The Graduation Speech I Should've Given


Alas, graduation season is upon us! Many young, bright eyed teenagers are embarking on their journey to adulthood. Young, energetic, and ready to take on the world.  What a wonderful season in life! Though 10 years ago, it seems like yesterday when I walked across the stage to receive my high school diploma. I had the honor of being class salutatorian, so I also had the responsibility and privilege of giving a speech. I remember it vividly, "The P.A.T.H to Success." In hindsight, I wonder how at the age of 17 I could give anyone advice about being successful when I hadn't even walked the path myself. Nonetheless, it was a boss speech that got me a quasi standing ovation....ok, maybe like 10 people, but you get the point. It was a good speech.

The P.A.T.H. that I spoke of consisted of persistence, ambition, tenacity, and hard work. Talk about buzz words! If I had the floppy disk that this speech is probably on, I'd reuse it at a conference somewhere. (Although, I'm only joking about the floppy disk. We were all about the thumb drives in 2006). I had my path all figured out. I was quoting Anatole France, telling Colonel Sanders' story of persistence, I threw in a bit of Robert Frost, and even used the phrase "educated derelicts." Even back then I was a professional Googler. But that's beside the point. I created this four step path that would ensure the success of my classmates. And, though I had accrued numerous academic and musical accolades to draw from, my method had not proven successful against life and its many nuances.

Though valuable and inspiring in its own right, after 10 years of living, I'd probably give a different speech. That's the value of living and wisdom. So, would you oblige and allow me to give you the graduation speech that I should've given?

Well, since it's my blog, I'll just take my point of privilege and do it anyway.

Ahem....

"My fellow graduates, it is an honor and privilege to stand before you as your class salutatorian. It has certainly been an exhilarating four years, but the time has come for us to spread our wings and fly into our destiny. As we commence into a new season, I leave you with this: The P.A.T.H. to Success.

The first step in your path to success is prayer. I say this not as a cliche, or because it's what my mother always says, but I say it as a testament from my own personal experiences. Prayer is our direct channel to God. When we are in covenant relationship with Him through Jesus Christ, we have direct access to His ear. And because we are saved, we know that He hears us and if we ask anything according to His word we have it! That is the confidence that we have in Christ and the power of our prayers according to 1 John 5:14-15. If you want success, you must go directly to the source-- the one who knows your end from the beginning, the creator of all things, and the giver of every good and perfect gift. But don't just pray to God to grant you success! Pray to inquire about your purpose in life, because until you are fulfilling your purpose in life, you aren't successful. Success is pursuing and living out your God-given assignment for your time on earth. It's not fame and fortune; instead it is fulfilling the Great Commission through the gifts, talents, and resources that God has given you. 

 
The 'a' in your path to success is attitude. This time, I will use a cliche. "Your attitude determines your altitude." Regardless of how talented you are or the people that you may know, your success in fulfilling your purpose is dependent on your attitude. There are many enemies to success, but the underlying theme of them all is attitude. Do you have an attitude of gratitude, being thankful for what you have all the while knowing that God has more in store? Are you humble enough to accept criticism and sit at the foot of a teacher? Or, do you boast a proud attitude, the one that God hate's most? Do you walk in authority and Godly boldness, knowing that you are the head and not the tail, above and not beneath? Or do you have an attitude of fear-- one that God did not give you? Your attitude, your spirit, your mindset will determine if you fulfill your God given purpose and reach success or die full of potential. Have an attitude that's eager enough to go after it, humble enough to learn, patient enough to develop, wise enough to discern, and brave enough to walk in it. (Just give me credit when you quote me on that!). 

Next, there's team work. No success, or fulfillment of purpose, takes place in a silo. "It takes teamwork to make the dream work!" Yes, that's another cliche, but here's my point: We were created to be in community with one another. Adam needed Eve to be his help-meet, and together, with our own unique gifts and talents, we make up the body of Christ. If the body of Christ cannot function without multiple members, we certainly can't do it all alone? Never will you hear an award being accepted with a speech saying, "I'd like to thank myself, because I did it alone." Well, not unless its Kanye West...he may say that. But, aside from that anomaly, never have you or will you see success attributed to oneself. 
Success requires a team to guide you, support you, and help you carry the burdens of life. Proverbs 15:22 (NIV) says it this way, "Plans go wrong from lack of advice; many advisers bring success." Surround yourself with wise counsel, because your success does not come without a dream team. 

Lastly, there's hard work. Hard work still remains along the path to success. There's no getting around it. At some point, you have to put action to faith, rubber to the road, and hands to the plow. Finding your purpose is one thing, but working to fulfill it is another. Purpose requires that we "press toward the mark," and it isn't the easy button. Pressing is grinding when everyone else is sleep, working where no one else will yet doing it with a spirit of excellence, preaching when no one is listening, or even writing when no one is reading. Hard work is the seed to the harvest of success. (Again, just give me credit when you tweet this.) Its the effort that you put into maintaining a spirit of excellence. Its enduring when you don't see the fruit of your labor. Hard work is the sacrifices made for the vision and dream to come to fruition. Hard work is the extra effort that you put in when no one is looking. Or doing what needs to be done, regardless of whether you like it or not. The Bible teaches us to work and not be slothful. We are to work as though unto the Lord based on Colossians 3:23. What does that look like to you? To me, it would be my very best. It's your best. It's when all effort is expended. That is what your hard work should look like. 

The P.A.T.H. to success is one that is a pursuit of purpose, guided in prayer, directed by attitude, traveled with others, and forged with hard work. Your path to purpose is unique to you, so there is no need to compare your journey or purpose with others. Ultimately, each of our paths converge into the one that leads to Christ. So, I hope that on your journey to success, you'll bring others with you."
That, my friends, is what my graduation speech should have been, but it took life to teach me this. In fact, I'm still on my journey to success. You see, success isn't a destination. It is a continual pursuit of fulfilling your purpose. So, as long as I'm living, I'll continue to walk this path. How about you?

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