Archive for May, 2013

Granules for Graduates, Version 2.013

Congratulations on your graduation. Your talent has set you apart. You are a gifted bunch from some outstanding families. But recognize that talent is never enough. It may get you in the door, but it won’t keep you there.


Develop your God-given skills. Maximize them. But don’t think the world owes you success because of them. It doesn’t. You have to work for it.


Country music star Taylor Swift once said, “My parents raised me to never feel like I was entitled to success. You have to work for it. You have to work so hard for it.”


And work she did. Legend has it that as an 11-year old, she was knocking on Music Row doors. She moved to Nashville as a fourteen year old and began writing songs for RCA Records for hours every day after school. As a 16 year old she finished her last two years of high school in 12 months.


Taylor Swift is obviously talented but also a great example that it takes more than talent to succeed.


Many of you already know how to work really hard. You can cram for a test. You can train for a race. You will do what it takes to get the job done. These are admirable qualities that show strong character. But just like talent is never enough, neither is work ethic.


In college, I worked hard for a near-spotless GPA only to see C students land more impressive jobs than my first job: driving real estate executives around in a van.


As an idealist, I worked hard for my A’s. But somehow, those C students were more strategic and more realistic. I worked hard; they worked smart to identify something they could do that people would gladly pay money for.


They developed the ability to connect and relate, to problem-solve and innovate.


Our world is infatuated by giftedness. It’s why we know the name LeBron James but not Leshawn Haynes. Justin Bieber, but not Dustin Kieber. (Wait. Did I just infer that Justin Bieber was talented?)


But the real sign of maturity is how well we relate to each other. Are people drawn to you and strengthened by you, or can they not wait to get away from you? Do you genuinely care about the progress of others, or just your own. Those who can relate and connect will always trump those who are more gifted.


Speaking of relationships, let’s talk marriage. You may not have plans to get married for 10 years or more. Great, but start preparing now for what it will take to make a lifelong marriage work.


Money guru Dave Ramsey sees a theme among most millionaires that he speaks with: the presence of a strong marriage. It makes sense. In my banking business, every week I see how divorce destroys economic value.


Who you marry is direly important to your future prospects of wealth and happiness. Build your loyalty reserves for that person. Recognize the failed logic of the hook-up culture. It’s naive to think you can give yourself to one partner after another and then simply flip the faithfulness switch at the altar.


Now to problem-solving and innovation: People who can make a product or provide a service in a way that’s faster, cheaper or at a higher quality will always be in demand. So will people who can fix stuff. These are people who can calculate and invent. These people often know multiple languages, including computer languages.


The person that most exemplified this concept in your lifetime was Steve Jobs, founder and long-time CEO of Apple. His commitment to innovation introduced the world to personal computing and then to digital music and then to mobile computing. And you didn’t even need a user’s manual.


He was gifted. He worked hard. He also innovated products and services that changed the world.


I mentioned that work ethic is not enough, but I encourage you to work anyway. Even if you don’t have to. You may be on a full-ride scholarship. Your parents may cover everything you need. You should still hold down a part-time job. It will teach you street smarts while you’re learning book smarts. It will also teach you the real value of a dollar.


One of my college roommates was the grandson of Emmitt McCoy, founder of McCoy’s Building Supply, now with 84 stores across 5 states.


My friend worked the lumber yard in the company’s store where our college was located. He also volunteered for a rural fire department outside of town. He didn’t have to work, but he knew some things can’t be bought with money. He’s now one of the wisest people I know. So, work, but don’t forget to… play.


Our culture has forced you to grow up faster than perhaps any generation in history. Whether overzealous youth sports programs or an entertainment industry that considers nothing sacred, you’ve been exposed to a lot of adult things.


In certain ways, you’ve been required to be an adult, and, of course, learning responsibility is not all bad. But it can make you forget how to play; how to enjoy the game, not just the win; the learning, not just the A.


For as wrapped up as Steve Jobs was in technology as a kid, he never forgot to play. He was notorious for practical jokes. Once he posted flyers all over his school announcing: “Tomorrow is bring your pet to school day.” The next day, critters overtook the campus.


You could say it like this: All play and no work, you go broke. All work and no play, you go crazy.


Speaking of crazy, don’t go crazy worrying what other people think.


In my teens, I cared a lot about what other people thought of me. In my 20s, I began to no longer care what people thought of me. Now that I’m in my 30s, I realize that people weren’t thinking about me to begin with.


However, many people were thinking about my education. Many people have been thinking about your development, as well.


In the years ahead, there will be qualities in your parents, in your hometown and in your alma mater that you come to appreciate more and more. Don’t resist them. Embrace them. Be thankful for them.


Mark Twain once said, “When I was fourteen, my father was so dumb, I could hardly stand to be around him. When I turned 21, I was amazed at how much the old man had learned in just seven years.”


Congratulations on your achievements. And all God’s best for your very bright future.



Kevin Thompson can be reached at


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