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Top 10 Tips for the Class of 2020

Congratulations to you, Class of 2020! Whether you are graduating from high school or college, or obtaining your professional, masters or doctorate degree – you are entering a far different world than it was before you began your journey.

Yet, in many ways, it is the same world – but what has really changed is the lens through which you view the world. Embrace this time, and learn from it.

Here are my Top 10 tips for you as you advance into this new phase of life:

10. Don’t Make Yearly Resolutions / Focus on Daily To-Do Lists

So every time a new year comes around, or a birthday, there is that tradition of making a resolution to better one’s life over the coming year. The problem with this is that it sets the bar low for you – in terms of time. It gives you a full margin of a year. Yet, don’t you notice that after a few months pass, you sometimes forget about the idea altogether? Then another new year comes: rinse and repeat, right?

Instead, focus on daily increments – specifically a daily to-do list, each day. After you wake up, know what your goals are and write them down. As the day progresses, check them off. It seems simple, but imagine doing this 365 days in a row. I can assure you that the result will be far better than abstract goals set for the exact same time period.

9. Don’t Depend on the Government to Take Care of You Financially

We live in a society in which people always ask “what has the Government done for me lately?” Sure, the Government has its place in terms of providing some sort of umbrella in finance, law and order. But can you truly say (or desire?) that the White House or Congress will take care of you financially over time?

Therefore, you should focus on setting yourself up so that you will be financially sound regardless of the ebbs and flows of Government, regardless of who is in office nationally and locally, regardless of which party is in power.

More on personal finance in Tip #4 below.

8. Use Silence Strategically

I’m not talking about “silence” in the sense of repressing your voice or opinion. I’m talking about “silence” in terms of inner reflection and strategy. I’ve always stated (and people have stolen this from me) that in music, the rests are just as important as the notes (think about that one for a while.)

Yesterday (June 12, 2020), there was a powerful protest for Black Lives Matter in Seattle, one that involved some 60,000+ people walking in silence. That silence speaks volumes, when the political noise is (optimistically) muted for a few seconds.

“Words get in the way,” as a popular Miami band once stated. It’s good to speak up, it’s noble to have a voice and use it. But those who love to hear the sound of their own voices, sometimes get in trouble by their own words – especially when these words are left on social media, and those “crumbs” are left on public networks for life. Silence speaks volumes. Silence shows leadership.

Before speaking, listen with your ears and heart. The silence allows you to reflect, meditate, and consider what to say next, how to say it, and how to take action. Silence protects you indeed. Silence resists drama.

7. “Be Your Best Self” is Too Simple

“Be your best self” or “be the best person you can be” is a noble tip, but also lazy and misguiding. This is because you are really multiple people in one. This is not multiple personality syndrome – rather it is knowing that you are in fact many personas in one.

You have your home life. You have your work. You have your friends. You have a hobby or two. In each of those, you are in essence a different person – or it enhances a different part of yourself. You aren’t technically the same person from one aspect of life to another. But here’s the strength of this – each of those phases in life makes you a better person in all other phases.

So instead of “be your best self,” I say “be open to diverse experiences” – and seeing those experiences through. All those experiences improve all the various aspects of you.

6. Knowing Your Boundaries Can Change the World

We want to change the world, but sometimes we try to change too many aspects for people around us. This means that we will undoubtedly be let down by those we love the most.

This is a case of being too clingy. Let go and know your boundaries – boundaries are healthy. Know that you can’t change the opinion of your stubborn extended family member, regardless of what you do or say. Know that there are simply things that you have no control over. If you get bogged down by the drama around you, your effect on the world will be dampened.

Instead of trying to change others, work on becoming “your best selves” (see Tip #7 above). In doing so, you will be better equipped to 1) change the world, and 2) influence those around you, regardless.

5. Weaknesses Can Become Strengths in Time

Embrace weaknesses. Moreover, get to know yourself so you know your weaknesses well. Catapult them to strengths in time.

This may seem too much like “searching for magic”, but consider these points: If you know your weaknesses and admit them, you will be thought of as honest. If you work on your weaknesses, you will be thought of as one with integrity. If you overcome weaknesses, you will be thought of as diligent.

And here’s a key point: If you somehow maneuver all of the above points so that they show your character and growth, somehow this all becomes one of the greatest strengths you will ever have.

4. Personal Finance is Key

We live in a society and perhaps a culture (and for many of us, a spiritual culture) that preaches the following 2 points:

1. Be Generous

2. Money is Not Your God.

Both are true.

But there is a third point that people miss all the time:

3. Study personal finance diligently.

I would argue that you can’t really practice the first two points without doing something about the third. All 3 points are like key spokes to a wheel that keeps on rolling. Remove one, and the wheel won’t roll very long.

Study why debt is bad and why you need to remove it from your life as soon as you can. Study why credit cards can harm you. Study the term: compound interest (and why the earlier you start investing, the better). Study the term: amortization. Learn this like a master’s degree, and keep on learning.

You were created to be a blessing to society and those close to you. Be equipped with this key knowledge, and start early.

3. Read

Knowledge is power, and your mind needs to be fed to keep growing you as a person. To do this, don’t stop reading.

Aim for about a new book per month. Focus on non-fiction books in terms of personal improvement, personal finance, spiritual growth, and biographies. Your mind is more powerful and efficient than the most powerful supercomputer in the world (believe it or not), so definitely download new ideas and data into your brain through books.

2. If Your Journey Takes a Detour, Embrace the Detour…

… because when you look back in life, the detour was the real journey. It may not have been the initial intent, but think about all the people you met throughout that detour, and all the experiences you had because of that detour.

Embrace it indeed.

1. Play Chess in Life

Some people know me for being competent in chess, which is cool. Yet at home, I don’t even own a chess set (I don’t play it during my leisure time). But I’m not talking about the game itself.

Instead, it’s looking at life as an analogy to chess…

In terms of thinking 3 to 4 to 5 to 6 steps ahead of your next move…

In terms of knowing where you are in life, but knowing that it’s just a snapshot in life…

In terms of knowing which resources you have at hand…

In terms of knowing that sometimes life involves sacrifice, but that sacrifice sometimes leads to a greater scenario…

In terms of knowing that even if you lose a battle, there’s always another game coming soon…

In terms of knowing that even if you are behind, you are still in the game…

Play chess, my friend. God bless!

David Wu
13 June 2020