After two college graduation ceremonies last weekend, I was thinking about the commencement address I have not yet given. Thirty-five years after my own graduation, I still am working on and struggling with the things that I might have said to myself. I'll skip the platitudes and get to the point:
Appreciate where you are. What's now is always more important than what's next, so be grateful for what's now.
It's all your fault. Think of the power we have when we look at things this way. Inevitably, you'll find reason to complain about a co-worker or a boss just as you complain about a parent, but it doesn't really matter. You can't change them, you can only change yourself. When it's all your fault, you get to decide how you are going to handle whatever comes your way. You will be defined by your actions — those you pursue and those you avoid.
Your ego makes poor choices. You are going to have external voices shouting at you. At times they will build you up. But if you need accolades to feel good about yourself, then you are in trouble. You know whether you are doing the right thing, so why rely on others' observations to define you?
Learn from everyone; don't repeat the lessons. People matter. Smiles and warmth are usually returned in kind. Let others teach you about yourself. Believe what people show you, though. Learning to forgive is an act of grace, but you can forgive and still not choose to be in a relationship.
Compassion is a universal salve for what ails us. Good fortune and misfortune are going to be part of each of our lives. Compassion toward those who are suffering makes it easier to be compassionate to ourselves when we are suffering.
Nothing stays the same. This is just how the world works. Embrace the good and the bad because things constantly readjust.
Use money to support your values not to create them. Money can have a hold over you, but the sooner you become aware of it, the better chance you have of breaking it. Start saving early, but also start giving early. When you give to charity, you are subliminally acknowledging that you have enough.
In their book, "Seeking the Heart of Wisdom," Jack Kornfield and Joseph Goldstein write, "At the time of death, people who have tried to live consciously ask only one or two questions about their life: Did I learn to live wisely? Did I love well?"
Ross Levin is the founding principal of Accredited Investors Inc. in Edina.