Baz Luhrman produced a spoken-word song based on a 1997 Chicago
Tribune column written to high school graduates. The song was
commonly referred to as “Wear Sunscreen.” The song inspired me to
write a list of good habits for my niece, Kara, as she meets her
post-graduation future. I considered that I might just as well have
several eighteen year-olds disregard my advice as just one
so I will publish this letter as my column for all to read.
1. Don’t hate people; it wastes energy and brain capacity. It also
puts the person you hate in charge of what you choose to think. Spend
your time and intelligence to improve your life. Do not waste
these precious personal assets to change the minds of those whose
thoughts are shallow and based on their own ego. Matthew 7:6 says
“do not throw your pearls before swine” and your greatest pearls are your intelligence and
your time. If you feel bad about not offering advice please remember
that most people do not want real advice but wish for magical
answers that require little of their own effort. The answer to almost
all problems is that you must at first work hard and then later work
2. If you have a conflict with someone and it is an argument worth
fighting, then make the argument. They will respect you for it later.
If they don’t respect you for it then they are unworthy of your time.
It isn’t winning or losing that matters in the decision to battle, it
is the courage to defend your ideals.
3. Keep your own counsel unless you trust and admire a mentor who has
a proven track record. Friends will often give you bad advice when you
share plans to take a path divergent from the one you share. They are
not being cruel, they just want you in their lives and they fear a
life without you-forgive them.
4. Exercise now, and later. I gained 55 pounds about 14 years ago and
have spent the last seven years to lose 45 of those pounds.
Meanwhile, my joints carried all that extra weight and who knows what
damage I could have caused myself. It would have been so much easier
to maintain my health. Many of the worst human diseases are induced by humans and
their own poor eating and exercise habits. If you start now, good
habits will grow into great habits over time and
leave you more life to do good things.
5. Save money now, and later. The sooner you begin to save money, the
longer it has to grow through the miracle (a bit overstated) of compounding interest. The habit of
saving will spread into other facets of your life and you will even
see life differently. It is well-worth the effort.
6. Time is short. I am forty-eight and have plans made as a young
person which I may not have time to complete. Make sure you tell
those you love that you love them on a regular
basis as they will need this information and reassurance should your
time run out and die unexpectedly. Spend your time like it was precious gold but
don’t be afraid to invest it without fear when you determine it makes
sense. Be productive with your time; accomplishment is the track left
in the snow of the person who toils with focus and works to completion.
7. Don’t be afraid to try something and fail; you learn almost nothing
from success. Failure can be hard on your ego but it helps you learn.
When you select a college or job, don’t be afraid to pursue your
passion instead of money. Trial and error is the formula to find a
worthwhile way to spend your time or get paid for your time. I would
rather quickly travel the wrong path, than to sit paralyzed in
confusion-too scared to make a move. You have to earn knowledge in
life and that knowledge is often times paid for in failure.
8. Don’t join clubs or organizations unless you truly believe in their
mission. Henry David Thoreau said “beware of any enterprise that
requires new clothes.” I would say the same thing of any enterprise
that requires I belong to a new club or organization. I see this in
people who run for public office as they join many
clubs or church to gain votes. Join any group or club because of what
you have to offer, not what the group or club offers you.
9. Avoid the emotional vampire-these are the
people who find conspiracy in every act, dark meaning in the mood of
a friend and joy in others sorrow. These people thrive on drama
and are always unhappy. Do not throw them a lifesaver and do not jump
in to save them; they do not want to be saved, they want you to drown
10. If I can tell you nothing else please remember this list of
priorities: God, spouse, boss. If you please God, you have eternal
life. If you please your spouse, you have human love. If you please
your boss, you have a job. I have structured my life this way and it
has served me well. You are an adult now with the freedom to form you
own life’s course however I believe this is an excellent starting
Have a nice summer and wear…. your seat-belt.