I look back fondly on high school and college. Playing sports is definitely something I miss. Fantasy Football doesn’t nearly cover all my competitive instincts. Scheduled lunchtime with friends every day is pretty great too. Also, I literally took a less paying job in order to get summers off again. I don’t know how regular folks work all summer long. It sounds horrible.
As I thought through advice I’d want to bestow on this next cohort of graduates, I wanted to give a mix of career advice, life principles, and spiritual encouragement. What’s funny is all the advice could be used for all 3:
~ You Have to Push Yourself, Because No One Else Will
You have teachers who teach you what to do, then let you practice it on your own, remind you when they’re going to quiz you on the material, then finally see if you learned it. Life does not work like that. No one else is invested in your success. In the same way, as you grow-up no one is going to check your devotional, or make sure you memorize Bible verses, ensure you have a weekly time for worship. Your faith must become your own. Remember, you are what you are becoming.
~ Don’t Blame Your Circumstances, Society, or People
Of course they’re against you. Everyone is out to get you. The MAN, the Government, Big-Business, and the Slender Man! Everyone who you think is out to get you, probably is. The question is what are you going to do about it. If that’s a reason not to try or to just complain instead of working hard, then you just let THEM win. There will always be injustices, and there will be plenty to find if you look for them. When you hear others give excuses for why their skin color, socio-economic status, where they went to school, the fact that they don’t have a dad that just gave them a job, their messed up family life, or whatever the Slender man does (Does he eat people?) – Whatever the excuse is, be sorry for what they’re going through, be compassionate in whatever ways you might be able to help them, and BE THANKFUL you don’t use such excuses to slow down your hustle. Likewise, everything wants you to turn away from Christ. This entire World is against Him. Jesus warned us that the world hated Him and it’ll hate His followers. The World will get its tentacles into you at some point. But praise the Lord, Jesus already paid for all that sin on the cross so that you can break free from those chains, so do it. Just keep following Jesus.
~ Don’t Use People, Utilize People
People are going to use you. Don’t follow suit with others. This doesn’t mean you need to try to do everything on your own, but there is certainly a difference between using people and utilizing them. I think of what Elon Musk is doing. He invented a new engine for a completely electric car. It’s better than anything else on the market. Then he did something very strange, he shared his design with all of his competitors. Every car company has the blueprints for the best electric car on the market. Now maybe you’d think it would make the most sense to keep those to himself and try to sell the most amount of cars that he can. But Elon Musk is smarter than the rest of us. He sees the true value is in replacing that $8,000 battery every few years. Instead of having a few thousand cars on the road that need replacement batteries every few years, instead he’ll have a few million cars on the road that all need his battery to work. Oh, and he didn’t share the blueprints to the battery. There is the same tendency to use people in ministry. Instead utilize them. Find a mentor – someone you respect and someone who can teach you a thing or twelve. Then find someone you can disciple. Maybe you don’t feel ready to do that, but you know more about God and His Word than someone. Share with them what you know, even if it only takes 3-days, and then bring them to your mentor so you can learn together.
~ Compare Your Passions to Needs
So often Disney films and actors and actresses at award shows just tell us to keep following our dreams. The problem is, there’s a lot of people who try out for American Idol who get laughed out of the studio. Their dream was to be a professional singer, but their dream just wasn’t going to happen. Instead look for the needs in a particular market, then decide whether or not you can and want to meet that need. Sometimes you will, sometimes you won’t, and sometimes you’ll figure out how much it pays and decide you want to, because it allows you to do some other things you enjoy. Do the same thing in your church. Look for needs, then see if God gifted you to meet that need. This is a much better plan than just sitting there and waiting for something to drop in your lap. We have too many Appendixes’ in the body of Christ. They do nothing or very little but when they get irritated they try to shut the whole place down. And when you remove them, nothing changes. Find the needs and meet them.
~ Don’t be the Best, Just be Great
This sounds counterintuitive, but the biggest problem with trying to be the best at whatever, you are doing is you are comparing yourself to others. Nothing could be more self-destructive. One of two things happens: Either someone is just truly better than you in your office or field, and it can demoralize you even though you are doing great work. Or, what happens more often, you will find yourself in an office filled with incompetence and laziness. To just be the “best” in a place like that is massively selling you short. So just be great. Don’t be good, that’s lazy. Be Great. Don’t be perfect, just be Great. Don’t worry what others are doing. You Be Great. I’ve met a lot of people who were great at their jobs, and not so great at following Christ. Be great in everything you do, especially the most important things. Always give God your best.
~Work for Yourself Instead of Someone Else
While in your career, figure out if you can do this job without them. Then learn what you need to and start doing it on your own for your own company. When the timing is good enough, work only for yourself and be a great boss to all the people who now work for you. It’s honestly like Poker when you are younger it’s less nerve-racking to bluff when you are holding a 7/2 off-suit. Go ahead, act like you know what you are doing. If you fail, no problem. Go get a job and learn some more. Once you get married and have children, you tend to want to be holding more of a sure thing before going all in. In the ministry world, too many people are only looking at what ministries already exist and aren’t looking for what needs to exist. Learn, and then go serve God in a different way, in a different place, or to a different group of people.
~Experiences Always Outweigh Stuff
Don’t buy expensive toys – travel. Don’t just buy bigger houses and nicer cars, go out to an escape room with your family. People and places will always be more memorable than edition 6.0 of whatever. Our stewardship in our relationship with God should be thought about similarly. Figure out what you really need as compared to what you just want. Give your first fruits, and not just tips and leftovers. Give more than you think you can to causes and to people you think are worth it. You will find that life to have far more value and riches.
What about you, any other advice you’d give to the Graduates of 2017?