To All The Graduates: From Now On, You May Be At The Mercy Of Other People

At this point in life, more than any other, every one of you is bound to receive tips and advice from your various circles of family, friends, and confidants. Some of those bits of advice you may have already heard, while others you may have not.

Regardless of whether you have or not, or whether you believe you understand the meaning or not, when it comes to that advice, whoever it is who provides it to you, get their story. Be curious enough about their experiences to reconcile what it is they’ve seen in life to the advice they’ve decided to share with you.

Don’t let words of advice ring hollow, becoming, in effect, clichés. Follow up. Ask why the few words shared are important. There’s power behind deeper understanding. That sharing of and search for deeper understanding is what’s lacking in today’s society.

To that end, I’d like to be added to that roster of advisors and lay out some advice — and its meaning — for you, if you’ll indulge me.

Aside from the knowledge you’ve gained and will continue to take in once you leave your schools, where it always seemed to be about what you delivered under the expectations of your professors, deans, and advisors, guess what? Life will still be about what you deliver to and for other people.

In the end, no matter how much we work on ourselves, life is about other people. You can have the best of intentions and in resources, but your true success will always depend on other people.

Rarely can anyone go it alone. Rarely can anyone succeed alone.

Life is that cross section between the value you provide and the impact on you of other people. To one extent or another, the people around you will benefit from your value, or tap into your value, or vouch for your value, or recognize your value, or watch your value, or be oblivious to your value, or ignore your value, or shun your value, or even siphon off your value.

When it comes to the people around us, these are just a few examples on a continuum of how people can interact with your value, from the benefits we gain on one side to obstacles we face on the other.

Essentially, if you think about it, we’re at the mercy of other people.

So, here are my 2 cents — or 6 cents, I guess — all based on how we work through our environments which are made up of…people. They are based on my own experiences and the trends I see based on the coaching I’ve done.

These tips won’t solve all your problems and are not the basis of every professional or personal issue I’ve seen or experienced, but they’re recurring themes people tend to lose sight of.

They should be considered when approaching some of the most common forks in life’s road, at which some people take the right path while others opt for the wrong one. And although there may be bigger forks in the road that stand out as momentous, keep in mind that we always encounter small forks in our daily lives.

The pieces of advice below are there for the taking, each serving as a reflection point through which we can make our best effort to correct our path as much as desired 

Consider these at forks where you can either opt to improve your position, or not:

Seek Meaning

Make sure that wherever you find yourself, whether in work or life, is reflective of your values. You need to know what’s important to you. Is the meaning in your various environments conducive to and workable with yours? Do they let your values thrive? If the meaning is not there for you, you’re leaving energy, potential, and money on the table.

Without meaning, most people will feel lost. It’s on you to be on the active lookout for the environments that help you develop your values, however they may evolve as you go.

Connect With People

You need to understand others. It sounds simple, but it’s not common. Our world is becoming more disjointed and disconnected, assigning greater value to perception and what is seen rather than backgrounds and what is truly understood. Because of that, deeper meaning and relationships are being forfeited as people keep connections somewhat relegated to online profiles and pictures. Temporary and quick interactions are confused for richer, two-way connections.

Without connection, people only stick to the shallow waters of what they’re capable of. It’s on you to do a deep dive and seek out the true value you can gain from and exchange with other people.

Find Your Tribes

In addition to connections — the actual way in which you relate to other people — now, think of the Why? of the connections. Find the various groups and people that are going to engage in and foster what you need, whether it’s general energy, curiosity, development, challenges, an entrepreneurial mindset, or a specific skill set. Find the people that are going to get you energized, in whatever manner it may be, to discover, refine, and deliver your best. Surround yourself with the right people who will help you, guide you, and challenge you, in effect helping deliver for you and for your stakeholders.

Without finding your tribe(s), you really can’t know what you’re really about because you may be settling for a crowd or group that isn’t setting you up for your best. It’s on you to find the communities that are going to challenge you and help you thrive in the various areas in which you want to thrive.

Be A Day Trader (Of Your Value)

Ok, maybe not a day trader, but keep tabs on the value you’re getting on a regular basis. Too many people don’t monitor the value they’re getting out of the interactions in their life and work. So, even though life isn’t all about you, you need to make sure that you’re getting what you need — within reason and fairness — back from the world. You should always seek value, in its many forms, as much as possible, for both you and those you love, care about, and are responsible to and for.

Without monitoring your portfolio of personal value, you won’t be clear-eyed to see who is contributing value to your efforts.

Make Your Life…

Life is yours. That’s it. From now on, no one is keeping tabs on your performance. The person who should now be keeping you accountable, first and foremost, is you. You should desire the best performance and results for yourself. Be sure to put yourself in situations which will benefit you and your stakeholders. Be curious enough about the world around you to know where the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats exist for you and your stakeholders.

Without proactively making life, you’re left to its and others’ whims and circumstances. Make sure you’re deciding the direction in which your life goes. Don’t leave it in anyone else’s hands…

…Or Life Will Make You

It is up to you to know how much bullshit you’re going to put up with in your life. Monitor what you tolerate. You should always do your due diligence, making your preparations and laying out your strategy for your decisions going forward. Part of that planning should be understanding when you’re going to cut ties from toxic environments and the players who either offer nothing or possibly siphon off your precious resources of time, effort, energy, and, ultimately, value.

Without monitoring your tolerations, you’re doing yourself in, allowing yourself to be dragged down by others who are selfish in their efforts, whether they know it or not. Make sure you’re not putting up for too long with those forces that are pulling you down.

So there are the pieces of advice this year.

(Actually, don’t look at them as advice. Consider them tools. These aren’t just things you passively accept but instead instruments you proactively use.)

Like most things nowadays, they change from year-to-year, day-to-day –- hell, even moment-to-moment — depending on the circumstances and needs of the time. So, when appropriate, use the right tool for the job at hand.

They are neither perfect nor meant to solve all your problems. They’re tools in a toolbox of realization and preparation. They are starting points of self-awareness. That’s what I love about coaching: It’s just opening people’s eyes up to the toolbox they already have.

Have you considered all of these things above?

You may say No thanks! — and that’s fine. But I want to make you aware of them. You need to determine what they mean to you and how or if you’ll use them.

So, yes, you’re at the mercy of other people. But it’s up to you to utilize your tools to surround yourself with people who won’t make you think about the need for mercy.

Good luck!

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