I had the honor of speaking at a commencement ceremony at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville last week. It was an exciting afternoon- with happy graduates, proud family members and smiles everywhere.
As I began preparing my remarks, I realized that it was the 20th anniversary of my graduation from UT. It was an exciting time. I had just accepted my first “real” job on a college campus, I was about to marry Hollianne, and we were preparing to move to Ohio to begin our lives as a married couple.
Looking back, I realized how much I’ve learned in those twenty years. I decided to share ten of these life lessons with the graduates.
10 things I wish I’d known 20 years ago:
10) Every decision you make in life impacts someone else. Think about the implications of every choice you make. One who is wise is cautious and turns away from evil, but a fool is reckless and careless. Proverbs 14:16
9) The job isn’t ever just about you. The opportunity to have your job is a privilege. Treat your coworkers with care…as equals. Success is earned by working together as a team. Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
8) When it comes to “being in the know”, those who talk a lot usually aren’t in the know. Idle talk is useless in the workplace. Be a part of the solution…not a part of the problem. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29
7) Take tasks off your boss’ desk. Leadership is a lonely activity. Those that we serve in the workplace have numerous demands on their time, and they need to find people that they can trust. Become someone worthy of that trust. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Matthew 5:41
6) No task is too small for you. Humility is a wonderful thing. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. Luke 14:11
5) You are replaceable. No single person is essential to the success of a business. You will never be bigger than the organization you serve. When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom. Proverbs 11:2
4) Everybody has a first name. All people have worth. All people deserve our respect. It is essential that we know those people around us who are investing in the success of our organization. Get to know their interests, their joys and their pain. Invest in them. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Philippians 2:3
3) Whatever task you are asked to do, do it with all your heart. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men… Colossians 3:23
2) Dinner with your family is important. We are all busy. We will never complete our to-do lists at the office. But it is essential that we invest in those that we love…and that love us. The work will always be there. It’s important to build our relationships with those that bring us joy and renewal, too. Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 1 John 4:7
1) When you don’t know what to do, remember to do no harm until you do. Find good, trusted mentors and seek their counsel. Wisdom comes from careful reflection and life experience- so seek help from those you trust when faced with difficult decisions. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. James 1:5
Let’s pray for all the new graduates- high school and college- this week. May they find success and peace during this period of transition, and may they glorify God in all that they do.
God bless you.