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Lynn Hummel column: Top ten tips for graduates

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opinion Detroit Lakes, 56501
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

For the 25th consecutive year I am not delivering the graduation speech at your high school, or any other. But I come without invitation. If you read this article aloud at the graduation ceremony, it would take about three minutes. But no, the speech picker for your class prefers 30 minutes of the same old, same old. So here, as nobody has requested it, are my top 10 tips for the high school graduates of the Class of 2008:

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1. Even If You Don't Know Where You're Going, Get Started Without Delay. This business about taking time out to "find yourself" is nonsense. Inertia is powerful. If you rest now, you may never get moving again. But there's no hurry about making your choice-for-life decisions.

2. The Next Five Years Will Determine The Course Of The Rest Of Your Life. It's easy to get off on the wrong foot. A single night of binge drinking (absolute proof of stupidity), an unplanned pregnancy, a disagreement with the law, a car accident -- any of these can get you off your track, maybe forever. Plan to miss out on some of the "fun" going on around you.

3. Education Matters. Nobody prized education more than my dad. To him education was the most important thing a high school graduate could pursue. Why? Because he dropped out of school after the 9th grade to work on the farm, and he knew about all the doors he could never open. College, vocational school, art school, cooking school, cosmetology, almost any special training will improve your chances of not having to flip burgers at McDonalds to make a living. Don't kid yourself, every year advanced education after high school becomes more important than the year before. It is certainly more important to you than it was to your parents. And don't forget -- the military can give you a great head start on your education.

4. Read, Read, Read. A good deal of your education will take place outside any classroom. Newspapers, magazines and books all will tell you where we've been and where we're going. There are millions of great books out there (and millions of rotten ones) -- read as many of the good ones as you can. Don't think novels are a waste of time. Many of our great ideas, great insights and great characters have come to us from novels.

5. Be Prepared For Change. When I graduated from high school there were no astronauts, no space program, no computers, no cell phones, no fast food, no three-point lines and no designated hitters. Technology changes, lifestyles change, attitudes change and rules change. The way you make a living will change. Don't get locked in -- be prepared to change, or change will run over you. But don't change your principles, just your attitude and skills.

6. No Excuses Or Alibis. You're an adult now, and everything is up to you. From this point on, it's not your mother's fault, your dad's fault, your teacher's fault, a coach who doesn't understand you, politics, the economy or bad weather. Make it happen. But if it doesn't, don't point fingers, make excuses or whine.

7. Take Chances -- Go For It. You don't have to play it safe -- just play it smart. If you have a dream or a good idea, believe in it and act on it. Be bold and creative. Failure is not a disgrace. It's better to try and fail than to lack the nerve to give it a shot. Just do it.

8. Love. Love yourself, your family and your fellow man. Treat everybody else as you would want them to treat you.

9. Go For Quality. Strive to become a quality person (you probably are already), to do quality work and live a quality life. Quality, that is, by your standards, not somebody else's.

10. It's Not All About You. You are not an island. Join the community and give back. Become a soccer coach, a Sunday school teacher, a scout leader. Deliver Meals on Wheels. Clean ditches. Join a service organization and volunteer to do something useful.

Lots of folks are pulling for you. Make them proud. Congratulations and best wishes.

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