My oldest son graduated from high school last week – and I was not prepared. A wide range of mixed emotions including pride, hopefulness, fear, sadness, thrill, joy, nostalgia, anticipation, excitement, anxiety, happiness and maybe even some regret are all coming together in this time of transformational change – and it is not about me in the first place. As I was reflecting about these wide range of emotions, I was thinking about what advice can I give my son as he embarks on his new adventure. I read through some of my past blogs – including Fostering Grit, Bias Traps and Strong Characteristics – and remembered my Duquesne commencement speech, which emphasizes fostering competence, seeing the opportunities in change, being comfortable in adversity, staying in the moment and giving back – and landed on 5 simple suggestions, which may be of some value to him:
Be comfortable not knowing
Sometimes we feel that we know it all or experienced it already. Being comfortable not knowing, opens the mind, fosters curiosity and establishes a habit or mindset of continuous learning. It also prepares you better for adversity and change. I have always been most impressed about leaders who are comfortable about not having to be the smartest person in the room.
Ask yourself why you are taking
My wife reminds me about this many – many – times. Asking yourself why you are talking allows you to listen better, gives room for others to express a point of view, and can keep you more grounded and humble. It also crystalizes why your opinion or viewpoint may matter. Ultimately, less is clearly more in this space. The most effective leaders seem to clearly understand what impact they want to make when they are talking.
Help others shine
Making others successful, helping them achieve or assisting them in solving a problem are some of the ultimate and core fundamentals of leadership. In addition, helping others to shine builds relationships, connections and a strong level of trust. Having someone else's back and simply being there for them sometimes can make all the difference.
The older we get the more risk-adverse we become. Taking risks is hugely important. It fosters resilience, a comfort with failure and pushes you out of your comfort zone. By taking risks, you work harder, get better in solving problems and can become more innovative, creative and flexible. The time is now to try different things, experience the unexpected, see the world or go on a new adventure.
Purposefully and passionately care
Caring about your loved ones, family, friends or the colleagues you study and work with, caring about what you do and caring about how you do it are immensely important. Human connections based on kindness, a purpose or enjoyment are what makes life special. Purposefully and passionately care about those connections, as they will enrich your life in countless ways.
Form all the different "graduation emotions" the most prevalent is pride. I am a very proud father, who admires his son's confidence, character and competence and knows he will make the world a better place wherever his journey will take him. Family and friends wrote letters to my son articulating what advice they would give their 18-year old-self, if they could do it all over again. All these letters are full of beautiful thoughts and advises. I conclude with a section from my brother's letter: "Use the great freedom of your young life for your development! Consistently follow your path and face the challenges! Think free like an entrepreneur and work goal-oriented for your results! Albert Einstein stated: The goal of life is not to strive to be a person of success, but rather to be a person of value."