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3 Life Tips Every Graduate Needs To Know

Articles Inspirational articles from Hay House authors

3 Life Tips Every Graduate Needs To Know

Important Advice You Won't Hear In A Commencement Speech
Tavis  Smiley
Tavis Smiley More by this author
May 11, 2016 at 11:00 AM

Both a guidebook and a toolkit to help you get on track, whether you’re just setting out on your own or whether you need a course correction to keep marching toward your dreams, my book, 50 For Your Future, available here, will help you do just that. Below are 3 life tips for new graduates from the book.

1. Work on your wait

For much of my life, I believed patience was overrated. When I attended Indiana University, I was “Mr. Involved.” Debate team, student associations, fraternity life, volunteer work, two work-study jobs, internships—you name it, I did it!

One of those internships brought me to Los Angeles the summer before my senior year, to intern for then-mayor Tom Bradley. I quickly fell in love with Los Angeles and the idea of working full-time for Mayor Bradley, who became one of the great mentors in my life. I was ready to quit college, move to California, and get started on a career in politics. I knew what I wanted, and I was ready to go!

Mayor Bradley taught me an invaluable lesson at that time: You have to work on your wait. He counseled me to return to Indiana to finish school. He promised to find me a spot in his administration after I graduated. And he stayed true to his word.

Mayor Bradley wasn’t looking to quash the enthusiasm and ambition he saw burning in me. He was trying to teach me to value and trust the maturation process. As I mentioned earlier, we live in a world that tells us: “Get your hustle on.” That message is loudest for young people.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Having goals and drive are essential. But you still don’t go from intern to chairman of the board—or mayor of Los Angeles, for that matter—overnight. Patience keeps us in the game. It gives us the focus to prevent small failures from becoming total defeat, and the mindfulness to put opportunities and victories in perspective. It’s believing in and trusting the process. Following it will often get you where you want to go.

But patience is only as helpful as the effort you put into it. That’s why you have to work on your wait—not just wait! When you see an article, a show, or a post about a James or a Zuckerberg or a Jay Z, it can seem as though they became successful overnight. The truth is that there are years of work and effort, ups and downs, behind those successes.

“In truth, I am still learning lessons every day.”


Look at LeBron! Sure, he was drafted into the NBA right out of high school, but only because he spent the previous ten years of his life playing in every basketball game he could find, going to every practice, and patiently doing everything he could to make himself a great player.

And although it may seem that Pharrell Williams became an instant success in 2013 with his hit song “Happy,” he had put years of hard work into the music business by collaborating behind the scenes with other artists on their albums before being offered his own record contract and becoming a household name.

I have learned that there is no substitute for doing the work, and no skipping steps in “the process.” Learning to work on your wait helps prepare you for the long-distance race that is life.

My book, 50 For Your Future, is available here

2. Do what you believe, not what you find expedient

If I were to ask you right now what your personal mission statement is, what would you say? Just like institutions, organizations, and corporations, each of us has to create and implement a mission statement for our own lives. It can’t be something you read in a book, something you overheard, something suggested to you, or just the same thing everyone around you seems to believe. What is it you believe?

“Your mission statement should be like the secret password for your life.”

When you have a mission statement for your life, when you have your own belief system, it makes navigating everything else in life so much easier. This applies especially when a crisis comes your way, when situations develop, when challenge confronts you, or when you’re going to address life’s difficult issues. Those who have a belief system—whose lives are grounded in a mission statement—tend to find problems easier to navigate because, regardless of what’s confronting them, their answer can always begin with: “Here’s what I believe about this . . .”

Absent these guiding principles, which act as an operating manual for your life, too often the tendency—the default setting—is to take the most expedient route, the path of least resistance. Many times this means simply borrowing the beliefs or ideas or decisions of others, which is a step toward letting the outside world put a bid on your soul.

It will help you keep secure everything that’s precious. My mission statement is to do my small part to make the world safe for the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., which is “justice for all, service to others, and a love that liberates people.”

3. Live by your hopes and not your fears

These days, there seem to be a lot more things that make us fearful than make us hopeful. This is particularly true for people living in crime-ridden or polluted communities. Or where work is hard to come by, schools and homes are crumbling, and gentrification is collapsing the spirits of neighborhoods. When quality food is nowhere to be found and affordable public transportation fails to operate, it’s easy for fear to dominate people’s lives.

There are so many whose lives are entrenched in communities that are constricted and contained by fear. This situation is pandemic. Your environment plays a big role in how you feel on a day-to-day basis, but you’re also responsible for determining your own mind-set.

“You control your own destiny. You’re in charge. You decide.”

How can you make good choices about anything if you’re afraid of the results or the possible consequences you’re going to face? Life has taught me that I’ve never made a good decision based on fear. On the other hand, hope has always guided my wisest decisions. I regret once staying in a business deal too long for fear of hurting my friend and partner. I lost the business and the friendship. Conversely, I have no regrets about any career move I’ve ever made based on the hope of my future.

When anxiety drives us, decisions are reached far too quickly and inside a vacuum. We lose sight of the whole picture facing us, focus on the wrong things, and fail to give enough thought to the decision itself. We come to a conclusion without ever looking for an alternate exit strategy.

How many people do we know who’ve been living in the same place for years, even though the environment has been dragging them down? The fear of change, of starting fresh, and especially the fear of failure so often keeps people locked in to the same patterns, day in and out.

Show me a success story and I’ll show you a situation invariably driven by hope, not by fear. It’s amazing what the power of hope can do, but it requires unlocking yourself from the cage of fear you’re trapped in. You have to consciously let the power of hope manifest itself in your life.


About Author
Tavis  Smiley
Tavis Smiley is a broadcaster, author, advocate, and philanthropist. Tavis Smiley continues to be an outstanding voice for change.  Smiley is currently the host of the late-night television talk show Tavis Smile Continue reading