Countless graduation speeches will be recited throughout the country in the coming weeks.
They’ll generally urge our nation’s youth to do their best, to never give up on their dreams, and to stand out in the world. From another perspective, they’ll ask them to focus on making themselves into the best possible version of themselves.
No one asked me for my insights for a graduation ceremony this year. An honor society banquet, a Rosary Altar Society, and a leadership class are the best speaking gigs I’ve lined up recently. Still, I think I have a meaningful insight for these seniors as they enter into adulthood:
Live your live without believing you’re the most important person in it.
It’s my greatest insight from five decades on the planet. The moment I stopped worrying so much about me, most of my dreams started to come true. Those dreams that didn’t come true turned out to be bad, selfish things anyway.
The trouble with the traditional graduation speech is it’s so focused on your individual success, but it’s a narrow definition of success. Everyone can be a success, if you only find the right corner of the world for you.
Maybe you’re called to be the best garbage collector you can be. Perhaps your destiny is to help with a youth softball team. Or maybe you’re needed to invent a cure for cancer.
All three are meaningful goals within their own sphere of influence. And if you attack any goal from a position of selflessness, that’s where you’ll find true happiness.
A simple reality is we can’t all be the wealthiest man on the planet or the most famous woman in the world. There’s just too much competition for those things.
You can, however, become the most important person in the lives of people around you. You can make yourself indispensable. You can be the go-to teammate. You can be the one who listens without judging.
Most of us won’t be judged by the amount of money we’ll stockpile in the bank or whatever project makes us notable. We’ll be judged by what the people closest to us thought of us.
I don’t need to be the most revered columnist of my time, so long as I’m the most revered father in my home. I don’t need to run the largest newsroom in Ohio, so long as my co-workers and readers know I’m doing my best to be honest and fair with them.
Yes, graduates, you are called to do great things. But don’t mistake the word “great” for the word “big.” Some of the greatest things you can do might seem insignificantly small, but they mean the world to those who mean the world to you.