I’m honored to address the graduates of the class of 2021 today.
OK, no one really asked me to deliver their commencement address this year, or any year in the past for that matter. That doesn’t mean I don’t have some wisdom I’d like to impart. So this is for the recent eighth-grade graduates, high school graduates, college graduates or really anyone with a few minutes and a willingness to listen.
Here’s the best advice I can give, and it took me a long time to learn it: Don’t worry about what anyone thinks about you.
It sounds so simple, yet it’s so difficult to do. At our cores, we all want to be liked by the people around us. We reason that if we try hard to be liked, we’re going to be loved and respected by all those around us.
It seems like solid logic, but it’s often not the case. Some people just won’t like you, no matter what you do. Others will hold grudges you’ll never know or understand. A few are just unlikable.
As much as it sounds like the advice a dad would give — and it is advice I give to my daughters — the most important thing you can be is yourself. Other people will like and appreciate you if you just show your true self. If they don’t like you, then it’s their loss, not yours.
This philosophy helps beyond making friends and influencing people, too.
At a recent news event, a young reporter from one of the other media in the area complimented me on my style of questioning. He wondered how I could remain so calm while asking difficult questions.
I laughed and shared my wisdom: I just don’t care what anyone thinks about me.
It saves me the trouble of overthinking what I’m trying to say. I can deliver what’s on my mind simply and clearly. That doesn’t change if I’m talking to a muckety-muck or the guy down the street.
I’m not suggesting everyone should just go out and be jerks to one another. In fact, it’s the opposite of that. If I act like who I am in my heart of hearts, I’ll be the truest form of myself. It’s the one following God’s will and not man’s. That’s someone who’s trying to help others in the ultimate pursuit of the truth.
It takes a little bit of work and self-confidence to get to this point of enlightenment. It takes several frustrating lessons where you’ve tried everything you can to please somebody, perhaps even going against your core beliefs, and still walked away disappointed.
The world is loaded with people living situational ethics, trying to fit in at the right place at the right time. That’s a world of lemmings, happily following the crowd along to whatever disaster awaits them.
That’s why the world needs mavericks. It needs people who will choose to do what they think is right, no matter the social consequences. It can be a lonely road, but it’s the only one worth traveling.
This is the key to happiness. It’s the price paid to be productive. It’s the map through a moral life. Stop worrying about what others think, and do what you know is right.
Don’t worry about what anyone thinks about you.
David Trinko is managing editor of The Lima News, a division of AIM Media Midwest. Reach him at 567-242-0467, by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @Lima_Trinko.