Tips for Life … from Me and some Harvard Grads

Lessons for Grads …

We interrupt the original iteration of this message to graduates due to what possibly could be a Divine course correction. Maybe not a new course, but at least an updated direction. This blog, you see, was first-draft finished when some unrelated research landed me at an expected website with a mother lode of wisdom — for recent graduates, for me, and for anyone. So I feel the need to share it.

When the Harvard Business School Class of 1963 was planning its 50 reunion, organizers asked class members to jot down advice they would pass along to future generations. The answers became a book and website by Arthur Buerk called If I Knew Then. The collection is filled with great advice from successful people (a two-term governor, a U.S. senator, and several CEOs and executives with Fortune 500 companies). It also caught my attention because I was born in 1963, back when the average price of home was $12,650 and these graduates would command an average starting salary of $9,500 a year (according to Bloomberg).

You can look up the mostly short, practical snippets of advice by author or by these topics: careers, marriage and family, business, leadership, wealth, growing older, charity and spirituality, happiness and success, turning points, and life’s lessons.


Here’s one on “marriage and family”: “Marriage is an 80-20 partnership, on both sides. If you each understand that, you always go out of your way to please your spouse. When both partners do that, you have a happy marriage. The greatest gift you can give your children is to love one another.” – Donald P. Nielsen

Or this one from the “happiness and success” chapter: “I think about all my blessings and keep an attitude of gratitude. Success is leaving this world better than when I arrived.” – Robert McNutt

Or how about this one from the “life’s lessons” chapter: “Have fun. You’ll be dead a long time.” – Anonymous (Who knew Anonymous was a Harvard grad?)

So here’s my revised first piece of advice to graduates of the Class of 2017 (high school, college or grad school): Go to the If I Knew Then website and spend at least an hour perusing these nuggets. Anonymous alone is worth the time and effort.

And what can I add to what these men and women had to say? Not much, perhaps, but I’ll try.

My suggestion to graduates, specifically to those who are followers of Jesus, starts with a simple but challenging idea: Own your faith. Whatever you believe, whatever you value, whatever shapes and defines your character, it won’t be real of meaningful unless you own it. You simply can’t get far on a faith that belongs to your parents, your peers, your co-workers, your teachers, or anyone else.

How do you own it? Here are a few tips:

Think Critically. Authors, teachers, pastors, professors, and the members of the Harvard Business School Class of 1963 all come at life with a worldview that shapes their agendas. When you read or hear messages, don’t embrace them on face value. We tend to look for things to confirm our biases and run from things that don’t (see Notre Dame’s recent graduation ceremony). We also tend to naturally believe those we see as “experts.” Be open-minded. If you test the messages you hear – those that sound great and those that don’t – you’ll end up owning what you believe and respecting the beliefs of others.

Test what you hear against what you know to be true, not just what the experts or science says is true (science is always changing its version of truth), but also on other factors, like what you see in the world around you. In my personal search, I began with the claim that the Bible is true. I looked at it critically and came to embrace that reality. Now I use the Bible as a filter for evaluating what others claim as truth.

Pray Fervently. You won’t find truth worth owning without some help, and the things of this world offer only the help of this world. Foundational truth begins in the spiritual realms, which makes it inherently mysterious. But those who ask God for revelation are promised a response. Knock and the door is opened. Seek and you will find. Ask and it will be given. Read through the Psalms and you’ll find example after example of the authors pleading with God for insight and revelation. They knew the value of the desperate pleas of God’s children.

Practice Luke 2:52 Discipleship. Jesus tells us to “go and make disciples,” and we don’t need to wait for some disciple to come along who will follow us. We can (and should) start with ourselves and then expand to others. Jesus grew in four key areas – wisdom, stature, favor with God, and favor with man. Growing in those four areas will strengthen the faith you own and prepare you to withstand the onslaughts that come against you.

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