Unsolicited Advice To The Graduate

I am scheduled to be the "parent speaker" at a dinner for the seniors graduating from my son's high school. This is like getting the "$10 for second place in the beauty contest" card in Monopoly — but since it is not the commencement address, it means I don't have to provide any practical advice about life after high school. Which is too bad, because I do have some tips:

1. College is not about what you learn and retain. It is an endurance contest to see if you can discriminate between what is assigned and what must be prepared — and if you can deliver work on deadline. Otherwise, it is about learning the hard way that it was really nice to have your mom do your laundry all those thankless years, and that eating out is not nearly as much fun when you have to pay for it yourself.

College is for getting serious about sex, drugs and rock and roll -- the more, the better. While you assuredly will NOT remember what you learn in an 8:30 a.m. class in Late 15th Century Italian Renaissance Paintings, you will forever remember sitting on the roof of a frat house, your pinwheeling eyes waiting for the sun to come up, while earnestly debating who was more important to classical music: Snoop Dogg, Tupac, or Biggie Smalls.



While your parents will beat you senseless about your grades (after all, they are paying with a lifetime of sacrifice just to put you in that classroom), the fact remains that once you graduate, nobody will care if you learned anything, or what kind of grades you got — unless you do something foolish like apply to graduate school. And while you will be pretty proud of your degree, you will soon learn that even the waiters in restaurants have degrees, often from schools better than yours.

Unless you go to an Ivy League school or Stanford, nobody will care where you went to college — making you regret the family-splitting fights in high school you had over where you were applying. Remember that most of the legendary tech titans didn't even bother with college — or dropped out — and they are worth billions today. If someone gives you shit about graduating from. say, Miami U. of Ohio, you can be sure they skipped more classes than you did, and only got into their school thanks to the building Daddy donated.

2) First jobs always suck and reinforce the socialism you aspired to on campus. The CEO passes the crap he doesn't want to do down to the EVP, he passes the crap to the SVP, and so it goes all the way down the ladder until it lands on your desk. Since you have even less power than the chauffeur who drives the CEO back and forth to The Four Seasons every day, you are stuck with the crap. Don't worry. Someday you will get promoted, and then pass at least some of the crap down to someone else just starting.

One of the hardest parts of working in a company is finding out that most of the people around you are morons, yet are making more money than you are. This is essentially what drove Karl Marx to write his manifesto. So try to channel your anger into something positive like a new economic paradigm. And stop bitching to anyone who will listen about how clueless the rest of the team is. There is no upside, trust me.

3) There are no real secrets to being successful in life, although you will go a long way if you a) do irreproachable work, no matter how meaningless the assignment; b) are kind to others around you; and c) don't take yourself too seriously.
And although it may not seem like it at the moment, life is indeed exceedingly short. Fill it with sex, drugs and rock and roll.

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