Graduation Advice You Should Hear More Often

It’s graduation season, with many an esteemed speaker sharing words of timeless wisdom with you about your place in the world. Well, we’re not them. So we’ll stick to unsexy basics that every graduate should know, but that you’re never going to hear about at commencement. (Probably because they’re even more timeless bits of wisdom that your loving parents—many of whom may have helped pay for your expensive education—have been sending your way from the day you were born.)

PAY YOURSELF FIRST

Yes, you’re probably looking at paying off student loans. And if you’re fortunate enough to have landed a job offer before graduation, you’re probably reveling in your first real grown-up paycheck. But. Not for nothing does the expression “save for a rainy day” exist in just about every language and culture. And it’s precisely because it’s no fun to budget or live within one’s means that we highly recommend that you “pay yourself first.” That means doing something as simple as setting up an automatic deduction from your paycheck to savings or retirement account. Think of it this way, if you never see that money to begin with in your final paycheck, you’ll never miss spending it, all the while saving for the future and possibly taking advantage of tax deductions and accruing interest.

TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF

That’s right, you’re no longer in college, and if you’ve moved away for a job, you’re probably no longer going home to visit for extended breaks and summers. Which means it’s now entirely up to you to remind yourself of what your parents have been saying all your life—eat right, get exercise, sit up straight, get a good night’s rest. It sounds like a boring litany, but the thing is, if you don’t take care of yourself, no one else will. And if you think it’s tedious to take care of yourself, it’s much worse to deal with the outcome, starting with reams of insurance forms when your health takes a dive.

FAIL OFTEN AND UPWARD

You’re just starting out. Be open to opportunities and experiences. And know that your mistakes do not define you, and don’t have to be a permanent obstacle to your future success. If anything, successful entrepreneurs will tell you that much of their success lies in having failed often, learning from what went wrong, and then applying those lessons to their next steps.

DRAW LIMITS

No doubt this is a very US-centric perspective, but it is easy to become a workaholic anywhere in the world. If you work in a traditional office it pays to be the early bird and put in that important “face time.” If you work from home, the work can never end because it’s just down the hall. And technology makes it possible for us all to be on the clock, 24/7, wherever we are—including airplanes. But as many famous and successful people have observed, no one on their deathbed wished they’d spent more time in the office. Figure out and draw your work-life limits. And stick to them as much as possible.

Funny sign saying you've reached the internet, now go out and play.

Log off. Learn to leave work at work. Live life. (via Bill Weinmann)