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Your Mission: Learn to Live

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/Jessica Hill, File

May is graduation month. Students, parents and friends celebrate the end of one process and the start of another. Once we finish with our formal education, we often forget that our learning should not end. Lifelong learning is critical, and hopefully, this will serve as a reminder that through the different phases of our lives, we all have something more to learn. Think of this as my spring gift to you, dear reader, which applies regardless of whether you are graduating this spring.


You have great value, talents and skills. Somewhere out in the world, there is the perfect fit for your talents and skills and an opportunity for you to make a difference. Finding that perfect fit might come immediately, or it might take decades, but -- however long it takes -- be certain that you are of great value and are here on this earth for a reason. It is your mission to find your perfect fit.

First impressions are important. Look people in their eyes and shake their hands. Be willing to pitch in and make things happen. When you've finished your tasks, look around and see how you can help others. Don't wait for others to catch up; help them catch up.

Be patient. You might feel pressure to force next steps or an answer, but don't. Wait and see how life unfolds. Be patient; life goes faster than you think.

Understand that a missed opportunity might simply be moving you in another direction. A door shuts and a window opens. Look for that window.

Be passionate about something. It might be your work, your family or a cause you volunteer your time and talents for. This passion will bring energy and enthusiasm into all aspects of your life.

Work hard at something. Give it your all, and don't be afraid to fail. Failure is the fastest way to learn, eliminating what not to do in the future.

Surround yourself, in both work and play, with people whom you admire. You will become a better person for being around them.


Assume that your emails, texts, Instagrams, Facebook postings, etc. will be printed on the front page of The New York Times. Failure to heed that warning will be to your detriment.

Don't try to manipulate other people. It might work in the short term, but never in the long term.

When others attempt to manipulate you, create boundaries that provide you with room to move and freedom to choose. Bear in mind that their activities are about them, not about you.

Don't burn bridges. As you leave a difficult situation, acknowledge the fact that the world is small. You might very well run into the same people again.

How you treat people matters more than how much you make or what you do. Smile at everyone, be kind with your words and make sure those who help you or provide you with good and services know that you appreciate their efforts. Write thank-you notes. Offer words of encouragement. Be a friend to others.

Fall in love, but don't lose who you are. If someone tries to control you, your time, your energy, your effort, it's not about love; it's about their control. Again, it's not about you; it's about them. Let them control someone else.

Be comfortable with your own company. Don't allow your fear of loneliness to push you into someone's arms. Enjoy the time you have by yourself because it, too, will be fleeting.

Understand that there are seasons to life. Some seasons are easy, and some are hard. Much of this you cannot control. Instead, you have to ride the waves of the ups and downs.


Remember you are not responsible for anyone's happiness. You are responsible for how you act, and they control how they feel.

Be forgiving with yourself and others. We all make mistakes and are human.

Admit when you are wrong and ask for forgiveness. Forgive others, even when they don't ask. Forgiving does not require that you allow yourself to be taken advantage of again.

Don't worry about what people may think about you. You can't control their thoughts. But you do control what you think about yourself.

At some point, you will begin to wonder: What is this all about? What is the meaning of life? The answer to life can be found in learning to live.

Live the best you can. You have only one life.

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