Greetings to all of you who are about to take your place in the world. That's right. I am addressing you, those who are planning to graduate this year.
Today, I am going to teach you just one more lesson, your last lesson here—the alphabet. Don’t worry. We are not going to sing it or anything like that. Instead, I want to teach you a whole new MEANING of the alphabet. You probably didn’t know that every letter stands for something. You must seriously pay attention for there will be a real test on this information when I am done.
It is called “Success Is...” I found it on a prayer card in a local church. I wish to share these words and letters with you.
Success Is... A = Attitude, more than aptitude.
Success Is... B = Being happy with who you are.
Success Is... C = Cultivating body, mind, and spirit.
Success Is... D = Discovering that heaven is within.
Success Is... E = Embracing the unknown with enthusiasm.
Success Is... F = Facing fear, finding faith.
Success Is... G = Giving without remembering.
Success Is... H = Here now, breathe into each moment.
Success Is... I = Inside you, not in people, places, or things.
Success Is... J = Journeying from the head to the heart.
Success Is... K = Knowing your beliefs create your experiences.
Success Is... L = Letting go and going with the flow.
Success Is... M = Making time for family, friends, and forgiveness.
Success Is... N = Never, ever giving up on your hopes and dreams.
Success Is... O = Opening your heart to magnificent possibilities.
Success Is... P = Passion, playfulness, and peace of mind.
Success Is... Q = Quiet time, the key to inspired living.
Success Is... R = Receiving without forgetting.
Success Is... S = Seeking answers, questioning beliefs.
Success Is... T = Trusting in the beauty of your feelings and needs.
Success Is... U = Understanding that the best you can do is always enough.
Success Is... V = Verb, choreograph your dance with destiny.
Success Is... W = Willingness to learn from everything that happens.
Success Is... X = Expressing yourself. Be the hero of your own story.
Success Is... Y = Yours to define. How do you want to be remembered?
Success Is... Z = Zestful living, loving, and laughing.
That was nice, but I did promise you a test. Normally, you would find a pencil in your row. I would have asked the first person in each row to pass the pencils to the next person. Okay. Let us begin. You look worried. Why are you worried? I did promise you a test, but I never said that I was going to give you a test. No, when you leave, your real test will begin.
You will find yourself tested every waking moment of your day. You will be tested by everybody—family, friends, strangers, and enemies. You will be tested with the hurdles placed in front of you. You will even be tested by yourself. There will be days when you try to figure out whether or not you should continue toward your goal. Many people will help you in the very limited time with you. It is every teacher's hope that the students will go on to make wise decisions.
Your first teachers—your parents—will spend more time with you and they share the same prayer that your teachers say—I hope they will make wise decisions. After a while, your parents will let you fly on your own. I am sure that your true friends will stand by you and be there to support you in your correct decisions. Yes, you will be tested constantly.
Every test has an answer key. Would you like the answer key before the test begins? Yes? Okay. The only answer I can give you is to try. Yes, try. You must not give up. Think of all the great things that were accomplished in this world. Where would we be if the people who made it to those accomplishments gave up? Literally, where would we be without cars, technology, and medicine, for example? Where would we be if, during a time of war and terrorism, people gave up on peace? Think of the civil rights movement in this country. Where would we be if the pioneers like Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King just gave up on the good fight? Where would we be if Susan B. Anthony decided that she had enough and gave up her battle for women's equality? Where would we be if Bill Gates or Steve Jobs just decided to give up on computers? Someone out there—perhaps it is one of you—may have the cure for cancer and all sorts of illnesses. For my sake and the sake of many others, I’d ask you not to give up. If there is a chance to achieve world peace and you can do it, please don’t give up. If there is some way to make the world a much better place, please don’t give up. If there is a way to erase world hunger and poverty and you know how to do it, please don’t give up.
And if someone calls you a geek, embrace it. Many famous people were probably geeks. Look at how they turned out. Many have gone on to become famous and rich. They all started out the same way that you did. Ignore the name-callers and go on to succeed. It is your life. Live it well.
You don’t have a right or an option to give up in many cases. When you leave here tonight, you will be expected to go further. You simply cannot give up. People are depending on you and they are depending on you to succeed. You have no other choice. There are going to be days when you will be extremely tired, but go on you must. You may need additional help, which might translate into a short summer vacation. Some of you may have the option to finish school early. This is also good. Try to enter college early and get a head start on the job market. Getting that job will be a struggle, too. You will need to get up early for that interview and, if you really want that job, show up early enough for the interview. You will need to put aside all of your street jargon and use such words as “Good morning” or “Thank you for your time.” You will have to be dressed for success—formal business attire, not Sean John clothing and $500 sneakers. You may not want to do all of this, but you have to in order to be a productive member of society. No one is going to give you ANYTHING for free. You will have to earn it and earn it you will.
The test will continue. It will never end. You will have the toughest test of all—being a pillar of strength. People will look to you to be a real leader. That means that you will have to stand up and proclaim what is right. If ALL of your friends are doing the wrong things, what are you to do? Well, you need to stand up and do the right things. You need to show not just your friends, but everyone, what is to be done. Will it be tough? Yes. Look to Jesus as a model. He was a man who boldly faced opposition and, most of the time, he did it alone. Look what it got him. He became the person we are to use as a model for ourselves. Sure, some of you are thinking that if you stand up to your friends, they might leave you. Well, if they are your true friends, they will understand and stand by you.
Your test will continue. How will you see yourself before you go to sleep? Will you be satisfied with your day or will you see room for improvement? Speaking for myself, I always see room for improvement. You can only answer that question for yourself. Always look to improve. If you have a good day today, try to figure out how to have another good day tomorrow. More importantly, try to help others to have a good day, as well. Remember, you are not here on Earth just for yourself. You are also here to help others. Yes, there are going to be hard days. Still, you need to take a bad situation and try to turn it around if possible. They say that when life deals you a lemon, make lemonade. If you got a bad mark on a test, you’ve experienced failure. The good side is that you know what failure is and how to avoid it. Then, and only then, will you discover what success is. We all have our own meaning of success. Your idea of success may include the making of millions of dollars. If it does, don’t forget where you came from. One of last year’s graduates even promised to give back once he makes it to where he wants to be in his life. You should do the same.
In closing, I just want to congratulate each and every one of you on such a glorious day. Continue your work and inspire millions.
Congratulations and good luck.