by Brian Bagnall
Ladies and gentleman of the Class of 2014. Since my high school or college didn’t call me to give their commencement speech (maybe they lost my phone number), I figured I’d share my would-be speech here. This is all advice I wish someone would have told me when I graduated college.
Every action we take, we make hoping that it will make us happier. So why are most people so miserable? I believe it’s because we jam the same storyline down everyone’s throats. Go to school, get a good job, make money, get married, have kids, and retire, then you’ll be happy. It’s not working. We can’t shine as individuals if we’re all doing the same thing.
Most of you probably won’t follow my advice. Maybe I wouldn’t have either. Sometimes, we need to learn the hard way. For those of you that want to skip 10 years in the trenches, this is for you. I hope you’re ready though, because shit’s about to get real.
1. Don’t give a shit what people say or think about you. If you don’t follow this one, all of the rest of the advice I’m going to give below won’t really matter. Not being average requires doing things outside of the norm and average people just won’t be okay with that. Be prepared because you will be judged, criticized, and maybe even viewed as crazy. If you want to care about what people think, care about what someone thinks who is ALREADY where you want to be. Most of the time, this eliminates the opinions of parents, friends, family, and other miscellaneous haters.
2. The world doesn’t owe you anything. What’s that? You have a 100K college education? Big whoop. You’re probably the last generation that is going to value a college education. Future generations will realize it for what it is. A huge waste of money that does nothing more than ensure you are accustomed to a lifestyle of debt.
3. Want a job? Be different. When I hire employees, I don’t even look at their resume (everyone lies and exaggerates on them anyways). You want a job in marketing? How about you show your boss you can market? Come up with some clever way to show off your skills when you apply. Sending a generic resume is just showing them you’re just like everyone else.
4. Sometimes what society deems are your biggest weaknesses are actually your greatest strengths. Did you get in trouble for talking a lot in school? Maybe you should host a radio show. Or did you get in trouble a lot for playing practical jokes? Maybe you should be a comedian.
5. Don’t let society put you in a box. Boxes are where people go to die (literally, they’re called coffins). Be comfortable with who you are. Maybe you’re the nerd, geek, or fat kid, whatever. Own it. You’re special and unique. There isn’t a single person like you. You have things to offer the world your haters could only dream of.
6. After graduation is where your real education starts. How little your college education matters as you continue your life will surprise you. It may help you a bit in getting your first job but after that, it will just be an expensive lesson. Your street smarts, people skills, drive, passion, and who you know will play a much greater importance.
7. Do what you love. Yeah… I know you’ve heard it before. I’m serious though. Wanna know why most people aren’t happy? They’re in a job they hate because they make good money. When you don’t have money, you think it’s 90% of the pie. When you get money, you’ll realize that it’s less than 10%. Money provides options but it won’t make you happy. Find what you’re good at, without worrying about the money. Do that and don’t make any excuses for why you shouldn’t. Become the best at whatever it is you love and eventually, the money will follow. I promise.
8. Don’t watch the news. The news is nothing more than a listing of all of the bad shit that happened that day, with one story about puppies and rainbows. Do you really need to hear about how your local politician bent you over for the 3rd time this week? Only let positive things into your life. While you’re at it, turn the TV off all together.
9. Live at home for as along as you can. Not to be a lazy ass. But to save up and “find” yourself. Use the time wisely to figure out what you want to do, where you want to live, etc. Once you have a family and real responsibilities, there is no more time to experiment. Figure out who you are while you’re still young. The chances that you’ll do it later are slim.
10. Don’t live to work, work to live. Enjoy life all throughout your life. Don’t work hard now and say that you’ll enjoy life when you’re retired. A lot of people with this plan end up dying right after they retire. Don’t let your job define you.
11. Keep your monthly costs extremely low. Get a cheap prepaid cell phone (you’ll save a bundle just on the taxes alone). Don’t buy a new car or a new house until you’re at least 30. Cars do nothing but depreciate. And why would you want to buy a house when you haven’t explored the world? Many people I grew up with moved out of their parents houses only to move mere blocks away without ever experiencing life in a different place. I’m 32 and I have no idea where I’ll end up. I drive a beat up 1995 Toyota Corolla. I don’t drive it because I can’t afford a better car. I drive it because a new car depreciates more in value every year than mine cost to buy outright. My insurance and registration fees are also lower. It’s also a great way to screen out people that are judgy assholes and will judge you based on the kind of car you drive. Keeping your monthly costs low will allow you to be flexible, travel, move to different places, and most of all, not spend all of your time working some job you hate to afford stupid things you don’t need anyways.
12. Do everything that you can to avoid having a 9 to 5. Yeah… I know. This goes against everything you’ve been told your whole life. Be a consultant, work odd jobs, couchsurf, etc. Why do people work 60 hour work weeks? To pay for all of the stupid shit they buy that they don’t need. You’ll never realize all of the useless stuff you have until you go to move. This doesn’t apply if you find a job doing something you really LOVE.
13. You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with. Most people hang out with average people and that’s why they, themselves, are average. Hang out with people outside of your comfort zone. If you’re an artist, hang out with better artists. If you want to be a musician, hang out with better musicians. Don’t be afraid to let go of people that hold you back. I see a lot of people remain friends with people just because “they’ve been friends for so long.” If you find one true friend in your lifetime, be grateful. People come in and out of your life often. You’ll learn from each other but learning when to let go is yet another lesson.
14. Life ain’t easy. Period. Things will not go the way you think they will or should. Just because you feel you’re a good person, it doesn’t mean everyone else will be. Get out of your own way. How happy you are and how much you get what you want depends mostly on you. Nobody is in your way. Life will reject you. Life will piss on you. It happens to everybody. It’s about perspective and keeping on regardless of what life throws at you. Do something that gets you out of your comfort zone EVERY SINGLE DAY.
15. Don’t hold grudges against the people that were shitty to you in school. They didn’t know any better and neither did you (I’m sure you never picked on anyone, right?). There’s a weird social pecking order that incentivizes students to treat their classmates like shit . They will grow up and so will you. (It’s probably not a good idea to hold grudges against anyone, classmates or not, because it always hurt you more than it does them.)
16. Your parents did the best they could. Maybe you didn’t have the best childhood. Maybe you did. Who cares? Leave all of your “poor me sob stories” behind right now. The world doesn’t care. Everybody had their crosses to bear.
17. The only thing that counts is right now. You could have had the greatest life or the shittiest life. It doesn’t matter. Everyone has the capability to do something great RIGHT NOW. Don’t waste time worrying about what happened in the past or planning what should happen in the future.
Brian Bagnall is an in-demand author and speaker. Brian is a serial entrepreneur who never “fit” into society and went on a never-ending quest to find happiness. He discovered that the conventional formula is actually backward: Happiness fuels success, not the other way around. Brian has recently taken his discoveries about happiness and used them as the basis for a book, The Happiness Bible.