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Life is what you make of it
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The caps and gowns are tucked away now, likely to seldom, if ever, be  noticed again.

It’s not that those adornments aren’t special, it’s just that graduates have too much to look forward to. Life is to be lived looking ahead, not back. Especially when you have the kind of opportunities awaiting that this crop has.

It’s traditional that gray-hairs like me are supposed to offer advice to help make this new adventure called adult life easier and happier for you. That’s a tough assignment, but here goes.

I once heard Mike Mescon, a respected business school dean, summarize it this way:

“If you want to succeed in life, just show up, dressed out, ready to play!”

While simplistic, Dr. Mescon has it right.

In a world where the work ethic has gone by the wayside, too many consider responsibility to be an inconvenience. It interferes with more important things like fun and relaxation. Because of that trend, just showing up, on time, every day can make you stand out from the crowd. A worker who habitually shows up 10 minutes late, three days a week, is robbing that employer of more than three full days of work every year. That employee would likely not be happy if the boss arbitrarily deducted three-plus days of pay from the annual salary.

Dr. Mescon’s reference to being “dressed out” comes from the old sports analogy but it means more than just looking the part.

Successful workers should come dressed out with their best attitude, their total commitment and, yes, a continued eagerness to learn. The more a worker learns about his, or her, job and the jobs close by, the more valuable they become to the employer.

Value to your employer translates into higher wages, better benefits and that means a better chance for attaining many of your own dreams.

And, ultimately, that’s what this is all about, grads.

People can tell you all kinds of things about what lies ahead and how many great opportunities lie ahead for you. Never forget the ultimate truth, though.

Christopher Morley, an editor and humorist, may have said it best: “There is only one success — to be able to spend your life in your own way.”

In other words, if you want to be a forest ranger, don’t let someone else convince you that you should be a banker. You may still end up being a banker one day (I was one myself, once) but, like me, you have to end up doing what makes you happy. You spend too much time at work not to enjoy it.

So, grads, those around you may be telling you that pursuing that dream of being an astronaut or actor or diesel mechanic may be foolish.

Don’t take their word for it.

Find out for yourself.

That’s the best advice anyone ever gave me.

Now it’s yours. Good luck.

Robert M. Williams Jr., an Effingham native, publishes weekly newspapers in Blackshear, Alma, Ocilla and McRae. His commentaries can be heard on Georgia Public Radio. Contact him at