The Graduates

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It’s that time of year again.  Spring is in the air.  Across the country, folding chairs are being lined up on athletic fields.  Caps, gowns and tassels of every color of the rainbow are being donned.  Pomp and circumstance abound.  All for the ceremonious event we have come to know as graduation.

A graduation is a culminating achievement.  Commonly it recognizes a completion of a course of study of some kind.  But, what we associate it with most often is young adults transitioning from high school or college into the real world. Commencement speeches reflect on the shared times of the past and the bright and bountiful futures that lay in front of those about to receive their diplomas.  The years of study have been completed, now all that is necessary is to put what they learned into action and triumph is a foregone conclusion.  While this all sounds great when the Valedictorian is reading it off of notecards it isn’t always that easy.

In 1967 Dustin Hoffman starred as young Ben Braddock in the movie The Graduate.  Ben had just graduated from college and definitely had some confusion about where his life was headed.  One of the most famous scenes in the award winning film was when a trusted family friend, Mr. McGuire pulls the young lad aside to give him a single word of advice.  That word was “plastics.”  Mr. McGuire implores him to think about it.  No doubt this little pearl of wisdom left young Ben even more confused after he had thought about it than before.

Many of us will likely soon encounter these fresh faced future superstars.  They will be filling chairs in our classrooms, volunteering at our non-profit organizations, or applying to become members of our workforce.  As educators, supervisors and most importantly, mentors it is our responsibility that we temper their talent and enthusiasm with our experience.  While the goal may be clear to them, the path to get there may be more difficult to see.  If they are not shown the way the journey can be very perilous.  There is no reason to set them up for failure when a few words of good advice can keep them on course.

Reflecting back to when you were in a similar situation you can likely remember a seasoned veteran of the organization who took you under their wing and helped you assimilate to the culture of where you were now spending your days.  Without them, would you have reached the successes that you have now?  That caring individual gave you one of the best possible graduation gifts ever.  Pass that gift along and put a bow on your knowledge and experience and give it to the next graduate you meet.  By doing so, that graduate may remember that single world forty plus years later like we remember “plastics.”

If you could say one thing to someone who is just graduating, what would it be?

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Mike Stanley

Mike has a passion for leadership! He loves to read, write, discuss and teach on a variety of topics that help individuals and organizations raise their level of leadership. His experiences include being a Captain on the fire department, owning a business and being a founding member of the John Maxwell Team.

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