out the way you want it to, well, you get the blame. It isn’t up to someone else to make sure you are successful; it’s always up to you, so be responsible.”
Furthermore, Chris Gardner’s mom said to him, “You can only depend on yourself. The cavalry ain’t coming.”
Learn to live within your means and become great wealth creators! Teach yourself now, as a young adult, to not only value, but to cultivate an emotional relationship with money. Think of money as an accelerator (gas pedal) in a car; the amount you save and manage is similar to the amount of pressure you can apply to your own financial accelerator. Good money management affects the speed as to how quickly you are able to reach your goals. The more you save and manage, the faster you will get what you want in life. To do this more effectively, one also has to be aware of reckless spending. Like reckless speeding, it could result in serious financial and emotional setbacks. Conversely, like experienced safe drivers, being financially aware of your surroundings (savings and spending habits) and driving within your own life’s speed limit (living within your means) will give you the freedom and opportunity to really enjoy your life’s beautiful scenery (family, friends, career, travel, etc.) without any undue pressure.
So are we sending young graduates off into the “real” world with the right tools and skills they’ll need to survive and thrive on their own, or are we witnessing a graduating class of pioneers that will confirm that the time has finally come for our country to embark on some new educational paradigm?
Right now is about celebrating success – in the form of graduation. After the last speech has been delivered and after the diplomas have been handed out and caps with tassels have been tossed, young graduates will face the world whether they are ready or not.
As I discuss in my new book, Demystifying Success: Success Tools and Secrets They Don’t Teach You in High School, It’s time to reinvent our approach to setting up Young Adults (ages 18-25) for personal and financial success in this new technological and global community after the commencement ceremonies have ended. It’s time for a new educational era of Self-Economics.
Congratulations to all 2014 graduates! Cheers to growing your future success!