My advice to the Class of 2016

I originally wrote this for a speech I gave at a commencement last year. I thought what I said was so cool that I decided to go ahead and reprint it here.

I thought it was even more pertinent because my family just had its first third-generation college graduate and two nieces and nephews just finished their first year of college.

And as I have stated in the past, this is for anyone who has a son or daughter, niece or nephew, friend or family member’s kid who just graduated from high school or college, or for that matter is in school working toward a degree or certificate.

It’s a compilation of advice, sayings and ideas I’ve picked up over the years that have served me well and could help others.

They aren’t meant to be enshrined on stone tablets, but they should be.

So here’s my Top 10 list:

  • Everything happens for a reason. Sometimes we just can’t figure it out right away, but eventually you do. And you will be amazed at how tragedy was necessary for you to triumph later.
  • Fear is OK, being afraid is not. A good healthy dose of fear helps keep the stupid stuff that can ruin your future down to a bare minimum. Being afraid means you are less likely to take risks and explore new opportunities than can open lots of doors down the road.
  • The habits you developed here will either help or hinder you in the next phase of your life, so if you have problems with punctuality, finishing tasks on time and working well with others, I suggest you fix them ASAP.
  • The only thing you are owed is to be treated with dignity and respect. And that is all you owe anybody else.
  • We will all make mistakes along the way. It’s called experience. The trick is to learn from them so you don’t repeat them. Repeating mistakes and expecting a different outcome is called insanity.
  • Remember, learning is a lifelong process. Never stop trying to improve yourself. That will come in handy in 2050 when the androids show up to do your job. And this will be more important in 2060 when they begin their takeover of the world.
  • When getting your information from social media, remember, if you have to click more than three times to get to the actual story, what you’re reading is probably wrong.
  • Find a job that makes you happy. You will live to whatever income you make, so it will never be enough, but if you love what you do for a living it is then that the paycheck is worth it. And remember to save a little for a rainy day and feel free to splurge on occasion.
  • Before you dismiss the advice of older people, remember, they didn’t get to be old by being stupid. There are a lot of young people lying in the ground right now who thought they knew everything.
  • Have a sense of humor. Be able to laugh, with others and at yourself. Life’s too short to be mad 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It’s not good for your health, and it makes you age quicker.

Of course, this list isn’t exclusive, and I am sure there are things that you could add or modify. One of my favorites has always been that the only people who say an education doesn’t matter are usually the people who don’t have one.

But, most important, as young people begin the journey that many of us are already on, I figured a few words of advice might be in order. So like I said at the beginning, this column was not for you, it was for your graduates. Be sure to give it to them and tell them congrats.

The fun part of life is just about to begin.

Abdul Hakim-Shabazz is an attorney and the editor and publisher of IndyPoltics.Org. He is also a frequent contributor to numerous Indiana media outlets. He can be reached at abdul@indypolitics.org.