Graduation is often viewed as a launching point to solve complex problems and tackle big challenges. After years of learning, graduates are prepared and ready to take over.
The stark reality is graduation is just a phase, like a trimester. (tweet to share) Graduating means another development phase has passed.
Viewing graduation as a completion is wrong. Yes, a diploma was given but it really should be a learner’s permit, renewed often. (tweet to share)
What I am saying is simply this. Graduation is just one development phase you have passed through. There are more to come, which is right and good. Graduation is just a license for continued growth. How you develop from here carries a big responsibility. And you own this responsibility.
No path is straight. No path is smooth. How you contribute and solve problems will take being open to growth and understanding.
Graduation: Just an Open Door
In my life, I have passed through four formal graduation phases. My first was 8th grade and then, four years later, high school graduation. The cycle repeated again in another four years when college graduation happened. My next one was about nine years later when graduating from business school took place.
In almost all of my graduation phases there was a commencement address. Whatever words were spoken are lost. No memory of them exists. After all, graduation is viewed as a Wonder Woman or Superman activity. Graduating gives us special powers to take on the world. At least that is what we feel.
No special powers are bestowed upon graduates. Sorry to break the news to you.
However, what is given is an open door to further development, critical thinking, problem solving, and contributing to a community of workers and neighbors.
Graduation Phases: A Few Honest Thoughts
I doubt anything I write now will be memorable but I am writing anyway. After all, practice brings us closer to perfection.
8th Grade Graduation. Going into high school is a big transition. High school, in some ways, seems to be an odd human experiment we just keep repeating hoping we get it right next time.
Individuals participating in this experiment should remember this: People who think they are important usually become unimportant in later years. The goal is to learn how to suffer young egos while finding and developing your voice.
Your voice is just another way to say who you are and what you want to become. Never lose the future focus of what you want to become. The future is a great motivator so keep looking out beyond the walls of high school. So much good is ahead.
High School Graduation. Probably the number one word going through a high school graduate’s mind is freedom. Actually it is FREEDOM!
What is realized as college begins is there is still structure and responsibility required to survive and thrive. The ones that do not clue into this end up on alternate paths.
The word to remember at high school graduation is choices. You are the choices you make. Be aware of the choices you are making – intentional or unintentional. Both will get you off track if not given good thought and a sound sanity check.
What you become will be based on the choices you make. You are your choices.
College Graduation. I know when I graduated from college I was ready to take on the world. Just get out of my way and see what I can do.
I am not alone in this thought.
What happens is our freedom is finally wrapped in responsibility. Most of the educational and family training wheels are removed and we are riding on our own. And we own our bills, career paths, relationships, and all the messy life ingredients.
What word should be heard at college graduation ceremonies is patience. Life is short but do the work to create the most. As I wrote in Activate Leadership,
“Patience is not about waiting your turn. Patience sets a pace to learning and strengthening your capabilities by doing the work.”
There are no shortcuts to change the world. Do the necessary work to change the world.
Graduate School Graduation. I am fortunate. When I needed to make a career path change, going to business school delivered that opportunity. Taking two years out of my career seemed like a lifetime yet it enabled so many more opportunities than before.
Business school was my graduate path. Others take different paths to extend their formal education. All good yet there is a missing element.
The challenging words that should be spoken at graduate school ceremonies is lead. Leadership is not necessarily taught but it is learned. Take the time to learn your leadership craft.
As work and life continue, unexpected events will happen. Tough conversations will unfold. Challenging decisions will entail restless nights. Knowing your leadership beliefs and philosophy will keep you centered. Take the time to define and lead from them. Be open to change and make adjustments as new insights take hold.
You may have gone through graduate school without one course on leadership yet this will be one of the most important elements to empower what you do, no matter your career path.
Understand your leadership capability and always expand your capacity to lead more fully, with purpose, and full engagement.
Graduation Words Unspoken and Unheard
Graduation ceremonies are filled with much color, music, and words earnestly delivered. With all this, other than a marked point in time and a piece of paper, not much is remembered as the years pass.
I have no hopes of changing that.
My only words are to remember graduation is just a phase and never stop learning as each phase ends. Through it all, simply remember these words:
Develop and protect your voice. Make choices that the next generation will be proud of. Be patient in doing the work to make a big difference. Always lead forward.
Join the Conversation
Graduation is Just a Phase
I really enjoyed this post, Jon. Having just seen the parade of graduation snapshots, etc., on social media as my friends’ children graduated (last year was my daughter’s turn to graduate from high school), I have been thinking a lot about this topic, especially in the light of her processing the freshman year of college and “what she really wants to do.” // I have to admit I *do* remember a portion of the high school graduation speech (because I gave it). I am sad to say, especially now that I am a Toastmasters participant, that I talked about the dreaded “fork in the road”! // I am excited to share this post as part of the Leadership Development Carnival.
Thank you, Paula! I have not had the opportunity to give a graduation talk but will now stay away from the “dreaded fork in the road” reference! Each graduation represents a new opportunity for change ahead. We just need to keep navigating and leading through it with vision and community. Thanks for all you exemplify in both! Jon
I agree with you! It’s one milestone on a much longer journey. However, we’re often quick to move past moments that matter as we look towards the future. While graduation is not a stopping point, it is one to savour and take a beat (or two or three) to enjoy and celebrate. A lot of work got you to this place and it show you that you have what it takes to keep moving forward. Don’t miss the moment because you’re focused on what’s next.
Also, love your learning from each of your graduations. Layers that keep building – like a delicious cake.
Alli, Love the cake visual! And it is fitting too. I agree. We need to celebrate the moments of success and transition. As you pointed out in your recent post, we need to engage our past to make sense of the present path forward. Thank you! Jon