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"To Grads: Sharing Secrets"
Ventura Star, June 21, 2004

By Terry Paulson, PhD

As one of America's young adults, you hold our country's future in your hands. As you look at graduating from high school, here are some SECRETS of LIFE for your journey. Sometimes a little truth-telling can be the best kind of graduation gift you can receive.

SECRET 1: Don't be your own worst enemy. Henry Ford said: "Most of the bars we beat against are our own. We put them there, and we can take them down." Instead of whipping yourself over mistakes, ask yourself, "What can I learn from this?" Then get out of the rearview mirror and back into making your life better.

SECRET 2: Life is difficult and unfair; get used to it. College is more difficult than high school; life is more difficult than college. Every increase in the degree of difficulty let's you experience the satisfaction of mastering that next level. As you stretch your mental and relationship muscles, they will work even better for you. Maturity and true optimism come from a track record of overcoming increasingly tough obstacles. You have what it takes to overcome life's difficulties; prove that to yourself.

SECRET 3: Instead of caring about your self-esteem, most people are worried about themselves. Find your own inner appreciation for what you do well. You won't be good in all areas, so don't copy the dreams of others. Turn your God-given gifts into a way to make meaning and enough money. You may be winning and not know it if you are not keeping score; keep track of your successes in a daily journal.

SECRET 4: Develop a sense of gratitude. You are not entitled to a great job with a high salary, a perfect partner or an easy life. Be thankful for what life gives you every day. When you expect less, you are happier when you achieve more. The next time you feel like calling a pitty party, write down your blessings instead of your problems.

SECRET 5: Don't settle for easy teachers or mentors; be excited by the ones that challenge you. When I went from being a great student in high school to being challenged in college, I realized an important truth-your best and most caring teachers are the ones that care enough to challenge you. They believe you have something great inside you, and they call for it to surface. After all, if you think your teacher is tough, wait until you have a boss.

SECRET 6: Be nice to your parents along the way. Before you were born, your parents weren't as boring as they are now. They got that way from cleaning up after you and listening to your frequent complaints! Your parents are doing the best they can. So the next time you feel like being upset with them, remember that they love you and you love them! The older you get the more you will appreciate them. You might as well start now.

SECRET 7: Don't believe everything they tell you in college. Some of your professors may have done away with winning and losing, but Life has not. Some may actually believe that America is the biggest problem in the world instead of the champion of liberty and economic opportunity that holds the world together. They may try to tell you that all moral choices are relative, and there is no standard of right and wrong. These opinions don't bear the slightest resemblance to anything in real life.

SECRET 8: Be nice to all the people you meet along the way. It isn't just what you know in life that will get you ahead; it is how you treat others you live and work with. Nice people do get ahead. Manners are the lubricating oil of relationships. If you learn that now, it will pay off throughout life.

SECRET 9: Cultivate your faith. People may try to convince you that God does not exist. Many intellectuals think that their minds are vastly superior to centuries of faith experience. God will be near you all the way through your coming years whether you acknowledge Him or not. He patiently waits for your prayers, for your study of His word, and for your presence at a faith community of your choice. Meet Him half way.

SECRET 10: Laugh a lot. Take your school, your homework, and your career choices seriously, but always take yourself lightly! People like being with people who smile and make them laugh. Remember that the safest target for your humor will always be yourself. When you laugh at yourself before others do, you win!

None of us take advantage of all of these secrets, but it's worth trying. Make memories, make a difference and enjoy the journey. We all want you to succeed.

Terry Paulson, Ph.D., from Agoura Hills, CA, is a professional speaker on making change work and author of The Dinner: The Political Conversation Your Mother Told You Never to Have

—They youth of America are our future. Do what you can to support and believe in them!

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