This column is really about advice to graduates, but I know how your minds work.
Would you have read this far if the headline said ''Hard-Nosed Advice to Grads''? Because that's what it is.
Amid all the other advice you're getting, why take more from me? -- a guy who graduated when airliners had propellers, telephones had rotary dials, and TV came in two colors: black and white. Well, because I've had my share of sex, money and cars and I've survived successfully for 50 years since in this honeyhut of a world.
I'll keep it simple.
First, you may think you're the star of your own movie and all the rest of us are supporting players -- but like the song says, it ain't necessarily so. The media may have brain-washed you to think your life is all about you -- you're number one, you deserve a break today, etc.--but while you're thinking about yourself, you may miss out on the real story of your life. Life, after all, isn't a destination--the top or bust--but a journey. Even if you make it to Numero Uno, you may not have much to look back on that's satisfying; and life at the top is precarious. There's nowhere to go but down and lots of people willing to give you a shove.
While you're working 80-hour weeks to get ahead, you may miss most of what makes life worthwhile, namely random moments of happiness with others.
For some of you, ''others'' means the people you want to get out of your way: Daewoos to your SUV. But take it from a guy who knows, ''others'' are what can make your life. It's lonely at the top -- especially if you've climbed there on the backs of people who now want revenge or regard you with hatred and disgust.
Friends are worth their weight in diamonds. How many can you count on? I don't mean hangers-on. You may be what passes for popular; but if you broke both arms, who would help you in a restroom? Hmmm?
It's easy to build a posse if you have looks, money, athletic ability -- but whose advice can you depend on when it really matters? What happens when looks, money, and athletic ability depart (as they often do)? Will your ''friends'' follow you still -- or will they find a new deity to leech onto?
Lifestyle isn't clothing, cars or money. It's not where you live or whom you're seen with. It's behavior -- what you do. In my day, it was called ''character'' -- and everyone judges you by it, eventually.
1. What you say about yourself,
2. What you say about others,
3. What you do for yourself,
4. What you do to/for others,
5. What you really feel about yourself and others.
A certain part of your identity is what others say about you or do to you -- but you can't control that. The above five, you can; and they, in turn, affect how others behave toward you.
What kind of Lifestyle do I recommend?
Well, if you'e still reading, here you are:
Believe in yourself. If you don't, who will? Be assertive but don't cross the line into aggression. A quiet confidence is better than ''I'm the greatest, so get out of my way.''
Characterize yourself as honest and dependable. If you don't lie, you don't have to remember lots of lies and your opinion, however candid, will still be respected.
Be positive but don't flatter. Ass-kissers don't rise very high. Backstabbers usually come to grief sooner or later; and anxiety is their daily bread.
Be friendly but don't fawn. Look for the good in others, but don't be disappointed if you can't find any.
Be a good team-player but also show some initiative. If someone has a better idea, support it. If no one does, promote your own. But if no one supports you, try not to be bitter. Sulkers rarely prosper.
Try to welcome each new day as a challenge. Some days, this will be hard as drinking month old milk; but life isn't fair and never will be. Living in dread is half-dead.
Finally, take time for reflection. Smell the coffee, watch a sunset, count your blessings and contemplate your joys. Try to go to bed each night with an untroubled heart and a well-used mind.
And if you do, SEX, $$$, CARS will come your way -- and a whole lot more:
like love, respect and admiration.