A son and his father are walking in the mountains. Suddenly, the boy falls, scrapes his knee and screams.
To the son's surprise, he hears his scream repeating somewhere in the mountains.
Curious, he yells, "Who are you?" He receives the same answer. Angered at the response, he screams, "Coward," and hears the same thing in return.
He looks to his father and asks, "What's going on?"
The father smiles and says, "My son, pay attention." And he screams to the mountain, "I admire you!" Again the man screams, "You are a champion," both times hearing his words echoed back to him. The boy is surprised, but does not understand.
Then the father explains: "People call this echo, but really this is life. It gives you back everything you say and do. Our life is simply a reflection of our actions. If you want more love in the world, create more love in your heart. If you want competence in your team, improve your competence. This relationship applies to everything, in all aspects of life. Life will give you back everything you have given it."
Graduation season is upon us, and today I will devote my column to those who are about to embark on a new chapter in their lives. That isn't limited to new grads, by the way — every day is a new chapter for each of us.
Waking up every morning hoping something wonderful will happen or someone will appear who will change your life is the equivalent of letting something or someone else control your life.
You need to be in charge. You need to decide what actions you will take that will come back to you. And then, you need to integrate those actions into your life. That may be a tall order for someone just starting out, but you do have choices.
A few basic rules of life:
Life isn't fair. You've heard this over and over, and yet when someone else gets the promotion, makes more money or takes credit for your work, you beat yourself up wondering what happened. Don't! If the situation is beyond your control, get over it and move on to the next opportunity. Wasting time being bitter will never make you better.
Don't just let things happen to you when you can make things happen for you. If you need more training or education, find a way to make it happen. If you truly hate your job, figure out where the problem is and fix it if you can. If you can't, look for other work or let your entrepreneurial instincts take over.
Sometimes it's risky not to take a risk. Making a dream come true only happens when you step outside your comfort zone and chart new territory. And a funny thing will happen: After you start taking small risks, you will become more comfortable taking larger — and more rewarding — risks.
Pay attention. Stay on top of trends, developments, technology and opportunities. If you can see changes ahead, you can plan and position yourself rather than reacting and regretting. Few things in business stay secret for long. Listen and observe so you can be prepared.
Give back. My father drilled this lesson into my head from the beginning. There is always someone somewhere who needs your help, financial support or expertise. Give without expecting anything in return. You'll benefit in ways you never anticipated.
These rules are simple enough. Following them is not. You need to decide what is truly important to you, what values you will live by. Give serious thought to how you want to live so that you can be content with what life gives you back.
For all the new graduates staring at their futures and wondering what's ahead, as well as students of life in general, my wish is that you will never feel like life just happened to you.
Mackay's Moral: Life is what you make it. Make it great!
Harvey Mackay is a Minneapolis businessman. He is at 612-378-6202 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.