A friend asked me to write “one of your letters” as a graduation gift to her son. I did, and sent it in my weekly newsletter to my subscribers. Now a whole new batch of graduates (and subscribers) have come along. So I wanted to share it once more, and to wish all you new grads the very best.
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“You were born with potential. You were born with goodness and trust. You were born with ideals and dreams. You were born with greatness. You were born with wings. You are not meant for crawling, so don’t. You have wings. Learn to use them and fly.” ― Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi
Rumi’s right, of course. But it’s hardly the whole story. This learning-to-fly business is no easy thing. Nor is it quickly learned.
For one thing, you have to want it—that ability to soar above the crowd. You have to keep fighting against the pull of mediocrity. You have to want freedom more than you want to belong.
Those ideals and dreams you have in your heart? Define them. Write down what you want and why and keep your reasons close at hand. You will need reminders when the headwinds are strong, when storms come. And storms will come.
No one succeeds without chalking up a list of failures. Don’t be afraid to fail. Be afraid of not trying to win. “Wisdom,” an old saying goes, “comes from experience. And experience comes from making mistakes.” There’s no shame in that. Setbacks and failures are life’s gifts to you, sent as corrections to your course. Be daring. Take risks.
Keep a good helping of forgiveness in your pocket. Mostly you’ll need it for yourself. It will keep you from tearing yourself down needlessly and will help you maintain your humility while you continue your upward climb.
Learn not to blame circumstances or other people when things go wrong. The key to success is the acceptance of full and complete responsibility for every choice you make and for every action you take, for your own response to whatever is happening. When you inadvertently hurt others, be quick to apologize and make amends.
To the best of your ability, maintain your health. Eat wisely. Exercise. Get sufficient sleep. Learn to relax. Adopt some form of meditation.
Maintain flexibility of thought. Consider opinions that oppose your own. Be willing, if it serves truth, to discard every belief you’ve ever held. Demand truth, whatever the consequences. And to the very best of your ability, be honest with yourself and others; that’s what the practice of truth demands.
Nevertheless, be kind. Be gracious and tactful. Allow others the respect and compassion they deserve. These are the hallmarks of genuine maturity and of leadership.
Take time in your life for pleasure and play. To be alive is a profound privilege. And your gratitude is best expressed through your laughter and your joy, through your appreciation of life’s beauty and goodness and fun.
Above all, vow to learn to love, as broadly and fully as you can. For love is the wind which lifts us, and the power that enables us to soar.
You have wings, my friend. Learn to use them, and fly.
Congratulations on all your magnificent successes thus far! You have honored yourself and your loving family and made all of us better with all that you have achieved.