Hello, graduate. Congratulations on your accomplishments and a job well done!
Now for the fun part.
You’ve made it this far by following directions, filling in little circles, asking for permission, standing in line, and raising your hand before speaking up. The instructions have been clear: do this (take these classes, write this paper, complete this assignment) and get this (pass the course, earn a recommendation, receive a degree.)
You got to this point by following the rules. Now that you’ve graduated, it’s time to start breaking some.
Make no mistake, the work is not over. In fact, it’s only just beginning. If you continue looking for rules to follow — old habits die hard, after all — you will find them. You will be expected to be “realistic,” urged to find a job with good benefits, and encouraged to keep your inbox at zero. You’ll be handed a definition of success that puts an inordinate amount of emphasis on things that can be measured.
Follow these rules and you will most certainly succeed.
At being ordinary.
But, dear graduate, you were made for more than that. We desperately need you to be extraordinary. I know it doesn’t seem like it, because the examples of people doing it are few and far between. That’s mostly because it’s hard.
Paint-by-numbers are easy. But they don’t hang paint-by-numbers in the Louvre.
The rules you followed to this point will no longer serve you. If you want to make a difference in the world and be truly happy in life, you must follow your own way, and that includes leaving a few rules in your wake, broken and abandoned.
I’m not speaking of speed limits and tax laws, a few of the rules that DO exist and carry real consequences for breaking them. You’ll need to identify the ones that DON’T exist and disregard them like it’s your job.
Because it is.
It will help if you can keep close the five-year-old that still lives within you. It will not take long to realize that being an adult is not all it was cracked up to be. But Adulthood does have its perks, not the least of which is that now, finally, YOU are the boss of you. Life is a choose-your-own-adventure. That’s right: the choices are finally yours. Don’t abdicate this power to anyone else.
So listen to your inner child reminding you that it’s ok to eat dessert first once in a while, jump in puddles, and flaunt your weirdness.
It may be hard to believe, you don’t have to hate Mondays.
You don’t have to rely on your calendar to decide what days are worth celebrating.
And for the love of penguins, please don’t fall into the trap of being realistic.
My wish for you, dear friend, is the same one I have for my own children: a life filled with magic, meaning, love, and wonder.
Blessed are the rulebreakers. They shalt inherit the Future.
You’ve got this.
P.S. Penguins Can’t Fly is an excellent primer on the most prevalent rules that don’t exist. It’s designed to foster the curiosity needed to get better at spotting them in your own life, and provide the courage to break them with style and grace. (It also makes a perfect gift for graduates and anyone else interested in taking their story to new heights.)