This month around the nation, dignitaries and celebrities are sharing words of wisdom with eager graduates at high school, college, and university commencements. I am still waiting for my invitation to speak.
But, if I were asked, here is an abbreviated version of what I would say. I call it "Six Degrees of Education."
1. Your education never ends. It evolves. What you have learned until today is just that and no more. Realize that you may need to go back to school, take more courses and be open to new ideas to remain relevant and on top of change. Degrees are not necessarily the metric for assessing future success. You may earn a degree or two in life, and the certificates will grace your wall, but how you apply and assert yourself, make connections, seize opportunities and are open to ideas, change and a little serendipity are what will impact your success barometer.
2. Experience is the best education you will receive. Books and classes will provide you with knowledge and skills, but experience teaches you how to utilize them. However, I have learned that if you ever want to teach at a university, plan on earning a master's degree. Certifications, higher degrees and letters still seem to matter over vast experience in the world of academia.
3. Knowledge is what you accumulate from education and experience. Using that knowledge effectively is your choice, but try not to waste either knowledge or time. There are many people who dream of being in your shoes to have both knowledge and time on their side.
4. Wisdom is the understanding you gain from knowledge and your ability to clarify and apply it to your life and share it with others. Wisdom is time-honored and should be respected. I'd rather hear gifted words from a wise person than from someone lecturing me from a textbook any day,
5. Intuition is learning to listen to your gut instinct and knowing how to respond. It is the inner voice giving you a lecture. You can learn a lot about yourself and how to handle situations better through intuition. I have made many smart decisions following my intuition rather than adhering to conventional wisdom.
6. Achievement is a measure of who we are and how we make an impact. Success is a measure of what we accomplish. Always aim to achieve, and then be happy when what you do achieve becomes a success. And never let anyone define your success for you or force you to change to become their version of "success."
To get by in life, you need knowledge from education and experience. But it's your intuition and wisdom that will enable you to make the best decisions that will ultimately help you achieve all you dream of to become your definition of success.
"What will matter is not your success but your significance."
--Michael Josephson, from the poem "What Will Matter"
"Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude."