So last year I was asked to give a speech to the graduating class at my old secondary school, before they sat their final exams and embarked on their university/work life. After the initial shock and gratitude I pondered on what exactly I had to share with the students – what advice could I impart to them and provide meaning?! I shared three pieces of advice that would hopefully help them in their future and they are three pieces of advice I have re-read several times..!
My first piece of advice is to remember that “Success means compromise”
What I mean by that is, when you leave school and you set about working on something else, remember that it will be hard and it will involve sacrifices, but if you stick with it, you will be successful! I know you already know this, because of all the nights this year you’ve spent at home studying instead of going out; the hobbies that you have sacrificed; the time on facebook you’ve had to cut back on. You know how much work you have truly put in.
The reason your school is celebrating you all here tonight is because of exactly this point – you have taken that tough path, which speaks directly of your ability to persist. Persistence is a habit and to have persistence, you have to care about the outcome. So, as you set off on your new path after school and the Leaving Cert, just remember that there are no shortcuts to anywhere worth going, but it will bring you success if you keep with it!
Like I said, The successes that we are celebrating today are not alone about the certificates. Those are pieces of paper that will be gathering dust in your attic in less than a few years. But we are also celebrating your attitude and habits formed during your time at Beech Hill: those habits lead to happiness. Whatever you resolve to do, I hope that you commit to it. I hope you to really work at it.
The truth is, being successful is hard. You won’t love every subject you study. You won’t click with every teacher/boss. Not every homework assignment will seem completely relevant to your life right this minute. And you won’t necessarily succeed at everything the first time you try. That’s OK. You can’t let your failures define you – you have to let them teach you. You have to let them show you what to do differently next time. If you get in trouble, that doesn’t mean you’re a troublemaker, it means you need to try harder to behave. If you get a bad grade, that doesn’t mean you’re incompetent, it just means you need to spend more time studying.
Not many people are born being good at things, you become good at things through hard work. Michael Jordan once said, “I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” Some of the most successful people in the world are the ones who’ve had the most failures. As you probably know, JK Rowling’s first Harry Potter book was rejected twelve times before it was finally published. The founders of WhatsApp were famously rejected in an interview for Facebook. They set up WhatsApp and eventually Facebook bought their company for 22 billion dollars just 7years later!
My Second tip is ‘Follow something you are passionate about’
I’m not the first person to say it, but the one thing we have to have to achieve anything is passion. You have to want it. You have to be hungry to succeed. You have to have a deep desire to move the needle of your life forward. You have to have a desire for a dream, for a mission, for a cause, for something you believe in that’s pulling you forward because you care about it so so much.
Is there a reason why Conor McGregor is excelling at UFC? Yeah he’s passionate about his fighting!! Why do athletes get up at 5.30am and train? There is a hunger in their belly – they have a fire – a desire – a passion to win, to succeed, to challenge themselves to achieve! They go beyond the 9-5 job to learn more, to out perform. They are engrossed in the subject matter, they want to learn more about the discipline, the job, they want to become an expert in the field.
It doesn’t make sense to spend your time doing things you don’t like doing in order to go on doing things you don’t like doing!
Finding your passion comes with experience and exposure to things, so go explore the world, read books, ask people what they do and see what’s out there, be hungry for achievement and success! But most of all, be passionate about what you do, whatever it is that you decide to pursue. Money, status, power, those things will come, but I suggest that you first try to find what it is in life that you would be doing anyway, regardless of the reward of money and status.
Which ties into my final point about, It’s up to you! (Responsibility).
While teachers and your friends can help you and influence you, and do their bit, what you do is ultimately up to you! It is not your school’s job to put you into university. It’s not your school’s job to make sure you get good grades. Your school will provide the opportunity, but you take it up, if you want it. What you do, or fail to do, is your responsibility, and your’s alone. This is more so now that you leave Secondary School – whether you start college, university, an apprenticeship or get a job – your education continues.
You have a responsibility to yourself and for your education. Every single one of you has something you’re good at. Every single one of you has something to offer. And you have a responsibility to yourself to discover what that is. That is the opportunity an education can provide. And no matter what you want to do with your life – I guarantee that you’ll need an education to do it. You want to be a teacher, a hairdresser? You want to be a panel-beater or a personal trainer? You’re going to need a good education for every single one of those careers. You can’t drop out of school or college and just drop into a good job. You’ve got to work for it and train for it and learn for it.
Now I know it’s not always easy to do well in school. I know a lot of you have challenges in your lives right now that can make it hard to focus on your schoolwork. Maybe you don’t have adults in your life who give you the support that you need. Maybe someone in your family has lost their job, and there’s not enough money to go around. Maybe you have friends who are pressuring you to do things you know aren’t right.
But at the end of the day, life isn’t fair and not everyone has been dealt the same hand of cards. Just remember that where you are right now doesn’t have to determine where you’ll end up. No one’s written your destiny for you. You write your own destiny. You make your own future.
I hope that today each of you are able to take responsibility for your own goals, and to do everything you can to meet them. Your goal can be something as simple as studying hard from now until the Leaving Cert is over. Maybe you’ll decide to spend less time online and more time with your books, or eat more healthy and get more exercise… Whatever it is, you are the only one who knows what you really, really like, when it comes down to it. So you are the only who can write your own life to your own liking. If you don’t define what it is you wanna do, you can never find it.
There’s nothing new here, but I think it’s good to be reminded of what works well and these are 3 humble suggestions.. Compromise is essential to success, so once you know what you want, prepared to get stuck in – give it all you got and in the end it will be worthwhile! Whatever it is that you follow, make sure it is something you are passionate about. If it’s not then change it, try something else, follow what you want…And finally, take responsibility for where you go and what you decide!