Congratulations graduates! What you've achieved is the result of years of determination, and your celebration is well deserved. Graduation isn't the finish line though, it's merely the second lap. Here are nine truths that may be hard to accept but will help you absolutely flourish in the next chapter in your life:
1. Becoming an adult happens when you take responsibility, not when you celebrate a birthday.
Maturing and truly becoming an adult isn't something that magically happens when you celebrate an 18th or 21st birthday. It's a conscious choice. You grow up when you want to grow up. It's that simple. There are 19-year-olds that are more of an adult than 35-year-olds. Age doesn’t determine adulthood. Taking responsibility makes all the difference. Are you taking responsibility for your education, your choices, your finances? That will indicate whether you’re truly growing up.
2. Life isn't fair. Get used to it.
There are going to be things that happen that just don't seem fair. The reason they don't seem fair is because they're not fair, but that shouldn't be a surprise. Fairness ended a long time ago in the Garden of Eden when sin entered the world like a grenade going off. Life hasn’t been truly fair since then. You can play the victim card your entire life if you choose, but instead of complaining about the hand you’ve been dealt, learn to succeed with the hand that life has dealt.
3. If you work hard, you'll be ahead of 90 percent of the people out there, because people are lazy.
Success in many ways can be boiled down to work ethic and perseverance. Most people don't work hard enough or long enough to be successful. If you can master those two things, you'll see most everyone else around you in the rearview mirror. Show up, work hard, don’t give up. Success isn��t that difficult when you boil it down. You just have to work hard. Not many other people are.
4. You'll learn more from failure than anything else.
Working hard doesn't guarantee success. In fact, failure is an absolute prerequisite for success, because you'll learn more from your failures than any of your successes. Success doesn't mean never getting knocked down, success is the willingness to keep getting back up despite your failures. You will fail on occasion. Learn to fail forward. Learn from your mistakes and persevere.
5. If you're waiting for life to be handed to you, you'll be waiting awhile.
Entitlement is a poison to your long-term success. If you had everything handed to you as a child, your family actually did you a disservice because they did not give you an accurate picture of how life happens in the real world. The only place where everything is perfectly planned out and handed to you is prison. Everywhere else you've got to work to achieve your goals. There are no participation trophies in real life. You’ll never succeed by simply showing up. You’ve got to work for it.
6. The choices you make today will still affect you 10 years from now.
Your choices have consequences. Your decisions have a ripple effect that will still be making waves a decade from now. For instance, you can only have one first marriage. Think it through. Choose wisely. Every choice has a consequence, some of which will follow you for years. If you live only for today or even just for the weekend, then your perspective on life is way too short-sighted. Many of the greatest mistakes that people regret (and carry the grief and consequences for decades) are the results of choices that they made when they were young and carefree and had no thought of the consequences. Don’t be that person.
7. Love is a choice, not an emotion.
This season will be the time that you look for love. But there's an incredible difference between infatuation and love. Infatuation is a blast. Infatuation is what’s celebrated on tv and in the movies. The emotional rush is unparalleled. The sexual pleasure is real. But it's not love. Once the emotional rush wears off, the hard work of sacrificially loving another person begins. When you transition from infatuation to true love, what you'll discover behind the emotional rush is a deep-seated sense of contentment and fulfillment that comes with a relationship that stands the test of time. It’s there, if you're willing to work for it.
8. Money will never equal happiness.
Those 80,000 advertisements you watched as a kid all tried to sell you one overarching narrative: that money equals happiness. They were lying to you. It's a facade. Money will never equal true and lasting happiness. Sure, it will give you a momentary emotion that seems like happiness, but it will disappear as quickly as your money. The Bible warns that those who love money will “pierce themselves with many griefs” (1 Timothy 6:10). If you're looking for true happiness, you'll have to look somewhere else.
9. Significance begins when you give yourself away.
The value of a life is determined by how much of it you give away. As Jesus said, it truly is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35). There is an incredible life of significance waiting for you out there, but the first hurdle you're going to have to get over is yourself. If you can remove yourself from the center of your universe and replace it with something (or someone, hopefully God) much bigger than yourself, then life will go to a whole new level. That’s why the most often repeated saying of Jesus in the New Testament is this: “Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39).
I know these truths are hard. It takes most people years to figure this out, and some never do. If you can learn these truths now, life will be much better for you in the real world. Good luck!