I went to my first graduation in years yesterday (I don’t consider a kindergarten or elementary school graduation a real event worthy of such a title — there needs to be a diploma involved).  I was there to support a speaker and discovered that there were lots of students I have had in the graduate programs we teach also getting their diploma (and faculty I’ve worked with).

While I was just one of many audience members and it was likely few/none of them even knew I was there, I was filled with pride for them and their accomplishment.  It took me back… a LONG way back… to my own undergraduate graduation (I didn’t participate in my graduate school ceremony because it felt anticlimactic and I had just had major knee surgery).

Now with a few decades under my belt since that big day, my perspective has changed.  A lot.  What felt like the biggest day of my life at the time now seems rather trite and meaningless.  Sure, graduating (from anything) is a noteworthy accomplishment that represents the culmination of a LOT of hard work.  That is to be commended.  But if it’s the highlight of my life and the pinnacle of my career… well, I missed the point.  My college degree is more of a trivia question than a life-changing event now (I majored in aerospace engineering, and I’m now a speech coach!?).  I can’t recall that anyone has asked for proof I even went to college over the last 20 years.

Which leads me back to my musings in a sparsely-packed arena yesterday.  These kids — most of them are of an age I could be their parent — rightfully are proud of their accomplishment.  The student speaker — Ada Evbuomwan — graduated with a business degree and a dual concentration at age 19, while holding multiple jobs and volunteer responsibilities.  Impressive?  You bet!  But her best accomplishments are yet to come.

If your wedding day is the best day of your marriage… that doesn’t speak well of the intimacy and joy that marriage offers.

If the day they offer you the job is the day you have the happiest feelings about your company… it might be time for a new job.

If the day you walk out of one of our speaking workshops is the highlight of communications in your career…

“It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”  –John Wooden