10 Things Your H.S. Commencement Speaker Didn’t Tell You…

From Wall Street Journal: Charles Wheelan (Author of “10½ Things No Commencement Speaker Has Ever Said”) shares some of his life lessons after studying happiness and well-being.  He wishes someone had shared real wisdom with him during his high school graduation ceremony.  Here’s a few excerpts:

1. Your time in fraternity basements was well spent…Research tells us that one of the most important causal factors associated with happiness and well-being is your meaningful connections with other human beings.

2. Some of your worst days lie ahead. Graduation is a happy day. But my job is to tell you that if you are going to do anything worthwhile, you will face periods of grinding self-doubt and failure. Be prepared to work through them.

4. Marry someone smarter than you are…You will do better in life if you have a second economic oar in the water.

6. Read obituaries. They are just like biographies, only shorter. They remind us that interesting, successful people rarely lead orderly, linear lives.

9. It’s all borrowed time. You shouldn’t take anything for granted, not even tomorrow. I offer you the “hit by a bus” rule. Would I regret spending my life this way if I were to get hit by a bus next week or next year? And the important corollary: Does this path lead to a life I will be happy with and proud of in 10 or 20 years if I don’t get hit by a bus.

10. Don’t try to be great. Being great involves luck and other circumstances beyond your control. The less you think about being great, the more likely it is to happen. And if it doesn’t, there is absolutely nothing wrong with being solid.

Related Posts:

  1. Six Habits of Happiness
  2. 30 Lessons For Living…Profound!
  3. Live Simply!
  4. New Research on Happiness…Not One Big Thing…Sum of Hundreds of Little Things
  5. Three Good Things

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  1. David: It’s amazing we made it through life at all being so ill prepared in high school (which for me was the dark ages!). Thanks for this reminder. There is so much more information available to young people these days. I hope they pause playing Angry Birds long enough to soak up some of this wisdom.


  2. Yes, I certainly wish someone had shared those thoughts with me at that critical stage. I managed to study Music at Oxford without once asking myself what I was going to do after graduating, until it was almost too late. I’d add a few more maybe:

    1. Don’t make it your purpose to live your life as an expression of your parents’ dreams
    2. Ask yourself NOW (if perchance you haven’t already) what you plan to do with what you are about to learn
    3. Keep in mind that people twice your age would give their right arm to have another go at what you are about to experience, and they would without doubt make more of the opportunity than they did first time around.


  3. I love this post (oh hell, I think all your posts are pretty awesome, but I digress…)
    My sons are going to be happy to hear that their time in the frat house was well spent (though I would suggest that what goes on in a frat house basement has more to do with kegs and less to do with real bonding)…


  4. I think number 10 resonates the most with me. “Greatness” impossible, nobody’s perfect. Real “greatness” is achieved when someone is solid, consistently 🙂


  5. Great post, David! I really like the advice to read obits, as I often despair that my own career path has been a bit {ahem} irregular. I *have* found myself reading the obit of someone I’ve admired and thinking “Wow, that person’s life path sure took a lot of different, cool, not always obvious, twists And turns, and look at much he/she accomplished or what an incredible contribution he/she made.”. This post is an excellent reminder that there are many ways to define success and happiness…


    • I won’t follow you on the “obit” reading journey Lori but as someone who has taken and been on a reasonably linear path, I find it most interesting to hear, read and learn of others that have done the opposite. I find these individuals (and it sounds like you are one) to be most interesting and generally very happy.


  6. Alex Jones says:

    I refer to point 10: be like an artist in all you do, work to improve and be better at every activity in your life.


  7. Reblogged this on Todd's Perspective and commented:
    Good stuff, David…


  8. I like the thoughts on greatness, as a lot of people ( including me) would like to leave a mark in this world. And I think that it’s a good thing to aim for, so I follow the 3 P’s : Plan, pray and play my part. The rest is out of my hands


  9. Wow….I loved this and yes, it is all borrowed time. (retweeted this)

    Thanks for the reminder about the bus…


  10. i wish you could read this blog at graduation, it is very needed and also very good


  11. becca3416 says:

    Yes and yes to 1 and 2. Number ten is my favorite. Nice post!


  12. I wonder what 3,5,7, and 8 say. So true, these excerpts. But if someone had told us most of those things “then” we wouldn’t have believed them anyway. We were invincible and immortal then.


  13. I read the same article over the weekend and found myself nodding and “amening” through the it. I wish I had understood more of that wisdom back then, but I’m glad that I am beginning to grasp it now!


  14. Thank goodness those speakers did not tell us this stuff!


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