Today the graduates of the class of two, zero, two, three, enter an entirely new world than the one they knew just a few short years ago. Their grad story is slightly different from the three versions that preceded them. One big difference is this class dealt with the pandemic from the subsequent discovery, reaction, treatment and remedy, followed by what is turning out to be one of the most transformative periods in the history of the world, and all before they legitimately enter into it at the adult phase of their lives.
The Covid-19 virus and its subsequent events created something none of us expected. Treatments…sure; vaccines…hopefully anticipated; and public resistance in general…of course. What we didn’t see in our Magic Eight Ball was a complete paradigm shift in workforce behavior and expectations, an educational learning methodology renaissance that traverses all levels, unprecedented job/career changes, a new vision for “true” work/life balance, a spike in small business startups, a rise in entrepreneurships, a contemporary redesign of “white collar” positions to hybrid and work-from-home, online shopping’s faster ascension into “normalcy or standard,” redesigned vaccine development, a blast off of virtual: meetings, phone calls, seminars and doctor’s appointments, to a rise in the spread of online and social media false information, some small in its impact and others life-threatening. This barely scratches the surface.
Something else changed that occurred more as a reaction to unplanned circumstances rather than by choice. Yet, it appears to be probably one of the most consequential epiphanies humans have experienced collectively in our long history. As a result of the necessary precautions we made to prevent the spread of the virus, our minds didn’t lose sight of a deeper meaning in this moment. Suddenly, people began to reassess their choices in all areas of their lives. Mental health is beginning to get the recognition and understanding it deserves by aligning and comparing it more with a physical workout routine. Just as one takes care of their body, they equally must take care of their minds through proper techniques including meditation, adequate rest, supportive social connections, brain games and more. Jobs became more than a means to a paycheck. Career choices garnered a renewed interest, sparking quiet quitting and the “Great Resignation.” Service industry positions were reevaluated by the employees and subsequently appreciated by the general public when we watched those open positions not being filled. In essence, the way we live our lives post-pandemic is less of the traditional process of working hard to earn and save enough to be happy, and more of the “why can’t I be happy, while I’m working hard and saving?” I’d like to think we’ve evolved into a whole new generation; one that understands more about what life is about and is taking proactive measures to definitively live it rather than merely survive it until we can reach another “better and more abundant” life stage.
And, this is the point in our history where you come in. The Class of 2023 will embark on this New World, and their responses to it, demands from it, protections for it and vision of it; all will determine, in part, how the rest of us will live in it. You’re fortunate to enter a world where the masses understand themselves better, and with that, what they need and want out of life. Consider that a wild card, a.k.a., an advantage. Now, take this new world with its re-defined perspectives, and use that energy to make all our lives better in whatever capacity that may be.
Don’t think your idea or impact needs to go viral or be massive in nature to be important or impactful to humanity’s future. Consider Facebook, Google, Apple, Amazon and YouTube all began as small ventures, several out of their garages. This is a time for each of you individually and collectively to make a difference in the lives of others in a positive way. Define your own way to make this happen and then go do it. Take a serious, thoughtful look at the doors available to you, choose the best one for this purpose, and then, using the skills and natural gifts that you possess, go create your own opportunities in life.
One such graduate today is at the halfway point in his educational journey – my son, Dusty. He’s already accomplished so much, and yet, the road ahead is wide open. He has a personal mission statement that he lives by which says, “Make a life that makes a difference.” He uses it in his monthly college newsletter as his signoff. It inspired me to write about this theme for my annual grad advice column. Already, it’s working.
Congratulations to the Class of 2023. While others before you have been asked to go change the world, you are specially equipped and positioned precisely to do just that. We’re all counting on you.
Cheers, and may your glass always be half full!
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