I’m confident your speakers, Murfreesboro Mayor Shane McFarland and NBC Nightly News’ Ken Strickland, gave you pearls at today’s commencement ceremonies. I graduated in December, 2006 with a B.S. in Music Business and a minor focus in Journalism. At the time, I was just starting my first job at CMT. I was naïve to think I was going to retire there. But three companies over eight rock ‘n’ roll years later, and I’m still in music and happy.
Looking back on my career since graduation, there are a few pieces of advice I wish my commencement speakers had shared when I walked. I won’t list them all right now. But I do have a few nuggets.
Mayor McFarland and Mr. Strickland probably forgot to impart some Sesame Street wisdom for the next chapter of your career.
In 1985’s Follow That Bird, there’s a scene when Big Bird leaves Sesame Street to live with another bird family, the Dodos. After saying his goodbyes, Big Bird’s friends and neighbors shout, “Don’t forget to write!” “Don’t forget to count!” “Don’t forget to dress warmly!”
Then Grover says, “Don’t forget to breathe! In and out!”
One wise monster, Grover! Graduates, if you’re nervous over the future, BREATHE! Make your breath louder than those little voices inside your mind distracting you from achieving your goals. Dedicate each breath to a blessing in life. Make the blessing breaths long, slow and deep, and revel in the peace those blessings bring.
The speakers probably left out some great Willie Nelson wisdom, too. “An ex-father-in-law of mine once gave me the best advice I ever heard,” Willie recalled in a 2013 Men’s Health interview. “He said, ‘Take my advice and do what you want to.'”
Follow your hearts, grads. There will be times in life when you can’t think straight and every decision feels wrong. Keep a good heart and check in with it often to refocus yourself.
In case you missed the Life Lessons with Bill Carter piece, Bill was thinking of leaving the U.S. Secret Service to finish law school. Before resigning, he sought advice from his mentor and former Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus, who advised, “When God created your soul, he gave you all the answers to any question you will ever have in your entire life. They’re all right here [in your heart]. You have to ask yourself. You don’t ask someone else because they can’t know what the answers are that God has presented to you.”
Last, do your mind a solid and think positively. One of my new favorite bands, Dangermuffin, has a very smart lyric, “The notes and scales are played by you with the resonations and the thoughts you choose.” And it’s so true. We are the thoughts we choose. I’ve pulled myself out of some nasty funks just by changing my attitude. Plus, it’s hard for employers to turn down a focused job candidate with a positive mind and a big heart.
Get out there and kick butt, ya’ big turkeys!