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UC Riverside Commencement Speech: 7 Life Lessons for the Class of 2010

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This past Sunday, I had the pleasure of addressing the graduating class at UC Riverside's College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences. As the graduates prepared to set off and make their way in the world, I shared the seven pieces of advice that I have found to be most helpful in building brands, raising a family, and simply being happy.

2010-06-14-DSC_0578b.jpgThank you, Dean Baldwin, Chancellor White, Provost Rabenstein, CNAS Faculty, honored guests, and the fabulous 2010 graduating class of UC Riverside.

Thank you all for the opportunity to address you on the day of your graduation. It is a huge honor for me to be here.

Since I only have 7 minutes to speak, I tried to think of what I could convey in such a short period a time. I thought of texting all of you instead, and when I looked at my phone it said, "Dude, the 951 totally rules!"

So, if I may, I'd like to quickly share the seven most important life lessons I have learned, insight that has helped me face life's endless challenges and find happiness, success, and the right exit off the 215.

Number 1: Life's not fair. You may have already figured this out. If you haven't, you will. Learn to expect less from life and more from yourself. Accept the changes that life throws at you. Remember, your destiny is pretty much in your hands. So, as your mom may have told you, keep them clean.

Number 2. You will learn more from your failures than your successes -- so embrace those mistakes, as difficult as that sounds, and grow from them. When a project is successful, you're never really sure why, because so many elements come into play. However, when you fail, you always know why. That is how you learn and grow. And remember, if and when you fail, you'll be in very good company.

Number 3. Never be afraid to ask when you don't understand. It sounds like a little thing, but awful things have happened, international incidents have flared, and markets have collapsed just because people couldn't make sense of what was being said. They didn't ask "why?" because they thought it would make them look stupid. It's biblical: Look how long Moses was in the desert because he wouldn't ask directions. If you don't understand, chances are there are a lot of other people who feel the same way. So ask. Others will thank you. And do not trust Mapquest.

Number 4. Faith helps. Your life will have ups and downs. Everyone's does. Great things will happen and things will happen that, well, just suck. There's no way to escape that. But faith in yourself, in your God, and in mankind will help light the way. It will support you in the lows and keep you humble in the highs.

Number 5. Choose bliss. When you wake up each morning, you can choose to be happy or choose to be sad. Unless some terrible catastrophe has occurred the night before, it is pretty much up to you. Tomorrow morning, when the sun shines through your window, choose to make it a happy day. Or, as I say to my college freshman granddaughter, "Hey, fake it!" and before you know it, you will be it.

Number 6. Give back. One of the things that brings me the greatest joy in life is giving back to my family, to my community, and to the earth. You want the planet to be better off for having you in it. It is sustainable, one that creates a circle of giving from you to others and back to you. So give back. And by all means, save your receipts.

Number 7. Lifelong learning. Today you have done an amazing thing by graduating from college. I hope this is only the beginning of your journey toward knowledge and enlightenment. Be a student of life, go to seminars, listen to speakers, and search the Web for new information and new ways of thinking. Our society is constantly changing. Be a participant, an educated advocate for the goals you see for society. The more you understand what is going on around you, the more effective you will be as a citizen, not just of Riverside County, but of the world.

Education is the key to your success as an individual. You are entering the work force at one of the most challenging times in our nation's history. That is the "life's not fair" thing I mentioned earlier. However, if you're educated in the truth behind the hype of the media, the fickleness of Wall Street and partisanship of political rantings, you will be able to decide for yourself what is right, what is true, and what is important for you.

In closing, please look at the state of our planet not as a burden, but as an opportunity. It's simply amazing that by biological randomness, we ended up being born here or came here from a distant land. If that isn't a reason to rejoice, what is? During the darkest times in the history of man, there were always those who found a way to turn straw into gold or to invent a disruptive technology that changed the way people thought and acted.

I hope each of you will be one of those special people, and I wish you every success in your future. And don't forget: Stay smart, give back, and choose bliss.