By Tom Wilbur
Graduates. I’m a small town banker. I’m a son, a Dad, and a husband. Since no one called to ask me speak at commencement this year, I’d like offer several tidbits of advice. They are free of charge, so you might consider them worth just about that much, but I share them with good intentions, and the excitement of knowing that you, a new graduate, are setting forth to make good things happen for yourself and for others, in this world. So here goes, a few observations, and suggestions, on your life ahead:
1. You live in the greatest country on Earth, with unbelievable opportunities to follow your dreams, anywhere. You are afforded rights and freedoms that exist nowhere else– including the freedom to achieve, and the opportunity to fail. It’s your commitment, passion and resolve that can take you to the top of any endeavor you wish to pursue. No one else can do it for you. Respect and honor those who came before you and the sacrifices they made to protect your freedoms.
2. There will never be another you. Don’t try to emulate someone else or mirror their life. God created you differently than every other organism on the planet– you are your own unicorn. Shine your horn and get on with it.
3. Love is always better than hate, compassion much better than being judgmental— and I promise that nearly every day you will meet someone who needs a hand. Be the kind of person who reaches out, for those who need you. Don’t forget to be thankful, to those who provided you a helping hand, in your life. Gratefulness and thankfulness are amazing qualities, and demonstrating appreciation to others shows your maturity and strong sense of values.
4. Humility, grace, and a positive outlook to this day will take you much further than acting with arrogance, being selfish, trying to take credit for the work of others, or being a person who criticizes everything. It’s simply the difference between looking at the world as a place to spread your wings, or moping around just wallowing in the mud. You can’t sit in the basement, or your old bedroom at you parents’ house, and pretend the world owes you something– because it doesn’t. Get off your rear, get out there, and seize the day.
5. Never allow external forces to define you. Be confident enough in who you are, and the things you believe in, that you can, and will, stand strong against those who want to try to change you into something else. If someone comes to the door and says they are with the government, and they are here to help you, run away.
6. Be a better listener than a talker, be a better smiler than frowner, be a better friend than an enemy, and be the kind of person that people aspire to be– by your demonstration of leadership, your choice of activities, and friends. Hang with people who aren’t out to hang themselves (and you) on alcohol, or drugs, or other dependencies that cloud your judgment. Ever known someone who has died a dependency based death? I have, and it’s not pretty.
7. You will reach certain forks in the road, with the people you engage in– in your lifetime. When the entire crowd you’re with is headed the wrong direction, will you follow along like a lemming as a follower, or will you choose the other path? Your choice could be the difference between success and failure, or even life and death.
8. Your family and friends are relationships to be nurtured and cherished. They are your army against the storms you will face. Be there for them, and they are for you. Communicate with them often. A quick phone call or text means everything— just to let them know you are thinking about them. It matters.
9. I’ve seen people with great potential, who never get close to where their abilities should have taken them. I’ve known people of very limited capabilities who have become exceptional people, tremendous leaders, and great successes. Generally, the great ones stick with their dreams, regardless of circumstance. They have great courage, and a passion to overcome challenges, and win. They work harder than others, because they know what they want in life, and they set action plans and goals to get there. They understand the value of saving and investing their money instead of spending it all on things they don’t need. They put the power of compounding on their side of the ledger. They have discipline– with their time, their resources, and their day. They don’t waste their day, and they are effective at organization, and delegation. They credit their teams for successes, and take the blame, personally, when things don’t go so well.
10. God said love one another. He said turn the other cheek. He shared that our purpose in being here is to serve others, and to treat others the way we would want to be treated. He showed humility and healing and love— when others showed anger and hatred toward Him. And then He gave his live to forgive our sins upon a cross.
In my life, my relationship with God has carried me through a lot of challeges. When I’ve asked Him to help me, He has lifted burdens from my shoulders, and in all my brokenness, He has made me whole. I trust in God. You’d do well to do the same. He has blessed me with an amazing existence here, and with a wonderful, ongoing relationship. He will do the same for you. Promise.
Much love to you, graduates. Hug your family and friends and thank them for their unwavering love, support and prayers for you, every step of the way. One last thing– everything counts. Repeated— everything you do counts. Do you hear me? Again, everything counts. Don’t look back now. Don’t cry over past mistakes. Don’t carry any baggage with you, graduate! You have a clean slate and a fresh start. Reach for the stars, and have a great life ahead. You can do this. Rock and roll.
Tom Wilbur is President/CEO of BANK VI, in Salina, Kansas. He is a graduate of Salina Central High School, and The University of Kansas. He has served in leadership of numerous organizations, both for-profit and non-profit. You can connect with him at firstname.lastname@example.org